Rainbow Kitten Surprise
April 14, 2018 @ Royale
By: Sarah Sherard
“What concert did you go to?”
“Rainbow Kitten Surprise.”
“Oh. That’s, uh, an… interesting name.”
It’s interesting how every time I say the band’s name to someone they bat their eyes and stare blankly at me, and yet the North Carolina-based four-piece is popular enough in Boston to sell out the Royale. A band called Caamp came out onstage to open the show wearing trucker hats and carrying beer bottles. Their name fit well: all their songs sounded like they would jubilantly sing around a campfire. A surprising number of people sang along and I felt like I was maybe the only person in the crowd that was out of the loop with this band’s fame. They closed when the banjo player switched to the drums to thoroughly warm up the crowd to the energy that Rainbow Kitten Surprise would bring.
I think the one thing that really sums up the kind of performance that Rainbow Kitten Surprise was something my friend said: “Yeah, they look like they would be named Rainbow Kitten Surprise.” I was blown away watching the raw energy of each member, especially the main singer, Sam Merlo. It wasn’t just that he paced around the stage or belted out notes. It was like each song was an opportunity for an interpretive dance. In the song ‘American Shoes,’ he acted out the lyrics “I’m not hurt, I’m broken,” by crumpling his body and dropping to the floor. In another song, bassist Charlie Holt chased around Merlo when the lyrics talked about running in circles.
The most enthralling part of the concert was the pure chemistry the members had with each other, as they communicated with each other while playing in the most wholesome way imaginable. I didn’t just watch a band give a concert; I watched a band’s bond and friendship. The stage poured out happiness, and the audience drank it up. Holt also amazed me on how emphatically he played the bass as he had the energy of a little kid hyped up on Airheads. Anybody could see on his face that the stage was his favorite place in the world. The spirit of the entire place radiated elated youth. The songs they played from their most recent album like ‘Painkillers’ and ‘Matchbox’ somehow kept up the same excitement from the crowd as their more anticipated songs like ‘Cocaine Jesus,’ ‘Seven,’ and ‘Devil Like Me.’ After one song they stopped to talk to the audience, and the reality of how physically demanding their performance was revealed itself as Merlo struggled to catch his breath and sip water.
Apparently, the whole band caught enough breath to play two more songs for the encore and perform them with enough zeal to kill an elephant. When I looked at their setlist for their past concerts, the order and songs played were varied, except for one thing: ‘Run’ was always played last, and I realized it was because they deliberately chose to save the best for last. In this last song, they transformed into rock and roll badasses as soon as Merlo ripped off his shirt. Guitarist Ethan Goodpaster walked to the center of the stage and unloaded a fervent guitar solo. The crowd roared as the lights bathed everyone in a deep, passionate red light. It was awesome. Rainbow Kitten Surprise showed up and gave every single bit of spirit they had in them. Kudos.