Ra Ra Riot

Posted May 30, 2008 in
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I missed the opening act at this show. Usually I would say something along the lines of, “I got a flat tire on the way and got to the venue late,” but I cannot tell a lie. Anyway, I missed local openers Lord Mandrake because my grandmother died...again. But I have full intentions of making it up to L.M. when they play on the 16th of June with The Lionelle, Tolchock Trio, and Bad Flirt at Kilby Court. I did, however, catch Ra Ra Riot and The Little Ones.

The Little Ones are touring from West LA and their relaxed California attitude slinks through in their live performance. I only heard one of their songs before their set and have to say that their recording stands up well with their live performance. They were very polished. Maybe a little too polished. They were on point in terms of performance with no discernable missed cues and good harmonies. However, there was no shredding. These guys seemed satisfied with treading ground that other bands have already been on. The bassist and keyboardist switched off mid-show to play opposite instruments which was interesting. The crowd was also given the option to choose when they would switch again, but it was ultimately decided by a game of rochambeau on stage. The act was pretty funny and relaxed; points for stage presence, definitely. Some people in the crowd were really enjoying The Little Ones. But when headliners Ra Ra Riot play before you, well, it’s literally a hard act to follow. I’m not sure why the lineup was backwards, perhaps because Riot had to be in Seattle the next day to mix their new album.

Ra Ra Riot is immediately a bit different than most bands you might see, at least in terms of instrumentation. An electric cello played by a Natalie Portman look-alike, for one, and an electric violin played by someone who looks EXACTLY like my sister-in-law, for another. It was creepy because the violinist wasn’t acting bitchy. It was like the body snatchers had taken her over and put her in a rock group with a completely different personality. Bizarro! The music is mostly upbeat and the rhythms and style recall Mates of State and Secret Ink, if you’re trying to place them musically. Riot brings something unique by writing and displaying their strings to great effect; they are definitely not just scenic touches. Riot also takes advantage of keyboards and the standard guitar-bass combo, although at any moment it seemed like a good time for random members of the band to pick up some sort of rhythm instrument, like maracas, star-shaped tambourines or bells tied on a stick. I don’t know the technical term for that percussion instrument, but it sounds like a good band name, Bells Tied on a Stick (or a good way to know your boyfriend’s location in your apartment, like a cat. TRY IT).

Riot played all their old stuff from their first self-titled EP and a large chunk of music I didn’t recognize which Natalie Portman (Ally Lawn) reassured me was from their forthcoming album. It is currently without a title and no label has been decided on yet. Ra Ra Riot is currently formulating their symphonic take on indie rock and should provide a good show when they come back (as they promised) to promote their under-construction-album this summer.