Ra Ra Riot at the Fine Line Music Cafe, 10/2/2011

Categories: Last Night
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Ra Ra Riot with Dinosaur Bones
October 2, 2011
Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis

Ra Ra Riot may not be a household name, but in the indie underground music scene, the band is gold. With so many stringed instruments onstage -- the standard guitar and bass, along with a cellist and a violinist -- attending their shows could almost be a symphonic experience, but lead singer Wes Miles keeps it a rock show with his energy and vigor.

Not to say that the rest of the band doesn't also rock; the violinist wielded a red, glittery guitar, much like Dorothy's ruby-red slippers.  This was my first actual Ra Ra Riot show (I had seen them perform an acoustic set at the Electric Fetus a year ago), and was not prepared for the dynamic spirit of the six-piece band.  The majority of the band's recorded pieces are somewhat mellow, so I was not sure how they would translate to the live show.

Much of the 80-minute set was a mixture from their debut album, The Rhumb Line, and their latest release, The Orchard.  It's difficult to pigeonhole Wes' voice and even to describe it -- a little on the ambient side, yet hauntingly beautiful, especially on "Do You Remember" and "Can You Tell," which starts slow and builds up to a story about unrequited love. 

I believe the mark of a talented musician is not making sure that you are heard over the rest of the band, but how subtle you can play and still be heard.  This is especially difficult with stringed instruments, but Ra Ra Riot know just how to find the right balance as a group. 

Although they do know how to put on an entertaining show, my friend and I noted that Wes needed to work on his in-between-song banter -- coming back to the same phrases about how thankful they were for the audience and how much they loved Minneapolis.  He even added the awkward "Keep in touch" in the mix.

The band ended their regular set with enigmatic "Boy," which I had never heard before, but really caught my attention with its highs and lows, allowing Wes to showcase his vocal range, and ending in true rock and roll fashion with him jumping off the drum set.

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"Ghosts Under Rocks" opened the encore set, one of my personal favorites with its opening rumbling bass line and the harrowing lyrics: "You soaking in one dream, you've spent there, you have gone and dream there."  Included in the encore was a bonus cover of Sparks' "Saccharine and the War," and the finale "Dying is Fine," which reminded me of the Oscar Wilde quote: "Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace."

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Critic's bias: It takes a lot for me to get caught up in a band's discography; I listen to one album for months at a time before moving onto a new band.  If you listen to music in the same sense I do and are looking for a band to get lost in, Ra Ra Riot is what you've been waiting for.
The crowd: Hipsters.
Overheard in the crowd: "I've heard of shredding on the guitar, but that girl can really shred on the violin."
Random notebook dump: With two girls in the band, I wonder if the dick and fart jokes in the van are kept to a minimum.

Setlist:

Too Too Too Fast
St. Peter's Day Festival
Oh La
Do You Remember
Each Year
Foolish
Can You Tell
Kansai
Too Dramatic
Shadowcasting
Run My Mouth
Boy

Encore
Ghosts Under Rocks
Saccharine and the War
Dying is Fine


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