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The Whigs, Nikki Lane and Desoto Jones @ North Star Bar.

April 28, 2014

The Whigs @ North Star Bar_042514_Photos by Jason Melcher_web_IMG_2359Text by Kyle Bagenstose. Images by Jason Melcher.

It wasn’t on the show poster but Friday must have been fan appreciation night at the North Star Bar. Through all three musical sets of the evening – from the the opening performance of local rockers Desoto Jones to the twangy middle set from Nashvillian singer Nikki Lane, through the garage rock of headliner The Whigs – there was on and off-stage interaction at every turn.

Exhibit A: Deep into the sweaty, high energy performance of The Whigs, the band’s raucous fans in the front row started to lose their shit. No literally… they started to lose their shit, as one wild hair flaring gentleman jumped right out of his left shoe, and another lost his glasses in the fray, diving down to the floor rescue them from the stamping feet.

It was then that one of the fans, who had been slapping his open palm onto the stage for several songs, finally worked up the gumption to crawl on all fours up onto the stage and become a part of the performance, as he passionately pounded the center of the space with both fists.

Rather than take issue with the fan invading their space, the Athens, Ga. based Whigs simply let him do his thing, and frontman/guitarist Parker Gispert even gave away the band’s water to the fans following the song.

The three man Whigs, rounded out by drummer Julian Dorio and bassist Timothy Deaux, delivered the kind of performance that warranted such frenzy. The band ripped through a 15-song performance with little more than a few seconds’ pause between most songs, and provided the shortest encore gap in this writer’s memory, at about 20 seconds.

There were plenty of laughs too: before the band closed the initial set with “Half the World Away,” Gispert amusingly lifted a stage fan (an actual fan this time) into his face, blowing his long hair all around, and remarking, “remember when you were little and used to sing into a fan?” before doing so.

Following the song, Gispert then again interacted with the crowd, taking time to high five and adoringly clasp hands with the diehards in the front row, while pointing to and acknowledging those he couldn’t reach.

Bassist Deaux pulled double duty for the show, also stepping in to play the instrument for the majority of the twangy peformance of Nikki Lane. Strumming on an acoustic guitar and also backed by pedal steel and drums, Lane took an already rowdy North Star Bar crowd on a trip to Nashville, where she’s known as one of the young bloods shirking the formula of contemporary pop-country.

Lane’s performance started slow, with the venue’s less-than-great vocal acoustics seemingly throwing the singer for a loop. But by mid-set, with the levels readjusted, and after bringing Deaux onstage along with backup vocalist Erika Wolf, Lane took off her jacket to reveal several arm tattoos (one of which, Lane explained after the show, was obtained at South Street’s Eddie’s Tattoo following a previous show at the TLA), and got down to business.

By the next song, “Gone, Gone Gone,” Lane had the crowd swaying as she delivered the up tempo number about the time-honored tradition of hitting the road in search of a new life.

Lane also took the opportunity between songs to offer some southern charm to the crowd, inviting them to come visit the south and “eat BBQ, and maybe even kiss a girl in cowboy boots.”

But true to her reputation as the anti-Taylor Swift, Lane also explained how she had plucked Wolf from a desk job at New York City’s Electric Lady Studios the day before, after firing her previous backup singer before embarking on tour.

“I like firing people,” Lane said, adding that she had once got an employee high while working as a manager at a store just so she had a reason to fire him. “But I at least got him stoned first. And even got him another job.”

Lane closed with “All or Nothin’,” the title track from her upcoming, Dan Auerbach-produced album, before leaving the stage to appreciative cheers. Shortly after, Lane could be found at the bar ripping shots with several fans, and even Tweeted a photo of the communal imbibing, complete with Philly shoutout.

It was par for the course on the night, as the four-member Desoto Jones was also gifted with a round of whiskey shots mid performance. As the Philly guys knocked back the shots, a lady called from the balcony “Welcome to Philly. That’s how we do!”

And although a little misguided (as the woman probably realized after frontman Owen Staszewski introduced his mother in the crowd), the point was still well taken. Staszewski returned the love, announcing to the crowd that the band’s entire merch offerings were free for the taking.

And with that offer even including the band’s vinyl, it was a solid giveaway for fan appreciation night at the North Star Bar.


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