I am living in D.C. for the summer and commuting to work via train. I’m in a residential neighborhood approximately one mile away from the Fort Totten Metro station. It’s a green, suburban walk to the station and I see a lot of deer. I also get a lot of catcalls. Google Maps says it takes 23 minutes, but the ETA algorithm does not take into account catcall-induced acceleration. I can do it in 15. In order to get to work on time, I must quell the instinct to run up to the offenders and shake my fist. Here are the pieces of my mind I never ended up giving them.
June 25, 2019 at 9:14 p.m. New Hampshire Ave. NE
Lingered a little too long at the park near the Fort Totten Metro station observing a family of deer, and now it's dark out. We all know that the Honda Civic, particularly one of the mid-2000s variety, is fundamentally a sexless family vehicle.
On a summertime Tuesday night, the Brooklyn queer bar 3 Dollar Bill readied itself to host an unlikely trinity. I wandered in among the ticketholders who were congregating, apparently undaunted by the impending weekday morning, for a performance of Oscar at the Crown. The website announcing this “immersive nightclub phenomenon” promised a show that would situate in one dystopian future the three pillars of society: sequins, Oscar Wilde, and the housewives of Orange County.
A lot to prepare for, perhaps, so the musical’s site also offered some advice: “Wear something cool!” The wardrobes of the audience had clearly obliged. The primary colors dutifully coalesced in a corner over a round of drinks: bright red jumpsuit on one attendee, on another, a bluish sleeveless two-piece number complete with buttons and lapels, and on a third, a canary tee proclaiming, “I’m a limited luxury edition of myself.
Electric Forest takes place in a woodland of thousands of years old. Bonnaroo features craftsmen and artisans vending their wares. Coachella is... Coachella. Aspiring to some bohemian or rustic ideal (whether achieved or not), each of these events has its idiosyncratic personality. But Boston Calling is the corporate-sponsored, licensed-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life, capitalist cousin of these festivals. It’s as if it was designed in a boardroom at McKinsey—at the 2019 edition of Boston Calling, everything ran smoothly, but after the music ended, the revelers departed without a single distinctive memory of the festival organization itself.
Fortunately, Boston Calling gets its music right. This year’s cast was studded in gold—the lineup included indie sweethearts Mitski and Tame Impala; hip-hop superstars Travis Scott and Anderson .
I am a son of Tahrir
Born into hope, into heat, into thousands of voices
I am a son of Tahrir, out in the crowd on the street
Our pain, our pride, our choices
Tahrir is now
And, now is here
We’ll wait an hour, a day, a month, a year
We have cracked the wall of fear
We’ll see it crumble
“Tahrir Is Now,” a song from the musical “We Live in Cairo,” was playing in the background as I read the news about the controversy over the local elections in Turkey. The ruling party, which has been in power for 17 years now, lost the municipal elections to the opposition in Istanbul. However, the newspaper wrote, the ruling party was refusing to accept the election results, alleging that there had been fraud. “Do our choices really matter?” I asked myself.
“No,” the state replied, as it overturned the election results after a few weeks.
Like most famous people, Louise Glück is shorter than I expected. At Glück’s reading on April 10th in the Barker center, the room was so packed I had to sit on the floor. From this vantage, I had a better view of the audience than of the stage, such that when Glück arrived, what I saw first was not the poet herself, but the awed looks that followed her into the room, signaling that this, this mild and unassuming figure, was the Poet Laureate, the Louise Glück.
Glück’s reading was a study in contrasts. The poems were packed with the first-person, existential intensity that characterizes her work. Yet in performance, she read her work in a slow, husky monotone that felt oddly quiet and small. Glück herself presented no fewer contradictions. Though plainly-dressed, soft-spoken, and diminutive, Glück moved through the room with unseen force, parting the crowd with ease.
The dry heat makes the grass yellow outside the Harvard athletic complex, but the AstroTurf remains green for Boston Calling. As Boston’s festival goers descend upon the complex, the smell of fried food, sweat, and just a whiff of the ganja permeates the air. But why do people come to music festivals? For the star-studded line up or for those strange moments of community found in the ever-pushing crowd? For the Insta/snap story or for the time with friends? For the likes or for what they like? And perhaps more importantly, what makes music festivals special? Are they like a lunch buffet special that is only appealing in combining everything for one, reasonable package-price? Or is a music festival greater than the sum of its events? On Friday afternoon, Noname performed on the green stage.
2018’s Boston Calling music festival promises to daze, entrance and brew revelry under the proverbial roof of Harvard’s athletic complex. This year’s festival will include performances by festival mainstays The Killers, Eminem and Jack White, as well as performances by critically acclaimed indie acts including Julien Baker, Thundercat and St. Vincent. The full artist list can be found at http://bostoncalling.com. Boston Calling has brought out a truly stellar lineup this year, paying particular attention to increasing the range of artists and musical styles it represents. This year’s Boston Calling promises to satiate music and culture lovers of all tastes. The festival will feature prominent rappers including Eminem; Tyler, The Creator; Cousin Stizz; and Brockhampton, while also presenting indie artists such as Dirty Projectors and Big Thief and major rock artists such as Queens of the Stone Age and Paramore.
Seeing Angel Olsen play Madrid is a bit like watching your childhood best friend meet the roommates: it’s beautiful, but sometimes you need to duck out of the room. Olsen is here, here being Europe, to promote Phases, 2017’s collection of folk/rock anthems that didn’t make it into her four previous albums. It’s a tour for the fans, who’ve filled the thousand seat theatre. She promises the crowd she’ll play any song we like. I catch myself wondering if anyone else is having an out-of-body experience. Like the Orpheum in San Francisco or Boston’s own Opera House, Madrid’s Calderon is capped with a neck-achingly beautiful ceiling and impossibly low-backed seats. The fluttering vibrato of Olsen’s voice in “Iota,” and even the power-ballad of “Never Be Mine” are swallowed up. Standing is difficult: the chairs, which are covered in dark velvet, keep everyone firmly anchored in place and exactly one arm-rest away from the nearest neighbor.
When I got there, late last Thursday night, the Sinclair had an unusually low-key energy. It kind of felt like the Powers That Be had pushed back Twain's stage time (they were opening for Darlingside) to do a late-night sound check, or like the venue had been delaying things with a recorded set list but the speakers had conked out. Even with the low audience hum, it was that quiet, and there was that little energy. And having listened to Twain’s label debut with Keeled Scales (Rare Feeling (2017), more info here) a few times through now, the reality of their live performance was awkward; I had been expecting the coherent, and (occasionally) profoundly listenable sound that defines tracks like "Solar Pilgrim" and "Freed from Doubt," and instead found myself struggling to follow along. I'm sympathetic, though; all it takes is a coffee house experience or two to know that it's really, profoundly hard for acoustic groups to command attention, when that attention isn’t already there.
The night began with The Star-Spangled Banner and a man in a black Morphsuit. The anthem, sung by concertgoer Kayla M. Salmon, was the highlight of an impromptu talent show hosted by Coast Modern, Tuesday night’s headliner in The Sinclair. This goofy, no-stakes “talent show” was the perfect icebreaker that seemed to forewarn the audience, “Don’t take anything you are about to see or hear too seriously.” And there’s nothing serious about Coast Modern.
From Los Angeles, Coast Modern is an indie pop band that sounds like they are from Los Angeles. Their music is an amorphous mixture of mischievous energy and dog-day lethargy. To hear this contradiction, listen to a track from their eponymous debut album released last year. The band consists of lead singer Coleman Trapp and guitarist Luke Atlas - who, by the way, was presumably the man in black spandex.
I’m gonna preface this write-up with a clarification, of sorts; something I’ve been taking for granted but never bothered to articulate (before now). Unless I say otherwise – and it’d take a productive imagination to think up any relevant scenario(s) – these bits are reviewing specific gigs; not the group, band, whatever you want to call it, that’s performing outside of how they present at the gig and how that jives with prior exposure. Before any of the reviews, if I haven’t already, I listen to relevant discographies, but unless I wanna take a God-like stance on “getting” the dynamics of a group from one measly gig (let me assure you I do not, don’t think my rabbi would be down w that anyway) these reviews are just reviews of the gigs they purport to cover. EOM. Having prefaced this then, I have to say that Monday night was not a great gig.
If you listen to their tracks on Spotify, lyrics aside, the Mountain Goats (historically) sound almost exactly like a mixture of those names on the “related artists” list; Neutral Milk Hotel, The Thermals, The Magnetic Fields, Okkervil River, etc. Their sound is cohesive, the music comforting in a way NMH or Beirut are, and not to get personal but they were all I listened to freshman year during my first big depressive episode. The band is, to put it simply, relatable and easy to enjoy- even if and maybe because sometimes it’s all blended together in a folk-jazz-indie kombucha mix. But their tour's House of Blues gig last Monday night (led by front man Darnielle and opened by Mothers) absolutely shattered any expectations I had- and only, somehow, in ways that had me wondering why I don’t listen more.