Ra Ra Riot Release Show @ Sound Fix Records

By UrbanAnthropod, August 25, 2010 7:34 pm

The Riot

Link to all my Ra Ra Riot pictures on Flickr

Ra Ra Riot celebrated release day for The Orchard with a low-key and widely unannounced in-store performance at Brooklyn’s indie music store, Sound Fix Records, followed by a well advertised DJ set at Brooklyn Bowl (with Vampire Weekend). For those unfamiliar with the band, the indie darlings pair energetic pop with cello and violin. While chamber-pop might sound gimmicky, live performances by Ra Ra Riot can leave the spectator completely drained from the animated and kinetic pacing. The Orchard marks is their second LP, following their freshman release, The Rhumb Line.

Sound Fix Records

I was on hand at the toned-down in-store and arrived an hour ahead of the start to ensure I’d have a decent vantage point given the scale of the venue. To my surprise, the store had a few people milling around inside. I was instantly greeted by Andrew St. Claire who was on the job for Brooklyn Vegan. Seeing my backpack, he thought I was likewise “working” the event. We eventually retreated outside to the doorway of the store since it was a tad warm. Interestingly, this resulted in some confusion since people started lining up behind us despite the fact I had announced we weren’t on line. A half hour later, the band members trickled in to the store. 15 minutes before the anointed start time, we moved in and the line that had grown around the corner soon followed and packed the place.

Being toned-down and small, they performed a drummerless set. After a brief greeting from Wes Miles, he moved into Foolish. He worked the keys in a stripped down version sans percussion and additional accompaniment over his standard falsetto vocals through a long period until the rest of the band joined in with the standard strings-over-pop sound we’re accustomed to hearing. Following, the opening song, the frenetic bass line with an almost off timing signaled the lead single off the new LP, Boy. The set was rounded off with Oh, La (from The Rhumb Line) and Too Dramatic (from The Orchard).

Overall, the short performance showed a different side of the band. The intimate venue played out to a less energetic display than what I’m used to from them, but there was an overall earnestness to the affair. It was a great teaser for what’s to come when Ra Ra Riot return to New York for 2 Shows at Bowery Ballroom and 2 more shows at the sister venue, Music Hall of Williamsburg, in a month.

The Orchard

Those familiar with Ra Ra Riot would recall their tragic beginnings where their original drummer and chief lyricist was found washed up along a river after disappearing following a show. This event set a huge challenge for the band whom all continued on with the group. I became acquainted with the band at the Siren Music Festival a few years ago, right before the release of The Rhumb Line. And for the past couple years, I’ve heard the same songs at their performances. I finally began hearing new material at live shows, which prompted anticipation for a forthcoming full length release. Last year, the group retreated to a peach orchard in New York between segments of a grueling tour schedule . The product of this brief sabbatical has resulted in The Orchard. The Orchard as a whole completely differs from the pacing of The Rhumb Line, to some detriment. The positive aspect of the new release is the demonstration of the individual members’ increased proficiency at their craft. The layering of the sounds and the arrangement of the music has clearly indicated that the strings are no longer a contrived accent on their music. Becca’s violin and Allie’s cello have finally come together as integral to the music and not just the sound.

For veteran fans, Boy, Too Dramatic, Shadowcasting and Foolish will sound familiar and won’t disappoint. Some will also be pleased and stunned to hear Allie Lawn take the lead vocal chores in You And I Know. Although breaking from the heavy strings sound, You And I Know, presents itself with Allie’s haunting and forlorn voice with a waltz-like opening and simple synth rhythms that makes it a standout. Once again, You And I Know demonstrates a clear expansion of the band’s congealing into a multifaceted layering of minstrelesque story-telling with some unexpected hard rock-inspired guitars. It’s a shame this was not part of the Sound Fix set.

The Orchard parts from the ebulliant energy and tone of The Rhumb Line but it’s a positive evolution. I can’t stand by all the songs, especially Massachusetts and it’s odd island tinged music with washed out vocals, but I approve of the way the band is growing. In past performances, I sometimes found myself getting their songs confused since the sound and style was so similar. Now I’m looking forward to when I see them next month for a full on show where songs from the new release will balance out the songs we’ve become too familiar with.


I have to bring up the video of Boy in this entry. I was won over by the simplicity and the technical execution of the basic lighting used throughout. Extra kudos go out for creating the effect with the tapetum lucidum of the numerous cats.


Sound Fix is located at 44 Berry Street. Just take the L to Bedford. Walk north to 11th and west to Berry street.

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  5. Garden Party

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