A writerly thing I do is get to shows early. By doing this, I get a sense of the fan base, and then have a sense of what kind of show I’m in for. Some of the first in line to see Rainbow Kitten Surprise (yes, you’re not hung over, that is their name also known as R.K.S.) were high schoolers giddy with having been allowed out past 10:00 p.m. Not far behind them were college kids who can’t remember a time when they weren’t out past 10:00. As the line grew, I was amazed at how so many millennials were standing in the cold to hear a band that can’t be pigeon-holed into any particular genre. The band is definitely a far cry from the One Direction type fodder they came up with.
Once inside and waiting for the show to start, a woman in her fifties leaned on my bar railing and struck up conversation about how she’d even taken four days off work, traveled up from Florida and booked a hotel room just to see these guys.
“We don’t have anything like this in Florida. They won’t be in this kind of venue even a year from now.” She gushed. “They’re just going to keep going up and up.”
The night kicked off with Caamp, a duo of two childhood friends Taylor and Evan, whose song Ohio charted at #4 on U.S. viral Spotify. Their self-titled first album has had 2.5 million listeners stream it. With an old school banjo and classic guitar, they bring back a style of music that most of the audience’s great grandparents would be more familiar with, and they do it better than their forefathers. Their resonating lyrics such as “All these memories, shootin shivers down my spine make them into melodies, play me yours and I’ll play mine,” are cross-generational and have an easy appeal. It’s just the two of them on stage, not a lot of pomp and circumstance, but that’s likely because they know what we know; that they don’t need any hoopla.
As the night wore on, more middle agers filtered in joining the late teen, early twenties throng. By the low level of chit-chat that continued during Caamp’s performance, you could tell the crowd was not as familiar with them, but all that ceased when R.K.S. came out.
Guitarist Charlie Holt did an air split as he nearly floated across the stage. The applause was deafening! Drummer Jess Haney, who at first glance seemed like he was missing basketball practice to be there was next followed by guitarist Ethan Goodpastor who has a Robert Pattinson vibe. No doubt these vibrant, collegiate looking members are certainly part of the draw for millennials.
They were joined by the straight-laced guitarist/ singer Darrick “Bozzy” Keller and back woodsy front man Sam Melo. These two brought a big brothers playing in the garage with younger bros, and maybe a cousin sort of feel to things. As soon as Sam started in on All that and More (Sailboat), one of their infamous tunes from the first album Seven+Mary 2013, the room erupted with voices singing along. With his quirky movements and theatrical expressions, Melo has a charisma that puts him right up there with Mick Jagger, and Freddy Mercury. His ability to belt out gravely notes and immediately curb them into tamed harmonies alongside his bandmates, is not talent; it is an awe-inspiring gift.
Those around me did not let up with their joining Melo on his songs. Many of the listeners knew every word. As a Kardashian look-alike next to me, a group of frat boys ruling the middle of the room and the fifty-year-old rocker from Florida mouthed the chorus to Devil Like Me “Shake me out if I’m wrong, for you, for you. Shake it all out when I’m gone, I, for you” I realized that the group’s alternative label is more than apropos. They are certainly an alternative to all the glamorized, perfected pop artists. They are an alternative to the overly celebretized artists who have become money making machines for recording companies. Rainbow Kitten Surprise is the ultimate surprise in that they are what you’ve been yearning for, yet had likely given up on ever finding. Look no further.