This Riff Raff Is Everything But…
Everything but riffraff, that is… Hurray for the Riff Raff has been one of my favorite bands since the first time I saw them at the Newport Folk Festival two years ago. The band returned to Boston to perform at the Paradise Rock Club in what might have been their first headlining show at a major venue in the area.
This show might possibly be the best show of theirs I have seen to date; the energy in the room was tremendous and the band fed off that (although it was truly symbiotic – they fed off us and we fed off their energy and joy).
This show followed a similar format to the previous shows; band founder Alynda Segarra took the stage alone and asked the audience if we minded if she performed without the band for the first song. Needless to say, the crowd roared! She then launched into “The New SF Bay Blues”, which truly showcases her songwriting and voice.
After that, the rest of the band joined Alynda and they played songs from most of their studio albums, with the majority taken from the most recent release, Small Town Heroes.
Yosi Perlstein on fiddle, Casey McAllister on keyboard, David Jamison on drums, and newcomer Caitlin Gray on bass comprise the band. All provide backing vocals to Alynda’s lead. Other than Caitlin, they have been performing with Alynda for a number of years and are very tight.
Yosi is featured in many of the songs, and the chemistry between Alynda and Yosi is palpable. Yosi is a fine fiddle player; his playing is not flashy which for me highlights the quality of the musicianship.
The setlist included crowd favorites ‘Blue Ridge Mountain’, ‘Look Out Mama’, and ‘Crash on the Highway’, but also included a new song, ‘Living in the City’. I hope this means they will be recording a new album very soon!
They played ‘The Body Electric’ which has become an anthem of sorts for the band. “Oh, and tell me what’s a man with a rifle in his hand/Gonna do for a world that’s so sick and sad?/Tell me what’s a man with a rifle in his hand/Gonna do for a world that’s so gone mad?” Alynda decries gun violence better than I ever could.
I miss the former bassist’s acoustic double bass, but I love Caitlin’s yellow electric bass. It probably makes for easier traveling (I wondered when I saw their small UHaul trailer how a double bass would fit in it, but Casey told me as we spoke in front of the club that they had a new bassist who played electric)!
I don’t know what in particular it was that made this show so terrific. The sound was especially good, as was the lighting. The audience was very appreciative and respectful during the performance – but extremely enthusiastic! The band appeared to be more joyful than usual – and they always are happy to be on stage.
Opening the show was Son Little fronted by Aaron Earl Livingston, who describes his music as future soul. I enjoyed his set, which was longer than a typical opening set.
Toward the end of his set, he declared ‘I like these girls!’; he proceeded to sit at the edge of the stage in front of the three women in the photo before the previous one and sing unamplified directly to them for a verse or two.
Even though this show started a bit later than I prefer on a ‘school night,’ I had no problem staying engaged with Hurray for the Riff Raff. I wish they were returning to the Newport Folk Festival this summer. Last year, I had not planned to see their set because I saw them two weeks earlier, but I could not stay away from them! I highly recommend not only seeing this band but buying their music.