Ra Ra Riot at Fitzgerald's, 9/19/2013
Photos by Alyssa Dupree
Ra Ra Riot, Caveman Fitzgerald's September 19, 2013
When Free Press Houston and Pegstar combined forces to reopen Fitzgerald's in September 2010, they brought more to the venue than hope, good business sense, and fresh paint. Instead, the two-story dancehall-turned-rock-club remains a landmark in its Heights-area neighborhood, boasting among Houston's best in both local and touring acts.
So it's no surprise that the venue booked Syracuse-based six-piece synth-pop act Ra Ra Riot to help celebrate the third anniversary of its rebirth. But while the crowd was prepared to dance and sing along to Ra Ra Riot, it seemed as though opening act Caveman nearly stole the show.
The Brooklyn quintet kicked off the show upstairs around 9 pm after returning from their in-store at Cactus Music. What was most enjoyable about Caveman was their cohesive, yet diverse range in sound. Though the group is labeled simply as indie-rock, their influences shine through in the structure of their songs, notably in their passionate take on experimental rock, indie-pop, gospel and tribal drums (reminiscent of The Dodos).
Making their second trip to Houston, Caveman were able to pull off an 11-song set that consisted of tracks from both their debut, CoCo Beware, and Caveman, their recently released sophomore album. By the time they concluded "My Time" midway through their set, it was clear as to why Caveman's style is so often described as "wistful."
While some acts have one or two members who "steal the show," the men of Caveman were able to find a way to complement and highlight one another in significant ways. What's left was a group of men who each played a crucial role in creating music that was not only enjoyable and passion-filled, but also struck a chord in every person willing to listen.
As Ra Ra Riot entered the stage, making their second Fitz appearance this year, the band's personal light show turned bright red. Perhaps that's why the group seemed so comfortable by the time they jumped into their second song, "Binary Mind," off of their latest album, Beta Love.
By the time the group began playing "Oh, La," it was apparent why they had such a natural pull.
In many ways, their live performance is reminiscent to that of Broken Social Scene, who went on indefinite hiatus last year. It couldn't hurt that Ra Ra Riot were tapped to open The Postal Service's 10-year anniversary tour this summer, before they were asked to perform alongside Broken Social Scene, Stars and Bloc Party at this year's Arts & Crafts Festival in Toronto.
Of course, there are reasons beyond the size and genre of the band as to why they feel as though they could someday go on to fill some of indie's biggest shoes.
Review continues on the next page.
It should be noted that Ra Ra Riot could become the next generation's Broken Social Scene for their talented, bright-eyed and youthful take on baroque pop that often clashes with elements of synth-heavy New Wave.
As the group continued to power through their set, playing old and new hits such as "Suspended in Gaffa" and "Dance With Me," their energy only seemed to swell as their light show flickered in time to the music.
Despite the fact that Ra Ra Riot has become known for being a band boasting a violinist and cellist, their role in the band was only highlighted Thursday evening as the group played through their 19-song set.
Because it's still relatively rare to hear stringed instruments played in rock, it's not surprising that this has become a sort of defining trait. That's why, when Ra Ra Riot first announced that Beta Love would boast more synth and less strings, it was a bit worrisome for fans and critics alike.
However, in a live setting, the group managed to prove that their familiar sound was fully intact, and they weren't looking to demolish the foundation they'd built. Instead, they seemed to boast a fuller, more complex sound that kept the audience moving all night.
Perhaps that's why, halfway through the set, someone ripped a bundle of red balloons off the wall that were lining the stairs and balcony in celebration of Fitzgerald's anniversary. And for a moment, the ballroom transformed into an outdoor music festival as balloons began to bounce around the crowd like beach balls while Ra Ra Riot moved from "Can You Tell" to "Beta Love."
Though some of the crowd didn't seem as entertained by the balloons, and moved to pop them instead of pass them along, the action made for one hell of a memorable night for Ra Ra Riot.
"Something really special just happened when we were playing Beta Love," said singer Wes Miles. "There were all these red balloons floating around, and you know, it felt like our hearts were all beating together."
Perhaps it was the same action that was the cause for so much thanks and praise from the group, who performed a three-song "bonus" encore of "The Orchard," "Angel, Please," and "Ghost Under Rocks."
Not bad for a Thursday night, Houston. Not bad at all.
The Crowd: An equal mixture of "hipsters" and "yuppies." It's nice to see these two crowds commingling under the same roof, finding similarities in things like music and what kind of beer one another drinks. Maybe someday each group will realize that the only difference between the two labels are which college you attend and which fashion trends you follow (though the fashion trends are getting harder to tell apart).
Overheard In the Crowd: During the tail end of Caveman's set, I heard one guy lean over to his girlfriend and whisper, "Something about this band makes me want to marry you." Pass the tissues, please.
Random Notebook Dump: Fitzgerald's has started putting up signs that asks the crowd to "refrain from cell phone use during the show." Surprisingly, it went pretty well, and the crowd seemed much more attentive, interactive, and generally less distracting. Fitzgerald's, you have my full support on this one.
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