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Do This: Radiation City Plays the Cavalcade

By David Goe

What makes a band extraordinary are the details. With a quartet it can be difficult to get everyone on the same page. Five individuals on five instruments can sometimes sound like a noisy mess. Not with this band. Radiation City excels in minutia.

The spirit of Rad City lies behind a mess of blond hair and a pair of thick black rimmed glasses. Often
seen abusing a beautiful blonde Telecaster, this is Cameron Spies, songwriter and sometimes lead singer of the northwest outfit. Playing jazz pop, 1990s rock fusion guitar riffs, Spies’ gives the band its common character.

The soul of the band comes from a voice. This voice, the tone and range of power, is nothing short of brilliant. Hearing it on record is one thing, live it is spectacular. This voice, Elisabeth Ellison’s voice, is Rad City’s moral and emotional identity. Ellison, songwriter and sometimes lead singer, also plays keys, adding a layer of depth to Spies’ guitar work.

The heart of the band comes from the rhythm section, Matt Rafferty and Randy Bemrose. Not too many people notice the rhythm section of a band unless they are really, really bad or really, really good. Rafferty and Bemrose are the latter, gifted musicians that hold the band's sound together. The orchestrations of Spies and Ellison are focused by Rafferty bass lines and Bemrose’s drumming.

These four members alone would make Rad City the envy of musicians everywhere. There is, however, one more piece to the Rad City puzzle.  

Not to be overlooked, adding texture to Rad City’s sound is multi instrumentalist Patti King. On keys, guitar, vocals, violin, and just about anything else that makes noise, King makes a lovely addition to the band. Her flourishes pop the songs to life and make this whole troupe one damn good band.

Rad City makes a point of playing thoughtful, restrained music. They are five individuals making one strong statement. Each section pieces together nicely, like patchwork. Fitting because listening to Rad City is like curling up in your favorite blanket.

Their sound is comforting and easy to fall into. As you sink into a song like “Find It Of Use,” with its multiple layers of synths and slow ringing guitars, a warming calm washes over your body. At this point you realize the band is not just quite good, but exceptional.

Pick any song from the band’s debut album, “The Hands That Take You,” and try not to fall in love.

“There is hope for us yet,” Ellison sings on “The Color of Industry,” the first song I heard from the band. Three seconds in and this one line of optimism is enough to make me. a hopeless romantic for good music, a believer.

Catch Radiation City with opening bands Brainstorm and Social Studies at the Cavalcade in Fruita this Wednesday, March 20. This is an all ages show and tickets are just the best $10 you’ve spent in your life.  

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