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Ra Ra Rocked It

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Review of Ra Ra Riot at El Rey

After going through some rocky times, the LA crowd at El Rey Theater last Wednesday night was abuzz with wonder if Ra Ra Riot could still rock the house. A week later, with their songs still pulsing through my head, I can safely say the answer to that question is a resounding YES.

The red velvet-lined art deco ballroom set the perfect scene for these baroque pop hipsters. This was a make-up show from the fall, when lead singer, Wes Miles unexpectedly lost his voice. The thing missing this time around was cellist/singer, Alexander Lawn, who decided to leave the band to pursue other creative endeavors.

But nothing seems to stop these kids and their upbeat, catchy lyrics and high-energy stage presence. From the second the 6-piece band arrived, you could tell they were pumped to be back, doing what they love, and invigorating the sold-out crowd.

Miles’ soaring falsetto voice in "Shadowcasting," which wildly surpasses his studio recordings, instantly blew me away. He continued to amaze and hit every pitch with "Can You Tell" and "Foolish," which felt reminiscent to Vampire Weekend (who happen to be friends of the band). Rebecca Zeller and her bedazzled violin were also a main attraction as she buzzed around stage taking turns on keys and back-up vocals. I have to agree with the girl next to me who said it best, "I don't play violin, but I want one now." 

A nice surprise addition was The LA-based Calder Quartet, who took the stage for the poppy, country-infused, "Too Dramatic," as Miles rocked the tambourine and sang around them.

The show really got grooving with the final series of crowd-pleasing jams. "Run My Mouth" began with Miles back on keys. The rich string section created a full sound that you don’t get from traditional 4-piece bands. The Arcade Fire-esque opening groove of "Ghosts Under Rocks" quickly drew us into this eerie fan-favorite, while everyone clapped and sang along. The energy hit a high note as "Boy" kicked off, with the band in full force as Miles bounced around stage, even jumping over drummer, Kenny Bernard. 

They left the stage before we knew it, but quickly returned with the Quartet again for the 2-song encore, beginning with the slow and beautiful sounding symphonic tune, "The Orchard." They closed the set with "Dying is Fine," which was equally joyful and chilling as the dark, emotional lyrics made for a happy, satisfied crowd. 

Since forming in 2006 while attending Syracuse University, Ra Ra has evolved from rocking out house parties and bars to playing South by Southwest and touring with Death Cab for Cutie. You can definitely tell from their contagious, electrifying energy that they hold true to their self-proclaimed mission statement- "To have fun."


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