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Blouse party

White Williams stops by Urban Outfitters
By CAITLIN E. CURRAN  |  May 27, 2008

Last Thursday’s transformation of the Harvard Square Urban Outfitters from clothing store into rock club wasn’t all that dramatic. Store employees reinvented themselves as bouncers, keeping order to the line of attendees with easy nonchalance early in the evening and standing stageside later, nodding and watching the show in skinny ties and cut-off shorts. The fuss was for a free show from Cleveland foursome White Williams sponsored by the store, Toyota, and Emerson College’s WERS-FM as part of UO’s “Free Yr Radio” series — which last year included a similar performance by Dinosaur Jr.

After sunset, the band emerged from the bargain basement and assembled on stage in front of the first-floor men’s department. Joe Williams, the waify mastermind, may be in his mid 20s, but he’s childlike in performance, all long eyelashes and restless feet. He flitted about as though forever on the verge of dancing but never actually did — instead, he kept his head down, alternately fiddling with synth knobs and tooting a melodica.

The audience was stylish (were UO designers patrolling the door?) and appreciatively still, despite the floor-shaking volume — that is, until Williams played “Headlines,” the synth-heavy, popping, disco-derivative first track from his debut, Smoke (Tigerbeat6). From that point on, heads crowned in neon Ray-Bans began to nod, bodies gradually shifted, and finally, in the midst of the faux vintage T’s and every imaginable shade of Levis, people started dancing.

Since this was a clothing store, no house lights came up to signal the end of the half-hour set (they never dimmed in the first place), and there were no bartenders to shout, “Last call!” Despite the early hour and the unavailability of beer, people seemed reluctant to leave, and Williams mingled dutifully, swilling Red Bull from a Solo cup. Some eager fans approached armed with Sharpies and posters; others eased the store’s transition back into itself by browsing for breezy tanktops and summer dresses.

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