Sunday began as all Sundays do—with the bittersweet realization that the weekend was almost over. At least it was a holiday weekend and we would have Memorial Day to relax and unpack before heading back to work.
We decided on breakfast before checking out. There was a place we had judged entirely by its cover the few times we had passed it in Somerville. The name I learned on the way in was La Brasa, and while the food was slightly out of my breakfast comfort zone, we gave it a try.
I had a Falafel with yogurt and two things I had never heard of before and it was delicious. But I have no idea what I ate. Naseema had Avocado on toast with a fried egg. We shared a plate of home fries that were super crispy outside and fluffy inside. I wish I knew how to make food like that. I had a damn good cup of coffee, so much so that I ordered a cup to go.
Back at the place we rounded up the last few belongings and exchanged goodbyes with our AirHost. It was a nice place to crash for a few days; as long as you’re not throwing crazy sex parties, I don’t see a problem with the system.
Getting to the show on day 3 was the easy part; we drove in for an easy exit. Staying motivated in the heat was going to be the hard part.Two days before I was wearing jackets and sweaters, today I was wearing a t-shirt and light button up, and it was getting uncomfortable. It was hard to forget you’re technically broiling your skin when you sit out in the sun.
That was my cue to sit in the shade. We oscillated from one shady spot to another for most of the day, as did much of the crowd. It wasn’t all a bust as it made for excellent people watching. Rock crowds are predictable in their weirdness. There were the peacocks and the bros, the people that just bought the t-shirt they’re wearing who are conspicuously not carrying another shirt, so did they come shirtless…There was a dude wearing Victorian garb, two Waldos, a Mario, and no less than two dudes wearing two different Sandlot shirts, both excellent.
The great, or one of the many great things about Boston Calling is that it sounds good anywhere on the grounds, so we weren’t missing all that much but a direct view of the artist. The two early artists we did make an excuse to get out in the heat for were Lucius and Jason Isbell.
Lucius, filling in for an injured Chet Faker, were great as usual. This would be the fourth or fifth time I’ve seen them live, and they always put on a great show. Their harmonies are striking, and they pull it off with such ease making it seem as if anyone could do it if they just tried. They did a cover of “You Were on My Mind,” a well-known hit by an unknown band, and it was absolutely perfect. It sounded like a gem in Lucius’ hands.
Isbell was one of the only performers with any sort of Country tinge in his sound. Like other genre standouts, Run The Jewels (because Ilovemakkonen doesn’t count), that didn’t stop him from lighting up the stage. Sticking out like a sore thumb probably did him good, because it felt like a nice reprieve from the many pop acts throughout the weekend. There’s a certain realness to slide guitar that you’ll never get with faux-glissando on a synth. It cut the dense heat like a cool breeze and I just sat back and enjoyed his set.
The Lone Bellow and Vance Joy were the two other acts that I listened in to. The buzz around the former was ecstatic. In my people watching time, I overheard a surprising amount of people talking about their excitement at seeing the band again. The latter I was primarily interested in because I saw on twitter that he had put two fans who didn’t get tickets onto his guest list for the day (I’m assuming since he’s Australian, he didn’t have too many friends in town, but still cool nonetheless). Like some acts on the days before, while it might not have exactly been my thing, it was nice to see other people genuinely excited about an up & coming band, and for an artist to take care of his fans like that. All hope in humanity is not lost.
Part of the problem of the day, and the reason that everyone seemed to be sitting out a majority of the openers, was the stacked closing line-up. I mean, how can you beat TV on the Radio, Tenacious D, and Pixies? The answer is you can’t, but maybe with some qualifications.
TV on the Radio came on when the sun was still bright. Considering the song that got me into them in the first place, “Wolf Like Me,” I almost wish the moon was round and full for their set. I’d be willing to take my chances against the lycanthropes. They did play the song, at least, but it was only one of two from Return to Cookie Mountain, still my favorite album of theirs (although I concede not their best). The majority of the setlist went to Seeds, which suited me just fine. Without the creative expanse of the recorded album, they sounded like the punk band that they always kinda were.
During their set they made it seem like they were going to be taking a break from the road. It’s just another lesson that you should always go see a band you want to, because you never know when they might stop. TV on the Radio will always be one of those bands I’ll be glad to have seen.
Tenacious D is another one of those bands. I honestly never thought I would see them live. Watching Kyle Gass and Jack Black on stage, I still didn’t believe that that was Tenacious D on stage. It’s been 14 years since I first heard them, and I still remember that “Tribute” was one of the first songs I learned after I got my first acoustic guitar.
The pair is exactly as funny and entertaining as you would expect them to be. A long extended jazz aside carried on as Kyle brought out one recorder, which is funny, and then proceeded to bring out another and play them both at the same time, which is hilarious. Because of the fact that the whole thing is so absurd and funny, you forget how good the songs are. It doesn’t dawn on you until much later that the backing band, Gass, and Black are very talented musicians, and the two loveable leaders are excellent songwriters.
This is especially apparent on crowd favorite, “Fuck Her Gently.” Thousands of people sang along in chorus to lines like “that’s fucking teamwork” and “what’s your favorite posish.” There was something so perverse about singing along, it felt like you were getting away with doing something your parents might yell at you for. The crowd sang louder and louder until the final triumphant crescendo of “you fuck her hard!”
It was great.
Pixies closed out the night, and I found myself hesitant to write about it for a few reasons; the first being that Pixies created two of my favorite albums of all time, Doolittle and Surfer Rosa. They are monuments of originality, intensity, and musicality. They cease to get boring like even some other great albums do. This isn’t to put down their output during the 90s. But Doolittle and Surfer Rosa.
Second, I had seen them in 2005, exactly 3632 days prior. That night in Jones Beach, Interpol touring around Antics and an unknown band called LCD Soundsytem came together for one show only. To this day, it remains one of my top five show of all time. None of the rumors about fights between the members or field hockey players mattered. It was pure and it was good.
Lastly, that first time I saw them live it was pre-Indy Cindy. And that matters for one gigantic reason—No Kim. The album is neither a grower nor a shower. This isn’t to say that Black Francis hasn’t been writing good music, on the contrary. He’s been cranking out excellent solo material for 20 years now. But when it comes to Pixies, something is missing when Kim isn’t there.
All of these things were in my head as they launched into three songs off of Surfer Rosa (which is Pixies’ best album, no if, ands, or buts). Over the course of the evening they would go on to play that and Doolittle almost in their entirety, much to the pleasure of the crowd. The hard truth is that when they did play songs from that album I dare not mention twice, there was a lull in the crowd. It felt as if the new material was forced upon us.
I looked on stage and it didn’t feel quite right to see them playing those songs. It seemed fitting that they covered “In Heaven” from David Lynch’s Eraserhead, an auteur whose career is in exploiting these moments. Paz Lenchantin, the fill-in bassist, was excellent, but to me, and I’m sure so many others, she can’t be more than a fill-in. She hit all the right notes, on both bass and background vocals.
Both David Lovering and Joey Santiago were excellent as well. Lovering sang “La La Love You” in his best crooning voice, a song that used to be a rarity among their set lists. Santiago’s soloing on “Vamos” was everything you could hope for: unplugging the guitar and playing the live cord, swinging the guitar, hitting it. All while sounding not like shit. It was impressive and awesome in the original sense of the word.
They played 32 songs in all, two covers, and “Wave of Mutilation” twice. It was awesome. But as Naseema and I were walking away, she asked “so was the first time better?” And I knew the answer. “Yeah, but I don’t know why other than Kim’s not in the band.” It’s like the Ship of Theseus: how much can you replace before it is no longer Pixies. Is Black Francis the only essential member? I think he seems to think so. And he may be right.
I thought about it the entire way home. Driving long into the night, we didn’t make it back until after two in the morning, and even then we didn’t get to sleep until after three as we recapped the events of the weekend.
This was definitely the best 3-day lineup Boston Calling has had (and that includes next September’s, which in my opinion falls a little flat). Boston Calling is a great festival. It is never consumed by largesse like so many other festivals. I honestly don’t know what more you can ask for. Maybe they can reunite the Beatles; or at least get Kim back in the band.
Article: Christopher Gilson
Photos: Shayne Hanley