Articles tagged with Rah Rah

I feel just like an arrow

Rah Rah Rasputin
If you’ve seen Rah Rah live in the last couple of years, you may remember violinist Kristina Hedlund firing off a confetti cannon during the climactic “Arrows” (she’s credited with “pyrotechnics” on the band’s MySpace). The song now has a studio version and it’s the group’s new single from the upcoming Breaking Hearts.

The song is a baroque rock adrenaline shot, with propulsive guitar riffs, wailing violin and yelping background harmonies. Think Arcade Fire meets Broken Social Scene meets a triple espresso.

MP3: “Arrows”
 
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Rah Rah @ the WISE Hall, 9/17/09

Rah Rah
When Rah Rah is on top form, the group’s live show is a revelation. Unfortunately, last night at the WISE Hall, the six-piece battled muddy sound and a persistent, annoying feedback buzz from the PA. The band members seemed understandably thrown off by the technical difficulties, as the show didn’t have the same euphoric energy as when I saw the group a few months back.

Despite a lackluster start, the mood picked up a few songs in with the propulsive boroque rocker “Betrayal Pt. 1,” its thundering rhythm section and wailing violin evoking the swirling grandeur of Arcade Fire. A few songs later, multi-instrumentalist Erin Passmore took over lead vocals for “Duet for Emmylou and the Grievous Angel,” a gorgeous, countrified tribute to the band’s hometown of Regina.

The set ended with a series of new songs, one of which featured a party canon wielded by violinist/accordionist Kristina Hedlund. As she sprayed confetti into the crowd, it was an instant of pure, unrestrained joy. Although such moments were in shorter supply than usual, the musicians still earned a chant of “Rah Rah! Rah Rah!” as they filed off the stage.

The show was stolen by the opener, psychedelic rock four-piece Yukon Blonde. The group recently relocated to Vancouver from Kelowna, and this performance was the band’s first on a six week cross-Canada tour. Clad in all white, the band members tore through a brief but memorable set of gritty dual guitar jams and melodic California folk rock (think CSNY or the Byrds). The guitars crunched and jangled in equal measure, and the three-part vocal harmonies were pure Summer of Love. With a brand new EP just released and a LP on the way next year, look for Yukon Blonde’s profile to rise over the next few months.

Also on the bill was Red Cedar, who delivered a solid set of southern-fried rock. Drawing on the whiskey-soaked jams of My Morning Jacket as well as Rust Never Sleeps-era Neil Young, the band delivered a satisfyingly raucous performance, although you had to ignore the bassist’s ridiculous facial expressions in order to enjoy it.
 

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Rah Rah seeks a sound

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When I saw Rah Rah a couple of weeks ago, I noted that the band’s baroque rock intensity was distinctly similar to Arcade Fire. On the group’s album, 2008′s Going Steady, that resemblance is even more apparent. Aside from the deep, mumbling vocals of singer Marshall Burns, much of the album sounds like a collection of lo-fi Funeral outtakes; during “Betrayal pt. 1,” with its sawing violin and yelping backup vocals, you half expect the band to break into “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” at any moment.

The Arcade Fire sound-alikes are fun, but Rah Rah is at its best when carving out a sound of its own. The clear standout is “Duet for Emmylou and the Grievous Angel,” a gritty waltz-time strummer with a stunning singalong chorus of “It is fashionable / To be single / In big cities but not in small towns.” The folksy “My Guarantee” is a charming love song with sunny mandolins and poignant harmonies from the group’s female members. The girl-sung backup vocals are equally effective on “Winter Sun,” which features call-and-response harmonies over its sparse electro groove.

The album is carried by Burns’s lyrics, which are often witty and consistently memorable. He specializes in romantic cynicism, especially on the biting “Betrayal pt. 2″: “And I swear that I once loved a girl / More than any hockey team in the world / But you left me for that asshole / I forget his name.”

Burns has already found his lyrical voice, so hopefully Rah Rah will develop a a unique sound to match. It’s encouraging that the group is at its best when it sounds most like itself, rather than when imitating others. The band has already recorded a follow-up; based on the potential displayed on Going Steady, it’s going to be an album look out for in the near future.
 
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Rah Rah @ the El Mocambo, 6/21/09

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I’ve been in Toronto this weekend, checking out NXNE. Some highlights of the festival so far have included Hannah Georgas (backed by members of Mother Mother), the Dudes and Said the Whale. But the greatest surprise was Rah Rah, an indie rock six-piece from Regina. The band’s performance mixed the baroque intensity of Arcade Fire with the thundering rhythm section of the Go! Team, featuring swirling guitars and shouted group vocals. The band members traded off instruments on nearly every song (only guitarist Leif Thorseth stayed put), and Kristina Hedlund switched between violin and accordion. The overall effect recalled Broken Social Scene at its most accessible—like “Cause = Time” with more easily discernible lyrics.

This isn’t to suggest that Rah Rah is a one-trick pony: the set highlight was “Duet for Emmylou and the Grievous Angel,” which was built around massive Can-rock guitar chords and a stunning, radio-ready chorus. Unfortunately I didn’t know any of the songs beforehand, as it could have been the ultimate singalong moment. Elsewhere, the band tapped out polyrhythms against a tick-tocking electronic beat, and one song featured three band members on tambourine.

As well as the songwriting, what distinguished Rah Rah was its sense of fun, and the band members’ unaffected charisma. One song used crackling Pop Rocks (yes, the candy) as an instrument, and another featured an exploding confetti cannon. Without distracting from the musicianship, these moments made Rah Rah one of the most giddily joyous concerts in recent memory. I picked up the group’s 2008 album Going Steady, which I will write about soon. According to the merch girl, the band’s sophomore album is recorded and ready for mixing, and is due for release later this year.
 
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