Whirlwind Heat (Live Show Review)

Feb 11, 2004 at 12:00 am

Saturday, Jan. 31, 2004

Girls in Brighton don’t usually flash their breasts. Certainly not on such rainy nights, and certainly not to young American rock groups playing the last night of their UK tour wearing matching tour T-shirts and peddling jagged, frantic, synth-driven music that veers somewhere between the left-field angst of Gossip spin-off band Die Monitr Batss and math rock. Yet here, in the mock-Tudor surrounds of the pub that was rumored to have been the setting for Adam Ant’s “Prince Charming” video, there’s an impromptu strip going down in front. Maybe singer David Swanson’s haircut really is that sexy. Maybe the rhythm section of Steve Damstra (bass) and Brad Holland (drums) have tapped into a latent undercurrent of lust on such sleeping hits as “Orange” and “Pink.” Maybe the squealing refrains of “Decal On My Sticker” (re-titled “Purple” for the color-themed debut album, Do Rabbits Wonder?) are some sort of ragged aphrodisiac.

More likely, it has something to with that ol’ Jack White gold dust, liberally sprinkled over this Grand Rapids three-piece. (He produced the album; Whirlwind Heat supported The White Stripes on their 2003 UK tour.) For everyone in England wants a piece of that action right now, believe it. And Whirlwind Heat most assuredly has a fair-sized following here. A wet windy night like this on the South Coast of England usually attracts a crowd of one man and his laughing dog. This sizable place has at least 150 kids present, easy. (Although, to be rigorously fair, many of them are here to see popular grungy local support, Castro.)

Whirlwind Heat may have elements of Brooklyn, Olympia, London and other trend-chasing cities in its sound (also, the jerky staccato thrust of late-’70s groups such as Richard Hell And The Voidoids and Punishment Of Luxury) but that’s not what matters right now. As far as its growing British audience is concerned, Whirlwind Heat is from Detroit (even if they do live a two-hours’ drive away). And Detroit is a mythical, magical place, a wellspring of rock.

E-mail Everett True at [email protected].