Arts, Off Campus, Column

Blending Into The Boston Blues With Sturgill Simpson

One of the most gratifying parts of a music festival (aside from the music) is seeing who likes the same music you do—and also seeing if the folks who listen to Sturgill Simpson and Father John Misty also wear bulky cable sweaters in September and sport thin mustaches. It’s a chance to see who likes the music you do, and what else you might have in common, besides “The Promise.”

But when I (in jeans and a hoodie) saw Sturgill Simpson walk on stage at 4 p.m. on Saturday in jeans, a blue henley, and tennis shoes, I was like, “He’s like me too!” His band formed a half circle around him and they started kicking it. After a few songs from Sturgill’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and his two sort-of mainstream hits “Turtles All the Way Down the Line” and “The Promise,” he mumbled, “We’re gonna play some bluegrass, if that’s all right.”

And he did, and it took a couple of songs for your feet and neck to catch the rhythm as Sturgill whips his wrist around his acoustic guitar and he bends notes from his gut through his throat. And after a couple ol’ bluegrass songs, Sturgill moved back to his own music. It all came together in “Railroad of Sin.” I got it. We all got it—a couple hundred of us tapping our shoes, sandals, boots and berks in tune with Sturgill’s tennis shoes.

As Sturgill closed with a bluegrass cover of the Osborne Brother’s “Listening to the Rain,” I thought “Man, Sturgill’s really into himself.” He was pacing across the stage and around the half circle in an interlude, and when he turned back to the microphone for the last verse, we gave him a spur of encouragement. And I think he smiled. Not in an I’m so awesome way or in mock surprise. I think he was just glad we were having as much fun as he was.

Father John Misty is into himself in a different way. The mystical, musical singer came on just minutes after Sturgill across the courtyard. Father John Misty struts across, around, over, and up the stage shaking his hips and twirling the mic, crooning to someone who seems both far away and immediate. And that doesn’t really make sense. It’s an oxymoron. And that’s Father John Misty. He’s joking, heartbroken, loving all in the same breaths wearing the deepest black v-neck I’ve ever seen in public under a tight blazer.

And the same folks who were grooving to Sturgill Simpson half an hour ago were swept into the sensual, lovingly ironic and endearing world of Father John Misty. He has a way of playing into and insulting an audience at the same time. The dude’s got layers, though he doesn’t seem to wear many.

Like everyone else at the festival, I got hit in the head with a beach ball at some point. The same folks who were digging “Listening to the Rain” sang along to Misty’s existential anthem “Bored in the USA.” The same people who filled in for Sturgill’s set stuck around for the Walk the Moon sunset-set and “Shut Up and Dance” and “Anna Sun.” Which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Southern country bluegrass rock don’t have much in common with the suburban party rockings of Walk the Moon or Scottish synthesizers CHVRCHES. And that’s what, aside from the music and setting, is really cool about Boston Calling—that as a fan of music you can wear as many different hats and kinds of facial hair as you want.

Featured Image By Amelie Trieu / Heights Staff

September 28, 2015

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