Wesley Miles cannot be contained. His exuberance is boundless and irresistible. A small stage is comfortable for him, and it does not matter if a large cello crowds his elbow or if five people are onstage with him. His curly hair bounces with each thump of the drum while his arms draw circles in the air with the beautiful rise and fall of strings.
Ra Ra Riot’s music swells within the close-set walls of Detroit Bar, and we have to wonder how Costa Mesa was so lucky to be a point on “The Rhumb Line” phenomenon.
Ra Ra Riot has embarked from perhaps the farthest point across the nation, Syracuse, NY, on an exhaustive four-month tour across the United States and even the Atlantic to promote its debut LP, “The Rhumb Line.” The six friends met at a local university — some even passing over school in favor of the burgeoning music career.
The band is fleshed out with Mike Bonacci, Mathieu Santos, Gabriel Duquette, Alexandra Lawn and Rebecca Zeller. The final two members contribute the most distinct characteristic to the band: delicate strings on cello and violin respectively. Ra Ra Riot sets itself apart from the unceasing proliferation of indie bands and warms hearts even in Iceland.
Since its inception in 2006, Ra Ra Riot has had everything from house gigs to invitations to Icelandic festivals. It has toured with the illustrious likes of Vampire Weekend, Death Cab for Cutie and the Morning Benders.
On the night of March 2 at Costa Mesa’s Detroit Bar, the band played with New Zealand’s Cut Off Your Hands and Seattle’s Telekinesis.
Cut Off Your Hands was energetic enough, yet not exceptional as they were mostly shouting in time to pop beats. Meanwhile, Telekinesis consisted of the lone Michael Benjamin Lerner in the studio, but Lerner was joined on-stage by friends for a fuller sound. Although classified as “minimalist,” Lerner’s sincere songs do not leave us wanting.
Following the opening bands, Ra Ra Riot did not take long to set up its elaborate outfit of instruments on the cramped stage. Earlier in the night than expected, its set began with the faint strains of “St. Peter’s Day Festival” wafting throughout the dark venue.
Once the band built up momentum, it didn’t let up on the dance songs and energy. “Can You Tell,” “Dying is Fine” and “Oh La” were crowd favorites. Unfortunately, true to its title, “Too Too Too Fast” seemed excessive.
“Ghost Under Rocks” slowed the show down appropriately while keeping a pulse to the show; it was a haunting song beside the predominantly charming others.
Ra Ra Riot had only so many songs to play, with only one album to its name. Still, the band found the last dregs of energy inside of them and performed an encore, playing “Everest” with new tweaks that promise new material to come.
The band is anything but unproductive, having accomplished much in just three years. In addition to success, Ra Ra Riot has soldiered through tragedy; its original drummer, John Pike, was found drowned on a past tour.
Sorrow is apparent in the words but dressed in dignity and melody, and the remaining members honor John Pike’s memory both in “Winter ’05” and with its persistence.
Ra Ra Riot has the right sound and heart to please the ears and win the loyalty of audiophiles. Miles and his band of merry men and women who jump up and down, clutching their sticks, microphones and bows, never missing a beat. As a bright first effort, “The Rhumb Line” beckons you to follow this charming band.
Ra Ra Riot will continue its tour as an opener on Death Cab For Cutie’s spring tour during select dates. Its debut album, “The Rhumb Line,” is currently available.