Memorial Day Weekend kicked off in style at the Boston Calling Festival. The three-day event, set beneath the buildings surrounding City Hall Plaza, received strong performances from headliners Beck, My Morning Jacket, and the Pixies, with a well-rounded supporting cast that included Tame Impala, St. Vincent, and TV on the Radio.
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Radio 104.5 in Philadelphia celebrated their 8th birthday with an awesome lineup of bands. Specifically, Of Monsters and Men, Death Cab For Cutie, Hozier, Passion Pit, Walk the Moon, AWOLNATION, Vance Joy, Coasts, Meg Myers, X Ambassadors, Night Riots, Holychild and Andorra. Held just outside Philly in Camden, the day-long festival was packed with people, with those furthest from the stage, on the lawn, enjoying an incredible early summer day. The event felt like the unofficial start of the summer festival season in the Northeast with a variety of different kinds of music across two stages. In the Northeast, people now have many other events to look forward to including Radio 104.5’s Summer Block Party shows, Boston Calling, Governors Ball, The Roots Picnic, Newport Folk Festival, Wilco’s Solid Sound Fest and many, many more.
On the second stage, we caught fast-rising rock band, X Ambassadors, and promising new singer Meg Myers. On the main stage, dance pop acts Walk the Moon and Passion Pit, supporting their new album, Kindred, led into rock music from Hozier. A lot of people left following Hozier’s set but the lawn still appeared packed for Death Cab for Cutie and the final band, Of Monsters and Men, who are about to release a new album Beneath the Skin. Photos from the event are below with a larger gallery on Facebook as well as some video clips we found.
Swedish folk sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit had played New York City earlier this year at a sold-out show at Webster Hall. They had also played Webster Hall during CMJ in 2012 at a sold-out show supporting their album The Lion’s Roar but this year, during CMJ, the duo moved across town for a show at the larger Hammerstein Ballroom. This year saw the release of their third album Stay Gold a bittersweet work that I’ve listened to frequently. Having missed the earlier show, I had to catch them this go around and they did not disappoint. Their opener was Oklahoma singer-songwriter, 28-year-old Samantha Crain, another folk rocker that was a good match for First Aid Kit as the front row fans watched and listened to her very appreciatively.
First Aid Kit were accompanied by a drummer and a string quartet to bring their Stay Gold and older material to life on stage and their intimate, bittersweet songs drew the audience in. The intimacy of the show was enhanced by the confession that Johanna doesn’t like the time between songs, though it allows her to share jokes, like the one about a scarecrow winning the Nobel Prize. As they performed, through “Cedar Lane” and “My Silver Lining”, two of my Stay Gold favorites, as well as a cover of Jack White’s “Love Interruption”, an acoustic “Ghost Town” and into the closer “Emmylou”, the sisters beautiful voices shone with the finesse and beauty of folk singers more than twice their age.
CMJ 2014 started off on a Tuesday and continues through the weekend giving a lot of unseen, unheard and unsigned bands a chance to catch the attention of a music blogger or critic (of which there are plenty at any given showcase). As I have done for the past couple of years, I made my first CMJ showcase stop the New Zealand showcase, though this time it moved from LPR to Webster Hall. While enjoying some savory pies, I caught electro-pop singer Chelsea Jade and the band Doprah. However, I knew that Jukebox the Ghost were doing a launch party for their latest, self-titled album at a swank hotel’s rooftop, so I had to cut out early to see the pop band. It was the first time drummer Jesse Kristin sung a song in public (from what I understood)! But their set ended around 9 and, as the CMJ schedule has music for hours and hours, I just wandered back to Webster Hall to see another poppy band, Little Daylight as part of a showcase with Tiny Victories, Carousel and more. For a while it seemed like Tiny Victories set would be cut short as the showcase was behind schedule, but they did get in a song or two after doing a Tom Petty cover. The light crowd appreciated the extra opportunity to dance along. Then the crowd continued to dance stage during Little Daylight’s set, which too had a cover, Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”.
Andrew Hozier-Byrne may hail from Ireland but his music owes a large debt to fifties blues and gospel from the United States. If you aren’t already familiar with his music, it would be a good idea to get a head start now because a lot more people will be aware of him after he performs on Saturday Night Live this weekend. For the young artist, this is surely a huge milestone and a very memorable cap to the week during which he released his self-titled debut. In the past year, the 24-year old singer-songwriter had released two EPs, From Eden and Take Me to Church, the latter of which contains the slow-burning title track that helped him break through. Ahead of his performance at this past summer’s Newport Folk Festival, Hozier chatted briefly with us about “Take Me to Church” and its controversial music video.