Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ra Ra Riot - Sherman Whips -- DC9 - Nov 2 2015

by John Miller

Sherman Whips -Baltimore natives Sherman Whips begin tonight's sold out show at DC9. The effects of last weekend seemed to have finally worn off as the crowd is active to say the least. The groove is different, strange; repetitive guitars against steady drums. The music moves but in this herky, jerky motion. Time signatures are all over and there are plenty of endings that don't quite end. I wouldn't call them progressive but they do share some characteristics with the genre. Their songs are way too fun to be branded as such; bright and strange.

Halfway through the set the bassist breaks something and they begin an impromptu cover of Gary Numan's Cars. I can't tell if they are buying time just partial to early eighties synth-pop. As far as comparisons go, I am reminded of the late Imperial China, however it has been so long I may be remembering incorrectly. Vocally it's a mix between them and Presto Bando. It's weird and I like it. These types of shows I can never be sure what is real and what isn't. It's nice when a band makes you question reality every once in awhile.
Ra Ra Riot - It is packed. Ra Ra Riot certainly has this crowd in the palm of their collective hand. One might expect that with a name like Ra Ra Riot, there would be speed and a certain disregard for bodily harm but these Syracuse natives have a much more reserved sound than their name would suggest. I can't help but think of Hot Hot Heat and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. There may have been some technical issues as the show started late but the crowd could care less. At this point I am trapped in this corner booth.

Lots of layers tonight, there is even a cellist. I was concerned that the compositions may lean too heavily on the cello; however it is just that, another layer adding to the complete sound. The instruments that pop for me the most are the drum and bass, which is odd considering I am hearing everything from a tambourine to keys. Perhaps one of the most interesting elements was the guitar as it was so soft I had to ask if there even was a guitarist playing tonight. The bass especially, is loud and thumping; it certainly isn’t mixed down at all. The drums are constantly filling any small gaps; they are loud and frantic. Vocally, the lead is soft but clear, confident but not overreaching. Tonally I am reminded of Phoenix, a mix of indie rock and dance. There is darkness but they always seem to find their way out fairly quickly. It’s safe, perhaps more than I am comfortable with, but the audience’s uncoordinated movements tell me that they are enjoying this despite any reservations I may have.

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