Monday, September 8th, 2008
Too Too Too Fast
Photo by Frank Yang
Most things I’ve read about Ra Ra Riot seem to reference Arcade Fire, and this perplexes me. Yes, I see the superficial and quantitative similarities – large-ish co-ed bands with a distinct orchestral flavour and who put on terrific live shows, but the spirit of what the two bands do seem so diametrically opposed to me, that putting one down in the “RIYL” column for the other just seems misleading. Whereas the Arcade Fire trade in weighty, some might say ponderous, themes and deliver it with equivalent drama, even though there’s enough darkness in Ra Ra Riot’s backstory to justify such an approach if they so desired, they’re above all else celebratory. On stage they’re a party the likes of which you can’t imagine the Arcade Fire ever loosening up enough to attend, let alone throw.
Thursday night was their second visit to Toronto this year but the first since the release of their rightly-praised debut The Rhumb Line. Their first visit back in January was a total joy to watch and if possible, the band have gotten even tighter and better in the interim. Though the slightly larger stage of the Horseshoe gave them more space to move than the El Mocambo did, they seemed less inclined to roam around than last time but the energy of the performance didn’t suffer for it at all. They ran through most all their repertoire in a scant but exhausting 45 minutes and still found the second wind to come back for a one-song encore that left me, at least, wholly satisfied.
I spent most of the set from openers Walter Meego trying to figure out the best way to describe them, but that concise description proved a moving target from song to song. Outfitted with scads of keyboards, a distinctly melodramatic songwriting style, vocal stylings just this side of fey and an impressive ability to execute harmonized guitar tapping, they were by turns New Wave, New Romantic and New Order. Normally I find bands without drummers – let alone conventional rhythm sections to come off overly stiff in a live setting but their DJ/sample jockey/Kaos Pad maestro did a fine job of keeping things grooving, and actually more physicality to the performance than either of his two less equipment-anchored bandmates. The live stuff was more engaging and organic – though still heavily synthesized – than what little I’d heard from their recent Voyager release, and I commend them for keeping things eclectic and interesting whilst maintaining a definite sonic identity.
Photos: Ra Ra Riot, Walter Meego @ The Horseshoe – September 4, 2008
MP3: Ra Ra Riot – “Dying Is Fine”
MP3: Ra Ra Riot – “Each Year” (EP version)
Video: Ra Ra Riot – “Ghost Under Rocks”
Video: Ra Ra Riot – “Dying Is Fine”
Video: Walter Meego – “Forever”
MySpace: Ra Ra Riot
MySpace: Walter Meego
France’s Herman Dune will be at the El Mocambo on October 2 accompanied by Throw Me The Statue – tickets $10. For a taste of the Dune, head over to Daytrotter for a session recorded this Summer. Their new album Next Year In Zion is out October 21 in North America. Throw Me The Statue paid us a visit back in April and are still working their new record Moonbeams.
Japan’s Boris, just here in July, are coming back for another show at Lee’s Palace on November 13. Tickets are $15.
Mountain Goat John Darnielle has long been a fan of acoustic guitar virtuoso Kaki King and the two have collaborated on a forthcoming EP to be entitled Black Pear Tree. Pitchfork has some words from Darnielle on the project as well as an MP3 from it.
King was also one of the performers who took part in those Beautiful Noise sessions at the Berkeley Church back in April, the fruits of which are now coming to air. The more singer-songwritery artists will actually be featured in a different series entitled The Berkeley Sessions and will begin airing on Bravo here in Canada starting this Wednesday with the Joel Plaskett episode.
Apologies for the late post, V Fest coverage tomorrow. The past weekend beat the crap out of me… but not as much as it did Noel Gallagher. If you want to see what everyone’s going to be talking about – and pretty much negating the need for any review of the rest of the fest but I’ll do it anyway – check out the photos at Information Leafblower. Madness.