Concert review: White Rabbits (with Union Tree Review) throw a rhythmic dance party at Off Broadway, Saturday, October 13
Last night at Off Broadway marked the first time the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based (by way of Columbia, Mo.) White Rabbits‘ return to its home state. With the help of St. Louis’ Union Tree Review, White Rabbits proved they know how to throw a drum and bass-riddled homecoming party.
The six-piece Union Tree Review took the stage with a powerful post-rock indie style that featured a trumpet, violin, warped-out guitar, dizzying dynamics and Tawaine Noah’s crystalline lead vocals. The band rocked through the early part of their set with tunes from 2011′s “Death and Other Forms of Relaxation.”
At the end of their set, Noah offered the crowd “Skeletons,” which featured a slow, cunning build and release. A horn hook blasted over Noah’s well-delivered, gothic lyrics. Union Tree Review closed with “Clouds,” a still unrecorded track, which ought to be on their EP due out around March 2013. The song showcased the band banging cymbals held high, dancing wildly and leaping off amps in true let’s-wreck-shit, Cursive fashion.
The crowd gathered around White Rabbits and watched as Stephen Patterson, seated at a synthesizer, began “I Had It Coming.” With his hair slicked back, Gregory Roberts strummed the song’s chords on an old hollow body. During “While We Go Dancing,” from 2007′s “Fort Nightly,” Matthew Clark sported a red Cardinals hat as he rocked out on a bass before shifting to a second drum set.
White Rabbits’ newest material from 2012′s “Milk Famous” is a major departure for the band. The band has arguably matured, creating material full of intricate, uptempo soundscapes that heavily rely on their two drummers. This folds unmistakable new energy into White Rabbits’ live show, as proved by the crowd’s constant vibration.
“Are You Free,” from “Milk Famous,” forged a groove that mingled with Jamie Levinson’s drums to create one of the evening’s most danceable tracks. On White Rabbits’ newest outings, the complexity does not rely on lyrics, delivery or imagistic content, but rather on instrumentation, which, though lacking dynamics, pushes ahead like an English coney dipped in a vat of speed and let loose for the dogs to chase.
“Milk Famous” lead single, “Temporary,” found the audience dancing lightly, but I expected more from the track, which did little more than repeat the ephemeral notion, “It’s temporary, it’s temporary,” over a wash of chest-crashing drum and bass. “Kid on My Shoulders” from “Fort Nightly” stood out as a nice throwback to White Rabbits’ earlier, more playful, indie-centric work. “The Salesman (Tramp Life)” offered a satisfying Melvillean lyrical element, a nice change from the dance-club feel dominating most of the evening.
Patterson dedicated “It’s Frightening” to his nieces, who scurried smiling through the venue wearing white “Milk Famous” shirts. The song unwound with grace, bleeding into “Heavy Metal,” which found the two drummers clanging away on their ride cymbals during the heady chorus.
White Rabbits wound down the set with “Danny Come Inside” and fan-favorite, “Percussion Gun.” The crowd attempted to clap along to the song’s crazed floor tom drumming, but couldn’t keep pace and opted to flail their arms, mock playing the memorable drumming.
After a short break, and cajoling from the friends and family-filled crowd, White Rabbits returned for a three-song encore which included “If Not Me,” “The Plot” and “Rudie Fails.” Each track blasted ahead with artful insight and passion, but “The Plot” placed the audience into a happy oblivion with its ornate chorus and manic drum work.
With a nod to songs new and old, White Rabbits proved they retain the versatility that made them famous. Now, with the addition of a more drum-centric album to their catalogue, White Rabbits are “Milk Famous.”
Correction: The review originally stated White Rabbits hadn’t played in Missouri since 2007. In fact, the band played St. Louis in April 2012.