Last time Rainbow Kitten Surprise played in Athens, Georgia, they played a single show at one of Athens’ mid-sized venues: the 40 Watt. Two years later, on Tuesday, April 3, they returned to Athens with Ohio-based folk band CAAMP for a show at one of the largest and most iconic venues in Athens: the Georgia Theatre. This explosion in popularity for the band in the Athens scene shows just how rapidly the band’s fanbase is growing worldwide. Rainbow Kitten Surprise, an alternative/indie group from Boone, North Carolina, fits right into the Athens music scene, and this showed during the concert by the sheer number of times the crowd knew all the lyrics to a song. Despite their rapid growth in popularity, the band hasn’t forgotten their history with Athens. After performing a song, lead singer Sam Melo asked the crowd who attended their previous show at the 40 Watt two years ago. Melo even remembered the name of the bar that he hung out with fans at after the show.
Rainbow Kitten Surprise made their entrance by walking out to a song reminiscent of “I Wanna Be Like You” from the Jungle Book soundtrack. The lighthearted song set the scene for the band’s stage presence throughout the show. The closeness between the band members could be seen in how they all interacted and joked with each other on stage as well as in how they fed off each other’s energy during songs. This made the show feel more relaxed as the audience got a peek at the comradery between the bandmates.
The band’s newest album, How to: Friend, Love, Freefall, is due for release this Friday, April 6, so it should be no surprise that the setlist for the show contained a healthy amount of songs from the new album mixed in with classic hits from older albums. The band started off with a hit from their soon-to-be-released album called “Fever Pitch”. As the show progressed, the band performed classics like “Cocaine Jesus” and “Devil Like Me”, which the audience ate up. The band lit up when the audience would unanimously sing back all the lyrics to these classics. Sprinkled into the set were a few more unreleased songs from their upcoming album. Some of the songs included powerful spoken word verses, similar to parts in older songs like “That’s My Shit”.
A variety of themes were explored in Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s new songs as well. Before starting one of the new songs, bassist Charlie Holt called out the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic across the United States before the band launched into a song exploring the suicidal and lethal effects that drug addiction can have on someone. One of the opening lyrics of the song stuck with me: “Try not to kill myself today”. The band isn’t afraid to be blunt with lyrics, and this heightens the emotional intensity in their music.
The emotional intensity didn’t come solely from the lyrics though. Lead singer Sam Melo performed the lyrics with a variety of expressions. On more upbeat songs, he would kick and twirl around on the stage in an odd way, but this only added to the energy present on stage. While he sang, Melo’s face would contort in various expressions and he would use animated hand gestures, almost as if he was acting out the lyrics or performing a free expression dance. Melo seemed to be telling tales through the lyrics as well as through his expressions and gestures, and this drew the audience further into the show.
The band exited the stage and promptly returned for not one but two encore performances. At one point during the second encore, Melo took off his shirt during “Run” and even entered the crowd at one point during “That’s My Shit”. The band left the crowd feeling electrified, exuberant, and content with the fact that there was no better way to spend a beautiful Tuesday night in Athens.
All photos by Emma Korstanje