There's something really rewarding about seeing good bands get better. The White Rabbits and the Subjects are both Brooklyn-based indie rock bands, known for their gutsy, capricious anthems. The White Rabbits first started turning heads in the Summer  of 2007, when their debut album, Fort Nightly, was way more awesome than anyone expected. However, a live show at JB's that summer (opening for the Cribs) left me less than impressed – the band seemed tentative, and like they were concentrating really hard on playing the right notes.

The Subjects, on the other hand, have always been showmen. A house band at Pilam when I lived there from winter 2006 to summer 2007, I could always count on the Subjects to drink a shit-ton of beer (one party in particular comes to mind, when somebody decided to put the keg in the shower, and all of us – the Subjects included –decided to get wasted in the nasty, cramped bathroom) and really go wild on stage. Lying on the floor, spinning around, and slamming into your guitar was commonplace; gallons of sweat were a given; and everyone was always pumped…but did something get lost in all the hoopla? Like maybe…the lyrics, or the notes? (I confess I was too drunk to notice.)

That was two years ago – practically eons in the indie rock universe. Since then, both bands have done a little tightening…morphing from enthusiastic "bands to watch" to full-fledged awesome bands on the scene. Their sold-out show at Johnny Brenda's on Friday night was a testament to this – and both bands more than delivered, with lively, engaging performances.

Philly-based post-punk garage-rockers Busses opened, with a hypnotic set of twisted art-rock anthems. Moody, dramatic, thrashing, killer. I'll look forward to these dudes' LP!

The Subjects were up next, and wooed the crowd with their signature quirky pop numbers. Shared vocals, and just enough theatrics kept the audience engaged, while sunshine pop chords rang out like bells. Heads started bobbing; the music got louder and more exuberant; a few people started dancing; and by the end of their set, the entire floor was grooving and cheering. The band played tracks off 2007's With the Ease Grace Precision and Cleverness of Human Beings, as well as a few new ones…is there a new record in the works? I hope so.

 The White Rabbits closed out the show, creating a visceral, moody set of dramatic indie rock. Featuring dual drummers, extensive harmonies, and dynamic piano playing (from vocalist/pianist Stephen Patterson), the 6-piece barely crammed on to the Johnny Brenda’s stage, and transformed the venue into an enclave of power and sound. Tracks like “Percussion gun” (off the recently-released It’s Frightening) thundered aggressively, while slow jam “Company I keep” was just a little raw and heart-breaking.
The band closed out with “Kid on my shoulders” off Fort Nightly, a high-strung maraca-heavy rock number that tiptoes around seductively, then slaps you in the face and goes wild. It was absolutely engaging and enthralling – proving that White Rabbits have earned their spot on indie’s “must-see” list.