Monday, June 04, 2007

Are White Rabbits the best unsigned band in America?

Take out your stopwatches a la Alice in Wonderland, and start counting the minutes until this new group hits the big time.

White Rabbits may well be the best unsigned band I’ve seen play live in years. I’ve made it to several gigs this month, amongst which were The Kooks at The Fillmore (still breaking over here, small venue, not as strong live as I had hoped), and Arctic Monkeys at the Hammerstein Ballroom – terrible sound, static crowd, enormously disappointing and, apart from CSS's stellar showing on Friday, was getting used to underwhelming live sets in this city.

Hopping along to White Rabbits on Saturday night at The Bowery Ballroom at the very last minute (I’m late, I’m late for a very important date) my expectations were somewhere beneath ground level. Unsigned band, tiny venue. The only reason I levered myself off the sofa of death was that I was invited by my friend A who has immaculate taste (but then she does own a properly good indie record label.)

They describe themselves as purveyors of honky tonk calypso, but this doesn’t even begin to describe their (seriously credible) sound. With two lead vocals, plus frenetic piano playing, and extraordinary layered percussion (two drum kits, maracas, bells, tambourine,) it all melds into a glorious, uplifting noise. Although it’s hard to keep track as the band members hop around the stage swapping guitars for maracas, and drums for keyboards and goodness knows what else. A band this comprehensively talented makes their live performance an absolute joy. The anoraks will appreciate their musicianship, the girls their (extremely) good looks, the press their charm & manners – and everyone will love their live infectious energy and chutzpah.

Their debut album, Fort Nightly, has just been released here and, on mutiple plays so far, I reckon it’s one of the albums of 2007 already. If you’re in London, they play at White Heat @ Madame Jo-Jo's & at Water Rats in June, and they take to the Q Stage at Glasto. GO, go go….