Not a soul stood still when Ra Ra Riot took the stage at 9:30 club – they were too busy dancing.
By Kinne Chapin
Ra Ra Riot took the stage on October 26 without much pomp or circumstance. Rather than dilly dally with greetings or introductions, vocalist Wes Miles, guitarist Milo Bonacci, violinist Rebecca Zeller, drummer Kenny Bernard, cellist Alexandra Lawn, and bassist Mathieu Santos simply started to play. For the crowd who had gathered at 9:30 Club to hear them, this modest beginning was just another reason to love the band, which has always emphasized its music above all else. And why shouldn’t they? Ra Ra Riot’s music is an incredible balance of lyrical depth and musical talent, made to sound elegant by its mix of mellifluous voices and string instruments.
For those unfamiliar with their music, Ra Ra Riot sounds like a happier, more energetic relative of The Smiths. It’s a sound they have been perfecting since they started playing in 2006, attracting attention with their live shows around Syracuse University’s campus. They gained notoriety quickly, and recorded an eponymous EP the following year. Though many indie bands are a flash in the pan, Ra Ra Riot has continued to receive critical acclaim over the years, with positive reviews from Rolling Stone and NYLON for its two full length albums, The Rhumb Line (2008) and The Orchard (2010).
But as much as their albums have been acclaimed, Ra Ra Riot’s music was meant to be heard live. Something about their delicate sound becomes fierce and energetic when played outside of the recording studio, without ever losing the band’s signature fragility. The band’s tribute to the lovesick and lonely, “Can You Tell,” was transformed from a plea to a celebration when Wes Miles crooned, “My bed’s too big for just me.” Their song “Boy,” took on an edge that one wouldn’t expect from the upbeat dance tune.
Not surprisingly, the audience wasn’t ready to let Ra Ra Riot go when they bid the stage adieu. The band rewarded their audience with a three song encore set featuring a loveable cover of “Valerie” that would have been entirely unrecognizable to lovers of the Eric Prydz techno version. Saving the best for last, the band finished with “Dying is Fine,” an anthem for those without a fear of mortality.
When signing off for good, Wes Miles praised the audience for “being so sweet.” Humility: just one in a laundry list of reasons to love Ra Ra Riot.