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Music in Review: Ra Ra Rasputin Live at DC9

Ra Ra Rasputin at DC9
Photo: Joshua Feldman

There’s something catchy about the synth-laden electro pop music that Ra Ra Rasputin makes.

Based in D.C., the band released their eponymous debut album last September and have toured nonstop. They’ve hit up every major venue in the District, but most recently they performed at one of D.C.’s more intimate venues, DC9.

Opening was the hilarious hip hop group Navi and the Whole Damme Delegation. It was hard to take the group seriously, considering lead vocalists Navi and Kurt Canfield were dressed ridiculously in suits, with Navi sporting a top hat and Canfield wearing a fake beard made of gray dreadlocks, and a black and blonde afro wig.

The group did acknowledge the ridiculous get-ups, with Navi saying to the crowd, “Right now, you’re probably asking yourself: have you ever seen a hip hop band dressed up like such freaks?”

Well, considering Flavor Flav made a career out of wearing a viking helmet and an over-sized clock, the answer is a simple no.

Musically, the group have a Das Racist feel about them, setting more store by their appearance than the actual music. They could be a cult group that could go the way of Dan Finnerty and the Dan Band (the hilarious wedding performers from “The Hangover”) or the laughable Insane Clown Posse.

They performed some original songs off Navi’s album “Lo Fi Muey Thai,” which included a skewered remix of Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” and a number dedicated to marijuana called “Lemme Know.” The sole musical highlight of the performance was a remix of Bill Withers “Ain’t No Sunshine” — but, considering that song has been covered to hell and back, including rap remixes by DMX and 50 Cent, Navi and company might have to come up with something a bit more original next time around.

Ra Ra Rasputin at DC9
Photo Cradit: Joshua Feldman

Ra Ra Rasputin took the stage next, among a relatively packed audience. Amidst dark red lighting and an ever-twirling disco ball, the group launched into “Forward.” Lead singer Brock Boss bopped around on stage, often doubling over and tousling his swoopy brown hair.

He often alternated spots with lead guitarist Ken Kigongo, who had a Ratatat-esque guitar solo for every single song. The band also played most of the songs off their last album, like the dance-worthy “Stereocutter” and “Electricity Through the Heart.”

The latter was perhaps one of the best songs off the album, with Boss switching places with bassist Anna Rozzi, whose voice is a female equivalent to Boss’ deep and conversational vocal style.

There was a lot of instrument switching throughout the night, with Boss and Rozzi sharing vocal and bass duty.

Every so often, the last minute or so of each song was full on instrumentals, with Boss or Kigogongo hammering away at a tiny drum set. There was also a generous helping of cowbell, prompting fans in the audience to shout the ever-popular saying “More cowbell!” Kigongo cheekily responded, “This is the McDonald’s of fucking cowbell. It’s more than you should ever need.”

Every so often Boss or Rozzi would run over to the drum set — mastered by the cheery and smiley Ken Quam — and simply pound on the cymbals with either their hands or a drum stick. The constant switching and frenzied atmosphere made for an exciting and interactive show.

Ra Ra Rasputin pour their hearts into their shows, bringing their complicated and meticulous synth pop to life.

Other high points of the performance included the songs “Fit Fixed” and the smashing closer “Accumulator.”

“Fixed” was light on lyrics and focused mainly on echoey synths, Kigongo’s guitar prowess and, of course, more cowbell.

“Accumulator” was perhaps the most modern sounding, considering some of the other songs slipped into an ‘80s-inspired fever dream.  Boss sang while Rozzi hauntingly echoed the lyrics, singing, “Don’t tell me you’ve lost your love/just when I was starting to live for you.”

For those who missed the electric show, it’s not too late to see them yet.

You can catch the electro-pop group next at 9:30 club on May 22!