Oct 17, 2008

One year ago…

Despite sounding like one of those “back in my day” types I must take issue with the show I attended last night. A year ago I saw Ra Ra Riot at Bowery Ballroom which, like last night, was sold out. Unlike last night however, the band had recently lost their drummer/co-writer, John Pike, to a tragic drowning accident. And adding irony to tragedy, their first single, written by Pike, was “Dying is Fine.”

Ra Ra Riot occupied the Bowery stage like petrified children. The moment they started their set it was obvious that this band was destined for greatness. As they played every song  they had ever written the band members playfully smiled, mouthed the lyrics to every song and bounced around in such a way that you knew they were taking in a special moment in their lives. However, the truly astonishing moment came when the music stopped.

At this point I have attended more shows than I can count and I know the feeling of a contrived encore. But at the end of the set the crowd went into a frenzy DEMANDING more music. Wes, along with the rest of Ra Ra Riot, gingerly came back onstage baffled. There was no encore. Ra Ra Riot held nothing back. Every song, every emotion and everything that John would have wanted was accomplished. Then something incredible happened.

Wes told the crowd that Ra Ra Riot had played every song they knew. And the crowd began to scream out song titles. And as a smile swept the faces of all onstage Wes had the crowd vote between “GhostUnder Rocks” and “Dying is Fine.” “Ghost Under Rocks” won out and as Alexandra went into that haunting bass arrangement a cohesive chill went up the spine of the entire ballroom. But when Wes sung the chorus “here you are breathing life into ghosts under rocks” I realized that I was experiencing my once-in-a-lifetime moment.

That being said, I must be honest about last night. While I did not attend in hopes of replicating what transpired one year ago, I did have relatively high expectations of the band. Ra Ra Riot wasn’t good, they were great. And after a brief post-set chat with the band I can confirm one thing: They have a new song and were going to play it has part of an encore, but according to the band “only if we are feeling the crowd.”

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