Hurray for the Riff Raff and Dr. John
Central Park Summerstage
August 2, 2014
When I came across the Summerstage schedule back in early June, there were two shows that I was particularly excited about covering – the Rocksteady Crew 37th Anniversary show, as the Rocksteady Crew Anniversary show may arguably be one of the great hip-hop events the year; and Hurray for the Riff Raff and Dr. John last Saturday.
I caught Hurray for the Riff Raff at the Summerstage Preview Showcase back in January and the set struck me as being rather unchanged from then. Much like the Highline Ballroom set, their Summerstage set started with “My Heart is a Blue Ridge Mountain" which has their lead singer, Alynda Lee Segara accompanying her smoky and husky voice with just her guitar before the rest of her band joined her for the rest of her set to play the sort of toe-tapping, twangy honky tonk that’s reminiscent of the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival. and alt-country bands like the Old 97s. In fact, much like the Old 97s, Hurray for the Riff manages to make the thematic and spiritual connection between country and punk – both having a tradition of adoring outlaws, troublemakers, anti-authoritarian rabble-rousers and the like.
But typically for an alt country band, their material had a few prototypical country themes – including loving the wrong one at the right time, and not just recognizing how terribly wrong that person is, but actually recognizing that on a certain level, it feels good. Another song the extremely haunting "The Body Electric” was inspired by the old murder ballads but was written in the perspective of the woman at the center of the song.
If there was something obvious to me Ms. Segara seemed much more jocular and comfortable in front of the Summerstage crowd, which added to the down-home feel of the material. But perhaps more important, I found myself even more impressed by Segara as a songwriter and as a performer.
Sadly, after their triumphant set, which was in many ways, a homecoming for Segara, who was born and raised in the Bronx, we all heard rather disappointing news – Dr. John had fallen ill and wasn’t able to perform. Thankfully, from what we were told, the New Orleans-based legend was conscious and very alert but the set won’t be rescheduled. I’m hoping that he’ll see a quick recovery and will return back to NYC soon.
For these photos and more, check out the Flickr set here: