Raveena @ ONCE Ballroom

by Laura Shrago

Raveena @ ONCE Ballroom

w/ Dianna Lopez

September 18, 2019 at ONCE Ballroom

Seeing Raveena live was cathartic, calming, and beautiful, and overall a testament to how gentle and accepting her fan base is because of the inclusive community she’s created with her music. The venue was a cozy, local, family-owned establishment with a chandelier adorned with colorful fake jewelry, flowery carpet throughout the entire building, and bathroom stall walls completely covered in elaborate doodles of the Simpsons. The free water and availability of chairs at the back of the room encouraged movement throughout the space even during the show, creating a sense of comfort through the whole night. The venue fostered an environment of relaxation and community that suits Raveena’s persona.

The show started with Dianna Lopez, a 23-year old R&B singer described by NPR as an “ambient rock star in the making”. She performed lively songs like “So I Don’t Feel Useless” and “Predictable”, getting everyone dancing, followed by slower ones like “Blu” and her rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”. She interacted with the crowd often throughout her set, even making a joke that she knows the audience “is into purple haze because this is Boston and I know that’s what you do here!” She twirled around the stage as she performed what felt like not nearly enough songs, coming across as a truly sweet and humble performer who was grateful for the chance to be on stage.

Raveena @ ONCE Ballroom

Dianna Lopez opening for Raveena’s Lucid Tour at ONCE in Somerville. Photo by Kenia Arbaiza for WRBB.

The audience waited for Raveena in anticipation while watching her stagehands set up a green sixties-style rug, several large paper maché mushrooms, and a flower-adorned mic stand to accompany the giant moon backdrop with the words “Lucid” hanging across the stage. When the intro to “Stronger” from her new album started to glimmer through the venue, the audience screamed with enthusiasm and got even louder when she stepped out on stage and began to sing. Raveena then addressed the crowd and thanked everyone for being there, then went on to talk about the content of her songs–many of which are about recovering from trauma and using it to become stronger. “If anyone here is experiencing similar things, know that you are loved,” she affirmed. The crowd’s amiability during all moments leading up to this brought a greater sense of truth to this statement.

After her more well-known song “If Only”, from her debut EP Shanti, she quieted the crowd so she could conduct some meditation. With only a distant ambient piano note lingering in the background, Raveena led everyone in a relaxing breathing exercise and spoke affirmations to “clear our energies”. Working off of the quiet she created, she went into “Petal”, the ethereal closing song of Lucid that features a sound-looped three-part harmony of her voice throughout the entire song, which she created live with a loop machine. The audience stayed quiet, fascinated with her delicate performance that Pitchfork eloquently described as a “celestial wash of falsetto and reverb”.

She continued with “Honey” and the more upbeat “Love Child”, at which point Raveena invited the audience to repeat after her once she taught the lyrics. Throughout the show, she seemed primarily interested in creating an inclusive musical experience for everyone in the room.

From the back of the room, the diversity of the audience was note-worthy: there were a handful of middle-aged adults taking advantage of the limited comfortable seating lining the back of the venue, in addition to the overwhelmingly college-aged demographic. There was also a mother with her two very young children dancing and singing along to the music. People soon took notice of the kids and couldn’t resist joining them, causing a mini dance party to emerge.

The sense of community was strong throughout the entire night; strangers were becoming friends, and a vast array of demographics was present (particularly South Asian women, whose experiences Raveena often specifically addresses in her music and interviews). It was clear that fans felt seen and touched by her work, and that the relatability and charm of her music was only amplified by seeing her in person.