Concert Recap: Passion Pit, The Joy Formidable, Ra Ra Riot, Roz & The Rice Cakes

On Wednesday, Nov. 28, I had the extreme pleasure of taking my best friend to their first venue concert. The show was Rhode Island’s 95.5 WBRU Birthday Bash and it featured Passion Pit as the headliner. Also playing were Roz & the Rice Cakes, Ra Ra Riot, and The Joy Formidable. Prior to last night, I had seen all of these bands except Roz & the Rice Cakes in completely different settings.

For my first time at Lupo’s, a venue I’ve heard rave reviews about from friends for years, I had a really wonderful night. The venue is intimate in a way that can be either really good or really bad — I experienced both last night, as the show was sold out and there was an intense number of people pressing against each other to ward off the slight winter chill that still permeated the building up until Passion Pit took the stage at 10:30 p.m. Crowded shows are both a blessing and a curse because they are so packed full of energy — but also packed full of people who are obnoxious twats, 90 percent of the time.

Roz & the Rice Cakes brought a really energetic set to the stage. I was impressed by the band’s sound — an odd combination of Marley-esque rock and Letters to Cleo-style vocals. The lead singer, though she couldn’t have been more than 5′ tall, brought down the house. I had never heard of the band before seeing it at last night’s show but I am definitely interested in hearing the recorded music and seeing the Rice Cakes live a second time to get a better scope on the sound.

Ra Ra Riot were absolutely lovely. I first saw this band open for Death Cab for Cutie at a small venue in Reno, NV in 2009. I had barely heard of the band then but after seeing its set and hanging with the band for a bit after the show, I became a fan. I’ve since listened to Ra Ra Riot’s music fairly often and seeing the band again was really fantastic. The cool thing about Ra Ra Riot’s music is that it’s all incredibly mellow (almost just plain slow) in the recorded versions, but live, there’s an energy that’s undeniable. I loved getting to hear “Can You Tell” and “Dying Is Fine” live — the band played a solid mix of tracks from its first two records and its upcoming new release.

I first saw The Joy Formidable by accident. I was at Bamboozle New Jersey in 2010 and happened upon the band’s set while I was waiting for Good Old War to take the adjacent stage. Much like Ra Ra Riot, The Joy Formidable has a sound that is much mellower recorded and much more intense live. At a setting like Bamboozle, that energy worked because it was in a big open space with a fair number of people who either knew or didn’t know the band. At Lupo’s, the energy was almost too much. It’s possible I’d just started to reach my exhaustion limit by this point, but my friend and I only stayed in the venue for part of The Joy Formidable’s set.

Sadly, we also bailed early on Passion Pit. Despite absolutely loving this band and looking forward to seeing them for the second time for weeks leading up the show, the band took forever to actually hit the stage and my friend and I had both reached the point of grumpy exhaustion that not even really great music can cure. We stayed for the first quarter of the band’s set and then left feeling pleased and excited, but also very ready to get home. Even that quarter set was incredible, though. The first time I saw this band was at UNH in 2010… The show sold out but hardly anyone in the crowd knew more tracks than “Little Secrets” and “Sleepyhead.” The great thing about seeing a band again at a venue that’s packed full of fans after seeing it in a venue that’s packed full of bored college kids is getting to absorb the energy of fellow fans and soak in the experience.

Overall, the night was really, really good. I’d definitely like to try attending another show at Lupo’s — maybe something a little more indie and a little less rock? — and I’d love to experience Passion Pit at a larger venue with more room to dance. At any rate, even having left early, this show was more than worth it.

Concert Recap: Passion Pit, The Joy Formidable, Ra Ra Riot, Roz & The Rice Cakes

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