In the second night of a Thursday-Friday-Saturday show trifecta, I ventured to 9:30 Club with my good buddy Justin for an early show featuring Ra Ra Riot and Givers. In April 2009, I stumbled across Ra Ra Riot’s The Rhumb Line and absolutely adored it. When The Orchard dropped in August, I gave it a more tepid review, but it still has quality tracks. And then, in the build up to Friday evening’s show, I had the opportunity to talk with Ra Ra Riot’s Milo Bonacci for The Diamondback. It all led to Friday night.
But first, I had to get through Givers, who I did not enjoy at all. It was cool the people of DC gave them a (n unreasonably) warm reception, but I didn’t really see what was going on. To me, it felt like a bad version of Freelance Whales and I’ve talked to other people that have compared Givers to a horrible Dirty Projectors.
There was just too much going on on stage, the sound was muddled, and the timing was off horrendously at certain points. The frontman could not keep is tongue in his mouth at all, and I just didn’t like the vibe I received from them. The band was about 15 minutes late to the stage and made no apology or any acknowledge to that fact, unlike other late bands I’ve seen this year like Surfer Blood. It just left a bad taste in my mouth that I couldn’t shake for the rest of the set.
But then Ra Ra Riot. How they saved the night. It truly was beautiful. Wes Miles’ voice translates to the live set perfectly. The instrumentation of the violin and cello added a very sophisticated flair to the music that really changed the dimensions of the music. Another aspect of the music that shined through live was the bass. I’d never truly realized how much Ra Ra Riot songs are built on the bass, but live, I got a first hand look.
The set was a great mixture of both songs from The Rhumb Line and The Orchard. The crowd seemed a little lost on the new songs, but was right in cue on the old songs. Songs like “Oh, La” and “Can You Tell” were a sight to be seen.
Of course, the kickers were “Dying is Fine” closing the set and then “Ghost Under Rocks” closing the night and the encore. The band’s most popular songs, these were the most well-received songs of the night, even though I found it pretty aggravating that someone was yelling “Ghost Under Rocks” after the second song of the night. Obviously they’re not going to give it away that early. But seeing these two songs live is really a highlight for me.
While this wasn’t the best show I’d been to all year, it was definitely a cool experience, as Ra Ra Riot has always intrigued me and The Rhumb Line stands out as a notable album in my mind.