Despite the gray skies and constant drizzle that fell over Austin on Wednesday night, The Belmont was packed. As I walked into the venue, a stage worker hustled over to the muscle at the door and said, “just so you know, we’re a sold-out show.” As soon as I made my way to the front, openers Pacific Air had kicked off the show with their energy levels turned all the way up.
Pacific Air is made up of brothers Ryan and Taylor Lawhon who formed the band in 2012 after receiving a record deal from Republic Records. With only a four-track EP under their belt (Long Live KOKO), these Californian brothers are still a young act. Although they had a short set, Pacific Air used their 30 minutes wisely. The stage lights matched the vibe almost perfectly, producing green and blue earth-like tones to match the dreamy tunes.
The crowd favorite was definitely the lead track off of their EP, “Float.” Their breathy vocals sing lyrics describing uncertainty but the music that accompanies it is just so laid-back. The constant jingle-jangle of whistles and tambourines made you want to bounce around. Pacific Air wrapped up their set with a new track “Lose My Mind,” and made sure people knew that they’d be back to play eight shows during South by Southwest. Some people have dubbed this duo as a band to look out for and I’m sure that after SXSW, that will be a definite statement.
The light rain kept coming down as Ra Ra Riot took the stage. They performed 18 songs throughout their set that came from their three full-length albums and their self-titled EP. The band didn’t waste any time and jumped right into the music. According to past interviews, the band had clarified that with their most recent release Beta Love, they wanted to get away from being pigeonholed as “that band with the cellist and violinist.” As unique and great as the violinist and cellist sounded, I’m glad they went in a different direction. Cellist Rebecca Zeller would jump on the keys every so often and also provide backup vocals. While there set focused on material from Beta Love, tracks from The Rhumb Line and The Orchard made the crowd get wild. Towards the half way point of the show, fans had put down their smartphones and put their full attention to dancing and singing along with the band.
The piano melody in between the synth-filled vocals in “Is It Too Much” and the drums/keys combination in “For Once” got me moving the most throughout the set. The crowd responded the most to the album’s title track “Beta Love,” with the shaking of their hips and swaying their hands in the air. Frontman Wes Miles’ smile and energy was infectious. Between a few of the tracks, he made sure the crowd knew that they were all having as good as a time as they were.
“I just gotta say, this is the ninth sold-out show of our tour,” Miles said. “Feeling really good. We owe it to you all.”
Songs like “When I Dream” took things down a notch; but just barely. Ra Ra Riot has the ability to play a slower song but still keep the energy flowing. The band played songs from their debut album The Rhumb Line that caused commotion among the crowd for fans who have obviously been following the band since the beginning. Ra Ra Riot performed a two-song encore that made you forget that you were standing under the rain. Miles made his way from stage left to stage right, high-fiving everyone he could reach.
Both bands played tight, high-energy sets that made the week go by just a little bit faster for everyone.