I'm a total sucker for string players in bands. Throw a violinist, cello or viola player up on stage with a drum kit and an electric guitar and you've got my attention. I'd heard praises for Ra Ra Riot from Sam Champion, a NYC band whose taste I trust, so I trucked down to Bowery Ballroom early last night to take in the band. The six piece took the stage (yup, count 'em, six) and launched into their set. Cello, violin, keys, guitar and bass all worked to convey Ra Ra Riot's perfectly constructed songs. It's almost mathematical how well constructed their songs are. Not to say the band sounds overly calculated, you can just tell when a band puts a lot of time into working out how to put a song together. While I am a fan of shambolic bands (get me going off on the awesome mess that is White Savage any night at a bar) there's some bit of the four-years-in-conservatory part of me that appreciates a band that knows their music. I am not well acquainted with their music yet to give you a run down of the set list, but by the time they play with the Cribs at Mercury Lounge on May 3, I will be. Check out their MySpace page for an introduction to Ra Ra Riot.
I sat out the Holy Hail set toasting a buddy Builder's birthday in the basement of Bowery, but was up in full rock position for Art Brut. Art Brut stands out, maybe more than any other band, as my band of last summer. When they were playing here all the time I was at all the shows. My buddy and I would go see them play, shout along all the words with Eddie Argos and then spend the entire night terrorizing the streets of NYC shouting that everyone and everything was "Top of the Pops!". Perhaps the most blatant example of our unbridled enthusiasm for the band came the night my buddy Rory stuck his head into a pizza joint he mistook for the falafel place one block down and shouted "Fa! Lafel! Top of the Pops!" Art Brut is just that kind of band. They make you want to jump up and down and shout and party and form a band to inspire the same sort of joy. Some bands seem like they're trying too hard, some bands you know are just cooler than you, but then there are bands like Art Brut that understand what it means to be an entertainer, to put on a show and to inspire the masses. Thank you Art Brut for continuing to be fun.