Concert review: Riff Raff at First Ave

Riff Raff performs, Tuesday evening at First Avenues Mainroom.

Image by Lisa Persson

Riff Raff performs, Tuesday evening at First Avenue’s Mainroom.

by Grant Tillery

Riff Raff is not a musician.  You can’t call someone whose songs are droll and monotone yet recherché and danceable a musician.  He’s definitely a provocateur, and a mighty good one at that.  At various times Tuesday night, he made out with the bronzed blondes gyrating on stage, and even brought out his Siberian Husky (the poor dog seemed scared by the booming bass, and I was about ready to call PETA and report Riff Raff for animal cruelty).  The gigantic cardboard cutouts the dancers (who were attention hungry audience members) and Riff Raff’s entourage carried around stage were photos of him, Katy Perry (his girlfriend) and his husky, and all had their hair dyed blue. 

Ennui set in immediately in the “Spring Breakers” milieu; I was waiting for James Franco’s “Alien” to pop out (which basically happened, since the character was based on Riff Raff), as well as Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens.  Sweaty bodies draped in neon and bare midriffs grinded against each other at a half-full First Avenue.  Fragrant weed floated through the air, giving the concertgoers a contact high.  Buffoons jostled to the front of the room, pushing people out of the way to bask in the glow emitted by the videos of scantily clad women playing on the projector behind Riff Raff.  This began during the opener, an insipid set by Toronto DJ Grandtheft.  He eschewed deep cuts and funky mixing techniques for plastic, passé pop songs that only a select few people were moved to get down to. 

Riff Raff’s set was thankfully a step up from Grandtheft’s, but was forgettable save his antics and the crowd mentality.  He strolled out on stage sporting a grey tank top emblazoned with pistols in primary colors, clashing with his gaudy, two-toned denim shorts with red adornments.  The highlight of the show was “How To Be The Man,” an anthem of braggadocio the whole audience belted out.  Ditto for “Deion Sanders,” where the crowd did the requisite hip-hop hand wave.  Each number sounded the same as the last, the only differences being the subjects Riff Raff pontificated on in a hackneyed street patois.  As Riff Raff became more one-dimensional, the crowd became more annoying.  Two girls, one sporting a “Keep Calm and Chive On” snapback, kept badgering the stage security to let them go up and twerk with the chosen few (much to my amusement, their bumbling led them to be shot down time and again).  The sanest members of the crowd filed out long before the night culminated, and before Riff Raff lit a blunt on stage. 

Though Riff Raff shows begin as extravaganzas, they devolve into cliché.  Riff Raff owns the role that he’s manufactured, but his schtick gets old quickly.  His inability to channel any emotion in his music (for lack of a better word) is a byproduct of the superficial, neon hued world he inhabits. He’s not a musician, and what he plays are digitalized beats that serve as a vehicle for him to go on one of his characteristic diatribes.