Rainbow Kitten Surprise Vs Carrboro
Introducing: Rainbow Kitten Surprise. If you’ve never heard of this band, 1) you’re doing something wrong, and 2) I can safely say you have no idea what kind of music these guys make. Well, it’s time to make a change.
Last night, I was given the unreal opportunity to see the Boone natives headline a sold out show at Cat’s Cradle, but first, I caught them before the show and talked with them about their growth as a band, their hopes for the future, and why 2016 is their year to shine.
As I drove through the streets of Carrboro looking for a parking spot, I began to notice how many people were wandering the sidewalks. Of course, that’s what happens on a Saturday night in places like Carrborro, but what caught my attention was that these young people were practically jogging in the same direction. That’s when I realized they were going to the same place I was: Cat’s Cradle. I had never been to this venue before, despite how many times I’ve tried, and decided to follow the crowd to the back of building where the entrance was. I was scheduled to sit down and chat with Rainbow Kitten Surprise before their show at 8pm, but didn’t find bassist Charlie Holt until about 8:15 thanks to the lack of parking and insane amount of people I had to weave through to get to him. When we finally connected, the very first thing I said to him was an overly enthusiastic and probably dramatic “Congratulations!”
I’ve kept my eye on Rainbow Kitten Surprise since the beginning of 2016, and although it seems like the phrase “SOLD OUT” is at the end of all their concert dates, I’ll never get over how cool it is to see an NC band make a name for themselves. I told Holt this and wondered aloud how he felt about consistently selling out shows.
He laughed and said, “It’s not really about that, it’s more about seeing the faces and seeing them sing every word to our songs.”
We continued to discuss the success of the band as we strolled through the crowded alley behind the venue, weaving in and out of fans, some of which recognized Holt and extended a handshake or a quick, “Hey Charlie!”
By the time we rounded the corner, we ran into two more members of Rainbow Kitten Surprise: frontman Sam Melo and Darrick “Bozzy” Keller. The original plan was to do the interview in the green room, but a rash decision was made and the interview was going to happen on the street. Normally, I would get nervous about such an abrupt change of plans but the laid back vibe Melo, Holt, and Keller gave off had me relaxed, as if I was catching up with old friends. The entire interview felt as such and I had to stop myself from continuing the conversation instead of going back to my questions. From their self-proclaimed debut album to growing as a band, the three guys let me in on the secret behind their success on the East Coast.
Since their formation in 2013, the group has played plenty of sold out shows all over NC and beyond, worked with Split Rail Records, a label based out of Appalachian State, and made it to the top 24 of a competition held by VH1 in pursuit of a record deal.
“I think the most important thing we learned with Split Rail … is that we can just be exactly who we are and that’s all people really want to see,” commented Melo. “They don’t want us to fabricate an image that is then presentable to them; who we are is exactly what they want, and that’s been really rewarding. I think honesty is really the only thing people stick around for.”
It’s comments like this, as well as the overall vibe of the conversation, that make the band so approachable. Several times throughout the interview, people called Sam’s name from the rooftop of the hotel parking garage next to us or stepped between Holt and Melo to shake their hands and the conversation would always come to a halt, only to be picked up right where it was left off. I strayed from my predetermined questions a few times simply because I forgot this was an interview and not a casual conversation.
In my opinion, a band is doing something right if their Facebook is riddled with comments saying, “Come to Brazil!” I’ve found that plea in the comment section of tons of popstars, as well as some of my favorite bands, and I can proudly add RKS to the list. When I mentioned this to the three men, Holt and Keller laughed and agreed that Brazil was one of their biggest markets, after Boone and New York, but Melo seemed to be completely unaware of how far their unique sound has made it. You can find “Seven” featured on a Brazilian playlist called Muscia do Dia, alongside artists like Brand New, Best Coast, The Summer Set and a plethora of Brazilian artists. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the flow of the playlist, but it’s fitting seeing as that’s how a typical RKS show is put on.
After chatting the three members, we parted ways to prepare for two different experiences scheduled to happen at the same time. RKS prepared to play a highly anticipated show in front of hundreds of fans, while I and fans alike prepared for a two hour long dance party.
Opening for RKS was Charleston’s own Stop Light Observations. During the first half of their set, I walked around the venue in search of a decent spot for later but the room was jam packed with fans filling in every nook and cranny it had to offer. I spotted an open space near the sound board and settled in for the night, only to become distracted by one of the sickest covers/medleys of The Pixies “Where Is My Mind” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” I’ve ever heard. I still don’t think those songs should work together, but Stop Light Observations made it work and the crowd was into it. Near the end of their set, they covered “Breezeblocks” by Alt-J and my inner-high school self was eating up every minute of it.
Fast forward about 30 minutes after their set and RKS finally took the stage. Through thunderous claps and whooping cheers, the five-piece opened with “All That And More (Sailboat).” The cheering quickly turned into timed claps and stomps, as Melo stood as close to the edge of the stage as he could and sang into the faces of Carrboro. The first few songs flew by before the band seemed to take a breather, but who needs rest when you have Sam Melo as your frontman?
The vocalist radiated energy and didn’t stand still for more than a few seconds at a time. When he finally decided to take a breath, he stood center stage, hip cocked, and stared directly at the back of the venue. He brought the microphone to his mouth, paused for a moment, and said “Should I do it?”
The crowd screamed and shifted forward, enjoying the inside joke between the band and themselves. With a big, goofy grin on his face, Melo put the microphone back on its stand and took off his light blue, paisley shirt. Even though this was my first RKS show, I was impressed by how little time it took for the shirt to come off; three songs in and he was ready to go.
Whether it was the incredible energy of the crowd or that fact that it was unbearably hot in the venue, RKS was doing all the right things and the crowd was letting them know.
After Melo’s, and a few other guys’, shirt came off, the frontman announced that the setlist was going to change. The plan was to play a few slower songs and inevitably build into faster-tempo songs, but the band was feeding off the high energy given off by the crowd. It was a never-ending dance party from that point on and I can only imagine how the crowd feels today.
As the set went one, a bra was thrown at Melo, a girl hopped on the stage and danced with the band, and someone threw an Appalachian State shirt to the front, causing Melo to lead the crowd in a classic App State cheer. The crowd was a hot mess but the band itself was anything but. Through the heat and sweat, RKS put on an unforgettable show. It’s no secret that I love RKS’ entire discography, but the second they began to play “Cold Love,” I fell in love with the song all over again. As I’ve said probably a thousand times, harmonies own my heart; if you’re anything like me, “Cold Love” is the song for you. Classic favorites, such as “Cocaine Jesus,” “Devil Like Me,” and “Lady Lie,” were played throughout the night, but perhaps the most memorable aspect of the night, for me, was in between songs. While talking to the band before the show, I felt as if I was hanging out with close friends; I felt the same exact way during their set. The witty banter after songs and the chatter of the crowd in response created a welcoming environment for friends from all over NC.
This is why live music matters. To be given the opportunity to check your problems at the door and hang out with people who are there for the same reason in a safe environment is a special gift that should never be taken for granted.
After the show ended, I hung out at the bar and watched the expressive faces pass by. The crowd was one of the most diverse groups I’ve ever seen, thanks to the inclusive nature of the Cat’s Cradle, but everyone had one thing in common: they were all drenched in sweat. Manic grins found a permanent home on many faces and excited limbs waved around as people reminisced about their favorites parts of the show. Watching hundreds of people leave the venue reminded me of something Holt said prior to our interview.
When I offered him a huge, dramatic “Congratulations,” he told me that last year, RKS played two nights in the Cat’s Cradle Back Room, which had a 250 person cap. Now, the band is playing a sold out show in a room with a 750 person cap at a venue with ticket scalpers parading around the front, looking for tickets to buy and/or sell. It was my turn to don a goofy grin.
Compared to how long the band has been around, I consider myself late to the party as a fan; but seeing this band grow over the course of six months has been a truly remarkable experience. If you aren’t familiar with Rainbow Kitten Surprise, get moving and join the family because this five-piece from Boone, NC is going places. Fast.
Catch them at Raleigh’s own Hopscotch Music Festival this September, as well as all over the East Coast this summer: