Early this summer, music “festival” newcomer Re:SET swept the nation. Like the pied piper, Re:SET brought music lovers out en masse to see headliners Steve Lacy, LCD Sound System, boygenius and the many bands preceding them. Re:SET is a new twist on the summer festival scene. They billed themselves as a concert series and they are a series squared in the sense that the each night was a series of full set concerts on one stage, but also because they did a series of shows in each quadrant of the country with each night showcasing the Re:SET lineup in a different city within the region. For example for the Northeast the three cities were: Boston, DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia), and NY all in on Friday, June 16th, 17th, and 18th.
In Boston, the Re:SET Concert Series was the début for The Stage at Suffolk Downs. Both the concert and venue were a hit. I am already looking forward to more shows at The Stage at Suffolk Downs and I’m hoping I don’t have to wait until next summer for another Re:SET. The scene early Friday was a little quieter given that many people were likely still at work or en route to the venue, but by the time the sun was getting ready to switch from broad daylight to dusk, the space was in full on concert headliner mode and only built up throughout the night.
Weather was a bit of a threat for parts of the Re:SET tour, and Boston was hit hard losing out on day 2 due to extreme rain storms. The band Idles was able to redirect to The Sinclair in Cambridge and many fans were able to catch them there for a pop up concert of sorts. Re:SET did reimburse attendees for the lost day. Despite missing LCD Soundsystem, Jamie XX, Idles, and L’Rain. Re:SET offered a wonderful weekend of music. The only tweaks I heard attendees mention were a request for more vegetarian food options and better foot and car traffic flow exiting the space which are both easy fixes. Re:SET’s twist on the classic festival scene seemed to be very well received. The concept was: Less Noise, More Music. One stage and full sets from each artist worked well as far as I experienced. I love a good classic festival but it takes a certain kind of energy that you notice in the aftermath of the festival when the adrenaline has worn off and you’re home, tired, dragging through the week head kept above water by listening to all the bands you just heard live. With the Re:SET model, I could go to a Re:SET a month and have energy for days.
Re:SET was a much more relaxed scene than a typical festival with no vendors aside from concert merch and a handful of sponsors. The lawn was filled with audience members just relaxing together, dancing, sipping a beer or water out of their refillable water bottles, and enjoying a bite to eat. By the stage, it was full on concert mode. Fans who had lined up early to get their prime spot up front were in full on super-fan mode while others enjoyed the music from within the crowd singing along the music filling the East Boston summer evening air. Whether you were up by the stage or sitting back on the lawn, the acoustics were good. You could hear the music and the banter between songs. Accessible seating was on a platform set back from the stage where the audience could easily see over the crowd to the stage and then the projections on either side of the stage were large enough to see from anywhere.
Each day of the Re:SET concerts in Boston had its own feel. It was clear that the band had a super-fan base of their own regardless of the size of the band or where they fell in the lineup. That kind of energy is contagious and spreads as each artist took to the stage. Steve Lacy and boygenius brought the biggest crowds up towards the stage. Their fans donning clothing and accessories alluding to various songs and insider details about the bands and their fans. The nice thing about a concert series is the diversity of the fans not just for which bands they love and who they came primarily to see, but also age, gender, sexuality, race, community (some drove from as far as Toronto Canada). Tickets for Re:SET in Boston started at $99 for single day tickets.
Who’s who of the 2023 Re:SET Concert Series
boygenius is the indie rock band made up of musicians Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers. Each successful in their own right, they came together and created a pretty freaking amazing band with a collective energy that takes fans on an emotional rollercoaster for every concert and sometimes all in one song. The dynamic between the three artists, not just musically but social-emotionally is palpable. boygenius just announced their upcoming tour and ticket are selling out faster than you can finish the line ‘I don’t know why I am. The way I am. ____ _____ _____ __ __ _____ ____”. boygenius the tour will have special guests Palehound (in Boston), Samia, Muna, 100 Gecs, and Sloppy Jane. Boston Dates are September 25th and 26th at MGM Fenway.
The kind of playfulness that evolves throughout the concert is organic and genuine albeit no longer unexpected by fans. When an artist does something on stage for the fans it is one thing, when they do it for themselves and the moment they are in, it radiates something so much richer. Part of this chemistry is just because of who Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers are individually and perhaps where they are in their lives and careers. For now, the chemical reaction that happens when they are performing together is at times one hundred percent effervescent and at others like ionic collisions literally crashing into one another at full force. May they hold on to that je ne sais quoi as long as they can.
While there is something to be said for having Not Strong Enough playing on Alexa as you wash dishes in the kitchen standing shoulder to shoulder with throngs of people singing “always an angel, never a god” while boygenius are on stage harmonizing, twanging the guitar in the background, and lifting the song and every voice in the space from a wistful plea to a pissed off chant is something that stays with you long after that one night.
I first paid attention to Clairo when the song Alewife came onto my Spotify feed. When I moved to Boston I commuted 30 minutes from and through Alewife every day, and someone is singing about it! What is she actually singing about because no one is singing that way about a 1980’s subway terminal? That caught my attention along with the voice behind the words.
Clairo’s lyrics are very personal and while they are often part of a story or situation, what comes through most is the emotion felt more so than the progression of events. Everyone needs help tapping into something they have felt or a nudge pushing us through to get to the other side. In writing her lyrics and music, Clairo is doing that for herself and at the same time bringing along anyone else who can relate (which it turns out is a whole lot of people of all walks of life, ages and stages of life).
Clairo had a slightly subdued stage precense with an undertone of cheekiness once she warmed up to the audience. Her aloof self, hidden under the hood of an oversized sweatshirt cracked a smile a few songs in and then we were all on this ride together.
Dijon had a sound and set up altogether different from any concert I have been to. The artists were all seated throughout most of the set which had a very “in the studio” we’re just here creating music together while you are all a fly on the wall kind of feel.
The cameras shot from above showing a mess of cables and cords on generic tables made you feel like you were at a house party with a bunch of musicians. Dijon’s music has been described as mixed as the table full of cables and cords. Sounds drawn from many different musical traditions and styles creating something familiar but a little different.
The way that Dijon tells stories through his music is the same way. It’s a mess of familiar things all laid out but sung in just a way that you can completely feel a moment whether it be one of longing or regret ( The Dress), or a reflection on the impact of others on your physical and mental space (Many Times). The imagery in Dijon’s songs is smart and never cliché without being confusing and esoteric. Like his sound it is familiar but nothing you have heard before.
Bartees Strange was completely new to me, and I kind of regret it. I’m not sure why Strange was not on my radar earlier because the repertoire is there, the style is there, and Spotify should have known I needed some Bartees Strange in my life. Bartees Strange is as perfect as freshly shaved skin; a little cool, so smooth and soft that you just want to keep feeling it. A song like Wretched draws you in slowly and even though it is a bit of a confessional whether you are the type to rescue or be rescued, everyone falls on one side of that line and needs to process that. Bartees Strange invites you to do that without judgement by owning his own wretchedness. The song lets you own it and then let it out with that hyped up drum beat in the chorus.
Since Day 2 was rained out, I won’t cover LCD Sound System, Jamie XX, IDLES and L’Rain here today, but they made most of the rest of the Re:SET circuit I believe and the Idles concerting in Cambridge was the place to be that rainy Saturday night I heard from those who attended (and saw on social media).
Read about Day 1: Steve Lacy, James Blake, Toro Y Moi, and Foushée