A band with a name like Rainbow Kitten Surprise seems to sound meme-like. It sounds goofy, like the band Isn’t too serious about itself. It sounds fun, colorful, and exciting. As if they could take on any genre of music and be good at it. Any fan will tell you, RKS is all of the above.
It’s been a minute since RKS fans have been able to see their favorite band, so it’s no surprise that their fall tour has been selling out all over the country. One fan I talked to said they drove seven hours from North Dakota to be here. Their last show here was pre-pandemic at The Palace Theatre in St Paul, which dwarfs in size compared to The Armory. While many bands are still hitting the road post-2020, The sold out crowd at The Armory made it clear that a Twin Cities show was long overdue, and very much welcome.
The larger GA floor also meant that more fans could show up and be expressive. Outside before the show were lines of fans dressed in unicorn hats and onesie pajamas standing next to fans in fishnets and long glitter skirts – despite the winter weather. With this being an all-ages show, the chances that this was a high schoolers first ever concert with friends were also astronomical. It’s no surprise that fans feel this welcome at a RKS concert. The band creates a warm, welcoming environment. Lead singer Ela Melo (she/her) reassuring the audience after Our Song that we can be who we wanted to be here.
It’s that kind of reassurance that made fans comfortable to dance and sing to their songs, which combines modern elements of pop with stomp/clap and folk revival type songs. For many, RKS is their introduction to this type of music, and they do it well. Viral songs of theirs like Cocaine Jesus and It’s Called: Freefall, which have hundreds of millions of streams on Spotify, came late in the set (as to be expected) but had the crowd dancing and singing, and filming their friends doing the same. It’s safe to say that Tik Tok has helped the band grow into arena-sized venues, with epic lightshows and visuals that differ from their last tours. But even with the size of the venues they play now, members of RKS still have their traditions. Bassist Charlie Holt (they/them) lit candles and incense off the drum stand that wafted around the stage, and into the first few rows of the crowd.
Minneapolis got a 23 song setlist from the band, who seemed to roll through their set without much crowd interaction outside their reassurances and thank you’s. Their stage was setup like a pop band, with angled risers and an open stage in the center, but it didnt seem to be put to good use most of the time. Charlie Holt seemed to be the one who made the most of the space, dancing and jumping around the stage with either banjo or bass in hand. Lead singer Ela Melo stood toward the back of the center stage, facing away from the crowd when playing guitar, only getting closer to the crowd without the guitar in the way. Visually, it seemed like most members of the band felt stuck on their platforms. But, where the band stood didn’t distract from the energy of the songs. For many of the audience, seeing their favorite band in an arena-like atmosphere was definitely something to celebrate.
RKS has been doing this for nearly ten years now, and despite their popularity, just have three studio albums to pull from, with most of their setlist pulling from their latest record, 2018’s How To: Friend, Love, Freefall as well as various singles released over the last few years. While not uncommon for a band to put out one-off songs from time to time, for a modern band to tour at this scale having not released a new album in the last four years is unusual – and a testament to their continuously growing fanbase.