One word: intense
White Rabbits - Live At Hoxton Square Bar And Kitchen, London

White Rabbits' third album 'Milk Famous' appeared to be a conscious attempt to stretch the band's sound into the realms of studio trickery, quirky sounds and unusual production; a conscious attempt to avoid typecasting, in the wake of 'Percussion Gun', as “that band who use two drummers.” Whilst 'Milk Famous' represented another interesting collection of songs, the attempts toward clever sound manipulation left you asking just what the album might have sounded like without those interventions.

The answer is a single word: intense. At this small show in Hoxton, songs like 'Temporary' were revealed to possess a feisty quality that was hidden away on the album; growling tremolo guitar bursts offset Bontempi drum presets, the song slowly building through layers of almost Kraftwerkian starkness toward an angular conclusion of snarling riffs and only-just-controlled feedback. Another of the difficult tracks on 'Milk Famous', the introspective 'It's Frightening', was here rendered more muscular, whilst still retaining a haunted, ethereal quality through shimmering washes of static, while the take on 'Heavy Metal' that immediately followed somehow managed to straddle the digital, stripped-down alien funk of the studio version with an angry looseness from the twin guitars of Alex Evan and Gregory Roberts.

Much of the intensity stemmed from the earnest gum-chewing frontman Stephen Patterson, a man who manages to blend the serious, focussed demeanour of Luke Skywalker in Jedi training with the cheeky insouciance of Ferris Bueller, his vein-popping grimaces turning to friendly grins, often within the same line in a song. Patterson propelled the band forward by hunching over his keyboard and pounding the keys so hard that you swore he'd break them. And then there was the small matter of David Scalia and Matthew Clark, the pair of drummers who delivered everything from intricate percussive patterns, through the wild primal rhythm of chief crowd-pleaser 'Percussion Gun', and unstoppably onward into the sculpted Blondie punk-funk shapes of encore track 'Kid On My Shoulders' from the band's first album 'Fort Nightly'. The guitarists seemed relatively motionless in comparison, even if the noise they sculpt was anything but.

“I believe we have a faulty amp,” said Patterson, a couple of songs into the set, a nervous smile fixed on his face. “Does anyone have an amp?” Undeterred, the band launched into the joyous 'Rudie Falls', a song which is way too upbeat and sunny to have come from Brooklyn. That same uplifting spirit enveloped 'The Plot'. “He's not impressed,” Patterson and Roberts harmonise on the chorus. Except we are impressed. It's hard not to be. When Patterson sings a menacing 'Listen to me,' on 'Lionesse', you really have no choice, but it's a tough call when all around him thunderous drumming, a nagging, Neu!-tastic motorik quality and whining guitar vie for your attention.

By the first encore track, 'Danny Come Inside', all six band members were drenched in sweat. Patterson switches to guitar and Roberts dons a Norse cap that's pure mechanic chic. A steady drum pulse began to emerge, rising in power like shredded punk stuttering out of a gospel church singalong. Words drifted, hung in the air, made shapes and disappeared. “An eye for an eye,” Patterson sings vengefully as the song grew into anger, a release of sorts at last from all that earlier intensity; as the track imploded into itself via reams of distortion, the singer offered a wry smile. What we gave in return for the band's unstoppable energy wasn’t clear, possibly our hearing, but Patterson seemed satisfied enough with the trade.

Words by Mat Smith
Photo by Rachel Lipsitz

Click here for a photo gallery of the gig.

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