White Denim may have been the headliner, but the show belonged to Dead Confederate. The Athens, GA natives destroyed any and all expectations with their epic, sweeping, shoegazer sound. As good as White Denim was, they just couldn't handle following the immense beauty of Dead Confederate.\
The evening stated with an energetic set from Apollo Sunshine. They came out sporting an interesting sound that blended psychedelic and funk. The nice bass grooves got the crowd moving early in the show, and when the bass was dropped for a keyboard, the bongo player kept up the fun atmosphere. For me, the highlight of the set was the extended closer which featured everything from a four man drum solo to some very Jack White esque guitar work.
As soon as Apollo Sunshine was off the stage it became clear that not everyone was there for White Denim as Dead Confederate's name was shouted repeatedly by audience members. Their enthusiasm was very understandable. Dead Confederate wasn't much of a show visually, but sonically, it was one of the finest performances that I have ever heard. They stood on stage very still for much of the show, with a smoke machine going in the background. The combination of the smoke machine and the stage lighting made the place look exactly like the 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' music video, and the comparisons to Nirvana don't stop there.
Dead Confederate stand right at the crossroads of shoegaze and grunge. The sound of the rhythm guitar player's echoing slide guitar work cut through the heavily distorted lead guitar beautifully. As emotional as the music was, the vocals came through with the hollow sensibilities that I often associate with grunge singers. The soft and subdued vocals created a remarkable contrast with slow moving epic slide guitar work. I had heard some of Dead Confederate's work previously but I was in too much of a daze to recognize any of it. I was left with the feeling that the only way to fully experience this band would be to close my eyes and the sounds devour me. It was one of the most majestic experiences of my life.
At this point everything completely changed gears. We went from the elegant sounds of Dead Confederate to White Denim's harsh garage rock. As they took the stage, one thing became immediately clear, these are thorough, talented musicians.
The drum kit itself was remarkably small, yet surprisingly loud, and the drummer knew what to do with it. The guitar work was nice, effect-driven, blues rock that would have driven the band had the bassist not been so good. For me, he was the star of the show. He missed more than a few notes on some of his obviously tough bass lines, but when he hit, he really hit. Musically, the trio locked in very tight and it was clear why this band's stock has been rising so rapidly recently. It's worth noting that the guitar player has one of the best singing voices that I have heard in a while. It had the roughness necessary in garage rock but with that roughness came a pretty impressive range.
I really enjoyed the show, maybe even more than I should have since it was the first time I had actually caught them after many attempts dating back to SXSW. It was worth the wait.