“I just want to prove my worth on the planet Earth and be something,” sang lead Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff in “Pa’lante” (Forward) at their April 15th performance at the 9:30 Club. In this song, Segarra protests against the sense of siege experienced by Latinos in Trump’s America belting out:
Colonized, and hypnotized, be something
Sterilized, dehumanized, be something
We’ll take your pay
And stay out of the way, be something
Looking backward, the song cribs its title from the name of a newspaper published in New York City by 1960s Puerto Rican socialist. Its plaintive stripped-down vibe puts the beauty of Segarra’s voice forward.
Segarra’s fascination with her heritage and the modern day was evident in her other set choices. In the lament “Rican Beach,” she crooned:
Now all the politicians
They just flap their mouths
They say we’ll build a wall to keep them out
And all the poets were dying
Of a silence disease
So it happened quickly and with much ease
Here again, Segarra lashes out against complicity that has greeted the resurgence of prejudice in the current political clime.
Don’t think of Segarra’s performance as one big political diatribe. This performer is quite capable of burning down the house.
Launching into the band’s punk anthem, “Hungry Ghost,” Segarra’s voice echoed the rhythmic base line. “I’ve been nobody’s child / So my blood’s started running wild,” she sang. Strutting across the stage in a white blouse complimented by a red leather mini, her performance energized the audience.
Yet, it is Segarra’s stylistic versatility that makes her such a compelling performer. One minute, she is incorporating the Latin rhythms of her Bronx youth in “Nothing’s Gonna Change that Girl” or “The Navigator/” The next she turns into a country singer in “Life to Save” or “Settle.”
Segarra is also quite capable of writing straight pop. Her tune “Living in the City” has radio written all over it.
The key to Segarra’s stylistic whirlwind is her very talented band made up of guitarist Jordan Hyde; keyboardist Sarah Godlstone; bassist Kellen Harrison and drummer Charlie Ferguson. They matched this genre shifting chameleon without a single hiccup.
Changing directions again in her encore, Segarra gave a rousing rendition of The Boss’s “Dancing in the Dark.” As the audience danced rapturously, Segarra proved once again that she is the fire rather than the spark.