(Cont. from Part I)

Boston Calling Spring 2015 edition was Boston to the bones. A strong wind blew Friday evening, the life-size Samuel Adams cardboard cutouts skittering down the concrete steps of City Hall Plaza, event staff racing to collect them. Temperatures Friday and Saturday nights scraped the low-forties, and Sunday was scorcher near ninety. Fickle weather, good local brews, and a whole lot of alt-indie rock. Could it get much more Boston than that?

Here are our highlights from last weekend’s festival:

Smash, smash, smash, groove: Lucius

If pressured to characterize Lucius’s set in only a few carefully chosen words, I’d use the phrase “hitting things with other things,” which seems like a fair but unassuming assessment. The Lucius girls (dressed indistinguishably, like identical twins–  but we know that they can’t be; one celebrated her 30th birthday on stage, the other did not) rocked and wailed on personal tom-toms when taking a rest from (and oftentimes while) supplying biting vocals and keyboard grooves. The rest of the band – drums, guitar, and bass – had tom-toms of their own, making for an explosive percussion experience. A jealous drummer would have felt a tad dethroned.

Rhythms powered the set, but Lucius showcased a melodic side as well. The singers pranced about the stage, cooling the audience with their harmonies on a hot day, and the instrumentalists bobbed and bounced to arpeggiated guitar strokes and pounding bass. The set climaxed agreeably with their final song, a tight jam with bellowing vocals and, lo and behold, a percussionist to guitarist ratio of 4:1. Let the dancing ensue!

I didn’t have an earworm by the end, but I kind of wish I had.    

– AK

The project: Tame Impala

Bands are easy to come by, especially in Boston; Berklee, NEC, Boston Conservatory, suburban hipsters turned tormented artists, they all boast an overwhelming number of bands. But musical projects? Projects are something special. They have an innovative air, an aura of lo-key but vibrant musical creativity and avant-garde chic. Tame Impala, an Australian non-band led by Kevin Parker (who, by the way, would nail a Jesus impersonator audition if the whole “project” thing doesn’t go as planned), fits this bill.

Tame Impala (nearly the Mild Marsupials) were the second band to grace the stage this Boston Calling, performing a lengthy set Friday night. The large screens framing the stage emitted swirls and dips of scintillating colors, simulating the trip for anyone (my poor soul included) who forgot their LSD. Reverb, delay, and echo quickly became staples as their instruments blended into one sound. It grooved like a monolith, but with holes and gaps for exploring. Conventional enough to be pop-y, but project-y enough to be cool. 

Their performance coincided nicely with the setting sun. It was too windy for the beach balls.

– AK

The pop star who brought the fruit: Marina and the Diamonds

I didn’t know enormous blow-up fruit existed beyond James and the Giant Peach plays, but rising Welsh pop star Marina Diamandis of Marina and the Diamonds deflated that theory. Two purple inflatable fruits sat on either side of the band, steadied by stagehands. She was supporting her critically-acclaimed third studio album, Froot.

Pop-club dance songs had the teen crowd screaming, the cheers from the crowd distinctly in the upper octaves. “If you’d like to dance, you can!” Diamandis said with a smile. She closed with her hit single, “How to Be a Heartbreaker.”

– JS

Nothing exists but jazz: Tenacious D

And the devilry continued. Tenacious D has a funny relationship with satanic worship, on the one hand engaging in it shamelessly, but on the other defending themselves against it, such as in their song “Tribute.” They began with this epic story-song, followed by a number of their other most popular ditties. Besides the power of distortion and the soul of rock and roll, Tenacious D’s set was crammed with refreshing irony and crud humor, as if the audience expected anything else. Black and Gass, both on acoustic guitars and accompanied by a trio of guitar, bass, and drums, would huddle with their band (football locker room style) mid-song. Black, after nearly every tune, would throw his pick into the crowd with a look of either determination or constipation. He also stripped. Twice.

Their set was interrupted by a seemingly impromptu jazz jam. Black thankfully had a scatting solo during which he proclaimed, “All that exists in this god-forsaken universe is jaaaaaazzzzzz.” Fusion was soon replaced with metal. And then “The Metal.”

Tomfoolery and asshole-ish-ness were both critical to their performance, but sincerity shown through as well. One of the last few songs Tenacious D played was “Roadie,” after which Black praised their own crew. Then to introduce the Pixies. Black surmised that without the Pixies, there would be no Radiohead, no Nirvana, no TV on the Radio, and (gasp) no Krill. Rather, they would have existed, but they would have kicked less butt.

Black and Gass really stepped but the lyrical game, pronouncing words clearly and being generally intelligible.

– AK

The queen who summoned the cold: St. Vincent

Pale and slender like a runt ghost, singer-songwriter St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) not only shred through impossible guitar riffs with ease, she captivated the Boston Calling crowd by crowd-surfing with her guitar and then writhing on stage, holding a dark, sullen expression for the entire set. The sun darted behind a building; the cold night crept into the plaza. The evil queen had summoned the night, and the crowd was under her spell.

“A special welcome to the Freaks and Others of Boston, Massachussetts,” St. Vincent said.

– JS

Most likely to invite you to dinner: The Ballroom Thieves

Sunday began swimmingly as The Ballroom Thieves, a trio, began what was to become a fairly folk-y, rock-y, and country-y afternoon. Already just a trio, their setup was sparse enough to feel intimate, despite the sizable crowd congregated by the stage. Each instrument – acoustic guitar, drum set (which was less than huge), bass, and on occasion cello (played by the bassist) – was easily discernible and made for a homegrown, easy to listen to folk-rock-roots sound.

Though intimate, their music was by no means flimsy or dull. It had a power fueled by the trio’s vocal harmonies and unisons. They rocked the show’s opening with a humble spirit. If their lead (a blonde-haired, rugged but sweet young man) asked me on a date, I’d probably say yes.

– AK

The headliners that stretched the sky: My Morning Jacket

My Morning Jacket plays stargazing, listening music. The band’s songs are expansive, layered, and powerful, somewhere in between psychedelic and Southern roots rock. On Saturday night, lead singer Jim James’ guitar solos stretched into every corner of City Hall Plaza, and though few stars could be seen in the bright city sky, listeners were invited to contemplate life from a widened perspective. James and My Morning Jacket opened up the plaza to the size of the Grand Canyon and flooded it with their experimental explorations, many of which came from their 2015 album, The Waterfall.

– JS

Most likely to inspire legends: Pixies

The Pixies headlined the entire festival, but the audience (consisting of a number of older than twenty-to-thirty-somethings; the Pixies formed in 1986, after all) didn’t need such a clue to gather what was in store. As Jack Black alluded, the Pixies, a Boston band, significantly influenced rock and umbrellaed music genres of the 1990s and 2000s. This history gave the performance a profound historical inflection; it demanded respect, appreciation, and gratitude from anyone who has ever head banged to “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which Cobain admitted intentionally mimicked the Pixies’ style. This would safely encompass 90% of people there.

Nevertheless, the performance felt nothing like an antique. On the contrary, it rocked the audience’s many socks off. The lyrics couldn’t really be deciphered (that’s how rock goes, I guess), but when they could they were either slightly bizarre or moving– or both. “Monkey Gone to Heaven” in particular packed a punch. The Pixies’ music could be heard all the way from the Commons, haunting Boston evermore.   

– AK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.