September 3, 2014

Boston Calling This Weekend: Five Key Sets To Catch By Bands That Are Not The Replacements

The Hold Steady, Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 30, 2006, photo from the Clicky Clicky Archives
[PHOTO: The Hold Steady, Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 2006, from the Clicky Clicky Archives]

Earlier this week, as you will recall, we waxed poetically in these electronic pages about how unbelievably stoked we are for The Replacements' triumphant return to Boston Sunday, when the storied band hits the Boston Calling stage (ahead of NYC rap legend Nas and The Roots, no less). Today we're taking the opportunity to flag for readers the rest of the acts the Clicky Clicky brain trust deems most likely to turn in festival-highlighting performances framed against the brutalist architecture of Boston's City Hall Plaza. If you remember nothing else from this piece, remember this: stick close to the blue stage sponsored by the apparently consistently satisfying air carrier (as opposed to the red stage sponsored by the credit card company fined $140 million in 2012 for deceptive marketing). Indeed, the weekend's best acts, in our opinion, are stacked up at said blue stage. And so this is where you'll catch us clapping, cheering, and outwardly displaying all manner of merriment during this weekend's festival, and particularly during the five sets highlighted below. Dig with us now below the who, the when and the why. -- Dillon Riley
___//Friday, Sept. 5th//

Neutral Milk Hotel (8PM, Blue Stage)

The indie rock institution recently emerged from self-imposed exile to a large run of reunion dates surrounding a deluxe box set release from Merge, including two nights at the Orpheum Theatre downtown that certain members of the Clicky Clicky editorial staff -- but not all of them -- regrettably missed. There's really no need to spill too much digital ink on the importance of the collective's two epoch-defining records, but suffice it to say they mean a great amount to a good many, and the track "Holland, 1945" in particular is etched in full upon the hearts of many more. Know this, though, dear readers: the current iteration of Neutral Milk Hotel is the lineup that recorded and toured behind their swansong/magnum opus In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, so it's a good bet we'll hear plenty of tunes from it. Considering how long this reunion tour has bee going on, it wouldn't be outrageous to perhaps even expect something new from Jeff Mangum and Co. We mean, it wouldn't, right? A blog can dream.

The National (9:30PM, Blue Stage)

Elder statesmen in the indie rock game who came across like self-assured pros from the get-go, The National has built up an impressive catalogue in their decade-plus as a recording entity. Theirs is one filled with a strong identity and a strong handle on a sound that borrows heavily from the darkness of British post-punk but filters it through a prism of strong Midwestern sentimentality. Much like fellow indie legends R.E.M., their records can be exercises in slow, deliberate progression. Sure, successive releases regularly mine similar territory as those prior, but one should not mistake consistency for complacency. To wit, The National's latest, 2013's Trouble Will Find Me, boasts one of their strongest collections of songs since the act's 2005 breakthrough Alligator. Also of note, guitar player Aaron Dessner has been a co-curator of Boston Calling since its inception. This year's performance will be the band's second appearance as a headliner.

___//Saturday, Sept. 6//

The Hold Steady (5PM, Blue Stage)

The Hold Steady and our beloved 'Mats are cut from the same cloth, generally speaking. The younger act's ultra-relateable songs -- featuring the painstakingly detailed lyrics of Boston College-graduated fronter Craig Finn -- are filled with loveable losers whose judgment and choices are often clouded and/or fueled by intoxicants; The Hold Steady's early shows weren't exactly sober occasions, either. Certain of the editorial contingent here at Clicky Clicky are comfortable advancing an argument that, as a recording entity, The Hold Steady were far less erratic than the 'Mats. Not unlike The National, The Hold Steady spent the '00s putting together a stream of critically acclaimed and universally -- at least within the indiesphere -- beloved records that positioned the act tantalizingly close to a break through into the overground. That never quite happened (that part like sounds familiar to 'Mats fans, too), but the band soldiers on making great records and putting on remarkable and cathartic shows. Saturday is the act's first appearance at Boston Calling.

___//Sunday, Sept. 7//

The War On Drugs (3PM, Blue Stage)

2014 has proven to be the year Adam Granduciel finally achieved the notoriety on par with that of certain of his famous Philly friends. Not that it is a contest or anything, but The War On Drugs -- a recording project overseen almost entirely by Mr. Granduciel -- is regularly addressed in the same breath as Kurt Vile, Philly's favorite ├╝ber chill son and an early Drugs collaborator. However, with the release of The War On Drugs' gargantuan new record Lost In The Dream, Granduciel has stepped out of Vile's friendly but long shadow. Boasting a billowing and bold batch of songs that takes the Americana-in-space aesthetic of predecessor Slave Ambient and blows it up to widescreen HD, The War On Drugs' latest even reminds us of Spiritualized with its massive, philosophical scope, enveloping swells and sonic trickery. We've heretofore only seen the band once, at a show in Central Park in NYC a few years back, and it will be fulfilling to finally see the band post the well-earned breakthrough.

Spoon (7PM, Blue Stage)

Got a bit of a running theme here, as Spoon represent another ultra-consistent indie rock group whose work defines the aughts. While certainly taking a more calculated, minimalist approach to rock 'n' roll than the aforementioned Clicky Clicky Fest Picks, Spoon is arguably the most notable of the three in the greater scheme of things. Their transition from Pixies-indebted garage riffers/major label aspirants to whatever weird micro-genre can classify them post-Girls Can Tell can be seen as one of the most vital evolutions in the past three decades. Their latest record, They Want My Soul, their first not on indie flagship Merge since being fatefully dropped from Elektra all those years ago, documents yet another creative rejuvenation. Turning to Flaming Lips producer David Fridmann for support, They Want My Soul situates the band among new sounds and finds them blending new techniques into their established mix with winning results, and recent reports of the acts always-dependable live show are quite promising.
Related Coverage:
Rock Over Boston: Jeff Mangum | 9.9 - 9.10.2011
Review: The War On Drugs | Slave Ambient
Footage: The War On Drugs' "Baby Missiles"
Today's Hotness: The War On Drugs
Clicky Clicky Music Blog's Top Albums 2000-2009
Today's Hotness: The War On Drugs
Today's Hotness: The Hold Steady
Today's Hotness: The Hold Steady
Today's Hotness: The War On Drugs
That Was The Show That Was: Spoon | The Roxy
Today's Hotness: Spoon
Today's Hotness: Spoon
Today's Hotness: The Hold Steady
That Was The Show That Was: The Hold Steady

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