Concert Review: Raffa & Rainer Sweetly Serenade the Bubble on March 20

Raffa & Rainer playing, but not at the Bubble
Raffa & Rainer
With Bridget + Luke and Sweet Bronco
The Bubble, Fort Lauderdale
Saturday, March 20, 2010

Raffa & Rainer, the sweeter-than-honey folk duo from Miami, have

turned into an army with their latest effort No Mercy. The follow-up to

the stripped-down, understated Stolen Coal traverses new, more

intricate ground for the group, with the duo ballooning to 30 guest

musicians and its material resulting in a more layered sound with horns,

strings, and percussion.

A handful of those 30

supported Raffa & Rainer Saturday at their Fort Lauderdale CD Release

party at the Bubble. The syrupy sax, the rich timbre of the stand-up

bass, and Raffa's beguiling vocals, quirky lyrics, and ability to adapt

to a range of musical styles (bluegrass, country, jazz, dark-tinged

carnivalesque gypsy folk) demonstrated the band's versatility while

preserving its sweet-as-pie whimsy. (Sitting on crates and having knick

knacks on stage like an antique lamp for some reason translate into


The group obviously has pop smarts. Their material is

catchy without being annoying or repetitive - such a problem in the

folk community. And out of the three bands that played, Raffa & Rainer

were the only group that inspired the audience to dance, from numbers

like the love-gaze jazz of "North Carolina Boys" to the quirky bluegrass

of "A Little Bit."

Unfortunately though, the band sometimes

wanders into diabetes territory lyrically. If it wasn't for Raffa's

amazingly charming pipes on "A Little Bit," lyrics like "I've always

been a little bit, a little bit, a little bit needy. I need someone to

give my kisses to" might induce a gag reflex. But she remains so

irresistible (shall we say merciless?), maybe even more so live, one

wants so badly to forgive for the cutesy lyric. After all, who can

begrudge an adorable band for a cutesy lyric? That's like getting angry

with a puppy for crying at night because it wants to sleep with you. But

there's no need to be stubborn. Raffa comes back with the fire of an

angsty gen-X-er with the "I don't believe in marriage. I can blame that

on my parents. I love them but they fucked me up for sure."


minor problem included the awkward marriage between venue and sound.

The Bubble was a really great host as always, and the sound wasn't

wanting. There's just something incongruous about Raffa & Rainer

playing at the downtown warehouse space, or at least outside. They seem

better suited for a more intimate environment. Maybe had they played in the gallery

among the Bubble artwork, the ambiance and the acoustics would have been

more fitting.

Outside at the Bubble seemed perfect for the indie rock

emanating from the threesome Sweet Bronco. Formerly the solo project of lead singer

Chris Horgan, Sweet Bronco has evolved (at least since I saw them last)

from a melancholy, droning indie-pop act to, well, kinda noisy. With the threesome's

new sound really gelling and Horgan's heart-on-sleeve poetics and noisy

guitar solos, it was hard to pay attention to

anything else.


five-piece Bridget + Luke, which also includes Rainer, was good background noise, but not nearly as

captivating as Sweet Bronco or as charming as Raffa and Rainer. The only thing keeping me awake other than Bridget's vocals,

was Rainer because of his idiosyncratic stage persona.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Erica K. Landau