By Jacob Heyerly
April 6, 2018
Rainbow Kitten Surprise managed an admirable rise to stardom over the past few years since forming in early 2013. The band hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Boone, North Carolina and was founded by lead singer Sam Melo and guitarist Darrick “Bozzy” Keller who began writing and composing music together in college. The band eventually added Ethan Goodpaster on lead guitar, Charlie Holt on bass, and Jess Haney on drums to round out their sound. With three albums, a chart-topping single (“Devil Like Me,” which appeared in Spotify’s Viral 50 Chart) and a new album, Rainbow Kitten Surprise is not going away anytime soon. They proved this with a sold-out show at The Fillmore Charlotte, as the original venue of The Underground was not able to hold the high ticket demand.
As the sun set, a crowd of people flooded into The Fillmore to obtain the best spots possible for the performance. The venue was filled even before Caamp, the opener of the show, shuffled onto the stage. Caamp started their set with “Vagabond,” a heartfelt tune that quickly transitioned into some foot-stomping picking and strumming. This style was consistent throughout the set, reminiscent of the folk revival bands like The Lumineers, Mipso, and the Oh Hellos. The lyrics behind the instrumentation often presented themes of family, love, and humility. Although there were undoubtedly a few off-key notes sung throughout the set, the band made up for it through their humble attitude and endearing lyricism.
After Caamp’s heart-warming performance, the excitement was felt throughout the room. The crowd settled within seconds and the lights dimmed. Everyone erupted in cheers as the band drifted on stage and picked up their instruments.
The band broke into an acapella arrangement with bone-chilling vocal harmonies. This introduction transitioned flawlessly into an aggressive rock instrumental with dark red lights behind the stage violently flashing to the beat of the drums. The song showcased some thundering guitar licks to accent Melo’s fiery vocal delivery. These tracks are the first two tracks of their upcoming album How to: Friend, Love, Freefall. Immediately after the end of the second song, the crowd got excited as the band started the first verse of their popular hit “Cocaine Jesus.” Melo spun around from one side of the stage to the other, all while maintaining vocal notes with a peak of intensity. His passionate howls, Holt’s tireless headbanging, and the crowd’s excitement made “Cocaine Jesus” one compelling highlight from the setlist.
It was evident that the band knew how to keep the audience engaged and each song possessed its own personality that created a different vibe. Melo moved to the piano for the delightful sing-a-long “Mr. Redundant” which swept the venue with a feeling of warmth. The great run of tracks persisted to the ever-changing soundscapes of the single “Fever Pitch” from their new album to the gorgeous falsettos of “First Class” with heart-breaking lyrics such as: “I say I’ll be damned if we can make it out of this alive…Do you need love?/Am I enough for you?/In time you’ll find I’ve got my baggage too.”
Throughout the night, each member of the band brought something to the table. With driving bass lines, electrifying guitar riffs, danceable and intricate percussion, and Melo’s wide-ranging vocal delivery, Rainbow Kitten Surprise put on a performance that was truly entertaining. As the set grew closer to its end, the band presented final crowd pleasers both old and new. The intense and gritty “Hide” is a new single with a catchy ascending and descending guitar riff to start the last verse, before Melo belts out frantic rambling that builds and builds until the song draws to a close. Shortly after the song ended the band left stage for a brief moment but they were right back on stage for an encore.
Melo fooled the audience by stating they were about to play another new song, but when the first notes of “Devil Like Me” played people ferociously jumped up and down. In a live setting, the band creates an emotional yet youthful tone that is virtually impossible to imitate. By the end of night, Rainbow Kitten Surprise proved themselves as not just regional heroes, but as band well on their way to blossoming onto the national scene.