Material: Between 2000 and 2013, Joshua Tree-based band Gram Rabbit, fronted by the inimitable Jesika Von Rabbit, did a startlingly good job of blending pop-electronica with dusty, rootsy Americana and adding a touch of psychedelic rock, resulting in a sound that sat somewhere between Gram Parsons and Portishead. That group is on hiatus, but Von Rabbit hasn’t let her creative juices stagnate for even a minute. Rather, going the solo route has allowed her to push her experimental boat out much further. There’s a glorious paradox going on. On one hand, her solo sound is more upbeat and poppy. On the other, it’s dark to the point of gothic, and so beautifully weird that it’s near-impossible to fit into any conventional genre box. One song sounds like Lady Gaga fronting the Bad Seeds, the next resembles a Lynch-ian, nightmarish score.
Musicianship: Von Rabbit and Allen, both Gram Rabbit members, are so familiar that they play off of each other effortlessly. Meanwhile, the rhythm section of Joseph and Kashunk offers a super-tight and occasionally flamboyant frame. Von Rabbit is clearly the leader, and her voice is an instrument in itself. She coos, croons, hoots and hollers seemingly at will, but the whole thing is executed so majestically by these gifted musicians that every second of madness makes complete sense.
Performance: Joseph and Allen are dressed in black and manage to look poetically crazy, like deranged missionaries sporting wry grins. But Von Rabbit is naturally the focal point. She’s a wonderful frontwoman with a look that is both ‘50s burlesque and contemporary electronica culture. Her face tells a thousand stories while she sings just one song, switching from intense fury to overwhelming serenity in a blink.
Summary: Jesika Von Rabbit was opening for electronic veterans The Crystal Method at this gig and, while it might be pushing things a little far to say that she stole the show, anybody who left immediately after Von Rabbit had already gotten their money’s worth. She and her band put on a genuinely unique, exciting and unforgettable show. It might not be for everyone––on record, some of her music requires a little effort and this is an instant gratification age. But dammit, she’s worth it.
The Players: Jesika Von Rabbit, vocals, keyboards; Lee Joseph, bass; Ethan Allen, guitar; Daniel Kashunk, drums.