Immersed within the warm glow of string lights and cell phones, a slightly older, slightly more bearded Wes Miles stands with the rest of his band behind him. “This place reminds me a lot of where we first got started nine years ago,” he says. “It feels good.”
It’s been a few months since Ra Ra Riot has played a live show and even longer since they’ve played in DC. Their last performance in Washington was a high energy, sold out affair at the 9:30 Club in 2013, and while other baroque pop and indie electro groups have risen to prominence in Riot’s absence, the group’s high energy music has remained a tastemaker and major influence.
When I received a cryptic invite to a Chimes Records show with a “Secret Guest,” I can honestly say I did not initially anticipate this group to be there. It seemed surreal that such a hugely popular band would be performing at Dupont venue Babe City (not to discredit the quality of the venue, it appeared that any house show would be unable to handle the massive demand to see this group). Nevertheless, Wednesday night at roughly 9:15, Ra Ra Riot was there, bedazzled cello and all.
The band’s set list comprised of mainly new material off their forthcoming, as-of-yet-unnamed album, prompting Miles to tell the audience to not go “pulling out your cellphones, alright?” While many of the songs were without title, those in attendance were lucky enough to get a taste of the potential sound of the group’s next LP. Reacting against the mainly synth nature of their previous release Beta Love, Ra Ra Riot’s new material embraces elements that characterized their 2009 breakout, reimplementing their energetic strings along with dark, multilayered synths to fashion some solid grooves.
Not to be outdone by the headliner, openers The Sea Life (of which Babe City proprietor Jon Weiss is a member) and Sun Club provided equally energetic basement rock to the nodding, subtly approving heads of every cool kid present.
Overall, the show provided a mutually beneficial environment to all who attended, giving both band and audience an intimate, DIY experience, as well as enabling Ra Ra Riot to test some new, hopefully soon to be released material. Kudos to Babe City and Chimes Records for hosting what is arguably already one of 2015’s best house shows.