Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Raveonettes - 9:30 Club

In October, I travelled to Washington D.C. to see The Raveonettes at the 9:30 Club. The Raveonettes are a multi-gendered Danish indie rock group, headed by the duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo, who have released four albums and an EP and had little trouble filling the club, which holds about 1,000 people.

The Raveonettes’ songs often feature one guitar playing the melodious riff over white-noise distortion and feedback coming from the other guitar. Their songs are credited to the two-piece, as drum machines often augment their sound on record, but in concert a couple of virtually invisible other instrumentalists played behind them.

One of the first things I noticed when seeing them live, thus, was that the female Foo almost always played the “background noise” over which the male Wagner overlaid his sparkling riffs. Listening to their songs before, I’d never known who played which parts. Wagner and Foo write their music together, but I thought it was interesting how the male Wagner was the one playing the recognizable riffs for most of the concert, the ones that the audience would be dancing and toe-tapping to. It seemed to validate the notion that the females in rock bands are more commonly suited to background roles.

Yet that’s not to say that Foo was entirely relegated to the background. Vocally, The Raveonettes take advantage of both Foo and Wagner’s voice, though Foo probably sings lead a little more frequently. That worked well in concert, as different sounds featured different combinations of the two—sometimes, just one sang (Wagner was given his own solo, acoustic song, the only song of the set that wasn’t complimented by the full band.), at other times they both sang at varying volumes. Most of the time, though, I would say that Foo’s voice was the more prominent one. In my opinion, her voice suits the sound better than Wagner’s, and they must agree.

Something else that demonstrates the egalitarian nature of the band was the placement of the two. The female Foo stood front and center, while Wagner stood off to her right, leaving her as largely the center of attention. This may have been because the primary guitarist typically stands on the left side of the stage (as the audience looks at it), and Wagner was indeed playing more of the recognizable guitar parts. They were also standing a considerable distance apart from each other, which may or may not have helped to give each person more individual attention. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they stood closer to each other, since the interplay between the two is the heart and soul of the band, but they didn’t, as though they were asking you to focus on one or the other.

There was a moderate amount of interaction between the band and the audience. As a popular venue for midrange acts, the 9:30 club offers a good opportunity for fans to be close to a band—those on the floor level in the front were just a few feet from the stage. Both Foo and Wagner spoke briefly before a couple songs—and it’s worth noting that the audience seemed to respond better to Foo. Whether that’s because it’s unusual to have a female heading a rock concert is hard to determine. I would venture to say fans are drawn to her voice, and she was also smiling and energetic all night; several fans in the front row seemed to interact with her more profusely than any did for the more laidback Wagner. Foo doesn’t need to resort to the antics of some female pop stars—namely, wearing provocative clothes—and instead lets her music speak for her.

Clearly, both members of the band are talented, but perhaps in different ways. So far, there have been no indications of any tension within the group, which suggests that they balance the various aspects of writing and performing well. After seeing the concert, I’m now more curious to learn more about their songwriting process—to know who writes which part and who contributes more to the process, etc. Seeing them in concert just validated my appreciation for them.

No comments: