This live performance opens with the heft of "New SF Bay Blues," a nod to the traditional song made famous in Greenwich Village. Accompanied solely by her own sparse picking, Alynda Lee Segarra's forthright style walks the same gait as Woody Guthrie, a resemblance reinforced by her history of hopping freight trains as a teen.
For "I Know It's Wrong," the rest of the Riff Raff joins Segarra, escorting us from the Dust Bowl to the barn dance. Yosi Perlstein's fiddle rambles as the band sets the stage for square-dancing. "I know it's wrong, but that's all right," wax the lyrics, in clichés you hope are self-aware.
Then, they add the bitters.
Although "The Body Electric" is garnished with pacifism -- "What's a man with a rifle in his hand going to do for a world that's so sick and sad?" -- it's primarily a protest song confronting misogyny. Dedicated to the New Delhi woman whose gang rape and murder spurred rebellion, Segarra offers up this particular performance to the women whose murders are romanticized by folk ballads. The result is powerful, both in composition and execution, a common impression throughout the three songs in this set.
Heady, sweet and spiced by the bitter: Hurray for the Riff Raff, indeed.
All photos by Chris Bay