With a new record out just a few weeks ago, Ra Ra Riot returned to Seattle and came to the Neptune with a refreshing energy and presence. The Syracuse band has written some pretty powerful songs in their day, and with three LPs out the door, not a bit of that riotous passion has diluted, as far as we can tell. Joined by California surf-pop band Cayucas, the night was a plethora of joyful tunes and positive vibes to warm up the cold February night.
Cayucas is a new addition to Secretly Canadian’s roster, and their contribution is a sunny, vibrant throwback to vintage surf pop with zero sense of urgency. Live, we got to hear the cuts off their 7″, “Cayucos” and “Swimsuit”, along with some of the other tunes from their forthcoming April LP. Throughout their set, Zach Yudin was an excellent frontman, showing off some great dance moves and telling stories as background context to great tunes like “High School Lover”. Through and through, Cayucas has an excellent outing at the Neptune and gained quite a fanbase in Seattle overnight.
Ra Ra Riot’s new record takes a slight deviation from the chamber pop of their last two. Perhaps taking a hint from Wes Miles’ Discovery project with Rostam from Vampire Weekend, Ra Ra Riot have synthesized their sound and gone to the 80s for inspiration. The resulting product is poppy, no doubt, but the heart of Ra Ra Riot is still present and the songs are still wonderful. On stage, the band showed this adaptation with a couple more synthesizers to join the violin and cello. Surprisingly, the mixture of old and new seemed completely natural, and even the most far removed new tunes like “Binary Mind” sounded excellent against the backdrop of “Shadowcasting”.
“Beta Love” was a highlight of the night. The title track from the new record is a pop anthem of epic proportions, and there wasn’t a soul in the building that wasn’t singing along. As the night went on, Ra Ra drifted further back into their catalogue. “Ghosts Under Rocks” was an explosive monster onstage - the energy upended almost everything prior in the evening. And for the encore, the band played a raucous rendition of “Dying Is Fine” and then closed with the excellent Beta Love album closer “I Shut Off”. Altogether, Wes and the gang haven’t lost an ounce of their stage showmanship with time off. Ra Ra Riot have given us emotional highs and lows that are incomparable in their genre, and the energy they create live is completely complimentary to the joy they’ve already given us.
Ra Ra Riot: