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Arroyo Seco Weekend: Hurray for the Riff Raff channeling urgency of the times

Arroyo Seco Weekend: Hurray for the Riff Raff channeling urgency of the times
Alynda Segarra will front New Orleans-based band Hurray for the Riff Raff on Saturday at the second Arroyo Seco Weekend festival in Pasadena. (Erik Tanner)

Hurray for the Riff Raff frontwoman Alynda Segarra is looking forward to her band’s Saturday slot at the second Arroyo Seco Weekend festival in Pasadena this weekend. It’ll be an opportunity to try out a couple of new songs and perhaps to rock a bit harder than the band has to date.

“I recently wrote a song based on a Langston Hughes poem — I just love Langston Hughes — and it’s called ‘Kids Who Die,’” said the 32-year old singer, songwriter and guitarist of the band, which blends indie rock with strains of hip-hop, introspective folk and Latin rock that reflects her Puerto Rican heritage.

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That infectious mixture sparked rave reviews for Hurray for the Riff Raff’s 2017 album, “The Navigator,” a slightly fictionalized journey that Segarra has said was strongly inspired by David Bowie’s 1972 concept album, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.”

Hughes’ poem, and her song inspired by it, she said, are “all about young people who are working to create change, how they put themselves in harm’s way, how they are the backbone of the country. His poem talks about them going all over the country as they to try to organize.”

Recent campaigns by teenage survivors of the mass shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was a prime example of what Hughes’ poem had in mind. “I was really touched” by their activism, Segarra said.

“The Navigator” was a breakthrough in many ways for the band she formed nearly a decade ago in her adopted hometown of New Orleans. Lately, she’s been writing songs for a successor, which she expects to draw on the urgency she’s felt over escalating tensions across the country.

“I think everybody is here at this time for a reason,” she said. “This year has been a lot about me believing in myself and recognizing that the time is now: This is no time to be nervous. It’s already hit the fan.

“So I’m thinking about how I can take that urgency of the live show and make a rock ‘n’ roll album, harnessing a lot of what the greats have done and addressing the urgent times we’re in,” she added. “I want to make something that affects people and something that makes people move.”

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