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Ra Ra Riot at Exit/In

Baroque rock band packs out local venue

Story by Vanderbilt Hustler March 24th 2016

Story by Kara Sherrer, Life editor
Photos by Jenn Li

Even though it was a Sunday night, a healthy-size crowd already had already filled Exit/In by the time first opener and punk duo PWR BTTM took the stage right at 9 p.m. Sporting a flamboyant silk shirt and clown-like makeup, guitarist Ben Hopkins joked that his instrument was “the biggest necklace I could find“ in his closet. Halfway through the set, he swapped places with drummer Liv Bruce, who took on the guitar and lead vocals for a few songs. Bruce took off his long sleeve shirt to reveal a sports bra underneath and explained that he’s training for SXSW, when he plans to wear a different outfit for each of seven shows in three days.

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PWR BTTM’s set ended after only half hour, and after a quick 15-minute transition second opener Sun Club started their set. Unlike PWR BTTM, Sun Club didn’t stop to chat between songs, instead seamlessly transition between tracks thanks to the two mixing boards operated by band members. The Baltimore-based band provided more of a hard rock sound, with both band and audience members headbanging along to several songs.

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Sun Club didn’t even play for a full half hour, though it did take another 30 minutes for headliner Ra Ra Riot to set up their instruments. The crowd continued to grow throughout the evening, and by the time the headliner started playing both the lower room and the upper balcony were quite full, although the show did not completely sell out.

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Fresh off the release of their fourth album “Need Your Light” last month, Ra Ra Riot launched into the new material immediately with the song “Every Time I’m Ready to Hug.” However, the band next played an older track, 2013’s “Binary Mind,” and continued to switch between old and new material throughout the night, with fans whooping in recognition for the opening chords of older track “Beta Love.”

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Ra Ra Riot is known for an electro-pop sound fleshed out with an electric cello and a bedazzled violin, and the band transformed Exit/In into a dance floor by bringing their own lights plus fog and wind machines. However, lead singer Wes Miles did grab an acoustic guitar in the middle of the set to play the quieter tune “Bad Times,” and also put on his glasses so he could see the audience as he played.

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The band capped off their regular set on one old favorite and one new song — “Boy,” from the 2010 album “Orchard,” and then “Water,” the lead track off their newest release. Ra Ra Riot came back to play a three-song encore after less than a minute of applause, ending on “I Need Your Light,” the title song of the new album. Even though it was already midnight on a Monday, many concertgoers stayed even later to mill around Exit/In and talk with the three bands.