The Crimson White

Festival regulars Rainbow Kitten Surprise to play Druid City tonight

 Photo by Hannah Edelman, courtesy of Rainbow Kitten Surprise 

Ellen Johnson

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Boone, N.C., whose population peaks at about 18,000, is a cozy college town nestled in the stacks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s home to Appalachian State University, and it’s where, literally in a dorm, indie folk rockers Rainbow Kitten Surprise became a band. 

Not unlike Tuscaloosa, Boone plays host to an ever-increasing number of student bands. In 2013, when Rainbow Kitten Surprise members Sam Melo and Darrick “Bozzy” Keller started hammering out music and lyrics together in their dorm room, there was a similar environment of bands circulating in and out of campus as students do. 

“It’s cool starting in a college scene because you’re surrounded by other bands that you get to really get know and play shows with,” said Jess Haney, drummer for the group. “There’s also a lot of word-of-mouth on a college campus which makes it a great place to start.”

Keller described the North Carolina town and campus as beautiful, bustling and quaint.

“[It’s] A growing college town with a small town feel,” Keller said.

The next college campus they’re set to conquer is our own. Tonight, along with Nashville band Elliot Root, they’ll take the Druid City Music Hall stage. Coming off of festival season, their fall tour includes a conglomeration of southern cities and college towns. They just played Austin City Limits, and after Tuscaloosa they’ll head to Knoxville, Tenn.

They’ve played for crowds near and far, but without their North Carolina starting point, perhaps they wouldn’t have the same wheelhouse of sounds as they do now. The Carolinas region is lauded for its exportation of bluegrass and folk music (artists like The Avett Brothers, Stop Light Observations and Hiss Golden Messenger all hail from the Carolinas). So it’s no wonder band members garnered influences from Appalachian sounds. 

“Charlie [Holt, bassist] plays banjo, even on some RKS songs like ‘All That And More,’ and I actually started out on mandolin,” said Ethan Goodpaster, lead guitarist. 

For a band whose name emits such cheer and cheese, their lyrics are anything but. “We die alone, we’ll all die young,” they wail on their most-streamed track “Devil Like Me,” from their first album “Seven + Mary.” “Wasted,” a track from second, 2015-released record, aptly titled “RKS,” relays the message: “I cannot hold you, I cannot bear to lose the bruises that you leave.” 

So while there’s certainly irony resulting from their sunny name and more serious lyrics, paradox isn’t necessarily what they had in mind when choosing their name.

“A friend was sick in the hospital and Sam and Bozzy went to visit him,” Holt said. “He was fresh out of surgery and murmured the name when asked what they should call themselves for an upcoming open mic night.”

Four years later, Rainbow Kitten Surprise are in high demand when it comes to festivals. This is their second time to play Alabama this year, as they performed at Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, too. They’ve appeared at many southern staples for festival-going: Bonnaroo and Shaky Knees this year, among others. 

“Festivals are amazing because we get to play alongside bands we’ve grown up listening to,” Melo, lead singer, said. “And you can play for way more people than you could in a club or theater. The main difference from a headlining show though, is how on the fly they are. You basically just set up, then play.”

The band is currently working on a new record. As their new release is much anticipated by fans, perhaps the 2018 date falls in line with the group’s mantra: “Don’t rush,” Haney said.

Tickets for tonight’s show are $18 and available at www.druidcitymusichall.com or at the door. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. with music at 8:30. 

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Festival regulars Rainbow Kitten Surprise to play Druid City tonight