RAQ, Higher Ground Ballroom, Burlington, VT- 10/29
The gift of youth is one that keeps on giving and giving. No band on the circuit knows this better than Vermont foursome, RAQ.
RAQ — a mere four years into their touring career — and their peers succeed at performing turbo-charged shows at the tail end of massive tours, where nostalgia acts like the Dead have failed. Saturday's Halloween show at their Burlington home base, Higher Ground, marked the culmination of the quartet's smokin' fall tour that touched the Midwest, mountain and Dixie before winding down over the weekend in the chilly Northeast.
The mix-and-match setlist monster RAQ spawned following the advent of their new batch o' tunes popped its head up frequently — sprouting its funkiest legs with the squishy rocker "Will Run" in the first set. Bassist Jay Burwick — rocking a Tom Brady jersey and black strips under the eyes — dropped Hiroshima bombs over the middle section of "Late Night"; one of the few "vintage" songs of the night (vintage, of course, a word seldom used by RAQ standards). Keyboard wizard Todd "Teenwolf" Stoops' Benzedrine organ huffed and puffed during the tension-and-release jam of "The Ventriloquist" before calmly settling into the soft release of the epic composition, "Carbohydrates are the Enemy." The jam, in turn, seamlessly segued into the poignant "Glimpse" — a new addition to the RAQ repertoire.
And what would Halloween be without a few cover songs? The conclusion of the first set — coupled with a short but sweet "Shirley be a Drooler" off the band's second studio effort Carbohydrates— showcased RAQ's first ever take on the ultimate Halloween anthem, Michael Jackson's "Thriller," ending perfectly with Vincent Price's trademark maniacal laugh as the band exited the stage in unison.
RAQ put together a second set segue-sandwich you could barely fit your mouth around. The jam vehicle "Walking in Circles," Oreoed between the quirky "Bootch Magoo," began the night's Tolkienian journey. Led by Chris Michetti's serpentining guitar work, band keystone (and fan favorite) "Stuck in a Hole" wrapped itself around the Jewish traditional "Havah Negliah" before fading into "Nasty" — a tip of the cap to the Revolution Hall cut from the night before. Bringing everything full circle, RAQ wound up the set the same way they started it. Sort of. The sprawling outro of "Magoo" melted into the bouncy ending of "Circles," preluding the 80s-esque schizophrenia of "Botz" to draw the wild and woolly set to a close.
The punk-rock trumpet call encore of Green Day's "Brain Stew" proves RAQ wears many masks — even if it's not Halloween.