Happy Birthday, Sara Coda! She is the lead singer from Silent Rival, the first of a three-act show at U Street Music Hall on June 10. We are at the merch table just after her dynamic, crowd-pleasing seven-song set when she informs me that it’s her birthday. She is as stunning in person as she is energetic on stage. The thought goes through my mind, I am meeting this woman just before she rockets off to stardom.
In addition to Sara (lead vocals), Silent Rival is comprised of Joz Ramirez (guitar), and Yutaka Sao (bass). Even though the trio hail from three different countries, their diversity seems to be more of an outsider’s interest than an influence, Coda says.
“The common ground on which we meet is music. Our identity as a band is beyond the countries we come from, and our strong connection comes from understanding each other as musicians,” Coda says.
AND, after watching Silent Rival on stage, I completely understand.
From their explosive opener, “Paranoid,” to their infectious, catchy, latest release, “Just One Voice,” the trio proves that there is an absolute power in being, bold, honest and decisive.
An uncompromising drive and authentic energy characterize Silent Rival’s performance. This is a band to experience now. It is a certainty that their collective talent will soon propel them beyond smaller, more intimate venues. This reviewer is confident that Sara Coda’s charm and wisdom will continue to exceed the number of candles on her birthday cake:
Let me destroy this
I don’t care how it ends
I’m a survivor
I break as fast as I mend
I’ll live in pieces if I don’t get it together again (from Die a Little)
In striking contrast, the night’s headliner, Night Riots, relish a practiced showmanship. From the second that lead singer, Travis Hawley, bursts onto stage, it is obvious that dramatic flourishes and eccentric gestures inform their stage presence. After a string of successes, including play on the Netflix wildly popular “13 Reasons Why” and their 2016 album, “Love Gloom,” Night Riot is making their debut headlining.
Do not mistake Night Riot for novice performers. The art of working the crowd and reaching out and even touching fans’ adoring hands is an essential part of their playbook. Other show stalwarts, such as the colorfully lit drumsticks and eerily lit masks donned during the catchy, “Don’t Kill the Messenger,” delight their fans.
Charismatic and confident, Hawley leads Night Riots through an intense, chaotic, yet captivating performance. In a pre-show interview, Hawley alludes to the origin of the band’s distinctive style:
“In today’s music culture it’s so hard to just say you’re one thing. We like exploring with different styles and incorporating new elements to our music and not being tied down to any one genre,” Hawley says. “We used to call ourselves ‘Gloom Pop’ because our music always has a vein of darkness to it while still being somewhat catchy. But I think we fit into a lot of genres, we started out influenced by a lot of punk and 80’s rock like the Cure or Billy Idol but also have a love of modern stuff and hip hop. The new J. Cole album is really rad. For performing we are always drawn to artists that are a bit more theatrical than just standing up there and playing their songs.”
Check out Night Riot’s latest single, “On the Line.”
A concert junky, music aficionado, and live music reviewer for Hill Rag and DC Music Review, Leanne Tankel studied writing at both UC Berkeley (BA) and Boston University (MA). In addition to music reviews, she writes prose and her manuscript, Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage, was a 2011 short-list finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Awards program. Leanne lives with her three sons and two pugs in Northern Virginia.