Sorry, folks. It's spring break this week, but I can't really blame lethargy as much of an excuse for the lack of activity around these parts. Anyhow, let's rewind a couple weeks - or better yet, six months. I saw Ra Ra Riot open way back at the beginning of the school year, a concert that's notable as the first time I finally wore earplugs. I remember being impressed with the band's energy, despite not knowing much about them. A half-year later and they've sold out the Bowery Ballroom, on the strength on their self-titled EP. Thanks so much to Brendan for making the night possible. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to catch opener Sam Rosen, so the night started off for me with...
I usually don't focus on lyrics, but it was admirable to hear Bear Hands incorporate politics into their songwriting. "Vietnam" was an obvious but effective reference, giving the band's already militant indie rock throb a bit more meaning. An endorsement of Barack Obama and a reference to bassist Val Loper's former life as a college student gave the set even more personality. But in the end, it was about the music, which was solid. Singer Dylan Rau had a rough delivery, but it meshed well with the guitar slashes.
MySpace: Bear Hands
Ra Ra Riot
It began quietly enough, with singer Wesley Miles drifting onstage alone. He dedicated the first song to the band's late drummer John Pike, and was soon joined by current drummer Cameron Wisch. After that poignant trubute, the entire band came on, and it was pretty much incredible from there onwards. The band's studio output doesn't do their live show justice at all. Foremost, there's the visuals - five members in constant motion, a hurricane of guitars and strings. Miles' vocals were romantic without being saccharine, combining strongly with the band's orchestral flourishes. The relentless pace was irresistible, each song blooming until the whole audience seemed involved.
Ultimately, one has to give major credit to the crowd. New York is often a tough sell, and even headliners can struggle to keep an audience engaged. But the enthusiasm wasn't forced; there weren't semi-rhetorical questions of, "How are you guys doing?" It was evident that we were immersed in the music. The only routine part of the show was the obligatory encore, but even that formality was overcome. When the band left the stage for the second time, the crowd stayed latched, chanting "Ra-Ra-Riot!" until they came back. Having run out of songs, they repeated a song following an informal vote, and we were treated again.
I suppose my point is, shows like this arrive only once in a long while. There are times when standing there for a few hours can seem like a job - I'd imagine that's particularly true when you're on stage. But sometimes the experience is so much more. Despite the doom and gloom that pervades this industry, I feel assured that live music will never be replaced. Nights like this just reaffirm that feeling.
MP3: Ra Ra Riot - Dying Is Fine
MP3: Ra Ra Riot - Each Year
MySpace: Ra Ra Riot
Official Site: Ra Ra Riot