A 40,000-person group hug
By the time WFNX's Paul Driscoll joined the Bravery on drums at the end of a very long, exhausting Best Music Poll 2009 concert on Saturday night, we'd begun to suspect the intervention of a higher power. Sunny, mid-80s weather? Crowd estimates topping out at 40,000 for the day? New songs debuted by the Bravery and the Airborne Toxic Event, a gorgeous one-off acoustic set by Metric, the local debut of Passion Pit's new configuration, and a casualty-free moshpit in front of a savage Gaslight Anthem performance? And that was before Driscoll and the Bravery (with drummer Anthony Burulcich, who studied around the corner at Berklee, taking the lead vocal, and an assist from most of the Airborne Toxic Event) counted off Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." Believing in what, we're not quite certain — surely not the big guy. Radio stations? Rock and roll? Communal spirit?
Those'll do, for starters. Especially that last one. By design, this year's BMP — the first time in the 20-year history of the concert that WFNX and the Phoenix have put on the show for free, as opposed to the ticketed events that have taken place on Lansdowne Street or at the (insert naming-rights sponsor here) Pavilion — was more like three shows stitched together. Ra Ra Riot and Passion Pit have deep local roots (though Passion Pit, to judge from this year's voting, are Boston's reigning indie heroes), and their late-afternoon sets conspired to fill Government Center with ecstatic hipsters who made the Plaza stairs look like Middlesex Lounge on a Tuesday night.
We had kids coming up to us at noon asking how early they had to be back to get a good seat for the Gaslight Anthem at 6:30. So we suspect the majority of them applauded politely for Metric before going apeshit when Gaslight played most of The '59 Sound (Side One Dummy) — a disappointment only if you expected Bruce Springsteen to come out and sing the title track. At the other end of the night, the Bravery and the Airborne Toxic Event brought out the WFNX faithful, and the WFNX faithful rewarded them by not dropping the Bravery violinist and ATE bass player when they dove into the audience. Classy. The Bravery recalled that WFNX had been the first station to play them on the radio, back when they were just another random unsigned band on MySpace. And they debuted a new song, "Hatefuck," that suggests their new album will be less synth, more punk. Happy? We were. See you next year?
Stream audio of all the bands' performances, watch video highlights, download interview podcasts, browse concert and behind-the-scenes photos, and share your own photos and videos at the Boston Phoenix Web site or WFNX's site.
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