Stage presence, good music, an energetic audience—these are three things that make a live show amazing. Realistically, two out of the three can be enough. A band with great music and stage presence can win an emotionless audience over, creating new fans. An energetic audience might treat a good enough band like they are The Beatles. And stage presence can make a good band great to watch. Artists like Mick Jagger, known for his duck walk, and Ozzy Osbourne, known for biting the head off of a bat, bring something else to their performances regardless of how great their music is.
Neither Cayucas or Caveman had all three characteristics. Cayucas, with their afrobeat like indie-pop sound, had the good music to keep the audience interested, but lead singer Zach Yudin could use some stage presence lessons. He did his best two steps and shuffled around the stage a little, somewhat on the beat. Yudin would have been better sticking with a guitar in his hand and swaying accordingly. The audience, especially the few people who seemed to be big fans, didn't seem to mind; the music was good enough to keep them from heading to the bar. They were probably entertained trying to decide who had the better hair, the drummer or the bassists. It was a tie.
While Cayucas had good music, lackluster stage presence, and some audience enthusiasm, Caveman had an enthusiastic lead singer, a little bit more audience energy, but dull music. The whole performance felt mediocre, despite all of lead singer Matthew Iwanusa's efforts to engage the audience and build some energy. Again, there were visible fans, but not enough enthusiasm to say they made new ones; even with the added amount of people inthe audience.
When Ra Ra Riot came on the stage, you could tell that it wasn't necessarily Caveman's dull music that didn't get the audience going, the audience themselves seemed to be in a just stand there and watch mood. The poorly timed and chosen intro music, possibly an accident, didn't get the performance off to a great start. After a bit of adjusting the band jumped right in and barely took a break the whole show.
Lead singer Wes Miles occasionally stopped to thank the audience and praise the 9:30 Club of course, but the majority of show was the band charging, including many songs from their latest album Beta Love. This is a great thing if you are fan that wants to hear as much music as possible, but taking short breaks to engage with the audience does help to create a connection.
Between the cool light display, violinist Rebecca Zeller, and cellist Alexandra Lawn, there was plenty to look at. The ladies on the strings played beautifully, and as if they were performing with a classical orchestra. While the band played well, it did seem as though the band was just playing another gig. They didn't seem to be having fun, which as a part of stage presence, was missing. When a band is having fun, the audience tends to react and have more fun too. But with the audience they had, it might not have helped anyway.
So it goes to show you that big or small, the audience can make or break a show. However, each person can see it differently. The fans didn't care that no one else was jumping as much as they were. They were just happy to be seeing their favorite band.