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A surprise by Rainbow Kitten Surprise at Webster Hall

BY EVERYNIGHT CHARLEY CRESPO | Allow me to get some awkwardness out of the way first. I very much enjoyed my first Rainbow Kitten Surprise concert in 2019 and looked forward to seeing the band perform again on a future tour. The band canceled its following tour in 2023, however.

This month I finally had the opportunity to attend my second Rainbow Kitten Surprise concert. The big surprise for me was that I walked into Webster Hall not knowing that the long-bearded Sam Melo I saw in 2019 had transitioned in 2022 to Ela Melo. I had not kept up with the band in the five years between tours. Perhaps I was not the only unaware fan in the audience.

More than a decade since forming in college in North Carolina, Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s recent hiatus offered the band various windows to reinvent itself. Melo sought professional help last year, and was diagnosed and treated for bipolar disorder. This reversed her writer’s block and opened the floodgates to new authenticity in her songwriting. She also explored both higher and lower tones in her vocals on the new songs. Even the core indie-folk root of the band’s music opened to include more electronic embellishments. As a final sign of rebirth, the band parted with bassist Charlie Holt just before the tour began. Melo continues fronting the band alongside lead guitarist Ethan Goodpaster, rhythm guitarist Darrick “Bozzy” Keller and drummer Jess Haney, alongside touring musicians.

The band, in general, has reinvented itself. (Photo by Everynight Charley Crespo)

Rainbow Kitten Surprise released its fourth studio album, “Love Hate Music Box,” the morning after the Webster Hall concert. The 22-song opus is the band’s first full-length album of new compositions in six years. As such, the set list for their accompanying Tiny Music Box Tour would include seven new songs.

As the band appeared onstage at the beginning of the performance, the musicians mostly wore regular street clothes. Not Melo. She wore a very loose, formless dress that bounced when she bounced and twirled when she twirled. Melo’s outfit hinted that she was there to have fun. She sang, she danced, and she engaged with the audience, sparking many rushes of good-time vibes through the crowd.

The musicians more than adequately drove the songs. The synthesizer and the guitarists’ growing arsenal of pedal effects colored the band’s arrangements a little differently, especially when incorporated into older songs, without ruffling the sensitivities of Melo’s poetic visions. The singer impressed with her striking vocals. Having rejected surgical changes to her voice to match her new gender identity, she instead confidently addressed each song with appropriate tones and inflections, expanding her range like never before. Band members often supplemented with harmonies, always in support and not designed to cover shortcomings on Melo’s part.

In essence, Rainbow Kitten Surprise demonstrated that the band is in a better place now. The Webster Hall performance remained faithful to the indie pop-rock of the band’s origins, yet also exhibited growth into a much fuller sound. The evolution has not been so drastic as to turn off the group’s core audience, even while challenging the faithful to accept a little more eclecticism and experimentation. Instead, the show shone a light on a band that is more alive and well than ever. We can expect a big future for Rainbow Kitten Surprise.

Set list:


All’s Well That Ends




Goodnight Chicago

Devil Like Me

Our Song


First Class

Fever Pitch

Drop Stop Roll

When It Lands


That’s My Shit


Cocaine Jesus




All That and More (Sailboat)

It’s Called: Freefall


For more of Everynight Charley Crespo’s coverage of New York City’s music scene, check out his blog at

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