For one night only last Thursday night, the Lower East Side's small burlesque bar/theater The Box
was turned into an impromptu concert venue for upbeat indie rockers Ra Ra Riot
. The one-time transformation was to celebrate the launch of the new smartphone app Thrillcall
. Thrillcall is a new app for concertgoers that keeps them in the loop about nightly shows and also offers special deals and discounts. For Thrillcall, putting an upbeat pop band in a venue where people have been known to do some nasty things was a real stroke of genius, if only because The Box holds 300 people at capacity.
It's been a minute since Ra Ra Riot's last album The Orchard
, and things have certainly changed. Most drastically, earlier this year cellist and sometimes-singer Alexandra Lawn left the band
. Lawn has been replaced (by a woman who looks like St. Vincent
), but I was still interested to see if the band's remarkable chemistry and attitude had taken a dent. And right from the opening lines of "Run My Mouth," it was obvious that the band had mostly recovered. They were their lively, energetic selves, running through a ton of songs from their first album The Rhumb Line
. More than halfway through the set, and Ra Ra Riot had not even played a single song from The Orchard
, let alone a brand new song. But then lead guitarist Milo Bonacci started playing the opening riff to a new song, a blues riff not at all indicative of Ra Ra Riot's previous work. The song was harder, more urgent, and weirder -- reminiscent of The White Stripes'
"Conquest." It was a reassuring glimpse at a band that is growing, not staying the same.
The show came to an end after their classic "Dying Is Fine," a song that climaxed when lead singer Wes Miles leaped off of the bass drum to emphasize the down beat. It was a strong show, a special one certainly due to the venue. For a band that's now playing in medium to larger-sized places, it was a treat to see the six members of Ra Ra Riot cramped up on a tiny stage. And even more of a treat to see how much they loved being close together.
Check out Ra Ra Riot playing "Boy" at MHOW: