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The second day of Boston Calling was a much deeper affair, band-wise, than the Friday kickoff, and that wasn’t solely represented by the amount. Stylistically, it ranged from the erudite folk leanings of The Decemberists to the heart-on-sleeve emotional force that is Frank Turner, sprightly Brit Pop in the guise of Maximo Park and the angular minimalism of Warpaint.
The day was an improvement to the chilly temps of the night before, and most of the early bands played to brilliant blue skies and direct sunlight. Paul Smith of Maximo Park commanded the stage, clearly enjoying his band’s first US festival appearance as he ranged side to side and gesticulated wildly, his frenetic motions capped nicely by his choice of bright pink socks. Walk Off The Earth (not to be confused with Walk The Moon) checked off pretty much every hipster stereotype imaginable and likely invented new ones. Ukulele, neon trucker hat worn backwards, ironic mustache, roadies crowding the mic as impromptu background singers during the predictable sing-a-long anthems, group drumming sessions…yeah, it was tiring to behold.
Thankfully, Warpaint washed all those memories immediately when they launched into “Bees.” Their hypnotic sound is anchored by the supple rhythm section of Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa and overlaid beautifully by the spidery guitars lines of Theresa Wayman and Emily Kokal. It had been three years since the band last played Boston, and despite some technical difficulties and a slightly boomy bass sound, they really nailed it. “Ashes To Ashes” was a surprise cover from an obscure seven inch single they released in 2010, and the new material from last year’s eponymously titled LP shone as clear as the afternoon sun streaking through Wayman’s hair.
The Neighbourhood got the young girls screaming into the open plaza as they took the stage, all clad in black and white, which are also the specifications for publishing any images of them. They may want to put more skin in the game and recruit a black member if they are going to model the Two-Tone approach that The Specials mastered. Jenny Lewis was up next but I missed most of her set as I was busy with Warpaint; she sounded like she was having fun, and the bouncy neo-folk was received well. A bigger bite to the folk idiom was provided by Frank Turner, who’s clearly heard some Billy Bragg records but writes more of personal politics and struggles, and had some ready made anthems to whip up the crowd.
As The Head And The Heart took the stage, clouds started to join the fun. The Seattle collective seemed like a bit of a strange fit for Sub Pop but they’ve done well filling the post- Fleet Foxes roster spot. Despite some sound issues where the vocals and violin would sporadically cut out, they didn’t let that bother them at all, and the crowd didn’t seem to either notice or mind either. The crowd did notice the approach of precipitation though, and about ten minutes before The Decemberists took the stage, the rains came down. “Welcome to the Pacific Northwest part of the program,” declared a gleeful Colin Meloy as sheets of wind-swept rain hit the open plaza and VIP holders headed for the shelter of the towering City Hall building at the rear of the red stage.
The evening concluded with Death Cab For Cutie playing a stirring, moody set. Unlike Johnathan Russell’s reaction to production glitches, singer Ben Gibbard was visibly annoyed at what (or more precisely, what wasn’t) coming out of his guitar. As this was the first time seeing them, I’m not sure if “I Will Possess Your Heart” has Gibbard play keyboards or if that was just improvisation after ditching the failed instrument, but it worked beautifully, and he was soon smiling like everyone else on site.
That seemed to be a constant factor throughout this festival, the lack of anger, drama or general grumpiness. Even cool showers couldn’t dampen the collective spirit.
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