Ra Ra Riot, with John Pike (third from right)
Most people at the Middle East downstairs on December 15 probably didn’t know John Pike, the 23-year-old drummer of New York’s Ra Ra Riot who drowned on June 1. But according to the pins they wore, from now on, they’re all “Friends of John.” The memory of this young musician from South Hamilton brought Ra Ra Riot’s super-hyped friends Vampire Weekend and Tokyo Police Club to town for the sold-out show, with all profits benefitting the John Ryan Pike Lending Library of Musical Instruments.
The connections ran deep. The lead singers of Ra Ra Riot and Vampire Weekend — Wes Miles and Ezra Koenig, respectively — have been friends since the age of four. Ra Ra Riot met the Ontario-based Tokyo Police Club at this year’s SxSW. They all cite Pike as an inspirational force. “John was the roots from which this band grew,” said Miles. “He’s still the glue that’s holding us together.”
Brooklyn’s Vampire Weekend got things started with their crisp, tropical pop. Koenig pointed out that though many folks associate the band with Massachusetts (songs like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” might have something to do with it), this was only their second Boston show. They dedicated “Oxford Comma” to Pike — who, according to Miles, had said it was one of his top three all-time songs.
Ra Ra Riot’s buoyant, violin-driven melodies highlighted an inspired performance, with any grief channeled into a whirl of dancing and handclaps. Tokyo Police Club closed out the evening with a spastic set. Sure, one drunken oaf was shouting, “Vampire Weekend!!”, but everyone else was shouting along with the words — and their debut isn’t due till next year.
Although it was a tragedy that brought them together, Pike’s friends, family, and fans celebrated his life and music in what Louise Miles, Wes’s mom, said was a most appropriate fashion: “To me, it feels like a reunion. It’s very uplifting.”
For more information about the JOHN RYAN PIKE MEMORIAL FOUNDATION, visit www.sticksman.org