By Clara Goode
Photos by Sara Vogt
I walk between the brightly tagged buildings of L5P toward the small, inconspicuous venue. Aisle 5 is flanked by Outback Bikes and a local juice joint. As I cross the street, I am greeted by a line of young people stretching past the glass windows of the bike shop. I check my phone, the doors opened half an hour ago, a promising sign. The line is relatively quiet, snippets of conversation regarding new favorite shows float between people. Girls are wearing everything from sweats to little black dresses, and guys were sporting khaki shorts and button downs. After about fifteen minutes, I make my way inside with the throng of people and am immediately greeted by the demanding presence that is PWR BTTM.
The dynamic duo is a fierce opening act. The two twenty-somethings hail from upstate New York. They are beautifully bold in everything from their lipstick, to their unapologetically passionate lyrics addressing sexuality, gender identity and love. They are a simple act, both young men sing, one plays drums, the other guitar. They identify as a “queer punk band” that mixes gentle pop vocals with rock guitar riffs and honest, thought provoking lyrics. Their first album, Ugly Cherries, debuted last year and with songs like “I Wanna Boi,” and a single for which the album is named. They quickly attracted attention and were just listed by Rolling Stone as a band to keep an eye on. Their vivid lyrics (“I wanna boi who thinks it’s sexy when my lipstick bleeds”) combine with a raw, humorous stage presence full of flower print dresses and teasing jokes to create a unique and unforgettable performance.
Sun Club took the stage next to wow audience members with a set that opened with headbanging energy and howling vocals that preceded to ascend from there. The indie rock band has a formidable stage presence, creating an energy that is impossible to ignore. Their sound is reminiscent of a harder Angels and Airwaves, but with more bounce and screaming vocal breaks, making the audience stare at the thrashing band members with curious eyes. The band is brutally amusing, never taking themselves too seriously as is seen by their description on their Facebook page. It reads simply, “Daddy made a boom boom.” Songs like “Puppy Gumgum” and “Tropicoller Lease” highlight their frantic energy and catchy bounce. The band's self-assured presence and unique sound command the attention of the audience.
During the break before Ra Ra Riot, I wander outside and listen to members of the audience rehash the previous performances. In the smoking circle people are impressed with both acts, showing a particular fondness for the eccentric PWR BTTM. The break is short lived and people quickly finish their cigarettes and go inside to make sure they have a spot for the headliner. The venue is absolutely packed and Ra Ra Riot is excited to announce that this is their first ever, sold out show in Atlanta. The crowd cheers.
The indie rock band formed ten years ago in Syracuse, New York begins with a sound that was more party house than pop rock. The band boasts four full-length albums including their most recent “Need Your Light,” which was released just last month. Their success has been well-earned. With years of interviews, festivals and tours it is no wonder that their live performance is so close to perfection. Vocalist, Wes Miles, leads the band in soaring melodies with a voice so effortlessly pleasing that you can’t stop smiling. Mathieu Santos (bass) and Kenny Bernard (drums) tag team animated rhythms that jump under your skin and make it impossible to be still while Rebecca Zeller (violin) and Milo Bonacci (guitar) jam out with guest cellist Emily Brausa creating a vibrantly uplifting performance.
The set begins with an intentionally relaxed vibe. The groovy strains of “Every Time I’m Ready to Hug” have the crowd mesmerized. The energy then builds throughout the show with the band putting more and more soul into the numbers. By the time they played “Water,” one of their hits off their latest album, the crowd had gone from being calmly absorbed in the music, to a happily dancing mass. The circle of jumpers who had been gathered right at the stage widening to absorb the front half of the audience. As the crowd sings along to “Dance With Me,” one of the closing numbers, it is clear their evening has been made.
Once Ra Ra Riot took the stage, drink refills and smoke breaks were forgotten. Their incredible talent, addictively uplifting energy, and their ability to immerse us so completely. We forgot how long our week was, or that we had anything to be stressed out about to begin with certainly guarantees them a special place in the hearts of all who went to the show on Friday night. Thanks for loving on us!