Indie-rock group Ra Ra Riot has relied on their unique and ambitious sound from the start.
The band, consisting of current members Wes Miles, Mathieu Santos, Rebecca Zeller, and Kenny Bernard, originally formed in Syracuse, NY., where they played college house parties very early in their career. Those performances required them to play above the noise in order to catch the audience’s attention.
Following the tragic passing of drummer and lyricist John Pike, the group released their debut full-length The Rhumb Line in August 2018, allowing the group to immortalize him in their music and in their journey together.
The group found a way to channel the energy they had developed in those live shows into the melancholic tracks they’d developed both with and without Pike. The mix became an upbeat combination of chamber pop and indie-rock with strings, as they are often described thanks to their frequent use of violin and cello, which was met with both critical and popular acclaim.
In celebration of the project’s tenth anniversary, they hit the road for a special, five-show tour on both the East and West Coasts.
For the penultimate stop on the tour, Ra Ra Riot delivered an intimate and impassioned performance at The Independent in San Francisco on Thursday, August 23.
This performance was impassioned and fast-paced. Outside of a momentary break around the midpoint of the show and a few brief ‘thank you’ remarks from Miles to allow his bandmates time to tune or even swap instruments, the group ran at full force through the night, touching on tracks from throughout their discography without ever drifting from the night’s feel-good sonic atmosphere.
This band is versatile and its members each deliver a unique flair with their contributions.
Miles is an obvious standout with his vocal prowess and dramatic gesturing on stage, Zeller works her glittered violin into the indie-rock sound with impressive ease, and both Santos and Bonacci are displayed contagious enthusiasm on keys, bass, and guitar. But Ra Ra Riot has an incredible cohesion that makes them so much more collectively.
Throughout their career, this band has relied on persistence and a collaborative spirit that could allow them to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this special project if they wanted to.
Though Miles did hint at their slowing down just a bit.
“This is our fourth show on this tour,” he said, laughing. “So you guys caught us at our most rehearsed, but we’re not quite sick of touring yet.”
Certain bands can capture the energy of a night. The intimacy of the Independent’s smaller venue size was the perfect background for the equally intimate live performance Ra Ra Riot had in store.
Miles announced that they hope to release their fifth full-length at some point next year. The revitalized group has proven they’ve still got everything that made them special ten years ago, and I can’t wait to see where that energy will lead them ten years from now.
Ra Ra Riot will conclude the Rhumb Line 10th Anniversary Tour at The Lodge Room in Los Angeles tonight, August 25, with tickets still available.