It's Coachella season, and all the indie critters are scurrying through the Southwest on their way to California. OK, not all of them, but enough that right now is one of those times on the calendar (SXSW, ACL, Voodoo Fest) where Houston feels a little less remote on the Pitchfork booking/touring map. Making their first-ever area appearance Tuesday night, Brooklyn-via-Missouri six-piece White Rabbits were greeted by a near-capacity Walter's crowd only too happy to clap their hands and say yeah. White Rabbits gave them plenty to clap about. Most of the songs were dominated, if not overwhelmed, by a visceral rhythmic attack that relegated the guitars to the perimeter of the band's sound. Besides two drummers, one sitting (Jamie Levinson) and one standing (Matthew Clark), the bassist also picked up a stick from time to time and tambourines were in abundance. Stephen Patterson likewise brought out the tympanic aspects of his upright piano; if he hammers his instrument like that every night, it may not last the tour. Patterson also shouldered the lion's share of the melodies, bouncing (often literally) between decadent goth-pop, swinging Latin jazz and wild-eyed classical flourishes like Chopin with one mother of an axe to grind.
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When not coloring in the edges via various distortion pedals, White Rabbits' guitars were taut and spindly. A Kinks-like economy and teeth-on-edge tension, goaded by an urgent Funk Brothers bass line, marked "The Plot," while "Right Where They Left" worked some John Barry James Bond theme reverb around an all-consuming disco beat. The samba barrage of "Percussion Gun" brought the house down in a sea of handclaps and a bass line that cut across the grain of the song like a snarl.
Fifty minutes, on and off. White Rabbits could use some more legitimate hooks and melodies to go with all those exuberant percussion displays; Tuesday, most of the set came off more as sketches or rhythmic showpieces than actual songs. But both the music and the band were such a blur onstage - Aftermath's favorite moment was looking up from our notes noticing Clark using his maraca as a drumstick - that it's entirely likely that neither they nor the crowd, not shy at all about shouting its approval, hardly noticed. We can only imagine the audience at Coachella this weekend will have a similar response.