Wednesday, March 6, 2024

The World Needs 'Hurray For The Riff Raff' Right Now - Live Review 3/5/24 Brooklyn


I needed these songs before they were written. I didn’t know how much I needed them, and it seems Alynda Segarra knew they needed to write them, because the world needed them. The world needed the new songs by Hurray for the Riff Raff. 

I needed these songs in constant rotation since the album dropped 12 days ago. I needed these songs on headphones, on car trips, for ugly crying. I suddenly knew that I needed to hear these songs performed live by a tight and energetic band.

This means I needed to find a secondary market ticket to a sold out show. I needed to make spontaneous travel plans to one source of the Riff Raff origin story, New York City, specifically Brooklyn. I needed the sense of hungry trance and religious possession that provided the focus to make these plans, as ridiculous as that seemed at the moment. 

I achingly needed to hear Alynda Segarra sing these songs, play their acoustic guitar, and express gobs of humble gratitude in their brief remarks between songs. I especially needed to hear Alynda chant to the “rocks and stones” right along with the “books and poems” in “Vetiver.” May we all chant to the things that ground us and give us hope.

I emphatically needed to hear Alynda sing the lyrics in person to “Snake Plant,” this raggedy outlaw and addicts’ glorious tragedy rant prayer anthem hymn. I needed specifically to hear about all the daily life stuff that hobo travelers deal with just to survive. We need this song to survive, so we all needed to sing along with, with some arms raised, to this lyric invocation:

“Tattoo with a needle and thread.
Most of our old friends are dead,
There's a war on the people,
What don't you understand?
There's fentanyl in everything,
Don't become an angel with a broken wing.
We need you back down here on earth,
Nothing is as painful as birth.”

Like we need that stanza, like right now. We need that song sung and loud. We need it in spraypaint stencil and graffiti. We need “Snake Plant” in the cities and the towns and in the trailers and the shacks and in the squats and on the street and all the places they mention in the song, line after line. We need to remember that harm reduction can come in a poem and a song to tattoo on the soul of too many addicts dying and we can finally say we want you to live and we can sing you this song, okay? 

I desperately needed Alynda to sing “Ogallala,” to bring the despair and dread of these days around to the unlikely hope and holler and even dance despite and because of it all. I need to hear them say that they are still here, that we are still living brightly and boldly and beware. We needed to stop saying we were born in the wrong time and embrace our time, as the conclusion to this song so deeply and defiantly does:

“I used to think I was born into the wrong generation
But now I know I made it right on time
To watch the world burn”

I prayerfully needed Alynda to quote Palestinian poetry in the closing rousing rowdy glory of “Pa’lante.” This was already a song about claiming one’s own narrative, with a nod to the ancestors and Segarra’s specifically Nuyorican lineage. This song leaves the audience ready to get back and get out and do their own work. We needed the energy to internalize and energize and carry us out into the damp late winter Brooklyn streets and to our homes and communities. 

I needed the sore feet from these boots to remind me to always wear my comfortable walking shoes with insoles to concerts, because I am old. As I contemplate how I am too old for this, Alynda reminded us that time is not real. I needed them to say that.

I needed a certain t-shirt but they were sold out in my size, so I settled for a sticker. I needed the promo poster tacked on a venue wall, so I helped myself toward the end of the show. I needed this immersive, completely communal, revelatory experience in the live and narrative universe being created by Hurray For The Riff Raff. 

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