You’d be forgiven for not knowing who RUSSO are, as they’re a small band from California who are just beginning to make waves over here. But with their memorable tunes and free-spirited attitude live, you’d be mad not to give them a go now.
RUSSO were the first opening act for Black Honey for their hotly anticipated show down at Riverside. Although the room was far from full when I arrived, the band were owning the stage and engaging the crowd from the get go. They warmed up the crowd with ‘Lonely’ and ‘Ghost’, showcasing their energy and passion that carried the set. Having given their EP House with a Pool a few listens before the show, I was impressed by how the band brought these familiar tracks up a level with their live performances.
Lead vocalist, Cailin Russo introduced the next song as the new ‘No Time’. The vocals were on point, with relatable lyrics and great stage presence. With a sound that others have labelled “aggressive pop” and a stunning mixture of electronic and gritty sounds, RUSSO proved their talent. Cailin didn’t let the small audience deter her from engaging us in some good old crowd participation, encouraging everyone to jump for the chorus. I was impressed that they actually got people jumping; it can be rare for enthusiastic crowds to get involved with an opener playing an unfamiliar song. I’m certain they will be able to bring this same energy to bigger crowds of their own soon enough.
The band slowed it down for ‘Joyride’, which I loved. Tyler McCarthy, the guitarist who was thoroughly enjoyable to watch for his animated playing, got in the spirit by sitting on the floor to play as though he were asleep. It was a nice touch, especially when Cailin knelt on the floor beside him. She sang almost entirely closed-eyed with emotion clear in her voice – it felt almost too intimate to be standing and listening. The song was brought up a level by the underlying thumping beat and complimentary backing vocals, both provided by the drummer Hayley Brownell.
‘Loudmouth’ is a fun stand-out song from the EP, so it was unsurprisingly a highlight of the set too. RUSSO carried their youthful and playful vibes throughout the song, encouraging more audience participation for the rhyming chorus. This was one of my favourite songs of the night – I’m a sucker for a good rhyme and a fun upbeat time. What really made me rate RUSSO overall was the way the whole band were so visibly into the music; there was a real buzz of enjoyment that had me smiling all the way through.
The band followed this with ‘September Rose’, an intense and impressive tune, marked by Tyler’s animated dancing and facial expressions as he gave into the music. The set was closed out by ‘Bad Things’, which really put the cherry on top of a brilliant show. Cailin told the crowd this was her favourite song, and I can see why. The lyrics have a level of cheekiness and she was clearly having a fab time singing it. This performance was my favourite of the night, it was just brilliant and they deserved a much bigger crowd than they got. RUSSO are going to go onto great things, and I can’t wait to hear more from them – and see them live again, as that’s really where their talent shines through on stage.