Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Live Shows - Outside the Box Festival with Buffalo Tom and The Lemonheads, Boston Common, 7-20-13

To close out the main stage at the inaugural Outside the Box Festival, a week-long event that took over the Boston Common and City Hall Plaza celebrating art in almost all forms, festival organizers brought out three heavyweights of Boston alternative rock: Buffalo Tom, The Lemonheads, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Thousands of children of the 80s and 90s, many with families in tow, braved the final day of a heat wave and the threat of severe thunderstorms and were rewarded with three headliner worthy sets of music.

Bill Janovitz, Buffalo Tom
Chris Colburn, Buffalo Tom
Buffalo Tom is one of the most underrated live acts from Boston. I’ve seen them in small clubs, in a theater doing acoustic and electric sets, and Bill Janovitz performing solo sets in tiny spaces. This was my first time seeing them on an enormous outdoor stage complete with cameras on cranes and giant video screens, and they made the transition perfectly. Granted, they headlined the local outdoor shed in the Boston area before, but that was nearly 20 years ago. They immediately brought the hits, as “Summer,” “Sodajerk,” “Taillights Fade,” and “Rachel” were included in the first five songs of the set, which drew focus more to their 80s and 90s output than their still fantastic releases from this century. They looked completely at home with guitarist/singer Janovitz getting to break out his rock star moves in a non-ironic setting. To close their set, they brought out friend and Lemonheads front man Evan Dando for a cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen.” As that ended, they realized they had a few minutes left, so they tore through “Tangerine” to officially close it out.

Evan Dando, The Lemonheads
Chris Brokaw and Ben Deily
The Lemonheads
Evan Dando returned with the current touring line up of the Lemonheads, which while it didn’t include Juliana Hatfield, Ben Deily, and Ryan Adams on drums, it did have Chris Brokaw on guitar (on a break from a Come reunion tour) and Todd Philips from Bullet LaVolta and Juliana Hatfield’s band on drums. While they did play the hits like “It’s a Shame About Ray” and “Into Your Arms,” they did break out a number of more obscure fan favorites like “Style” and “Frying Pan.” The Lemonheads set was when I realized the Creepy Old Guy Factor was nonexistent, as a random fellow fan in her 30s pointed out three college aged girls (presumably planting themselves up front for the Bosstones) and asked, “How old were they when this came out? Nine?” The highlight of the set was founding member Ben Deily joining the band onstage for three songs: “Don’t Tell Yourself,” “Uhhh,” and “Amazing Grace.” This was the personal highlight and low point for me, as I was thrilled to finally see the Dando and Deily play together in person, but disappointed it was only for three songs. I was hoping for a longer set, but that might have just been a personal preference. What was also an odd set list choice was following the more punk, old school material with stripped down versions of “Frying Pan” and “Outdoor Type,” with just Dando and Brokaw on stage. The inclusion of Deily did seem to breathe more life into the set, as they played better versions of “Stove” and “Rudderless” than I have seen in years. 

Unfortunately I had to miss the Bosstones since I had a tired preschooler with me, but by all accounts they put on a fantastic show, as they always do. Hopefully this will be an annual event and the organizers continue to mine my favorite Boston bands from the 80s and 90s (Letters to Cleo? Belly? Throwing Muses?) for years to come.

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