Rainbow Kitten Surprise face down a sold out crowd in New Orleans, unafraid, unwavering, and ready to be exactly who they are.
Rainbow Kitten Surprise's show at The Orpheum was monumental. Not only did it mark the end of the band's winter tour, this was the band's first show in Louisiana since VooDoo Fest 2018 and their first headline show in New Orleans in over five years. A lot has changed in that time. This is not the same band you saw pre-2020, and that is okay. Rainbow Kitten Surprise show that change is not only okay, but it is also good. I saw this band once before the pandemic in 2018, and they were fantastic. I would go see that band again and again. But now? There is something different in RKS, and it is infectious. The underlying joy, passion, and the emanating sense of new direction is incredible to witness in a live setting.
Nashville by-way-of Boston indie rockers Twen opened up the night. The band has been on the road with RKS for this whole tour, being one of the smaller openers in recent memory. However, much like RKS opening acts before them (Mt. Joy, Caamp, Briston Maroney), they are absolutely one to keep your eye on. Rowdy, rambunctious, and unapologetically fun, Twen is everything you want out of the opening set. They are melodic, while still crushing, energetic, but not afraid to slow things down, and poetic, even while they make you dance. From their howling vocals to their larger-than-life percussion, this was a fantastic start to the night.
The crowd erupts in cheers as the band ceremoniously walk out onto the stage. They grab their instruments, check that everything is up to code, and ready themselves. The delicate strumming of acoustic guitar and plucking of banjo kicks in, as "All That and More (Sailboat)", a fan favorite, fills the room. It is a humble beginning, one almost unexpected from such a colorful band, but a welcomed one. Personally, it is one of my favorite tracks from the band. The song's beautiful folk-tinged music is timeless, and it delivers both a somber feeling and an overwhelming sense of happiness. One of RKS' strengths, their powerful harmonies, is on full display during this song, accenting the lighthearted and airy instrumentation to craft a beautiful opening moment.
It was clear this opening was just an appetizer, a crisp and warm baguette to prepare you for your entrée. The band was ready to let loose. The acceleration started with bassist Charlie Holt's (they/them) manic descent into groove, letting the music flowing through their fingertips and out of the subwoofers. Charlie's personality was glowing as they took on the crowd ahead. Then came lead singer Ela Melo's (she/her) soaring vocals, filling the three layered theater with ease, ringing through your ears and into your chest. The rest of the band, guitarist Darrick Keller (he/him), guitarist Ethan Goodpaster (he/him), and drummer Jess Haney (he/him) were not far behind, bringing with the the full might of Rainbow Kitten Surprise to The Big Easy.
The band is now at full speed. "Fever Pitch", off their latest project How to: Friend, Love, Freefall, is a groovy, bombastic song that is not afraid of getting up in your face. The band didn't step back either, with Ela delivering a distorted rap verse both eloquently and effortlessly, while maintaining the ferocity of the song before it. As the show continued, numerous tracks kept this same spirit alive. Early hit "Devil like Me" saw the band conquer the stage, with the looming threat of the instruments' built bringing a cathartic release in a rush of red lighting. There were moments where the music flowed through me uncontrollably, a rare experience for me now over 100 shows deep into 2022. RKS has full control.
A gorgeous chromatic wave of light cascaded over the stage, crashing into the crowd, and flowing through the entire room, perfectly encapsulating the energy of warmth, family, and joy emanating from the band on stage. It really is bliss. Rainbow Kitten Surprise are so much more than a rocking live band, the energy they project and receive is unparalleled with almost any touring band. The emotional wrecking ball that is "Hide" was crushing, even for those not directly targeted by the song's message. "Work Out", the band's latest singel, is another hard hitting ballad. Not just from the emotional weight, tied to the bands return from the pandemic and the changes it brought, but also the percussion and bass heavy production that comes crushing from the speakers. The song's swelling end came piercing through the crowd, with the repeating guitar chords cutting like a razor. The synthesized bass that came in to rumble the entire room before the final verse brought everything back down to earth. RKS can peer into your soul with their words, which is certainly exciting with new music in the pipeline.
This band never disappoints. I could talk about numerous songs at length, "Our Song", "Moody Orange", and "First Class" all come to mind. That isn't even mentioning the band's smash hit "Cocaine Jesus" or their more recent TikTok virality in the form of "It's Called: Freefall". Rainbow Kitten Surprise is a band you can see over and over again. They deliver a memorable show that provides a unique experience, even on the same tour.
1. All That and More (Sailboat)
2. Black and White
3. Our Song
5. Goodnight Chicago
6. When I Call Your Number
8. Mr. Redundant
9. Moody Orange
10. Lady Lie
11. Fever Pitch
12. Work Out
14. When It Lands
15. Devil Like Me
16. It's Called: Freefall
17. First Class
18. Cocaine Jesus
19. That's my Shit
20. Possum Queen
21. Polite Company
If you've been keeping up with Rainbow Kitten Surprise, you'll know this show was rescheduled from October of this year. The band has had some pains as they return to touring, which included an abrupt end to their summer tour and the rescheduling of this tour as well as their European tour. In an increasingly difficult world, RKS have lead by example in prioritizing your health, both body and mind. This added an unspoken element to their show, one of resilience and triumph, which is incredibly beautiful.
Rainbow Kitten Surprise's remaining dates are below, including a three night NYE run in Atlanta, GA, a trip to South Africa, Europe, and a pair of spring festivals.
12/29 Atlanta, GA — The Eastern*
12/30 Atlanta, GA — The Eastern^ (SOLD OUT)
12/31 Atlanta, GA — The Eastern+ (SOLD OUT)
3/10 Cape Town, ZA — Kristenbosch National Botanical Garden
3/11 Johannesburg, ZA — Marks Park Sports Club
3/15 Paris, FR — La Maroquinerie
3/16 Zürich, CH — Dynamo
3/18 Vienna, AT — Flex (SOLD OUT)
3/19 Munich, DE — Technikum (SOLD OUT)
3/20 Prague, CZ — MEETFACTORY
3/22 Warsol, PO — Progresja
3/23 Berlin, DE — Columbia Theater (SOLD OUT)
3/25 Amsterdam, NL — Melkweg (SOLD OUT)
3/26 Hamburg, DE — Gruenspan (SOLD OUT)
3/27 Cologne, DE — Die Kantine (SOLD OUT)
3/29 Manchester, UK — Manchester Academy
3/30 Birmingham, UK — O2 Institute2
3/31 London, UK — Roundhouse
4/02 Glasgow, UK — Galvanizers Yard
4/03 Dublin, IR — The Academy, Middle Abbey Street (SOLD OUT)
4/04 Dublin, IR — The Academy, Middle Abbey Street (SOLD OUT)
4/15-16 North Charleston, SC — High Water Fest 2023
5/19-21 Gulf Shores, AL — Hangout Music Festival 2023
* with Annie DiRusso
^ with twen
+ with The Brook & The Bluff
This is a perfect show, and I don't say that lightly. There is so much to be taken from a RKS show, from the incredible instrumentation, to the jaw-dropping light design (seriously, someone thank their lighting director for me), to their energetic and just plain fun to watch performance. But for me, the emotionally purging experience that can be taken away is king. The show felt reverent, while simultaneously validating and releasing your anxieties. Rainbow Kitten Surprise truly are something special, and their fans certainly see this. I would absolutely recommend their show, even if you're not a fan, solely on this reason alone.