Raffa & Rainer
With Bridget + Luke and Sweet Bronco
The Bubble, Fort Lauderdale
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Raffa & Rainer, the sweeter-than-honey folk duo from Miami, have
turned into an army with their latest effort No Mercy. The follow-up to
the stripped-down, understated Stolen Coal traverses new, more
intricate ground for the group, with the duo ballooning to 30 guest
musicians and its material resulting in a more layered sound with horns,
strings, and percussion.
A handful of those 30
supported Raffa & Rainer Saturday at their Fort Lauderdale CD Release
party at the Bubble. The syrupy sax, the rich timbre of the stand-up
bass, and Raffa's beguiling vocals, quirky lyrics, and ability to adapt
to a range of musical styles (bluegrass, country, jazz, dark-tinged
carnivalesque gypsy folk) demonstrated the band's versatility while
preserving its sweet-as-pie whimsy. (Sitting on crates and having knick
knacks on stage like an antique lamp for some reason translate into
The group obviously has pop smarts. Their material is
catchy without being annoying or repetitive - such a problem in the
folk community. And out of the three bands that played, Raffa & Rainer
were the only group that inspired the audience to dance, from numbers
like the love-gaze jazz of "North Carolina Boys" to the quirky bluegrass
of "A Little Bit."
Unfortunately though, the band sometimes
wanders into diabetes territory lyrically. If it wasn't for Raffa's
amazingly charming pipes on "A Little Bit," lyrics like "I've always
been a little bit, a little bit, a little bit needy. I need someone to
give my kisses to" might induce a gag reflex. But she remains so
irresistible (shall we say merciless?), maybe even more so live, one
wants so badly to forgive for the cutesy lyric. After all, who can
begrudge an adorable band for a cutesy lyric? That's like getting angry
with a puppy for crying at night because it wants to sleep with you. But
there's no need to be stubborn. Raffa comes back with the fire of an
angsty gen-X-er with the "I don't believe in marriage. I can blame that
on my parents. I love them but they fucked me up for sure."
minor problem included the awkward marriage between venue and sound.
The Bubble was a really great host as always, and the sound wasn't
wanting. There's just something incongruous about Raffa & Rainer
playing at the downtown warehouse space, or at least outside. They seem
better suited for a more intimate environment. Maybe had they played in the gallery
among the Bubble artwork, the ambiance and the acoustics would have been
Outside at the Bubble seemed perfect for the indie rock
emanating from the threesome Sweet Bronco. Formerly the solo project of lead singer
Chris Horgan, Sweet Bronco has evolved (at least since I saw them last)
from a melancholy, droning indie-pop act to, well, kinda noisy. With the threesome's
new sound really gelling and Horgan's heart-on-sleeve poetics and noisy
guitar solos, it was hard to pay attention to
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five-piece Bridget + Luke, which also includes Rainer, was good background noise, but not nearly as
captivating as Sweet Bronco or as charming as Raffa and Rainer. The only thing keeping me awake other than Bridget's vocals,
was Rainer because of his idiosyncratic stage persona.