Ra Ra Riot, Delicate Steve, Yellow Ostrich Granada Theater November 3, 2011
Better than: seeing Ra Ra Riot at a music festival
There's a unique energy that fills a room when Ra Ra Riot performs live -- the same warm and excited force that drifted through the Granada Theater Thursday night compelling a mass of more than 500 show attendees to smile and bop like over-sugared kids in a bounce house.
The night began with Yellow Ostrich, a lackadaisical trio out of New York City whose bubbly stage personality was more memorable than their music. Delicate Steve followed suit with an indie jam band feel rooted heavily in Afrobeat percussion. Drummer Mike Duncan, who played his set standing up, tuned his drums to a lower pitch reminiscent of hand drums and often clanked on the wooden frames of his instrument to maintain the irresistible rhythms.
The drama of Delicate Steve's nearly lyricless set was intensified by the darkness of the stage, which left the individual members of the band lit up by one colorful floor light each. Two of the musicians had to readjust their setups, however, because it's almost impossible to rock out and be blinded by a 600-watt stage light at the same time.
And then it came: A special sort of positive feeling moved across Granada unnoticed until all six members of Ra Ra Riot made it on stage to their instruments. The audience had barely even welcomed the band before they heard the first chords of the undeniably peppy "Too Too Too Fast," and immediately went wild.
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Ra Ra Riot paid tribute to longtime fans by beginning and ending the hour and a half performance with songs from The Rhumb Line, the band's first full-length album released in 2008. Old and new favorites including "Winter '05," "Foolish" and "Oh, La" kept the crowd dancing and the band enthusiastic. Alexandra Lawn passionately danced with her electric cello, while Rebecca Zeller went hard at work with her bedazzled violin, and bassist Mathieu Santos and guitarist Milo Bonacci joined them at the front of the stage at the pinnacle of "Can You Tell." The lamp poles lining the back of the stage ran rampant with colored rainbows and flashed in unison with the lights of the venue.
"I see a lot of you out there singing the words," commented lead singer Wes Miles during song break. "That's really awesome. You guys are making us play better."
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Dallasites ages 15 to 50 held on to Miles' last lyrics until he jumped from the drum set in a manner strikingly similar to piano rock master Andrew McMahon of Something Corporate to end the set. Goofy smiles on the fans' faces took a moment to relax and the elation began to settle. The girl who had held her hands airborne in the shape of a heart for the entire evening finally replenished the blood in her arms. And as quickly as the energy had come, it faded, blown away by the cold wind outside the theater's walls.
Personal bias: I saw Ra Ra Riot at Treasure Island Music Festival in San Francisco. The beauty and power of their music is much more perceivable in an intimate, club/bar venue.
By the way: Lawn only received one lewd catcall from the Dallas crowd.
Random note: She is stunningly beautiful and the rest of the band isn't bad either.