Hurray for the Riff Raff brought the revolution to Englert Theater for Mission Creek

Hurray for the Riff Raff closed out Englert’s April 6 programming as part of Mission Creek.


Wyatt Dlouhy

Hooray for the Riff Raff perform during the annual Mission Creek festival at the Englert Theater in Iowa City on Saturday, April 6, 2019. Hooray for the Riff Raff is an Americana band hailing from New Orleans, Louisiana.(Wyatt Dlouhy/The Daily Iowan)

Annie Fitzpatrick, Arts Reporter

As the lights began to dim at the Englert on the night of April 6, Hurray for the Riff Raff began its performance out of sight from the patiently waiting crowd.
The band’s frontwoman, Alynda Segarra, could be heard singing off stage as the audience began to cheer, and a set full of songs of both empowerment and frustration began.
“It’s a joy to play music in the times we’re living in, it’s hard … music really keeps me alive,” Segarra said.
The set began as Segarra belted out songs of a folk-ish sound with lyrics that described her Puerto Rican heritage and feelings of being unwelcome in a place that was once home. Segarra’s voice gave the lyrics meaning and emotion that was translated to the audience in a manner similar to spoken word.
With a majority of the seats filled in the Englert, the crowd listened attentively to each lyric and the stories that each song told.
The band consisted of guitar, bass, drums, and keys all coming together to bring life to the raw lyrics being sung. They played in a way that showed each member of the band enjoyed what they were doing and valued their particular role in Hurray for the Riff Raff’s sound.
As the set continued, the band moved from its folk and country sound to rock ’n’ roll grooves that had audience members up on their feet. A handful of fans even danced in the aisles as Segarra sang “power to the people” and “fighting until the end.”
The band played songs from its recent projects, including the title song of of its 2017 album The Navigator. The band’s folk origin was transformed into rock as Segarra sang out “where will all my people go?” and spoke of the struggles experienced among marginalized groups in America.
The crowd was fully engaged in her passion and frustration and sang along to each song as their own intensity grew. Segarra ended “The Navigator” and said to the crowd, “power to the people.” And in that moment, a true sense of empowerment was felt in Englert as the audience cheered on the band and resonated with the lyrics being sung.
The band played one of its new songs, “Kids Who Die,” whose lyrics centered on “the kids who die fighting for the future of the world,” Segarra told the audience.
Each lyric described the tragedies felt by children all over the world working for a better life. References to Venezuela and Birmingham were in the lyrics and illustrated hardship and strife.
Hurray for the Riff Raff ended the set with a song rooted in Segarra’s Puerto Rican heritage titled “Pa’lante.” Translated from Spanish, pa’lante means to move forward because “that’s where we’ve got to go,” Segarra said.
The song’s chant-like lyrics challenged listeners to “be something” in their lives despite the colonization, hypnotation, sterilization, and dehumanization that marginalized people face every day. The repetition of “pa’lante” in the performance had nearly all the people on their feet.
The band was cheered back on stage for an encore as the night came to a close, and Segarra sang of dreaming, ending the passionate set with a glimmer of hope.
“Take care of each other, don’t give up … and keep dreaming because it’s free,” Segarra said as she and the band exited the stage.
Hurray for the Riff Raff’s songs of frustration and struggle reveal art’s role in a revolution and making a difference in the world and made the band’s role in Mission Creek equally enjoyable and important.
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