By Gaby Nadler
Photos by Sydney Crawford
9 Nov, 2019
A fluorescent blue light filled Thalia Hall this past Saturday night. The general admission pit was mostly occupied by young adults in their 20s, standing patiently and idly chatting amongst themselves. An older crowd filled the balcony’s auditorium style seats, sipping from plastic cups of beer delivered to them by a waitress in a baggy white tee shirt, wide legged camouflage pants and black platform boots. The stage had a bright yellow backdrop with a pixelated landscape image of a mountain and the name of the night’s main event written across in bold neon pink font. Ra Ra Riot was soon to take the stage.
Bayonne, an electronic musician from Austin, Texas, opened the show. He created a dream-like state for the evening, each song of his set blending into the next with no clear breaks. By the time he finished, the pit was filled by a crowd now warmed up and eagerly anticipating the music they bought tickets to hear.
After a short break, during which the stage equipment was rearranged and instruments were tested — R&B murmuring from the speakers — the lights went out, leaving the room pitch black. Excited yells and cheers could be heard from all around as lead singer Wes Miles, bassist Mathieu Santos, guitarist Milo Bonacci, violinist Rebecca Zeller and drummer Kenny Bernard emerged from the wings. They were dressed in all white except for Miles’ notable bright orange laces, glowing softly with each step he took.
They dove right into their set, beginning with “Absolutely,” a fan favorite and one of the band’s most popular tracks. Their sound, which has been described as indie rock and baroque pop, has an irresistible feel-good quality and makes for the perfect ear candy with just enough kick so as not to be boring. The music spread an infectious positive energy throughout the crowd, who bobbed their heads along to the light, upbeat tunes. Many jumped around and danced, unreservedly carefree.
The musicians are clearly very comfortable on stage. Miles in particular made the platform his home, dancing around and interacting playfully with Santos, all while transitioning into his falsetto and delivering beautiful high pitched vocals with great ease. The group as a whole performed in a truly natural and effortless manner, only possible of a band that’s been together for nearly 14 years.
One rare sight that stood out at the concert was that of the audience. It was immersed nearly entirely in darkness, with very few phone screens out recording, taking pictures, or providing light. This illustrated the crowd’s complete engagement in the music and their desire to be fully present as the night went on. It is also reflective of the band’s ability to give their concerts the intimate feel of club shows, regardless of the venue’s size.
The show closed with “A Check For Daniel,” the last song off of their latest album, Superbloom, and the most exhilaratingly up-tempo song of the night. Like all of their other songs, when played live, it was injected with a new life and energy not heard in the recording. It ended the night on a vibrant note which extended to the performers, as well as the crowd. “Thank you for letting us do what we love,” said Miles. “It’s been awesome.”