Live Review: A bevy of tasty treats and beats Saturday afternoon at Boston Calling


Before it was even halfway over, Saturday’s round of Boston Calling dispensed a notably more eclectic roster of performers than Friday night’s pretty much homogenous outing. That made it better than Friday! Plus they gave out free sunglasses, free KIND granola bars, purple potato chips, and other goodies. Remember back when everybody got goodie bags after a birthday party? Boston Calling is like that, except you don’t have to wait until the end.

Look at this —


It’s yummy, you bastards!


Here’s a recap of the first half of Saturday’s show, minus Sturgill Simpson who I skipped to go write this.

Grey Season

In yesterday’s review of the Avett Brothers, I noted that I don’t consider a banjo player authentic unless I’m pretty sure he or she is poor and/or a genuine ne’er-do-well. Grey Season cut their teeth performing for passersby on Cambridge sidewalks not too long ago, and made the often-pricey trek to SXSW and back last March. This means they have way less money than the Avett Brothers. Plus, Grey Season reside in Allston — though they declined to announce their full address on stage — so even if they aren’t scumbags themselves, they certainly know a few.

Despite, or maybe because of, their traditionalists alt-folk signifiers, the quintet could be penning the soundtrack for one of those early morning, electric yet listless, post-bender stumble-walks home. That doesn’t read like a compliment, but it’s supposed to. Grey Season aren’t the first act around town to reinforce their twangs with punk fortitude. Approrpriately, they join kindred spirits Kingsley Flood at the Sinclair on November 20.


Skylar Spence

One-time Boston College student Ryan DeRobertis used to go by “Saint Pepsi,” until someone told him Pepsi could hire the type of amoral top-shelf attorneys who could ruin his life in ways he had not previously imagined. Frankly, I wonder if he could’ve stood his ground and fought them on fair use or satire, but the matter has been settled.

As Skylar Spence, he put an end to the reign of uninterrupted alt-folk by providing the type of perfectly well-and-good neo-disco pop that makes people want to toss beach balls around. Which they did.

DeRobertis and co. came fresh off a Prom-themed gig (I’m presuming a record release party?) in Brooklyn, and while I’m not sure whether the prom gimmick is clever, or a grating attempt at tired irony, the song “Prom King” itself is a little killer.

Side-thought: Why does Superman always end up the default choice when a lyricist wants to make a superhero reference? For instance, Spider-Man and Wolverine both would’ve fit the necessary syllable count to star in Spence’s “I Can’t Be Your Superman.”



In yesterday’s review, I mentioned Boston Calling isn’t usually dangerous enough to frighten my grandma, but that’s because I forgot Doomtree was showing up the next day. Incidentally, my grandma was planning on attending Saturday, until she watched Doomtree’s video for “Final Boss,” then she decided to stay home and pray for our souls instead.

It’s safe to say the overwhelming majority of Boston Calling’s audience has never been to a hip-hop show in their lives, but Doomtree didn’t mind acknowledging scanning as a bit out of place. “Let’s all pretend we go to rap shows everyday,” remarked P.O.S., co-founder of the Minnesota rap collective, before coaxing a good-try-for-beginners effort out of the crowd. “We’re right by City Hall, and nobody’s in trouble!” noted Dessa, appreciating the change of pace.

Doomtree remind me of playing one of the Final Fantasy sequels on Playstation 2, and for a bit, I couldn’t figure out why. Eventually I made the connection that there are five Doomtree members, each with a distinctive presentation and style, working in tandem, with one taking the lead whenever his or her specific talents best suit the situation. If their quest was to slay midday music festival ennui, they surely slaughtered that son of the bitch to death, then resurrected him, and killed him again.


Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

If few attendees at Boston Calling regularly attend hip hop shows, apparently even fewer know who Pavement is. Except for that one guy who yelled “Play some Pavement!” during Stephen Malkmus and Jicks’s workmanlike, but markedly sleepy set. Few can match Malkmus’s guitar wizardry, and his solos provided enough excitement to keep his band’s head above the water of severe blandness. One onlooker described Malkmus as “clearly uncomfortable” and observed that a Ric Flair-style “whooo” felt half-hearted, and may have been meant sarcastically. Nonetheless, as alternative legends occupying a filler slot at Boston Calling go, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks were much, much better than Neutral Milk Hotel was last year.

All live photos by Eddy Leiva for Vanyaland. Follow Barry Thompson on Twitter @BarelyTomson, and stay tuned for more updates from Boston Calling all weekend long.