Ra Ra Riot, an indie rock band from Syracuse, N.Y., performed at Douglass Dining Center on Saturday, February 28th. Popular UR band Scope and Figure was the opening act, and brought the energy and exciting presence that the band is known for. The band had been selected to open the concert through an online contest.
After Scope and Figure’s set, Ra Ra Riot took to the stage and began running through their repertoire of concise, finely crafted songs. Their overall sound is punchy and easy to dance to but has a softer vibe due to Wes Miles’ high register croon that creates a lighter, smoother sound that perfectly matches the instrumentation. The band consists of Wes Miles (lead vocals), Mathieu Santos (bass), Milo Bonacci (guitar), Rebecca Zeller (violin), and Kenny Bernard (drums). Each member played expertly—Bernard especially, as he tore through each disco drum groove like a hot knife through butter.
The band looked fantastic on stage. Each member was wearing a different solid color t-shirt, and their style was complimented by equally as colorful lighting. Zeller played an eye-catching bedazzled violin that looked as though someone had dipped it in a bucket of glitter. Miles’ on-stage actions matched the colorfulness of the night, as he swayed, gestured and even scissor-kicked around the stage.
Ra Ra Riot has a handful of well known songs, and did not shy away from playing the hits. “Dying is Fine” is an extremely catchy song and one of their most upbeat. “Can You Tell” highlighted the band’s more tender side, and “Boy,” their most recent hit, showcased Santos’ expertise on the bass guitar.
Unfortunately, as great as Ra Ra Riot sounded on Saturday, they failed to bring any variety. With a few exceptions, most of their songs sounded the same. That isn’t to say that they’re not good songs, but after an hour the floating melodies and tender chord progressions made me want Scope and Figure to come back out and grunge things up a bit. Another problem was that if you listened to a recording of Ra Ra Riot’s performance that night, and then listened to the studio versions of the songs they played, it would be extremely difficult to tell the difference between the two. Every solo was identical to the album version, every instrumentation the same. It would have been great to see them switch it up a little more.
Despite their occasional plainness, Ra Ra Riot is a solid band and put on an enjoyable show. Miles mentioned toward the end that the music video for “Dying is Fine” was filmed in Rochester, which reminded everyone of their semi-local beginnings. The band started from humble beginnings playing house parties at Syracuse University, and have since become regulars on the alternative music charts (something that fellow college-born band Scope and Figure might want to keep in mind).
Ra Ra Riot performed a fun, colorful concert, and are becoming one of the gems of upstate New York.
Polcyn-Evans is a member of the class of 2017.