I’m not quite sure what I expected from a Riff Raff show, but the reality somehow missed my expectations by a mile on almost every conceivable dimension. It was simultaneously underwhelming and overwhelming to extremes. Imagine Flavor Flav and Ricky from The Trailer Park boys had a love child, and you’ve pretty much got Riff Raff, or at least his on stage persona. I actually really like a good amount of his music, and find his interviews pretty entertaining, so I was looking forward to the show. I think I had a dose of irony about the whole thing, but I genuinely hoped that even if it was a joke, we’d all be in on it together. Boy, I was wrong. Riff Raff fans are definitely not in on the joke.
There were somewhere between four and six opening rappers, and I lost track of all their names except for the brilliantly titled Dolla Bill Gates. I miss when rap was full of puns. Shout out to Gambino for bringing humor back to serious rap. I noticed Gates because of his performance of a song with the hook, “you’re looking at a multi-millionaire in the flesh." Honestly, not something you'd expect to hear from a rapper who’s opening up for Riff Raff, but who am I to doubt him? In between the various DJs and rappers who preceded the main act, at least two fights broke out in the crowd, and security had to be called into the pit multiple times. Two couples were vying for access to the front row or something, so the respective male and female partners in each couple took turns squaring off against each other. It was really tribal, and kind of cool. It was like a drunk redneck mating dance duet.
When Riff did come on stage, his first track was a bit of a ballad, with him singing vocal hooks that were hard to hear over the screaming crowd. I had expected a bit more of an entrance, but that was it, the show was underway. Riff moved around a lot on stage, which was great to see, but his energy failed to grab me. In between gulps of pink liquid in an Evian bottle, he would rap at least most of his verses, but halfway through the show I noticed there was no discernable difference in the vocal volume between when he held the mic to his mouth and when he swigged the pink. I heard his voice come through on a few shouts, but the show seemed more in the hands of the DJ than the rapper. In fact, his DJ cut him off mid-song at one point with a transition that was totally unexpected and Riff Raff had to switch songs mid-verse.
I stepped outside for a minute, and when I came back in, the mood had changed entirely to a bright-lights EDM concert. The DJ was playing trap bangers and Riff was hyping up the crowd and sending liquid flying everywhere. I’d seen enough and decided to beat the crowd. Outside, I ended up chatting with some high schoolers who had driven into town and rented a hotel room just for the show. It was somewhat heartwarming to know that he has fans that dedicated. Even if my opinion of him was somewhat dampened by my experience. He still has a loyal following around the country and I can’t hate on that. I’d rather they listened to Riff Raff than Toby Keith or whatever shit their moms and dads listen to. Riff Raff might be one of the weirdest people in hip hop, but he’s definitely enjoying being himself, and for that, we thank him.
Photos by Teddy Williams for Bullet Music.