White Rabbits rock The Basement

By Dave Mansfield

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White Rabbits shook The Basement to its core on Tuesday night, giving the
fervent crowd an intensely energetic performance free of charge. After their planned
show at Pearl Street in Northampton was cancelled, White Rabbits, along with opener
SquillMerchants, headed over to the tiny venue a couple blocks over and played a
set that justified their reputation as a great live act.

The Basement, which could not be more appropriately named, is a small, dimly
lit, intimate bar on Center Street with red brick walls and only a handful of
tables and chairs. At first, the crowd seemingly consisted solely of the band members and their friends.

The crowd eventually began to leak in, as opening act SquillMerchants completed their final tune ups and sound checks. The little-known five piece act turned out a bold, enthusiastic performance that served as a more-than-admirable warm-up to the headliner. With an edgy sound that bordered on experimental, SquillMerchants were able to set the tone and bring the crowd to their feet. Although he shouted more than he sang, their front man charmed onlookers with his vibrant enthusiasm; thanking them for showing up and telling everyone that, “There’s no better way to spend a Tuesday night!”

White Rabbits took the stage and wasted no time in bringing out the big guns as they opened with “Rudie Fails,” off of their latest release “It’s Frightening.” Front man Stephen Patterson pounded away on his small wooden piano, bellowing out, “I don’t care at all!” in a performance that could be characterized as anything but careless. Percussionists Matthew Clark and Jamie Levinson pounded away at their drums with such ferocious force that it seemed as though they might break their instruments.

The crowd, arranged in a semi-circle, drew closer in, the closest among them only about a foot from Patterson and guitarist Greg Roberts. As if two drummers weren’t enough, bassist Brian Betancourt moved over to the tenor drums for the next number, as Clark took the maracas.

As expected, the White Rabbit’s percussive sound was the focal point of their set. When seen live, Clark and Levinson really add a shot of adrenaline into their performance that can’t always be heard on the record. Although rhythmically it all sounded about the same, their persistent drumming always fit the song and kept the music and crowd moving alike.

Switching gears a bit, Patterson’s virtuosity was featured more on “They’ve
Done Wrong/We’ve Done Wrong”. Getting as much sound as possible out of his tiny piano, Patterson soloed over Betancourt’s emphatic bass line in a captivating extended outro. Levinson and Clark took a bit of a backseat during this number, as they clicked away on the rims in rapid fashion.

The six-piece ensemble arrived at their darkest point of the performance with “Right Where They Left”. Patterson spoke of “houses burning down” as he displayed an eerie, almost harrowing side to his vocals that showed just how well-rounded a vocalist he is. The rest of the band chimed in with tribal sounding yells and a deep, minor sounding chord progression that was hypnotic in quality.

White Rabbits brought things back into a state of cheery familiarity with their debut single “The Plot” from their first album, “Fort Knightly.” A catchy, repetitive number, “The Plot” was slightly similar to “The Bloc Party.”

After playing much of their set thus far without breaking, White Rabbits took a quick recess before the stretch run. In a true act of class, the band members all took shots and toasted the crowd for showing up to hear them play on such short notice.

After playing a couple more selections from “It’s Frightening,” they ended with their single “Percussion Gun,” which proved to be the perfect closer to a truly percussion laden performance. The crowd displayed their gratitude, giving them a resounding ovation amid fervent shouts of “Thank you for playing!”
The fact that they turned in such a performance for free proves that they are genuine artists with a true love for their profession.

Dave Mansfield can be reached [email protected]