At afterHOURS, a quiet ‘Riot’

By Hayley Miller, News Correspondent

Indie troupe Ra Ra Riot took a short break after touring Europe with the band Vampire Weekend, but on Wednesday, they were back in full form, playing a free show at afterHOURS. The jam-packed event was sponsored by the Music and Entertainment Industry Students Association (MEISA) and Northeastern’s WRBB radio station.

‘Everyone on the [executive board of WRBB] are big fans and ‘hellip; Ra Ra Riot was a really good band to get,’ said Susan Gertner, a senior communication studies major and the station’s promotional manager.

As the band set up their merchandise table before the show, The News sat down with violinist Allie Lawn and cellist Rebecca Zeller.

‘We basically had our first show before our first practice,’ Zeller said, describing the band’s formation at Syracuse University in 2006.
After playing just a few gigs, the band gained momentum with help from a local following and fans on MySpace.

In 2007, Ra Ra Riot suffered a tragic blow:’ the death of their original drummer, John Pike, who drowned after a show in Providence.

‘At the time, there were all these signs that we should keep going, but looking back, I can’t remember a single one,’ Zeller said.

Borrowing the idea for their name from a friend, Ra Ra Riot persevered. The pay-off was positive attention from publications like Rolling Stone Magazine and a succesful US tour. The band has played with such indie favorites as Tokyo Police Club and Editors. In May 2008 they signed to Barsuk Records.

‘[We are] working really hard so sometimes it’s not always surprising to get the fruits of your labor,’ Lawn said.

The former music majors admitted while they love performing, they feel awkward performing on stage on times.

‘I tend to not look at the crowd at all,’ Lawn said. ‘I’m always scared I’m going to make eye contact with someone.’

DJ duo Death Star, comprised of Northeastern seniors Jason Bergman and Andy LeClair, opened up the show, followed by With Engines, a four-piece band from Berklee College of Music that complimented Ra Ra Riot’s mellow sound.

With a voice reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie’s frontman Ben Gibbard, With Engines’ lead singer worked the crowd while busting out dance moves on stage.

By the time Ra Ra Riot took the stage around 10:30 p.m., afterHOURS was just short of capacity.

The band opened with ‘Each Year,’ continuing throughout the night with cuts from their attention-grabbing debut album, The Rhumb Line, including ‘Oh La,’ ‘Dying is Fine’ and a crowd favorite, ‘Can You Tell.’

Students bobbed their heads and swayed to the beat as the band delivered a passionate set.

‘They are very upbeat and a lot of music today is not upbeat,’ said freshman communication studies major Derek Schauer.

The five Syracuse University alumni returned to the stage after their performance’ for an encore of the Kate Bush song ‘Hounds of Love.’

With high levels of energy and a sizeable crowd, the show was a victory by Ra Ra Riot’s definition.

‘I would be happy if we could do this for the rest of our lives,’ said Zeller. ‘Only if we could perform like two months out of the year and then stay home and do nothing, but watch Food Network and cook.’

Zeller and Lawn said they predict this year will be full of ‘mostly writing and touring,’ but they hope to have their next album nearly finished in later months.

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