Sensory Overload: WVWhite succumbs to onstage chaos

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From the February 27, 2014 edition

There’s certainly nothing wrong with rock ’n’ roll embracing a bit of chaos.

When WVWhite hit the stage at Carabar for its record release show on a recent Saturday, however, the combination of sloppiness and unpredictability too often overshadowed the indie-rock crew’s music, which, judging by the scrappy, scruffy tunes populating West Virginia White, is often quite excellent. Indeed, within seconds of beginning its late night set, singer/guitarist Tyler Travis had already knocked over a microphone, causing a Mouse Trap-like chain reaction that ended with the keyboards coming unplugged, reducing the quartet to a trio for much of the first song.

So it went for much of the night, with Travis alternately swinging himself, his instrument and, in one nearly disastrous instance, his microphone stand, at his bandmates, ricocheting around the stage like a lanky, guitar-and-beer-wielding pinball.

Occasionally, the group managed to harness this sense of turmoil, turning out dingy, vaguely psychedelic guitar jams that, like beaver dams, appeared to be held together by little more than mud, spit and hope. “Ford Mustang,” which Travis introduced by saying, “This song’s about your car,” for one, mimicked a multicar pileup, guitars and drums and bass careening together at highway speeds.

Other songs didn’t fare quite so well. On “Multiple Bathrooms” (“This one’s about your toilet”), Travis stumbled and lurched around the stage as his instrument did the same, ragged chords tumbling through the mix like a soused patron navigating a crowded pub. At the tune’s midpoint, the frontman threw both microphones to the ground and toppled into keyboardist Caeleigh Featherstone, who immediately stopped playing and sipped from a beer, uncertain of how to move forward. A second, slower number offered some respite, though even it appeared to decay rather than simply end, as if the music itself were somehow corroded by the noxious onstage energy.

It’s a toxicity that boiled over on the band’s final song when Travis hoisted the mike stand over his head and swung it violently at drummer Tayler Beck’s kit, narrowly missing his bandmate, who grabbed the stand and shoved it forcefully back at the singer. Shortly thereafter the house lights kicked on and the four musicians moved in opposite directions, much as they had for a majority of this memorable-for-the-wrong-reasons performance.