Rock the Vote: Ra Ra Riot needs to speak

Entertainment Column
Written by Nathan Mattise

There’s a lot of attention on the recent announcement of Kid Cudi as SU’s Block Party 2011 headliner. The most interesting part of all the news however is University Union released some statistics from their infamous campus surveys and Cudi is supposedly in line with this results.

It’s good news for both pro- and anti- Cudi booking individuals. If you’re happy this week, rejoice in the fact that your own opinion was heard. If you’re pissed, make sure to take larger action next time a survey opportunity is presented. For both camps, the time is now. The UU Speakers/Comedians survey is live and there is one idea that needs everyone’s support.

Yes, Ra Ra Riot is a good answer on this survey too.

I know it might seem odd at first. Ra Ra Riot is not a traditional speaker in any sense of the word. It’s a group not an individual. They’re musicians yet this would focus on them speaking and not playing.  They’re also not a new face on campus by any means (can anyone even name the last semester you couldn’t see the group within a 2hr driving distance?).

Ra Ra Riot at SU makes perfect sense though. This is a band most individuals know very little about. The typical online description arc for Ra Ra Riot involves big events but little detail: friends who met at college, broke out at CMJ, lead singer left after graduation, EP gained a lot of buzz, drummer tragically lost,  first album released and toured in his memory, first time writing without him, album two.

There’s a lack of features that really dive into the details behind the band’s journey – and they’ve truly had a unique career to this point.  I’m not sure why this is the case but, granted, it could be because they still fly relatively under the radar. How many features have you seen on Katy Perry, Paramore, Animal Collective, etc.?  That’s not the case for Ra Ra Riot and the online entities that do come up are usually interviews focusing on the tours/music and not the band and members themselves.

That’s why a Ra Ra Riot speech at SU makes so much sense. If there is a community that is deeply passionate about this band’s story and wants to know more, it’s here. Ra Ra Riot will always have a connection with Syracuse (it’s why they always come through here and always sell out) since this is home to them. We’re an audience that is equally, if not more, interested in who these people are, how they met, what their connection to this area is as much as we are interested in their music.

In theory, this is all wonderful and very much Rick Reilly’s “Homecoming”-esque. The beautiful thing is that it seems like it’s practically plausible as well. Consider the following facts:

UU demonstrated the musician as a speaker model could work recently with John Legend’s visit (80 percent talk, 20 percent music).

Ra Ra Riot’s tour dates line up. They are at the Westcott on April 7 (Thur) with time before that date for a booking like this.

If the evening was to be set-up as more of a moderated Q&A (ala Homecoming) instead of presentation, that too has been role modeled at SU with Frank Langella and Ted Koppel.  Ra Ra Riot also has known friends in the area (younger sisters, old roommates, etc.) and likely has some of their former professors and professional mentors around too.

SU has a heavy new media focus that it loves to promote. The whole event could be streamed live and then also produced in full to generate a lot of web traffic. We have both the comm. students and faculty to handle a task like that (and the social media savvy to spread it all over the weband a leading music industry academic program to make sure seats are filled).

Finally, Ra Ra Riot’s appearance isn’t even through SU currently so it’d be an opportunity to collaborate heavily with the local arts community. The event could be co-sponsored by The Westcott (maybe even FnW or Sound Garden?) and, besides being hosted there if needed, a ticket cross promotion could be run to help both events sell-out.

If the band is hesitant to open up about these things it’s one thing, but no logistical excuses should be able to slow this idea if it gains steam (and even if the band is hesitant at first, maybe it’s easier to open up here among the home fans?). If the idea needs an ideal moderator, I know someone who is knowledgeable and can handle censoring an audience Q&A if it came to it. What the idea needs now however is support, so share your thoughts and, more importantly, your votes.

(Links today from NewsHouse, Ra Ra Riot, ESPN, Daily Orange and UU)

C’mon, e-mail me and tell me this isn’t a solid idea.
<p><a href=”″>Ra Ra Riot’s return to Syracuse</a> from <a href=””>NewsHouse</a&gt; on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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