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RINGING IN 2008

Gram Rabbit shines before DJs spin in

The Joshua Tree electro freaks wear the ears of headliner but lose stage time to an overbooked lineup at the Echo.

January 02, 2008|Kevin Bronson | Times Staff Writer

New Year's Eve is no time to cop a rock-star attitude.

So it was with smiles, shrugs and more than a little aplomb that Gram Rabbit -- only one song after counting down to 2008 with a capacity crowd at the Echo -- yielded the stage Monday night before its set was scheduled to end. The Joshua Tree quartet merely paused after its cover of Prince's "1999" (the chorus reworked to "two thousand and eight") when an overeager DJ busted loose with a soul song that sent the footloose throng in motion.

After all, the night -- co-hosted by the venue, KCRW-FM and the DJ collectives Club Underground and Hang the DJs -- was a dance party, and an overbooked one at that, with no fewer than 10 DJs (including guest Eddie Argos of British rock band Art Brut) manning the decks. If you were smart enough to count backward from 10, you knew to check your self-importance at the door.

For their part, though, singer Jesika von Rabbit, guitarist Todd Rutherford and their mates held up their end of the deal, laying down their fierce cosmic electro with a resoluteness usually reserved for folks on their way to the bar. Through three albums, including 2007's "RadioAngel & the RobotBeat," Gram Rabbit has carved out a Garbage-meets-Spaghetti Western pastiche that elevates high desert mysticism almost to the occult. Despite the messages in their madness -- "American Hookers" is a nifty cultural broadside; "In My Book" lampoons lowest-common-denominator pop -- the band has found only a niche audience. Indeed, Gram Rabbit is currently without a record deal or a manager.

It isn't because they're not unique.

Von Rabbit could be the Madonna of the Mojave, if she pandered to do more vamping. Not her style. On Monday, she delivered her dire-girl vocals in icy detachment, displaying her characteristic if-a-fight-breaks-out-we-can-take-you glare. Maybe a juxtaposition, when you consider she wore a clingy, backless orange bodysuit, a feathered hat and a holster and toy pistol.

Such dualities make the foursome attractive every time they beam themselves in from the desert.

If Gram Rabbit wasn't around long enough Monday to feel like the real headliner, it wasn't the holiday it could have been. Dang the DJs.

--

kevin.bronson@latimes.com

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