Friday night November 5th was exceptional, in more ways than one. First, I have never arrived at the 9:30 Club at 6:15 p.m. and felt late for a show. I almost missed the opening act. Second, I have never stood in the balcony there (new perspective!). Third, I am so thankful that I did not miss the opener. Givers out-shined and out-performed the headlining act Ra Ra Riot without a question. Fourth, I think I might take up drumming (I will explain this later.) I love a great night of mind-blowing surprises.
Givers, a band of four guys and a girl hailing from Lafeyette, Lousiana, gave more than music as they opened for Ra Ra Riot on Friday night’s early show. Their sound and performance create a heart-pumping, foot-stomping, bopping and popping party that hooks you from the first song. The lead drummer and vocalist Kirby Campbell, the coolest blonde-haired hippie rebel musician chic that I have ever seen, performed some sort of amazing spunky dance routine full of gyrations, jumping, hair-tossing, arm-throwing energy. It was like she just happened to be making incredible music while she danced—holding a tambourine and drum sticks with a ukele strapped on her back in front of a drum set. There are few times in life where you actually want to trade places with somebody, but this was one of those moments for me. I desperately wanted to jump off the balcony and join in the fun. Their songs “Ceiling of Plankton” and “Saw You First” sent the packed audience into a frenzy. The music and enthusiasm ricocheted off the walls.
When Ra Ra Riot took the stage with their nerdy, new wave chamber music, complete with cello and violin, they sounded good and musically solid, but their energy and stage presence just failed to match that of Givers. Granted Ra Ra Riot’s songs like “Can you tell” and “Oh, la” do have more of a smooth predictable beat than Givers’ climactic and hectic songs. However, the sheer nerdiness of the lead singer Wes Miles, endearing for the first few songs, proved boring to watch for the entire show. I found myself wishing that Kirby would come rescue his tip-toe dance moves and show him how to riot. However, the concert was not without a few riotous moments of greatness. The beautiful cellist Alexandra Lawn stepped in and sang a heart-wrenching “You and I know” in her smoky voice, providing much-needed visual and aural variety to the show. The band also rocked the song “Too Too Too Fast.”
The band of six who met and formed together while attending college in Syracuse, NY played a nice mix of popular songs such as “Dying is Fine,” “Boy,” and “St. Peter’s Day Festival” from their two albums, The Rhumb Line and The Orchard. I just felt it was all too staged. I sought a little bit more spontaneity and rawness. Perhaps they were just tired out after a long tour, the 9:30 Club being their final stop. Who knows? I forgive them, though, because I did find myself tapping my foot to the beat and enjoying their music, especially when I closed my eyes. At the end, I just wished that Givers would come back onstage so that I could party one last time. The chemistry in that band hopefully means that they will have a long and bright future of giving in store for them.