Ra Ra Riot
The Canadian music scene is incredibly vibrant in recent years.
Among the several trends rising, one of the most interesting is a kind of indie-pop played by big ensembles. Bands expand their line ups with several and unusual instruments. Violins, cellos, double bass, harpsichord, percussions, brasses bring elaborate arrangements and sumptuous songs.
We are clearly not talking of guitar based underground rock; a medium size garage would not even fit all these guys’ stuff!
It is an “orchestral” approach, influenced by classical, popular and folk harmonies from around the world blended via improvisations that come from the jazz tradition.
The result is a sophisticated, charming, majestic pop.
“Chamber pop” if you want to agree with the online encyclopedia of music genres, AMG. “Pomp-pop” if you want to support a friend in his neologism.
Canadians Arcade Fire are wrongly considered the pioneers of this movement. Let’s make it clear. They are not.
It would be as saying Oasis invented brit-pop without taking into account the role of the Kinks and the Stone Roses to name few.
There have been plenty of bands expanding the boundaries of guitar rock to big band collectives and sophisticated arrangements in the last 40 years. From Zappa to Belle and Sebastian, this article is not the place that could contain them all.
Arcade fire undeniable merit (as Oasis’ for brit-pop) has been to bring it to larger audiences, big venues and top of the charts. They have succeeded on spreading the message and made it mainstream.
Canada is close to the United States, its breeze, especially if you reside in the north, palpably arrives and it is inspiring a plethora of new bands.
Ra Ra Riot are from Syracuse in the New York state.
Check out a Google map, Syracuse is just on the other side of Lake Ontario, halfway from both Toronto and Montreal. Quite possibly the best place to be if you fancy starting a new band nowadays.
Ra Ra Riot music is, unsurprisingly, equidistant from Broken Social Scene (Toronto) and Arcade Fire (Montreal). But be cautious, classification is a very scientific thing, art does not walk on even pathways.
A multifaceted contribution to the band, set up by these six friends, make it sound at the same time as many things and nothing else.
Guitar/drums garage duos and trios, even with their differences, tend to be musically pretty similar, if you grasp what I mean. Think of Blues Explosion, White Stripes, Gossip, Black Keys, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Black Diamond Heavies and bla bla bla.
Big bands are entities in their own. Their music, shaped by what each member brings to the ensemble, does not depend only on where they are but also on who they are.
Ra Ra Riot short bio includes a very sad chapter. Last spring, after a party, their 23 years old drummer, John Pike, vanished. His dead body was found hours after. Something that could dramatically stop a band growth, managed to get the rest of the group closer.
They came out of the drama with a self-titled EP containing 6 songs and a delightful single that is the best title Morrissey did never pen: Dying is fine. Six minutes of up-tempo indie-pop filled with violin and cello cuts. Live on stage it bursts in an effervescent, positive jam that kicks any melancholy away. A lesson on how friendship, cooperation and the right approach can work out misery. Psychoanalysis calls it sublimation; I call it pop-genius.
Indie label V2 has been the quickest to sign them up and forthcoming debut album is eagerly waited.
I would love to put along with these pictures Ra Ra Riot songs to bring you closer to the live experience. Unfortunately Sonific does not have Ra Ra Riot music available to put on liveon35mm.com. I leave the music of Editors, their recent tour fellows, and invite you to go to their official sites to play their tunes. [myspace] [official website]
Looking at these Ra Ra Riot pictures it is clear that these guys have lot of fun playing live together. Their enthusiasm is easily transferred to the public and, if you love live music, it will be to you and to your shots.
It is quite a rare event. Especially UK bands seem inhibited of showing off on stage, I don’t know why. Maybe they concentrate on playing, maybe it is a cultural tradition.
USA bands, in contrast, quite often offer to you the plus that a live act must have.
If you are photographing a band where everyone interacts with each other, it is your lucky day.
Leave those static close-ups for the next pianist you’ll bump into and try to render the outgoing atmosphere. To start, get rid of that telephoto zoom, put on a wide angle and step as close as you can.
No matter if the pictures are in focus or blurred, don’t stand still. Run along the pit following the musicians and be ready for the moment they interact each other. What make great shots are their glances, their smiling, their body language.
If you catch eye communication between two perfomers, it will keep your viewer glued to your image.