White Rabbits

How many bands, ensembles, collectives can a city produce? Is there an upper limit? Is there a study that can predict for how long New York, Brooklyn, Big Apple or whatever you want to call it will keep generating amazing music leaving the rest of the musicians and music lovers of the world in awe and desire to move there?

Creativity seems to be unstoppable in New York, decades after Andy Warhol died and even if the building where the Factory was no longer exist, the city lives a renaissance which is the rock music equivalent of what Florence did with visual arts in the XV century.

Umpteenth music genres, all linked by a vigorous beat, an happy feel (the one you get from a positive environment) and an experimental approach, radiate off the same centre, Brooklyn.
There is only one think where creativity doesn’t seem to permeate, on the name of the band choice. They are all likely to have been taken reading the signs at the Central Park zoo. Or has the name has any reference to the Jefferson Airplane‘s song?

White Rabbits, another of these solar rays, have been around for about 5 years and despite they don’t sound anything like the other Brooklyn ensembles (no one does) they are still part of this renaissance.

Originally of Columbia, Missouri, they moved to Brooklyn (guess why) where they recorded their two albums, which (creativity is creativity) are different and both good.

Fort Nightly came out on 2007 and instantly shows where is the focus of White Rabbits sound.
The double drums bring strong steady rhythms which permeate the entire album as if a train is running constantly on the background. Dinner Party or Take a Walk Around the Table are two songs perfect to be played on a dining car of a running train.

The other aspect of the music is characterized by choral parts that act as door openers inviting you into the ballroom for an old style dance party. There is a lot of Big Band sound borrowed as far as early Jazz orchestras of the thirties. Songs as Cotillon Blues keep the memory of The Duke (Ellington) and The Count (Basie) alive.

Third, due to their confessed love for the two tone movement famous in late seventies in UK, the music contains that happy feel that you would expect from band as The Specials or Madness. Thankfully without the Jamaican-in-London reggae/ska upbeat. Listen to Kid on My Shoulders, that opens the album, and you’ll get what I am failing to explain.

Last year, It’s Frightening, their second album was released and it’s a different story with the same rhythm. The album opens with a laugh than the song Percussion Gun introduce the work doing exactly what the title says.
White Rabbits hang on an even more percussive sound but leave out the other two aspect of their sound, the big band melting pot and the two tone influences. They stays more as background memories. This gives them space to move into alternative music.

To achieve the idea, they recruited to produce the CD, Britt Daniel, the Spoon frontman.
His touch is evident and very effective. It’s Frightening is better than the debut, sounds fresher and less indebted with the past. It reminds me of some of the Walkmen best bits, with some surprises. For example, 2 min and 30 sec into Rudie Falls, arrives a very Beatlesian piano recalling Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da that counterpart the rumbling drums just when it is getting too much.

With the album out several months ago, White Rabbits arrived to London to open for Spoon transforming the Electric Ballroom gig in a double bill of exciting high expectations. With my plus of having been left free to shoot their entire set I managed to relax enjoy the show, scribbling notes between songs and photos.

There are six White Rabbits on stage, none of them can be categorizable as lead instrumentalist, all are. They basically play the entire set alternating and swapping instruments, feeding my sensation that making music in NYC must be such an open and fun environment.

At the end of the set I steal a handwritten setlist on the floor, not for compulsive collector addiction, but to go through the songs one by one in this review, which help me to make space to show you the pics, main aim of this site.

The show starts on a quiet note, opening with FoxHunting a B-side of Percussion Gun which unfortunately won’t be played.
It then moves into that Rudie Fails to give the lead singer the opportunity to show off his keys skills.

While We Go Dancing instead introduces the heavy drumming provided by the two kits to the joy of the ones who are here to dance. Keeping still is now impossible.

There’s an Ethio on my setlist which I don’t have a clue which recorded place has, if any, but as the name suggest brings a bit of African taste to Brooklyn (actually to London).
On the ever spinning line-up, keyboards for guitar, drums for bass, guitar for drums the singing is mainly a duty of the same guy, which I think is Stephen Petterson but could well be Greg Roberts one of the two founders of the band. It’s easy to get confused if you were not at the college with them!

Company I keep and Kid on my Shoulders follow. The first from latest album, is an intimate song which would sound great on a Spoon album, that must be the Britt Daniel touch who managed to influence even the way they sing. It sounds great.
The second is the landmark example of the upbeat sound White Rabbits have been characterized at their beginning and people lazy enough to not listen their new music still believe they are. With the keyboard loop over the fast guitar, be sure it is another song that won’t keep you still.

As in the album The Plot comes after and bangs on the drum heavily. It persists to an almost military 4/4 tempo. Chords are simple, not too much of an arrangement here. Something written down as Punk comes on the setlist next, then Burundi that despite the name has a New Orleans feel. to my ignorance I haven’t got a clue about their origin. Nevermind.

It is instead clear that The Lady Vanishes is another track from It’s Frightening. It slows down the gig a bit in the intro than grows and prepare the big closure with The Salesman, which has another great rhythm section, this time supported not only by the double drum but also a groovy bass loop. Unfortunately support slots can’t do encores, this would have been a nice one.

It is probably because White Rabbits are supporting Spoon, or because they want to promote the album to an audience which arrived here not (only) for them, but the entire set tonight had much less of the 30s-dance-hall-with-a ska-twist I was expecting and much more of alternative American music, solid on guitars.

This is probably why their cover of Dylan’s Maggie’s Farm, (actually, their cover of the Specials cover of Dylans’ Maggie’s Farm, to be precise) doesn’t arrive. As it does not the other early classic, Cotillon Blues so to avoid bewildering Spoon’s fans.

What we get is a brilliant White Rabbits direct set, by six hyper-excited guys who stands on stage playing the hell out of their instruments. White Rabbits did exactly what a support band is supposed to do and too often fails to achieve: warm up the crowd for the headliners.

A week after this gig they had their own headliner show at the ICA and I’d be curious to know (anyone there?) if it was different from this support slot.
If you missed that as well, there are [website] [myspace] to help you being in touch.

Photo tip

Lens flare can be caused (apart from a cheap lens with a bad coating) by some liquid drops or dirt on the front lens. That is an easy solvable problem and as I explained to you on a different tip, all you need to do is to check that your glasses are clear before the show.

A trickier situation is when entering into a warm venue from a cold night outside, mist form and cover your lens (and your glasses and everything else that is cold enough to liquify the gaseous water molecule in the air).

Best thing is to prevent it. Which means keeping the lens warmer than the outside air temperature. It sounds difficult but it is not. If you zip your bag when you are at home and unzip it in the venue things would work unless your trip is very long or outside is really freezing.
I read some people put the lenses on a plastic bag to minimize the risk. I don’t really see it being useful, the water condensing on the glass is the one inside the venue so you should keep the lens in the plastic bag until temperature is balanced anyway.

If the problem exist, removing it with a tissue won’t help. It’s physics, until the lens is colder than the air the bloody water molecules would love to deposit on it and become a liquid coat made of tiny drops.

The only solution I know is to not touch the lens, uncap it both sides and hold it into a warm (possibly clean) place. You will see that with temperature of the glass rising, the water evaporates giving you back the clearness you need unless you want to go for flou concert photography.
The problem is that the process may need several minutes to go. Be aware of it, don’t arrive to the pit straight from your pint drank in the pub garden despite the snow.
Consider the mist deposits also on the SLR mirror and likely (who knows?) on the sensor. Try a couple of shot to see if everything looks fine.

A desperate solution could be going to the toilet and use the hand drier, I never tried that but, if the hairdryer works on your bathroom mirror every morning, I don’t see why it shouldn’t work on your obstinate glass. DO NOT do that on your mirror though. I don’t have to explain to you why, do I?

~ by Valerio on March 6, 2010.

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