My not-so-guilty pleasure is Francophone hip-hop. There’s something about that slightly guttural Canadian French accent that translates really well to spoken word, and even if I only catch half the lyrics I still enjoy losing myself in the rhythm.
Radio Radio have been on my radar for a few years, and after I heard they were playing Ritual their songs made their way back into my regular rotation. Aside from the occasional uOttawa frosh week flashback while listening to their 2008 hit “Jacuzzi“, it’s been great re-acquainting myself with their music. They’re touring to support their latest studio album, Light the Sky. Interestingly, the new album is entirely in English, which is justifiable for a band trying to find broader success, but I’m a little sad about it. Pendant ces dernières années j’ai développé une affinité pour ma deuxième langue, et une familiarité avec la musique francophone qui contribue à mon sens d’appartenance à cette communauté vibrante.
Ritual is a great venue. From the moment I walked in, the place was bumping. Fans from both sides of the provincial border turned up to dance and have a good time. The crowd was a different demographic than I’m used to seeing, representing those in their late 20s and early 30s. The band must know this, as their merch table offerings included child-sized onesies. However, I can testify after Friday March 4 that folks of all ages know how to party.
Opening the show was Alex Silas & the Subterraneans, who made waves in 2014 with their full-length release Roots, an album seemingly inspired by poets of the Beat generation. I hadn’t listened to them much prior to the concert, but they left a favourable impression. I really enjoyed their blend of spoken word and rock. There was one track in particular that mesmerized me, a spoken word sonnet which slowly built into a cascade. The song began with a simple and catchy line on the electric guitar, over which Silas spoke about humanity’s connection with nature. I recall them repeatedly saying “We are stars”, but I haven’t been able to find the track online. I expect it’ll be included on their new album due for release in early 2016, and I look forward to hearing it again. The poetic lyrics turned into a lengthy jam session where the band worked together to create with a harmony that had been missing from some of the earlier songs in their set.
After a brief interlude where the DJ kept the dance floor going, Radio Radio took the stage. Their energy was standout from the very beginning, and everyone in the room was having fun alongside them. The duo of rappers carried the show with their chemistry, and their set was dispersed with lots of cute elements to keep the audience engaged – I particularly enjoyed the synchronized dance moves! It was really cool to hear a live band as a background to their brand of hip-hop, and the resulting sound was full and catchy. The crowd was engaged, with hardly anyone using their phones. I didn’t see a single selfie go down!
Radio Radio put on a lively show and managed to keep the audience’s energy up even as the night went late. They always seemed to have another hit in their repertoire, and there were plenty of people singing along to the choruses, or punctuating with a “Heeyyy!” at just the right moment. I’d also like to give a shout-out to the person who designed their light show. The set-list had a good mix of English and French songs, and people of all linguistic profiles bonded in the common language of dance. Radio Radio have been around for long enough to know the elements of a good live show, and they delivered.
Check out Spectrasonic’s upcoming shows here.