Ra Ra Riot played a sold out show at the El Rey Theater last Tuesday night with Cayucas and Pacific Air playing fun opening sets. The band has steadily built a following over the last seven years by playing live, beginning at house parties at Syracuse University and now to a capacity crowd at the El Rey last Tuesday night.
Ra Ra Riot is touring in support of their third album Beta Love, out now on Barsuk. The new album Beta Love, its title a reference to the cyber punk novels by William Gibson and Ray Kurzweil, is more synthy and cerebral than their earlier chamber pop albums. The band’s interest in electronic music is not a new development or really such a stretch. Two of the members–guitarist Milo Bonacci and violinist Rebecca Zeller–met in an electronic music class at Syracuse University. It may be more accurate to say that the new material is more stripped back and minimal than the earlier albums that had live violin and cello on nearly every track. Although the band is down to four official members after the departure of cellist Alexandra Lawn in 2012, Ra Ra Riot plays live as a six-piece, echoing the lineup of their first album. From the first notes of “Too Dramatic” the band bouncing onto the stage and front man Wes Miles with tambourine in hand, the show was a joyful bounce of a performance. The set included songs from all three albums prompting sing-alongs by a stoked crowd on “Oh La,” “Can You Tell,” and “Too Too Fast,” and “Boy.”
While the albums are the place where Ra Ra Riot experiments with new sounds and songwriting modes, the group's live show was never thin or tentative. On stage they maintain a deep connection with an audience they have built over years of touring. "Can You Tell," maybe the best song written about a crush, has been around since before the band's first album. "Boy" (from the 2011 album The Orchard) and "Beta Love" the latest single were equally rallying points for a crowd that had come to cut loose in joyful release. As their El Rey show demonstrated, the power of this band is in their live performance.
(For more photos, check out the Radio Free Silver Lake photo set for this show.)