Arts & Entertainment

Syracuse-based Ra Ra Riot teams up with string group for hometown show

As the house lights dimmed, Ra Ra Riot frontman Wes Miles urged fans to get on their feet and move to the groove with one another. The audience eagerly obliged.

After a brief introduction from Director of the Bandier Program for the Music and Entertainment Industries David Rezak and SU Arts Presenter Carole Brzozowski, Syracuse’s own Ra Ra Riot took the stage in Crouse College’s historic Rose and Jules R. Setnor Auditorium.

Seating only an intimate 700 people, Setnor’s baroque atmosphere transformed into an eclectic rock cathedral for the first time in nearly 30 years. The punching bass tones accompanied the orchestral melodies of the string sections, accentuated by one of the most carefully acoustically crafted venues in Syracuse.

“The concert was dependent on many cogs working together,” Rezak said.

Miles and other members of Ra Ra Riot spent this past week in residency at Crouse College. Rezak said Ra Ra Riot participated in teaching nine different classes over the course of three days, spanning from music theory to entrepreneurship.

All members had their hands full with a different experience.

“We had planned to bring Ra Ra Riot back to ’Cuse for a few years. It had originally started as just talks of residency, but when their schedule opened up in November, it seemed like a perfect opportunity,” Rezak said. “I remember having a close eye on them while they were studying at Syracuse; it’s great to see their success blossoming and it’s even better to have them back at Syracuse.”

After a two-song opener, Ra Ra Riot was joined on stage by members of Wired Strings, who have accompanied artists such as Jay-Z and Kanye West. The Wired Strings played alongside Ra Ra Riot for the rest of show and added an even deeper orchestral sound, which, according to Rezak and Miles, was a decision made specifically due to the choice in venue.

“SU Arts Engage and the people at the college did such a wonderful job at setting up and creating a brilliant atmosphere. The fact that we were playing at Setnor made the choice to include the Wired Strings really a no brainer. They add a depth to our sound and its all made clearer by the acoustics in the auditorium,” Miles said.

The addition of the Wired Strings was well received by fans. Recent SU graduate Lucia Procaccio had been to five Ra Ra Riot concerts prior to this show, and though as a diehard fan she was disappointed to see the change in cellist, she thought the accompaniment of the Wired Strings was a delightful addition.

Matt Yu, a senior English education major, and his girlfriend, Nicole Frey, a math education major, were both ecstatic at the end of the show.

“I’ve been a fan for a while, I saw them for the first time when I was in high school, and after that one time, I was hooked,” Yu said. “The show was amazing and the acoustics in Setnor were appropriate for the intimate crowd.”

Ra Ra Riot played songs off both of the band’s studio albums, including fan-favorite singles “Boy,” “Dying Is Fine,” and “Can You Tell.” Though expressing the highest energy levels during the more popular songs, the fans never left their feet and never stopped cheering. Any lull in the crowd was quickly stipend by Miles’ enthusiasm and urge for fans to yell, scream and participate.

Ra Ra Riot closed out a short hour-and-20-minute set with a three-song encore, including two songs off their upcoming album, “Beta Love,” due out in January of 2013.

Silas Wallerstein, a senior industrial design major, and junior English major Matt Plotnik, said that hearing songs off the upcoming album made them even more excited to see where the band would go next. Longtime fan Rob Roth, a senior English major, said he already preordered his copy.

Miles expressed his love for the fans, students and the university multiple times throughout the show. One lucky fan even got to keep his plaid button-down shirt as Miles stood up on one of the sound monitors and threw it into the sea of enthralled fans.

Said Miles: “Teaching was different and rewarding, the show exciting and energetic, and we’ll definitely be back.”

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