Hurray for the Riff Raff
Saturday 12th August 2023
The Bullingdon, 162 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1UE
Doors 7.30 pm
Tickets £15 in advance, £18 on the night
One of the reasons you started listening to music in the first place might have been in the hope of finding the kind of conviction and fierce rawness evident in Hurray for the Riff Raff’s, aka Alynda Segarra’s, “nature punk” manifesto about survival, ‘Life On Earth’. A visionary musician, Segarra is an outsider in whose voice you might find echoes of your own. On her eighth full-length album, Segarra is creating music of honesty and portent.
If there hadn’t been a pandemic, Segarra might have made a very different sort of album from ‘Life on Earth’, which became the record she’s waited a lifetime to make. Like the rest of us, Segarra had the disconcerting experience of putting the brakes on life as they knew it in March 2020.
Segarra had been a human embodiment of Newton’s First Law of Motion even before she ran away from home in the Bronx at age seventeen, illegally hopping freight trains or hitchhiking across the country in the company of a band of street urchins, sleeping rough under dense underbrush at night and hiding in trees for shelter. Coming from a fractured family, they weren’t quite sure what they were looking for, but they had the feeling they would know it when they found it. And they did when they pulled into New Orleans in 2007. There Segarra formed two bands: Dead Man’s Street Orchestra and Hurray for the Riff Raff, releasing an EP and seven albums with the latter.
In 2015, Segarra temporarily decamped, first to Nashville, then home to New York. Her 2016 Hurray for the Riff Raff album, ‘The Navigator’, was a quest to reclaim her Puerto Rican identity. Each song segued into the next in a tight narrative arc, uncovering important hints through the lens of her ancestors.
“I feel like I’m always leaving clues in my song, hoping my listeners will follow the breadcrumbs,” says Segarra with a short laugh. On Life on Earth, they just might. This time, she’s chosen a topic that affects us all: our relationship to the natural world. “You could call ‘Life on Earth’ survival music for the end times,” says Segarra. “But not just surviving—learning how to thrive. The importance of adapting and learning from nature—those were the themes that kept coming to me.”