Ra Ra Riot starts the semester off right

Review: SU's most famous indie rockers returned to campus to start their tour to support 'The Orchard.'

It wasn’t a surprise that the hottest spot for the first Friday night of the SU academic year was Marshall Street. Both Chuck’s and Faegan’s recently made a pretty heavily circulated list of the best college bars in the country after all. The real event to be at however was just below. That’s where hometown heroes Ra Ra Riot returned to perform an intimate, sold-out show at Funk N’ Waffles to kick-off their upcoming North American tour. To make the evening even more special, the performance was the band’s first since the release of its second album, The Orchard, earlier this week. Sort of.

“This is our first show since the album came out,” frontman Wes Miles explained early in the set. “Unless you count earlier today [an in-store at Sound Garden] and the one before that [release party in NYC], which I don't and nobody should.”

It didn’t matter where Syracuse fell on the tour schedule, fans were simply elated that the group chose to return. The band seemed to genuinely appreciate the excitement and rewarded all in attendance with the high energy, high tempo and highly interactive set they’ve become known for. The set list included six tracks from The Orchard but also spanned favorites like “Dying is Fine,” “Can You Tell” and “Too Too Fast.”

The emotion going back and forth between band and crowd reached such a high during the encore that Ra Ra Riot even choose to end the night on a shouted out request. The crowd went into a frenzy when they hit the intro of “Everest” off the band’s original self-titled EP.  It’s a track played rarely enough that they didn’t have cowbell like on the album version and some repeated lyrical interpretation was encouraged. There were no complaints to be seen as the band finished the night only to find a healthy portion of the crowd waiting to greet them for at least a half hour while they broke down the equipment.

For one of the first shows since The Orchard’s release, the band’s new tracks sounded tight. The album itself seems like a departure from their uptempo, bass and drum driven roots but tracks like “Boy,” “Too Dramatic,” and “Do You Remember” fit seamlessly in between tracks off The Rhumb Line within a set. Even a song like “Foolish” provided a nice change of pace to the night when paired directly with “Can You Tell.” (It’s worth noting that “Foolish” sounded even better at the in-store earlier in the day when the band opted for no drums and an acoustic guitar. That setup highlighted the great interplay between the instruments and the track’s vocal harmonies better. It could end up being a tactic they deploy down the road by playing a trio of songs sans drummer during a night).

The night wasn’t perfect – some technical sound issues in-house, a few times where it seemed like the drums were pushing tempo a bit much – but none of that matter. Ra Ra Riot was back in town bringing the same enthusiasm for live performance that helped launch their journey just four years ago. It was a fitting showing of love from a crowd made up of a mix between new fans and old, and according to Miles the band certainly toke notice.

“We love you too Syracuse, that's why you're the first show on tour.”

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