Rainbow Kitten Surprise comes to Joy Theater, kookiness ensues

Josh Axelrod, Staff Reporter

Sanjali De Silva | Senior Staff Photographer
Rainbow Kitten Surprise croons for a rabid audience.

Things got weird at the Joy Theater on Wednesday night.

Gracing the stage with a giddy performance, veering between burlesque and ballad, Rainbow Kitten Surprise lived up to the eccentricity of its name.

The alt-rock group hails from the mountains of Boone, North Carolina, and has three albums out. Beloved in New Orleans as an indie gem and festival favorite, fans turned out in droves for the sold-out performance.

Frontman Sam Melo, boasting a voluptuous beard and resembling a spritely Williamsburg hipster with the spirit of Janis Joplin and the energy of Freddie Mercury, commanded the stage, flouncing, gyrating and thrashing about with both careful choreography and reckless abandon.

Though, at times, it feels as if nobody’s ever told him he’s permitted to simply stand at the piano and sing his songs instead of pantomiming out each lyric, his energy was fun and flirty, nonetheless.

The rest of the band, however, have some work to do in the kinesiology department. In an effort to match Melo’s wackiness, cringe-worthy dance moves make RKS’s supporting musicians look more like a group of really good high-schoolers riding the high of their last Battle of the Bands victory than a nationally-renowned ensemble.

The crowd was certainly enthused, regardless of the glitches, and egged on the stage’s weird energy. Rainbow-colored lasers shot out from the stage, because, of course.

The night began with a delightful surprise: an opener that understood and appreciated the harder-than-it-looks role of starting a show. Mt. Joy, a five-piece from Philly with more critical parise than their successor, rocked the venue. The fact that the ticket could have been flipped was lost on these indie rockers, who performed a textbook lesson in warming up a crowd.

Dipping into synthy covers of “Born to Run” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” while playing its own tracks that the audience clearly knew, Mt. Joy achieved a perfect level of energy, with a steady stream of indie jams. It was if they were following a simple directive: play music, mount joy.

Throughout the rest of the concert, RKS performed some of its most popular songs, like “Cocaine Jesus” and “Devil Like Me” peppering in some predictable vocal grunge. Yet, despite a reputation for exuberant live performances, front-man Sam Melo pretty much stuck to the script, playing carbon copies of studio songs.

With funky genre-benders and confident songwriting, RKS has a respectable repertoire of wonky indie disco to pull from – though they probably benefit more from the tighter, crisper constraints of a studio recording. The band still delivered on a high-energy, laser-filled evening of frenzied tunes.

One can imagine audience members – who, on Wednesday, were dressed in rave costumes, high schoolers and quinquagenarians alike trading juul hits – returning to their normal, day-to-day lives, relishing the weirdness of the night and hoping to relive it again soon.

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