A few months ago, Dead Audio travelled to Nashville’s Exit/In to see one of the country’s fastest-rising indie rock bands, Boone, North Carolina’s Rainbow Kitten Surprise. After following the band closely since their inception in 2013, we had to see if they could translate their unique sound to a live setting. We were impressed with the band then, editing our post to encourage Lexingtonians to NOT miss this band. After a night of rowdy rock n’ roll in Lexington where the crowd knew every word, we’re here to definitively say yes, RKS is the real deal, and your new favorite band.
Last night Rainbow Kitten Surprise packed-out Lexington’s new Cosmic Charlie’s, showing their time on the road has led to expanding their sound and set to be more theatrical, festival-ready and crowd interactive.
Twangy, folk rockers CAAMP opened the stage for the evening. With only a banjo, acoustic guitar and a kick drum, the duo teetered between soft folky tunes and hard-driving bluegrass. Evan Westfall (banjo, vocals, kick drum) provided precise instrumentation while Taylor Meier (lead vocals, guitar) showed off a road-tested voice that sounds equally gruff and smooth at the same time, giving the band a soft, yet gritty, troubadour tone. Just a couple’a Ohio boys making beautiful noise!
To say Rainbow Kitten Surprise has stepped their game up in the recent months would be an understatement. Rather than kick the show off as a five-piece, Sam Melo (Vocals) appeared on stage solo, preaching a very self-aware stream of consciousness verse, offering an unheard off-album prelude to “Sailboat” before being joined by the full band. The intro was theatrical, offering a bit of mystique that perked the crowd up and made the DAB team look to one another realize we were in for a new, updated RKS show.
From the first song, the show was an all out sing-along with the crowd echoing Melo’s every word, even his fast, hip-hop-delivered lyrics. Surprisingly, the band chose to dig into their more somber songs at the beginning of the set. Staples such as “Bare Bones” and “Devil Like Me” allowed the poignant lyrics to shine through as the crowd hung onto every word. The band wove seamlessly between the first few songs, reprising “Bare Bones,” by softly echoing “let me in, in, in, in..” creating the perfect segway between tracks
Frontman Sam Melo is taking his role seriously. During each song he captivated the audience with his wild, free-form dancing. His eyes wide with excitement and his hand motions deliberate, Melo displays his feelings and song meanings through his actions. Several times he stepped into the crowd, encouraging those in the back to join in on the party.
Something that really stood out on this leg of the tour is how close the band is with one another, you can really feel the chemistry on stage. At one point, Jess Haney (Drums) offered a seemingly off-the-cuff story of how the band got together, or almost didn’t, only to bring the story full circle to encourage their fans to follow their dreams, because RKS is seeing their’s become a reality with each show.
A set highlight came when Charlie Holt (Bass) gave instructions for everyone to jump up and down when the chorus for “Mr. Redundant” kicked in. This was the spark that got the entire crowd dancing and singing in unison. Songs like “Cocaine Jesus” “First Class” and “All’s Well That Ends” were heartbreakingly beautiful, the latter being dedicated to the band’s friend that is going through a tough time. Although not the same song, I was reminded of one of my favorite RKS lyrics from “Cold Love”: “If I cry in your arms, it’s just some other shit, just some other shit/Just some other things that I’ve been dealing with/I’d die in your arms, bury me while playing this/Bury me saying: “You were all I ever needed.” Having recently lost a friend that was going through a rough time, I wish I could have told him that lyrics makes me think of him and how the good times outweighed the bad.
After ending the set with a passionate rendition of “All’s Well That Ends” that found Melo on top of the bar halfway across the room, the band made their way beck to the stage for a raucous version of “That’s My Shit.” It is on this song that the ever-stoic Darrick “Bozzy” Keller (Guitar) breaks away from his instrument and leads the crowd in the last sing-along of the night, jumping around the stage and nearly showing up Melo’s dance moves (but not quite).
This time last year, RKS was a relatively unknown band outside the American Southeast. Fast-forward a year later and the band is on several big festival lineups including Okeechobee, Hangout, Sasquatch!, Bonnroo and Firefly. As they are introduced to new crowds all over the US, paired with their poppy, radio-friendly sound (most of the time) the Dead Audio Team sees the endless possibilities in the near future Rainbow Kitten Surprise. Be sure to catch the band in small intimate venues while you still can!
Devil Like Me
When IT Lands
All’s Well That Ends
That’s My Shit