Fort Nightly, the White Rabbits first full length album, keeps popping up on the endless stream of “Best of 2007” lists and it is fairly easy to see why, particularly with the genre-hopping sound and stout song writing. This six piece (Keys, bass, 2 guitars, 2 drummers) have been earning rave reviews around the country with their energetic live show. Tonight they headlined a bill in their adopted home town of NYC.
The Subjects started the evening with some off-kilter power pop, and this being my first experience with the group, it is tough to tell if the ramshackle changes and clashing guitar breaks are constructed parts or sloppiness, but either situation being the truth, these youngsters from Brooklyn are worth a second gander.
The other opening act will hopefully not receive another viewing. The Harlem Shakes have nothing to do with the funky dance move they are named after and instead incorporate a whiney brand of lame indie rock; pussified Weezer at their blandest. Perhaps the harmonies work better on headphones, but in a live setting the thin vocals and manufactured breakdowns simply bored the desperate ear. Tonight’s added horns from players in Beirut and the Arcade Fire were over shadowed by loud going nowhere guitar solos, time to shake it up.
Thankfully the headliners did not disappoint. The White Rabbits came out stylishly dressed with duel drummers thumping, causing the previously statuesque crowd to loosen their knees and hips, getting down to “Kid on My Shoulders” and “The Plot”. There is a percussive backbone carved in ivory supporting all of the Rabbits’ songs, allowing floating keys and understated guitars to highlight calypso-tinged rockers. The cover of “Iko Iko” was effortless and fit with these Bushwick boys’ Caribbean influences. The Beirut and Arcade Fire horn players emerged periodically, accentuating the tropical carnival feel on numbers like “Tourist Trap”.
White Rabbits would be the perfect band to play on a Mexican beach just after a rain storm if you wanted some power pop in your frozen musical cocktail.
The encore included a triple drum attack assault on “Maggie’s Farm” that would have fit (and been one of the highlights) last month’s I’m Not There Dylan-tribute concert at the Beacon Theater. It was a unique take on an over covered song, propulsive, and barely scratching the folk guitar roots. The stage gradually became a free-for-all as the Rabbits segued into their best song “I Used To Complain Now I Don’t”, the massive party on stage veered dangerously close to destroying the music but the band winningly pulled it off with over 25 people dancing and shaking tambourines in the Mardi Gras atmosphere (some unfortunate fellow even took off his pants, not a good move).
Still fresh faced as a band, there is no doubt that the buzz will continue to grow around the White Rabbits, hopefully they will grow with it, but as it stands now they deliver the goods and get the crowd alive.