More the idea of a show than a show itself, RagnaPOP! (or She’s Got the Bomb)is a concept album live on stage. Pete Wright, a longtime area musician and songwriter, has created a song cycle about a fictionalized version of his future self, “Your Pal Pete,” and that future he lives in.
In 2020, Our Pal Pete is playing the concert at the end of the world, invited by one Charlie (Earle Douglass) to knock out some tunes and then start a countdown to the end. (I won’t spoil why the world’s ending or why everyone knows when it’s going to happen, but suffice to say it’s due to some new technology.)
Besides that sci-fi plot outline, we get a history of Pete’s ascendance from a lonely, lazy pursuer of punk-pop to the hardworking singer chosen to lead the last concert ever, and the influence that Lizzie, the woman who never loved him back, had on his life trajectory. This storyline comes as direct speeches between a dozen songs, and has the feel of Wright explaining to us this cool concept he had for a movie, perhaps, or of how the songs he wrote for his concept album connect to each other.
Except for two or three moments, nothing is dramatized, and Wright is more musician than actor, not particularly inhabiting his character. Honestly, nobody in the show really acts, they simply relate the plot.
This may or may not be intentional; when a character from Pete’s future past comes onstage for one of those two-three moments, Wright introduces her as a “hologram” with a grin that suggests he’s not at all concerned with believability. It’s an alienating approach that prevents us from getting invested, but does keep the show from getting overwrought or pretentious. This self-aware, shambolic quality might be interesting to some people, but I found that, as far as a medium for receiving the story goes, I’d have rather simply read it in print, or sit at a table in a restaurant with Mr. Wright and have him excitedly go over this tale he’d thought up.
RagnaPOP! (or She’s Got the Bomb)
by Pete Wright
at Baldacchino Tent Bar – Fort Fringe
607 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001
Details and tickets
The lyrics are where Wright’s songwriting really stands out. They’re witty, sharp and often quite funny; the only trouble is you’ll have a hard time understanding them as sung, given the distortion level of the music. There is a complete lyrics sheet provided, which is greatly helpful, although it’s a little disappointing to have to keep your head down in them in order to follow along during each song performance.
That same wit crosses over into Wright’s spoken portions, featuring lines like “We saw a thousand faces and we rocked most of them” and “A lot of musical crimes have been excused with ‘it’s just punk.'”
Theoretically, this show is a retelling of the Ragnarok myth, but that doesn’t matter; the story is what it is regardless of any Norse parallels. And while that story is a pretty cool one to think about, it’s a bit thin and thinly delivered, to justify an hour in the Baldacchino tent. Go if you are a diehard lover of crunchy pop-punk music or have a connection with the local music scene, and wouldn’t mind a bit of a yarn spun between the times the band plays; but if the music genre is not your cup of tea, the concept will not sweeten it enough to justify coming.