The small crowd filled a basement of a nondescript house in Allston eager to see a lineup of bands that included Robo Pumpkin, Riley!, and Good Sleepy. The walls of the basement were rough and painted white, the kind of paint that rubs off on your shoulders if you lean. The space was adorned with a few flags, a collage of monkey faces, a couple of rugs, a stuffed monkey, and a big red sign that read Monkey Palace. The stage was one corner of the basement. There was no elevation in height but there was professional lighting. Amps and instruments were stacked next to a washing machine. There was a merch table in the back next to a couch with multicolored lights shining overhead keeping the room from descending into darkness.
While waiting for Kris, Ryan, and Izzy (the trio who make up Texas based band, Riley!) to take the stage I heard someone describing how they drove 3 hours to see the band perform. This set up some pretty high expectations for the group. Some in the crowd were talking about how shortly into their tour their van gave up the ghost and left them scrambling to find another ride. Suddenly, Riley! appeared on stage and began playing their first song. The crowd exploded in dance with the music. The energy was real with people singing along to most of the songs, moshing to a few, dancing to the rest.
The group seemed to feed off the spirit of the crowd. Occasionally, they would take the time to make eye contact and smile at each other. Seemingly enjoying themselves as much as their audience. With Izzy on drums, Kris on bass, and Ryan singing and playing guitar the band filled the space with their sound. They are all excellent musicians and bring an energy to their live performance that might not be completely expected from just listening to their tracks. They are tight and controlled when they need to be, smooth when they need to be, and vigorous when the song calls for it. All while seeming to be having fun. Ryan’s voice revealed to be a little shot after over a month on tour with no breaks, but he didn’t hesitate or pull back and that willingness to go for it kept the crowd incredibly engaged.
The favorite lyrics of the set, judging by crowd participation, were the moment in America’s Pabstime when the crowd accused in unison “you spent college majoring in bullshit” and during fan favorite, Fight Milk, when the crowd screamed “Fuck!” together in a long, communal, primal yell. During one song, someone in the crowd was moved to do some crowd surfing in the low-ceilinged basement- no small feat. They played a new song and it seemed to be an instant hit, a real banger that the audience loved. The audience convinced the band to do a single song encore of a cover of Y’all Boots Hats (Die Angry) by Glocca Morra, something they hadn’t practiced in a while, the crowd ate it up and danced with vigor. Riley! killed it and the crowd that was there should count themselves lucky to have gotten to see this group on this tour!