Five Bands We’re Excited For At Boston Calling

Originally Published In Beats Per Minute on 5/23/13

The inaugural Boston Calling music festival is set for May 25th and 26th. Taking place in Boston’s Government Center, the festival is hopefully the first of an annual tradition of bringing good music to the heart of beantown.

There’s a ton of notable bands descending on Boston for the two day fest, but these are the five I’m most excited to see.

The National:
The National is one of the most consistent acts in modern music. Twelve years since their eponymous 2001 debut album, the band still releases fantastic music, each album is arguably better than the last. How many other bands playing in their second decade can you say that about?

Trouble Will Find Me comes out on May 20th and I’m dying to hear the new tracks in the live setting. Watch any YouTube performance of “Graceless” and it’s clear that this will become a showstopper. Lead singer Matt Berninger screams the lyrics at the song’s climax, something last heard in the days of Alligator. The album’s other rocker, “Sea of Love,” sounded killer on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and songs such as “Don’t Swallow The Cap” and “Humiliation” should be similarly promising.

The National may make delicate music but their live shows are always kinetic. Berninger is one of indie rock’s most entertaining frontmen. When he’s not singing in his instantly-recognizable baritone, he’s sipping wine, stumbling around stage, and making the occasional quip. The Dessner twins deliver intricate, yet anxious, guitar and the rhythm section is tight with Bryan Devendorf’s hypnotic and tom-heavy drumming and brother Scott Devendorf’s underappreciated bass.

Youth Lagoon:
Youth Lagoon is the stage name of 24-year-old musician Trevor Powers. His debut album, 2011’sThe Year Of Hibernation is filled with delicate numbers that seem made for listening in dark and quiet rooms so it will be interesting to see if the band can conquer the festival setting.

Songs such as “Posters” and “17” start from the simple, almost primordial, existences and rise to soaring highs. At Boston Calling, I want the foreboding introductions to lead to cathartic releases of rumbling bass and body-moving guitar. It would be the ultimate in plant and payoff. Youth Lagoon’s recent release, Wondrous Bughouse, is a livelier affair and proves that the band can amp up the energy. Even so, I wonder if Youth Lagoon’s bedroom sounds will translate in the hot summer sun.


Of Monsters And Men
:
For a brief time, it seemed as if nobody in the Western World could go more than a week without hearing the Icelandic band’s debut single “Little Talks” play on some soundsystem somewhere. The song is irresistibly catchy with shout-along “heys” and earworm horns and dominated the charts worldwide, turning the band into a festival staple in the process.

While I have only given their My Head Is An Animal a few listens, Of Monsters And Men really does seem to be an ideal festival band — their music is anthemic and cathartic, complete with the spiraling crescendos and trembling energy that make Arcade Fire so great. Like Arcade Fire, the band integrates an eclectic instrument selection and isn’t afraid to err towards bombastic. Ultimately, I’m excited to see if the band can live up to their positive press.

Portugal. The Man:
Portugal. The Man has worked relentlessly to get where they are. They put out an album a year between their independent debut in 2006 and their first Atlantic Records release in 2011. During that time they also maintained an exhausting touring schedule. While they are still largely unknown to the casual music fan, they are prime for a breakout now that they are working with producer Danger Mouse on this summer’s Evil Friends.
I’ve seen a ton of Portugal. The Man concerts in my day thanks to the band’s heavy touring history and affordable concert prices. Even so, I’m always impressed with their ability to rearrange their own songs so that they sound different each performance. Surprise covers, medleys of old numbers, and extended jams also create a unique concert experience. With a large catalogue, it will be interesting to see what Portugal. The Man sneaks in their carefully curated setlist.

The Shins:
This might be embarrassing for a writer on a hip music website to admit, but I’ve never really listened to The Shins. Yes, “Caring Is Creepy” is a great song but I mostly know frontman James Mercer from his days with Broken Bells. ‘What, haven’t you even seen Garden State you ask?’ but I pretend I didn’t hear and stare at the ceiling [Ed. note: You’re really not missing all that much]. Really interesting things happen up there, I swear. With that out of the way, I want to embrace Boston Calling as an opportunity to check out these indie giants in earnest. Their set will undoubtedly be a nice breezy break during the festival’s first day.

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