Just because you write an album about death doesn’t mean you have to mourn for a whole tour. Ra Ra Riot set out to prove this Friday night at the Drunken Unicorn, and judging by the smiles on the faces of the crowd, they definitely succeeded.
The Morning Benders started the evening with a good, solid set and a lot of banter with the small early-night crowd. Walter Meego played next, absolutely nailing their blend of bass-heavy but fey-voiced dance songs.
Then Ra Ra Riot took the stage and brought the packed house to life. The band lost their drummer in the summer of 2007 (he was believed to have drowned), and their recently released debut album is full of references to death. But while the songs have an urgent yet plaintive feel on the record, their live show seethed with energy, even celebration. Vocalist Wes Miles bounced around the stage, sometimes holding his microphone in one hand and reaching the other to the sky, smiling up into the rafters. When they closed their set with "Dying is Fine," the audience joined in a joyful clap-along.
The crowd coaxed one encore out of the band. They played one of their own songs, then segued into a cover of Kate Bush’s "Hounds of Love." The song is perfectly suited to the band’s strings-and-drums sound. Some shows reach a transcendental moment that takes the onlookers out of themselves, and the last five minutes of this show was exactly such a moment. –Alexandra Edwards