Now That's An Impressive RAQ

A ridiculously long hour passed, and the band finally trotted on stage after 10pm. Making an NYC crowd wait for 75 minutes isn’t always the wisest move, but RAQ responded with a tight and energetic first set. Visually the band made some interesting first impressions, both with the “I Wear My Sunglasses at Night” look of keyboardist Todd Stoops and the bug-eyed expressions of guitarist Chris Michetti.

The first set also featured many different looks musically, as well. The band showed impeccable stage presence and made eyes at each other with some of the biggest smiles I’ve seen. And more importanly, every member of the band certainly has chops and they came together to rock via a multi-pronged attack: drummer Greg Stukey and bassist Jay Berwick held down the beat, while Stoops aggressively tore solos on his keyboards and Michetti placed some well-timed face-melters that left most jaws resting on the floor.

Let’s address the 800-pound gorilla in the room, though. In talking to a number of people before the show started, the word on the street was that RAQ was nothing more than Phish Lite, a derivative imitation capitalizing on a ready-made fanbase. But other than the guitar tone and some other jamming staples, we really don’t grant that comparison. In fact, we came away more impressed with the band’s original sound than we ever imagined. And, don’t forget, Trey Anastasio didn’t exactly invent the tube screamer or octave pedal.

The more obvious comparision is to the influential and ubiquitous New Wave bands of the early 1980s. Actually, the third song of the first set, Botz, sounded straight out of a John Hughes teen movie. Oingo Boingo or Gary Numan meets Steely Dan wouldn’t be a bad description of RAQ’s music, and we mean that as a compliment. Berwick and Stoops did most of the singing, and both were very solid in their lead vocal abilities, although the band’s harmonies were a little deficient.

While well-received by most fans inside the venue, the second set provided the lowlight of the night, when three female “Raqettes” provided lead vocals. Club Exit’s setup was quite atypical from a general music venue, and the sound, lacking throughout the night, was particularly muddy and indistinct during this set. The Raqettes’ voices were far louder the rest of music, and while I’m sure the ladies have lovely voices, we were left with a bit of a headache. (The other lowlight was the awful music played during the setbreaks — it was a bizarre scene, as house music blared loudly, couples grinded and people scattered to all corners of the room to try to get some rest during this marathon.)


The third set finally started around 2 am, and the band’s original keyboard player Marc Scortino sat in on accordian. An accordian is yet another thing you don’t expect to see both at a rock show, nor “On The L.” Some groans went out from the crowd and about six of our friends jetted the scene as Scortino took the stage. It was their loss, though, as the beginning of the third set was the best part of the show by far. Like Weird Al’s Fat Tour, the accordian playing actually added to the music and wasn’t obnoxious at all.

The opener, Tunnel Vision, featured Scortino on vocals and sounded like a mix of early ’80s Genesis, Supertramp, and The Police. The band loosened up as the third set continued, and both the jams and laser light show reached exceptional new peaks. Even the numerous beefy bouncers stopped administering Polish Justice long enough to crack a few smiles as RAQ played a mean version of Dirty Sanchez (where’s Screech when you need him?).

Perhaps a nod to the Brooklyn of yore, the band a few songs later broke out a killer Havah Nagilah, unlike the ones played at many weddings. The perfection, though, came in the ironic and probably unintended delivery: RAQ plays this Jewish staple almost like a Neo-Nazi band would — frenetic and energetic — lending itself more to a skinhead moshpit than a celebratory hora. If the obvious and inevitable Phish comparison didn’t persist surrounding the Jewish faith (Avenu Malkenu and Yerushalayim Shel Zahav), I’d recommend they play one this all the time. The crowd went beserk for it.

We called it a night as the clock approached 3 am and DJ Logic entered for the wankiest of all wank jams. But leaving the club we saw faces full of unrestrained happiness, including longtime RAQ fans Steve Kwartin and “Big Phil,” both of whom have seen it all as far as classic rock is concerned. The fact that both of those guys are such big fans of the band says a lot on the respect-o-meter.

The two of us left the show wanting to learn more about RAQ and feeling the need to check out some live recordings of the band. It’s not often we’re impressed by a band that’s wholly unfamiliar, but at Club Exit on Friday, RAQ made some new fans. Now they just need to work on their bookings and publicity, as the band’s buzz was much more prevelant in 2003 and 2004.

Still, after seeing these guys live, they deserve much more fanfare than they receive now. The “On the L” mission…clearly accomplished. Nice RAQ.

RAQ Multimedia: The venue wasn’t exactly conducive to taking any videos in there, but I always like to give people an idea of what it’s like to be at the show with us. So please peruse these three videos — I forgot how to work a camera for much of the show, but somehow I walked out with these clips:


More videos: The Raquettes on Neutron Dance; Third set action

On The L — Club Exit — Brooklyn, NY

Set I: Late Night > Brother From Another Mother > Botz > Gabvonie, Bootch Magoo, Carbohydrates Are The Enemy > One Of These Days > Carbohydrates Are The Enemy, I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide*

Set II: Cult of Personality**, City Funk#, 15 Shakes #, Glimpse#, Tell Me Something Good^#, Sweet Cream Butter#, Neutron Dance^^#, Tumblin’ Down

Set III: Tunnel Vision%& > Dirty Sanchez%& > Comin’ Home%, Stuck In A Hole%$ > Havah Nagila%$ > Andy Griffith Show Jam%$ > Stuck In A Hole%$, Clamslide, Back to the Head > Late Night

Enc: Night Moves#@~
Said and Done#

*ZZ Top
**Living Colour
# w/ back-up vocal trio, The Raqettes
^Chaka Khan
^^The Pointer Sisters
% w/ Marc Scortino
& w/ Marc Scortino on lead vocals
$ w/ DJ Logic
@Bob Seger
~ w/ Michetti on acoustic guitar

More on RAQ:

Official RAQ Site Best Fan Site WinnerHyperfunkalicious’s Collection of Live RAQ
Recommended first show — 1/24/04 Denver
RAQ on Wikipedia
Latest album: Ton These
Glide Magazine’s Eric Ward interviews RAQ in 2004 and 2005

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0 Responses

  1. Really? You mean to tell me that something called “Andy Griffith Show Jam” with DJ Logic was wanky? That’s shocking. I’ve heard Logic is a nice dude and all, but the man has somehow made a living off of listening to his record collection onstage as very good musicians play around him while he throws in the occasional “wicky-wah” every 15-20 minutes.

    So in your professional opinion doctor, answer this: Between Tea Leaf Green, RAQ, and Perpetual Groove, who will be still be around in 10 years and who will be getting billed under the puppet show, touring as [insert name] of [past their prime jamband], a la Chris Barron of The Spin Doctors and Sean Kelly of The Samples?

  2. I wouldn’t say RAQ is leagues better than either TLG or PG…they just do different things, all three bands. I’d take TLG for the Trevor ballads and the raw rock sound on most days, but if I’m looking for that Phish-type jam I think RAQ is the way to go. It’s all about what side of the bed you wake up on.

    Chilly, not to scoot around the question like the clever bitch I am, but I think all three will be rockin’ in a decade — if the question is which of the three will be drawing more in 10 years, I’m gonna put my money down on Tea Leaf. I just believe they provide more awesomeness per dollar spent.

    Still, RAQ was pretty tight, much better than I had expected — I’ll be seeing them again around NYC for sure.

  3. Hey Some Dude, why the bitterness? The so-called RAQ “Andy Griffith” Jam from my memory lasted all of about 30 seconds in the middle of a larger jam, and consisted only of Michetti and Scortino goofing around on the theme. I’m actually not convinced it was Andy Griffith rather than another show but I seem to be in the minority there. The tapes will tell!

    Regardless, if Phish did the same 30 second ditty back in 1990, clearly RAQ is totally unoriginal and brings nothing new to the table, so I guess I’ll go check out The Scissor Sisters or something.

  4. Actually I saw it was posted as both Andy Griffith and I Dream of Jeannie in two separate places, so someone’s wrong and someone’s right (unless they teased both). But I coulda sworn it was Andy Griffith — I distinctly remember thinking about Don Knotts on Friday night.

  5. Ace…I think you were just staring at Michetti’s shirt for too long. Looks like all he needed was a silk scarf tied ’round his neck to complete the Mr. Ferley outfit.

    By the way, it appears as though this was a “gentlemen’s only” show? Or were there just lots of short-haired women there? I can’t see many ladies in the house. I wouldn’t be surprised. MMWS or MSWM or WMMS (or whatever they are called now) attracted about as many ladies to their show on Friday night as John Kruk’s rib-eatin’fantasy baseball seminar.

  6. Ya know, I think RAQ might actually have the cutest fanbase out there right now. Definitely more cute girls per capita there than most jamband shows I’ve seen over the past few years. As Martin Lawrence would say, Belee dat.

  7. >I think RAQ might actually have the cutest fanbase out there right now.


    I mean, there was a lesbian orgy at setbreak 11/3. What more do you people want? 😉

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