RAQ: RAQ Live, Vol.1 & 2

By: Alex Borsody

There is new-ish Vermont band that’s hitting folk’s radar lately, a guitar-led quartet with keys, bass and drums. Yes, the Phish comparisons abound. People out there are just waiting for that special band to come along and fill the void in their souls, and some believe RAQ could be this band.

It’s far too easy for a truly great band like this to get overlooked in a sea of touring acts and behemoth festivals. Though relying on traditionally structured jams, RAQ breathes new life into the scene, while at the same time carrying the torch of tradition for bands that came before them. RAQ brings back the energy of just a few years ago, when there was less of a reliance on “crossover acts” to bring in huge crowds, when Trey Anastasio and Widespread Panic were the biggest headliners in the game.

Listening to the digital-only releases, RAQ Live, Vol. 1 & 2 – which cover 03.26.07 in Pittsburgh, PA and 10.31.07 in Asheville, NC, respectively – the shows are warm every time you put them in the ol’ MP3 player. Hours go by and you realize they’ve been on repeat, two or three times. These sets include two good ’80s covers, The Cars’ “Just What I Needed” and Van Halen’s “Jump,” where they nail the synths. The electro-headband sound of the ’80s compliments RAQ’s style, and for some reason I like when RAQ plays ’80s tunes more then when I hear the original cuts in a supermarket. What really sets this band apart is their high energy, catchy, quality songwriting and a signature lead guitar, which is something truly hard to achieve in this six-string saturated genre.

This new experience with RAQ has left me with a few new favorite songs, too – “Donkey Show,” “Tumble Down” and “Stuck In A Hole.” Like most of RAQ’s material, these three cuts are all super catchy with hooks that snare you in the first five seconds. This is definitely not the type of music that has to grow on you. It’s got an instant appeal right out the box. My only wish for the band is for the bass to play a more prominent role in the music. I think there’s lots of great potential for them to explore some more funky, grooving basslines, and perhaps we can look forward to the possibility of a “funky album” similar to the one done by a certain other Vermont quartet one day.

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