Live Review: Robyn gets remixed, Courtney Barnett slays, and other impressions from Saturday at Boston Calling
Whilst recapping the Friday segment of Boston Calling ‘16, we heaped accolades upon Sia for her unorthodox, polarizing methods, and the sheer force of will it takes to turn the conventions of a headlining pop set upside down and inside out. If you had asked us then if we wanted to see more acts flout the expectations placed on big name musical performances this weekend, we likely would’ve said, “Fuck yeah, man. Let’s get crazy and weird with this mofo.”
Tragically, if you had asked us the same question on the way home from what transpired Saturday night at Government Center, we would have said something like, “No. Normal and straightforward is the best way to go. Getting crazy and weird is the wrong thing to do with this mofo.”
But before we get into Robyn’s unfortunate decisions, here’s some other stuff that happened Saturday afternoon. [For the full photo gallery from Saturday, click here.]
I took a tiny swipe at Aussie rawk sensation and friend of Vanyaland Courtney Barnett a few days ago in a Boston Calling preview roundup, and now I’m feeling like I should clarify that remark. There’s a next-big-thing-of-the-week aura surrounding the “Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t Go To The Party” songsmith. She’s attracted the tiresome “buzz” that compels listeners who confuse excitement with the fear of missing out. This buzz is irksome.
However — it’s not Barnett’s fault too many people think she’s great, and nobody stays trendy for more than, what, eight months nowadays? Basically, I’ve just got to wait until the album cycle for Sometimes I Just Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit runs its course and the bandwagon hoppers forget she exists before I can become a full-blown Courtney Barnett fan.
When it arrives, that will be a happy day, and I will joyfully proclaim something like, “Word, I saw Courtney Barnett at Boston Calling back when she still had Bones Sloane and Dave Mudie in her band and it was fuckin’ sick. A bunch of dumb mother fuckers were ignoring the music to wait in line for souvenir pennants, and I was like, ‘What are you dumb mother fuckers doing?! You’re missing the second coolest thing you’ll see all weekend for a stupid dorm room decoration to slap on the wall next to your, what, Dark Side of the Moon and glow-in-the-dark pot leaf posters?! You are the ones who suck!’
Also, I realized “Pedestrian at Best” and “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party” are two totally different songs, which is helpful for me to know.
After running around in the monstrous high-80 degree heat all morning, we all needed to recharge our batteries. Usually no band ever wants to be remembered for putting listeners to sleep, thus, we should appreciate, not condemn, City and Colour for providing Boston Calling with a dose of sorely needed aural ambien.
I stumbled across Lady Pills half by accident while foraging for free KIND granola bars, so now I can thank the KIND company for all the delicious snacks they provided on purpose, and a reprieve from the main stage bombast they led me to via incidental accident.
At this point in their young careers, Lady Pills are basically Waxahatchee with way, way less money. I wanted the understated Boston trio to keep the distortion pedals flipped on all the time, during every song, instead of just once or twice per tune, but I don’t know if that’s really a complaint so much as a personal preference. Singer/guitarist Ella Boissonnault thanked her mom for coming out and watching their show, solidifying Lady Pills alongside Palehound in the illustrious cadre of Bands I Saw Thank Their Moms This Weekend.
Meanwhile back on the main stages, Miike Snow’s singer looked like the coke dealer stereotype character from every bad movie that has a coke dealer in it.
Eeeeh, y’know, let’s give Seattle’s Odesza credit for a markedly more playful, not-as-mechanical take on electronica than at least one Boston Calling techno guru of yore. Remember Wolfgang Gartner? That guy sucked a big, fat infected one. Odesza were much better than Wolfgang Gartner.
But after a day that might as well have been spent inside a soggy oven, high energy simply wasn’t enough to keep us interested. Like, remember when Flosstradamus played that same weekend in 2013 and everybody went “Whoa dude! This is bonkers!” That was the threshold Odesza needed to breach to keep us awake.
As we’ve reported, Robyn’s touring out a remix album at a smattering of festival appearances — namely Boston Calling, Governor’s Ball, and Field Trip — this summer. Should we commend her for trying something fresh, as opposed to grinding out a by-the-numbers recitation of the same songs, played the same way, some of which she’s been going through the motions of since, what, 2010? Maybe even 1997, in some instances?
Sure! Especially if the remix album is worth a damn. But if it isn’t, then, well…
“I thought Robyn did, like, sorta grandiose ‘80s synth-pop. And this is, like, some sorta techno mamba shit? It’s kind of ‘meh’ I guess?” These were my verbatim thoughts during the Swedish pop legend’s day-closing demonstration.
But here’s my thing — let’s say, hypothetically, you’re a big honkin’ Robyn fanperson. You drive in from a state or two away to see her at Boston Calling. You drop $85 on a ticket. You stand on the sweltering concrete and wait through about a dozen-or-so acts you could care less about, just to hear Robyn do a few of your all-time-fav Robyn songs.
And then Robyn doesn’t really do any Robyn songs. Instead, she does kinda “blah” remixes of Robyn songs. How pissed are you now? Is it super duper pissed?
I’m sure I’m recounting the plight of somebody who came to the show yesterday, although nobody specific I can point out. The majority of the gathering looked to be more-or-less enjoying themselves. In fairness, Robyn must be taking it for granted that festival crowds will dance to whatever, and like me, aren’t necessary all that invested or interested in Robyn’s music for its own sake. Therefore, we’re not going to get huffy if she doesn’t do “Call Your Girlfriend.” But somebody probably got huffy about that!
Also, right around this point in time, a pretty much naked guy with a light saber ran past me. Evidently he had migrated over from something even less expected and far more Star Wars-oriented taking place on the Common. It has not been a normal weekend, you betcha.