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Coachella 2010: Ra Ra Riot slays -- as only a band with violin and cello can

I've heard a few Ra Ra Riot tunes, mostly by out-and-about osmosis, but I was enlightened by their tight, joyous, exuberant set in the Mojave tent, pitted (time-slot-wise) against the similarly resplendent She & Him.

But at first, I worried for the Syracuse, N.Y., band. The crowd, near the soundboard at least, could not have been more disjointed. One lone girl was texting, looking around; another lone-wolf girl was dancing in rapture and many more were stationary in various states of almost-interested.

By the midpoint, the six-piece-strong gentle army had won them over with Cure-esque tickles of New Wave guitar, gobs of drippy synths and two lionesses wrecking it on their stringed pistols of choice: Alexandra Lawn on cello and Rebecca Zeller on violin. Lead singer Wes Miles' strong vocals, wistful and tender-spirited without ever being twee about it, also lit a light through the band's symphonic pop melee. 

As Miles introduced one of the last songs, he told the crowd with a touch of giddy wonder in his voice that this was their first time playing Coachella. The crowd roared back with approval.

That's the lovely thing about Coachella -- you always make a discovery. It's a musical crash course, three blistering days of school in the desert, open to the amateur or the initiated.

--Margaret Wappler

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