19 Mar 2012: The Bluebird Theater Denver, CO
The Bluebird Theater sits in an unassuming part of Denver. At that side of Colfax Avenue, there is not much around, especially on a Monday evening. A bar across the street played basketball on its televisions, the bartender walked calmly up and down her aisle, not rushed by her patrons nor bored of her surroundings. Jaywalkers crossed a side street unalarmed by the lack of passing cars, and got reluctantly into a small line outside a small theater.
Denver hipsters are an interesting group – as per normal hipster protocol, it takes a lot to excite them to a point of displaying physical emotion, but most of them seem comfortable and calm simply standing to watch a show as opposed to the cloudy and coke-filled haze of most New York hipster bars, where random convulsions awkwardly in time with experimental time signatures are not out of place. In Denver, on a Monday evening, it was not necessarily a lack of interest, but perhaps a lack of energy that kept the onlookers standing mostly still.
After opener Gull left the stage, shirtless, feather mask in hand, fresh off a bout of rather impressive echo-screams, guitar-and-drums-played-by-one-single-man-on-a-stage, the crowd did not grow restless. When the White Rabbits entered stage left, it was to a room full of standard band greetings – high pitched screams, clapping hands, and of course the random “Wooo!” from a girl or two in the back. Stephen Patterson, maroon hoodie and upright piano shielding him from one half of the room, started “Heavy Metal”, the opening track and single from the Rabbits’ latest album, Milk Famous. Adam Russell’s rounded bass line thumped through the speaker system. Patterson’s echoing falsetto hit a little softer than you might have expected from the powerful opening notes, but as the song went on that didn’t stop the remainder of the sextet from rocking to themselves behind their respective instruments.
The White Rabbits, though easily labeled as “indie rock” – if that term actually means anything – do have a bit more to them than what you’d normally call “indie rock”. That is, they fall back on hard rhythms bolstered by a duo of drummers and a bassist who ultimately lead the band through every song. If it weren’t the rhythm section, we might drown in a riptide of ambient noise, guitars run through so many effect pedals it’s at times hard to tell if it’s a guitar or a synthesizer, or just some dude screaming a couple feet away from a microphone. The Rabbits sound is largely based on written songs, the ambient noise is not random but planned, and of course a crushing rock and roll guitar chord comes crashing through the wall of sound, but if it weren’t for the rhythm section chiming and telling their friends up front, “Hey, come on back to dry land,” the songs may never find the structure that they need to really grab their listener’s ears.
I think that it may have been slightly because of that noise—too loud and overwhelming in a small room—that the crowd stood still. The beat was too hidden to dance. And that’s unfortunate for band and audience alike. Or maybe the audience was just tired, but either way, it must be really hard to be a band and look at your audience appearing to have absolutely no fun whatsoever. It wasn’t The White Rabbits’ fault either – they were rocking. It was like this crowd was incapable of having fun, as if they were above it. Fun is a novelty, not something to cherish, apparently. And music should be taken seriously, like a heart attack or a solar eclipse, apparently. It is not to be enjoyed for anything but its scientific meaning and artist contribution, apparently.
And again, that same problem kept the Rabbits from really sticking out. The songs all seemed to blend together – no matter if there was a different beat or if it was played in a different key with a different melody, somehow towards the end the entire hour and a half set started to sound like one drawn out song.
Of course that wasn’t true for the entire evening. “I’m Not Me” stuck out a bit after “Rudie Fails”, and later the infectious dance beat and repetitious chorus of “Temporary” got some foot moving. Intricate rhythms like that of “They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong” shone through as the Rabbits managed to hypnotize its audience for the duration of the tune, and even more after that. Percussionist Matthew Clark left the comfort of his kit and came center stage to jive to the groove while Jamie Levinson kept the steadiest of beats going behind his set. The guitars played arpeggios and raked chords for what was easily the most energetic moment of the night for both band and crowd alike.
Are You Free
I’m Not Me
While We Go Dancing
Back For More
The Salesman (Tramp Life)
The Day You Won The War
They Done Wrong/We Done Wrong
I Had It Coming
Danny Come Inside
Kid On My Shoulders
// Notes from the Road
"Rhiannon Giddens, formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, brought her Freedom Highway tour to New York for a powerful show. The tour resumes next week and hits Newport Folk later this summer.READ the article