Although echoes of the show the night before (featuring the Replacements, Dinosaur Jr., and the Young Leaves) were still floating about, it was Night Two of the Converse Rubber Tracks series in Boston—and a crowd of flannel-clad 20-somethings were bouncing up and down with a kind of synchronized excitement, awaiting the first set of the night from Allston’s Radclyffe Hall.
Soon enough, the lights dimmed and the local quartet took the stage. Frontwoman Dhy Berry checked the levels on her intimidatingly stacked synth rig and flashed a quick smile at the audience. Immediately, a pack of admirers yelled something along the lines of, “We love you, Dhy!” The first few chords and pulsing bass drum hits of “Dare to Dream” provided a sufficient response, as mixtures of cheers, yelps, and questionable dance moves rose up from the ashes of the anxious pitter patter.
There was something innately mesmerizing about Radclyffe Hall. Their dedication to visual symmetry was pronounced—Berry and fellow synth player/vocalist Jaqui Rae Stewart stood at opposite sides of the stage, while drummers Carl Harkness and Sean Camargo sat in the center, facing one another. The tradeoff between Harkness’ acoustic kit and Camargo’s electronic pads was gripping, making it difficult to tell whether you should be nodding along to pop grooves or to an orchestral triumph.
Berry’s voice was strong and commanding, but it went down smooth. During the group’s third song, “Kites,” Stewart’s harmonies shone through, and the following “Love Me Tonight” seemed to be a crowd favorite, effortlessly picking up the tempo just as the moody, dark-pop vibes began to feel a bit dragged out.
After Radclyffe Hall wrapped up their half-hour set, LA-based duo Baths wasted no time delving into “Miasma Sky” from their sophomore album, Obsidian. At first glance, Baths, comprised of mastermind Will Wiesenfeld and partner Morgan Greenwood, seemed a modest pair equipped with a synth, guitar, and a few sequencers. The vocals got lost behind a haze of jumbled bass and keys for the first couple of songs, contributing to a growing restlessness in the air. It wasn’t until they started tearing into a hidden table of electronic goodies that they proved they aren’t just another electro act fiddling with samples in Mom’s basement.
By the time they hit their newest single, “Ocean Death,” Wiesenfeld was unleashing jaw-dropping bursts of melodic grit and wild instrumental interludes. On the set’s closer, “No Eyes,” Wiesenfeld filled the empty space with a fiery vocal performance, all the while gyrating almost uncontrollably behind an exhausted mic stand.
When the lights came up again, people were bracing themselves for the night’s main event. “I’ve been tracking their setlist for the past two weeks,” declared a cheery dude. About 10 feet away, a group of friends sang Passion Pit’s “Carried Away” a cappella, with a few splashes of spilled beer and short fits of laughter as their accompaniment. And then, as five bodies emerged from backstage, a universal victory screech took over.
Maybe it was the intimate setting; maybe it was the acknowledgement of a hometown hero’s return to his city; maybe it was just the fact that Passion Pit is a captivating band. But whatever the case, when the chorus of “Lifted Up (1985)” blared through the speakers, everyone agreed that “1985 was a good year.”
Sporting a striped button-down shirt and a tattered baseball cap, singer and chief songwriter Michael Angelakos looked like an audience member who just happened to stumble onstage and nail a four-octave vocal range. He danced around with a casual confidence and seemed to carry an unrelenting smile. Alongside him, live members Chris Hartz, Aaron Folb, Giuliano Pizzulo, and Ray Suen floated from hit to hit, tackling old favorites early on in the set like “Little Secrets” and future summer sing-alongs such as Kindred’s second track, “Whole Life Story.”
Despite the electricity the group sparked with its first handful of tunes, the performance had its lulls. Angelakos’ knack for anthemic synth-pop choruses became painfully obvious by the set’s midway point, and what felt like a perpetual dance beat thumped along in an upward battle to keep the party going. That said, fans were quick to perk up at gems like “The Reeling”—a pleasant reminder that 2009’s Manners still packs quite the punch.
Gossamer’s mega-single, “Take a Walk,” tried its hand at closing out the night, but encore demands had Angelakos and the others back in position within seconds. The crowd went quiet for a moment, anxiously awaiting confirmation that they’d get to hear “Sleepyhead.”
“I wrote this song three fucking blocks from here,” the Emerson alum exclaimed. A stream of pride roared out from the floor in front of him.
- Stellar musicianship
- All vocals on point
- Energetic crowd
- Dragged on
- Lack of variety