Hurray For The Riff Raff - Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen
In some semi-spare time before the gig I was browsing the America/Canada section of CDs in Rough Trade East in London when the shelves literally moved from in front of me as two staff carried them away. The space was needed as apparently I’d stumbled across an instore gig from Archie Bronson Outfit. As fresh and vigorous as their punked-up rock was, it wasn’t my reason for being in the big smoke. The real reason I was there was for the more relaxed, yet no less passionate, New Orleans collective Hurray For The Riff Raff at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen.
Although nominally a band, they’re led and very much formed in the image of frontwoman - the unassuming Alynda Lee Segarra. With her tonight are longtime fiddler/violinist (and sometime drummer) Yosi Perlstein, and guitarist (and sometime drummer - and opening act for this tour) Sam Doores. They're a tight-knit group with history together that’s wrought from more than just making music. Segarra gives a mention to a New Orleans DJ visiting London and in the audience, saying that he was the only one who saw her and Doores as something other than “just homeless kids” when they were starting out.
On stage they’re unassuming and relaxed, the intimate setting at the venue suiting them perfectly. The crowd of a couple of hundred people are appreciative and warm, despite this being the second London show of the week. Drawing heavily on tunes from recent critical fave Small Town Heroes, the trio entertain for almost 90 minutes, covering Townes Van Zandt and Fred Neil (or more famously Nilsson) along the way. It’s the originals though that make the band so special; the key tracks from their previous release, title track ‘Look Out Mama’, ‘Little Black Star’, and a delightful live outing for ‘Ode To John and Yoko’ are present, and the picks from the recent album are spot on too. ‘Blue Ridge Mountain’ is exquisite and stripped back, the stories behind ‘The Body Electric’ and ‘St Roch Blues’ are even more riveting with much of the production removed. It’s not all beautiful songs though: the rollicking ‘End Of The Line’ and country surf rocker ‘Lake Of Fire’ are there to get the crowd moving.
On record Segarra’s voice is strong, but live shows are where it comes alive, with a nuanced quietness when needed (‘The Body Electric’), and energetic and loud on the more playful tracks (‘Look Out Mama’). A triumphant show to go with their triumphant album, 2014 has been pretty good so far for this New Orleans trio.