Aftermath: Ra Ra Riot Brings Heart and Soul Back to Hipster Nation
Dear Brooklyn: your time has come (you too, Montrose). Hipsters the world over - got some bad news. Your apathy is turning into a grinning dimple, tickling the toes of your pseudo-intellectual pretense named irony. How did this happen, you wonder? With the simple act of naming. The tide's turning away from the Vampire Weekends of the world (neither Vampire nor weekend), and the I'm From Barcelonas (hometown: something-something, Sweden), St. Vincents (not a saint) and the No Ages (they must have ages, probably early teens). Bands are now, thankfully, diverting their attention away from over-thinking the process of giving themselves clever (read: silly) names that may somehow add to the mystery of their largely uninteresting personas to make up for their mostly shitty (but always boring) music. Thanks be to Ra Ra Riot. With a riotous live show (smart, right?) that brings liberation to the indie; the Syracuse, N.Y. six-piece assaulted Warehouse Lounge Friday night with the ra ra, taking a firm stand that the air downtown belonged to them and not Bob Schneider, who was playing next door on the main stage rather than at a pool hall in Humble or a Rice U frat house.
Ra Ra Riot turns every one of its shows into a party by allowing the audience to become an active participant in just about every song. Lead singer Wes Miles, with a seemingly unending vat of self-confidence, plays the role of everyman perfectly. High-fives, floppy hair and smiles are his tools; catchy choruses and synth-smooth backbeats are what he's building. Almost all of the songs Friday night came from Ra Ra Riot's first full-length record, The Rhumb Line, and the almost sold out crowd seemed to know just about every word to all of them. "Oh, La," and "Suspended in Gaffa" (and yeah, they sing it better than Kate Bush - no kidding) are always the highlights, and they were Friday as well. For safety's sake, the band threw them into the middle of the set (to keep the crowd on a high note the whole way through, we assume), directly in the middle of two songs from their upcoming record, and preceded "Winter '05" and probably their most popular song, "Ghost Under Rocks."
There's nothing fabricated about a Ra Ra Riot show, which is to say it's a bit of a difficult thing to write about them. They arm themselves with weapons to kill hipster guile, and their audiences welcome the change. They make easy to listen to pop-music with a soul,a very nice and welcome change from the self-consciously complicated (yet incredibly simple) anti-pop that most indie bands favor these days. The best thing about Ra Ra Riot is that they appeal to an audience that should resent them for what they're trying to do - that is, change the culture of pop culture in a way that makes culture a word that means something rather than something that means nothing for the sake of meaning everything. They're bringing heart back to the white kids, and it's about time.
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