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A big thanks to Senior/ West Coast ENS Contributor Dave Tobias for sending along this review and video from Ra Ra Riot’s show at The Fillmore earlier this week.
This is a chick band. That’s what kept going through my head as Syracuse sextet Ra Ra Riot played the historic Fillmore in San Francisco on Monday night. I don’t mean that comment disparagingly. It’s just rare that you find a band in the indie-sphere that attracts a predominantly female audience.
Women could be attracted to Ra Ra Riot for a variety of reasons. Lead vocalist Wes Miles is nothing if not attractive. A sultry voice combined with a “rough-around-the-edges-boy-next-door” look gives him just enough edge to flirtatiously interact with the audience, while simultaneously shouldering the entirety of the band’s stage presence. There’s also the fact that two of the six members are exceptionally talented female multi-instrumentalists; providing the context that unlike most bands, this isn’t the same old boys’ club to which we’ve grown accustomed.
Then there’s the music. Ra Ra Riot’s third album, Beta Love, has been released to mixed reviews, as it’s a clear departure from the orchestral indie-pop of their past. A more dance-driven, beat-heavy album that focuses on more traditional pop song structures, Beta Love also naturally attracts a more feminine audience. The new material translated exceptionally well in the live context, even better than on record. Standouts included the immediately catchy “Angel, Please,” the haunting, bass-infused “When I Dream”, and the title track, which constituted the best sing-a-long of the evening. It could have been that it was the band’s first headlining performance at the Fillmore, or maybe he was actually being genuine, but Miles remarked that the energy in the room “felt like a weekend.”
While the new material certainly translated well, the loudest responses were still for the band’s most well-known and established songs from their standout debut The Rhumb Line. “Ghost Under Rocks” soared, as did “Can You Tell”. It was evident the band was referentially self-aware of this concept when Miles remarked, after playing a rousing rendition of “Dying Is Fine” to open their encore, “We’re kind of in a transitional phase. I know that sounded like our last song, but we’re trying to make it not be.” Despite the slight misstep of downplaying the weight of their closing number, Ra Ra Riot are coming into their own as band in the live context. They are comfortable on stage and, based on the yelps of fan reaction, put on a satisfying performance. I know the ladies felt that way.
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