Ra Ra Riot in Rochester

Article and Image Published w/Harp Magazine

Bug Jar
Rochester, NY USA
March 3, 2008
Syracuse band Ra Ra Riot faced a tumultuous 2007 upon the unexpected death of their drummer John Pike (whom Riot refers to as their “lifelong inspiration”). Yet the sextet plowed forward, and within the same year released their self titled EP which proved to be an excellent mixture of well crafted songs balancing violin, cello, lighting fast drums, rhythmic guitar and punchy bass. Touring in support of the EP, Wesley Miles (keyboards, vocals), Milo Bonacci (guitar), Alexandra Lawn (cello, vocals), Mathieu Santos (bass), Rebecca Zeller (violin), and Cameron Wisch (drums) invaded Rochester for a night and stirred the crowd up to a riotous form (pun intended).

Monday night shows at the Bug Jar usually warrant a nearly empty venue that slowly fills to capacity by the time the headlining band takes the stage. However, Ra Ra Riot drew a thick crowd and the small club was teaming with Riot fans. Monday night is dance night at the Bug Jar, so the performing bands were on a tight schedule and had to move quickly through their set. After the opening acts were done, Riot weaved their way through the crowd, quickly set up their instruments, Miles greeted the audience and they leapt into the music.

Riot’s music is a mixture of fast, pulsating beats complemented by strings and Miles’ delicate, soft voice; think Sea Wolf meshed with Tokyo Police Club. Riot sounded amazing live, and they put on a loud and kinetic performance to yield an excited audience that sang and danced along to every song. Every song seemed to be the crowd’s favorites — fast tracks like “Each Year,” “Can You Tell,” “Everest,” and “A Manner to Act” in particular. Yet slower, quieter melodies such as “Suspended in Gaffa” were equally celebrated as the track beautifully allowed the cello and violin to reign.

Yet, when it was time to dance, Miles could barely stand still as he sang and jumped about to the music, and bassist Santos was equally energetic as he moved about. He and Miles often collided on the small stage, resulting in the bassist resting his head on the singer, who embraced his fellow band member. It’s difficult to tell who is having the most enjoyment at a Riot show, the audience or the band, as everyone on stage was beaming. Drummer Wisch had a smile on his face for most of the evening as he pounded away on his set and at times sent his cymbals flying away from him. One male audience member shouted, “I love the drummer,” which made Wisch momentarily raise an eyebrow as he waved to his unknown supporter. With time restraints working against the band, they thanked the audience for the warm reception after each track but immediately began their next song.

To the crowd’s delight, Riot played their entire EP and quite a few unreleased tracks yet the audience still hadn’t gotten enough. People cheered and shouted, “One more!” as some members were setting down their instruments and beginning to leave the stage. Miles shared a few words with Santos, turned to the mic and agreed to do one last song. Then Riot were officially done for the night. Ra Ra Riot proved to be a great live band where the EP does not do their music complete justice: the place to enjoy Riot’s music is… in concert!

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