Ah, the weekend of Comfest.
Columbus’ favorite annual festival brings three guarantees every single year: rain, great food/drink, and every single good band in the city will be playing within a 10-mile radius of Goodale Park.

It can be difficult to decide between all of the good shows you want to make it to over that weekend, but we were fortunate enough to get the invite down to Spacebar for a fantastic after-party show put on by CD102.5, The Alternative Station.

Our old friend Digisaurus was back in town for his summer tour, with support from the wildly talented Captain Kidd and our new friends in The Raquels. As fate would have it, the weather held for the day and there was a decent crowd present before any of the musicians even started. The Spacebar had pulled out all of the stops for the headliner and we were all greatly excited to see such a strong lineup perform.

I chatted with the quartet before their show and they were excited to be performing with someone of the pedigree of Digisaurus. Being that they were about to embark on a major tour of their own, they were hoping that this show would be a springboard for them before heading out of state. They also wanted to make sure that their songs were “still good”… ha!

Captain Kidd set the stage perfectly for an evening of electronic fun. All three of the bands rely heavily on their synthesizers, and in knowing that, I just assumed that the entire night would be bright and bouncy. I was somewhat surprised when the house lights dropped as The Raquels took their place on stage.

There was a small cheer as the house went dark, save for a glimmer behind the band. The crowd all pushed forward to where we were right up against the stage, as keyboardist Dave Butler started the buzzing hum of Promise I’ll Never Promise Again. The keys were amplified as the bands light show started, while all around me people were starting to dance. The best words that came to mind to describe the atmosphere was a neon dance party, as singer Derrick Walter added a few fancy moves of his own.

Walter picked up his guitar to join guitarist/vocalist Gabe Ritz, who took the lead on Just A Txt, the second song the band had released. The tune has an unmistakable opening riff that bounces all over the place with fresh synths and spunk. Ritz and Walter came together to play between singing harmonies on the chorus, while people around me were starting to jump. I know that I personally always feel better when the crowd has this much energy, and you could feel Butler’s keys pulling everyone around as we swayed.

Walter took a moment to introduce his band-mates to the crowd before they slowed things down on What Are You Doing Tonight?  Despite the slower tempo, Ritz’ guitar still allowed us all to bounce, and you could see drummer Tyler Birch’s trademark smile as he hit the skins.

Ritz took the lead on vocals again for the band’s newest song, Cartoons. Both Walter and Butler played their synths as the number picked up its pace behind Birch’s driving sticks. Despite having a deeper voice than his counterpart, Ritz hit all of the high notes as the synths percolated through the song.

It was time for Walter to sing again, and you could feel the heat start to rise around me on Crush, another fun song that picked the pace up and had the crowd jostling around. It was an interesting dynamic – mixing vocalists and tempos almost every other song – but in the end, it simply added to the enjoyment of the night. Walter picked up his guitar at the end of the song and had the ladies around me swooning for his steamy solo.

It was a pretty wild scene in front of the band. I turned around to look at the crowd and saw nothing but smiles and satisfaction as they all started dancing again on High Heels. Butler seemed to hit every key on his synthesizer, and Birch dialed things back a little, but he was still flashing the pearly whites as he punched it forward.

1982 was the first song that The Raquels ever released, and you could hear voices around me singing along with Walter as he pranced on stage. The song has over 6000 streams on Spotify, and I have to believe that if you had never heard it before, you were certainly impressed. Whether it was Ritz’ soaring notes or Walter’s swagger, the two frontmen kept the night fun and fabulous, while Birch and Butler laid a perfect foundation for us all.

I honestly don’t think the crowd stopped moving for the entire set, and Youth and Color proved to be the perfect ending for everyone around me. The keys were airy and the guitar tone made my skin tingle, while I don’t think anyone around me was tired as the quartet finished. There were chants of “one more song” and the cheering from the crowd lasted a solid two minutes as the guys waved and smiled and thanked everyone. If you joined the show late, you might have actually thought that these guys were the headliners due to the cheers.

If you missed out on the evening’s activities, you missed out on three tremendous leaders of the synth-pop game. Digisaurus’ solo setup is one of the cooler things you’ll see around town, and the two opening bands gave the crowd plenty to thirst for going forward. I can only hope that The Raquels find this much success on their upcoming tour.

In my opinion, there will be a large crowd awaiting their arrival whenever they take the stage once they return to Columbus.

Credit all images: Susan Muller/MIMC

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Setlist

  1. Promise I’ll Never Promise Again
  2. Just a Txt
  3. What Are You Doing Tonight?
  4. Cartoons
  5. Crush
  6. High Heels
  7. 1982
  8. Youth and Color