By Rami Abou-Sabe
Rock and roll is dead.
How many times have you heard that over the past 15 years? As the radio morphed from grunge to butt-rock, to modern day dance-pop, calling for the end of the electric guitar seemed like a foregone conclusion.
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Well rock fans, we have some news for you. Rock and roll is alive and well, it just hails from down south (and the midwest). Boston Calling brought a heavy-hitting lineup to the 16-acre Harvard Atheltic Complex over Memorial Day Weekend. With headliners like Mumford & Sons and Tool, rock fans had plenty to be excited about, but it was the shows earlier in the afternoon that really stood out.
Bands like Hiss Golden Messenger (North Carolina) and Kevin Morby (Missouri by way of Texas) delivered mid-day sets of groovy roots rock. Hiss Golden Messenger’s relaxed tempo and organ-laden jams come straight out of Seventies soft rock, while lead singer MC Taylor’s hushed rasp could easily be mistaken for that of the legendary Bob Dylan.
Kevin Morby’s youthful exuberance was on full display during his early set on Saturday. Drenched in sunshine, with shoulder length dirty blonde hair, Morby certainly looked the part. While his distinctly carefree vocal delivery and breezy licks are similar to contemporary Kurt Vile, he carries a dash of Lou Reed‘s swagger in his step.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats‘ brand of folk-rock (Denver by way of Missouri) is equal parts Grateful Dead and the Dave Matthews Band, but without the never-ending jam sessions. Rateliff’s voice is infectious, his attitude warm, and his music down-right foot-stomping. If you get the chance to catch these guys live, they’re a must see.
And on the heavier end of the spectrum, acts like Strand of Oaks (Indiana) and Cage the Elephant (Kentucky) continue to carry the tradition left behind by the titans of the genre.
Cage the Elephant (Kentucky) brought thunderous riffs, and high-flying vocals to the festival Sunday evening. Matthew Shultz is one of the finest frontman in the game, with stage presence rivaling Mich Jagger and vocals that could go toe-to-toe with the greats, Shultz and the rest of Elephant might just be the best rock band currently touring.