Don’t forget to check out our day eight video recap!
Hello old and new friends! We can’t believe the weekend is coming to a close. Thanks so much to everyone for coming out – your support means more than you know. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without you and the diverse, talented artistic community of Boston and New England.
Day eight of Outside The Box was all about feeling the festival spirit. One of our founder Ted Cutler’s goals with Outside The Box was to allow people to experience all forms of art, and to be introduced to NEW forms of art – by checking out a theater performance when you originally came to see a rock band, or an Armenian dance troupe when you came to see an African one. The side-by-side showings of Bonnie Duncan’s Squirrel Stole My Underpants at the Spiegeltent, the Boston Ballet School at the Commonwealth stage, and the roving Carnival Parade AfroBrazil & La Piñata across the Common illustrated this to a T.
The family-friendly Squirrel Stole My Underpants is Jamaica Plain native Duncan’s one-woman show in the style of old vaudeville or silent films, performed solely to music and with the assistance of puppets and props. It explores that delicate time in childhood when you desperately want to be a grown-up, but still need your blanket to make you feel safe. The Spiegeltent could not have been a more appropriate venue for the show, since vaudeville and the Spiegeltent go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Next door (or would it be “next lawn”?), the Boston Ballet School (which offers year-round training for approximately 3,000 student annually, and has one of the largest summer programs for male dancers, with 55 enrolled this summer alone) performed excerpts of international dances, like the 16th century Polish mazurka, the Hungarian Csárdás, and the fast, upbeat Italian tarantella. Interesting fact about the latter: the tarantella was so named because in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Italians believed that if you were bitten by a local wolf spider – the tarantula – you needed to engage in an intense, rhythmic dance to avoid being poisoned.
Across the lawn by the Frog Pond, the Carnival Parade with AfroBrazil & La Piñata brought a little bit of Rio to the Common. In true festival spirit, the two performance groups joined forces to create an interactive, high-energy parade celebrating our last day on the Common, complete with dancing and Brazilian grooves like Samba and Axe. As they traveled across the Common, the group of children and adults grew larger and larger!
But by no means did the Carnival followers take away from the down-home Waylon Jennings-style alt-country played by The Mallett Brothers Band on the Park Street Stage. Sounding like they just rode in from Kentucky instead of Portland, Maine, brothers (and sons of famed folk singer David Mallett) Luke and Will Mallett, along with co-founder Nick Leen, Nate Soul, and Brian Higgins, rocked the crowded lawn with favorites like “Don’t Need You” and barnburner “Low Down.” Someone buy these boys a drink!
Another one of Ted’s goals with Outside The Box was to include ALL art forms – including the culinary arts. Over at the Fork Lift Food Fest at City Hall Plaza, restaurants and famed local chefs once again set up shop so we could gorge ourselves on their creations. How thoughtful of them, right? Over the course of the Food Fest we’ve tasted some of the best Boston has to offer: chowder and chilled gazpacho with pickled shrimp from Legal Sea Foods, meatball sliders from Davio’s, banana cupcakes from baker and daughter of chef Todd English Isabelle’s Curly Cakes, Batch homemade ice cream, fresh kale salad and shaved ice with rhubarb syrup at Mei Mei, and…well, we know this must be making you hungry, so get on over to the last day of the Food Fest right now…or as soon as you’re done reading this post.
Like a cross between the GoGo’s, Blondie, and exuberant girl groups of the ‘60s, Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents entertained the Food Fest-goers with a set of new tunes and throwbacks like The Sweet’s “Fox on the Run,” while a crowd began gathering at the far end of the Plaza for the two o’clock demonstration by famed chef Todd English, who culinary MC Billy Harris introduced as “the sexiest man in the room.” Indeed, Todd English is a legend in the culinary world, and not just because of his looks, but because he’s created an empire. The demo started with old friends Harris and English cracking a couple beers – with a knife. “One of the first things you learn as a chef in knife skills is how to open a beer,” English joked. He then went on to educate the audience on the history of the dish he was cooking, paella (“the jambalaya of Spain”), before passing out plates of the fragrant chicken, seafood, blood sausage, and saffron rice to everyone. English wasn’t the only celebrity chef of the day, though – Ming Tsai of “East Meets West”, Simply Ming, Iron Chef America, and Blue Ginger and Blue Dragon owner whipped up some exotic bison and duck sliders.
Back at the Beacon Stage on the Common, the Guy Mendilow Ensemble, an award-winning sextet comprised of some of the best musicians from across the globe and spearheaded by charismatic Israeli composer/performer Guy Mendilow, brought to life the adventures and legends of traditional Sephardi songs, sung in the endangered (and beautiful, we might add) Judeo-Spanish language, Ladino.
Mary Bichner and Triple Strung Trio were one of the more unique performances of the day – and with a line-up like the one we had on Friday, that’s saying a lot! Bichner has been described as a musical genius due to her unique ability to see music notes as colors (“Red is A, yellow is C, and blue is E Major,” she said). Known as synesthesia, it allows her to play pretty much any kind of music, like her unique combination of classipop – think Bjork fronting a string quartet. For the audience in the Spiegeltent, she performed pieces from Italian opera L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love), as well as traditional festival songs in the Outside The Box spirit. Backed by Triple Strung Trio, a Boston-based string trio known for their collaborative work, Mary transported the tent to old-world Europe. Her new song and video will be released this coming week on her website, so make sure to check them out!
In a complementary performance at the Commonwealth Stage, the Boston Lyric Opera performed excerpts from Mozart’s The Magic Flute in a new English adaptation by Leon Major, Kelley Rourke and John Conklin. Forget conventions – BLO’s performance has Mozart’s magical world turned upside down when a group of college students go on an archeological trip to the Yucatan, and one is bitten by a snake. If that small taste of unconventionality had you craving more, make sure you check out the world premier of the piece in its entirety on October 4 at BLO’s Opening Gala.
Anther one of Ted’s goals with Outside The Box was to give local artists a stage to perform on. And while it could be argued that the local trifecta of Buffalo Tom, The Lemonheads, and Mighty Mighty Bosstones could play any stage they wanted, we were downright HONORED to have them on ours! From the first note of opener ���Velvet Roof,” Buffalo Tom transported us right back to our Doc-wearing days (which, when opportunity permits, may or may not be over) when life was simple, and Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano (of seminal ‘90s show My So-Called Life) were attempting to figure out what being in love was all about. Bill Janovitz, Tom Maginnis, and Chris Colbourn played an old-school set, with favorites like “Summer,” “I’m Allowed,” 1989’s “Reason Why,” and of course, “Sodajerk” and “Late At Night.” Finally, in the festival spirit of collaboration, Buffalo Tom brought out Evan Dando of the Lemonheads for a cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen.”
Before the rest of the Boston triumvirate took the stage, we headed back over to City Hall Plaza, where living legends the Blind Boys of Alabama were performing in matching Red Sox jerseys and their trademark dark glasses. Their incredible biography is way too much to post here, but if you’re not familiar with their legendary status, we encourage you to read up on it. Much has changed since the Blind Boys’ Jimmy Carter founded the group in 1939, but their appeal spans generations. Singing classics like “People Get Ready,” “Spirit in the Sky,” “Take the High Road,” and their credit opener for HBO’s The Wire, the infamous “Way Down in the Hole,” young and old were united by the universal power of music. Make sure to check out the Blind Boys’ new album I’ll Find A Way this fall, produced by Justin Vernon (Bon Iver).
Another living legend, blues master Taj Mahal, was up next. Mahal has totally shaped the sound of blues and gospel over the span of his fifty-year career. With a voice like a 2×4, hitting you right in the gut, and as images of his still-nimble fingers on his guitar strings filled the big screens above the stage, it was easy to hear AND see why. “Keepin’ it movin’ and keepin’ it real,” Mahal said, as he segued from classic to classic to classic like “Queen Bee,” “Mean Old World,” and “Blues With A Feeling.” Innovative Foods passed out Louisiana shrimp to the crowd, appropriately during “My Creole Belle”, and as people danced and sang along, it felt a little bit like the Boston version of one of the oldest festivals in American – Mardi Gras.
But City Hall wasn’t the only place the party was happening – back on the Common, Evan Dando returned to the stage to fill the lawn with The Lemonheads’ mellow ‘90s rock. The growing crowd sang along to hits like “Into Your Arms” and “Tenderfoot”, and then…it was time…
…For the return of Boston’s Mighty Mighty Bosstones! By now, the crowd had swelled to…well, a lot, many decked out in the band’s trademark plaid. Dicky Barrett and company tore into “You Gotta Go” accompanied by the loudest reception we heard at Outside The Box all festival long. “What a lovely gathering! This next song is about sadness, loneliness, and what the world right now could use a whole lot more of!” Dicky said before launching into “The Common Decency.” We’d like to think that the audience at Outside The Box was showing quite a bit of common decency – not just during the Bosstones’s set, but throughout the entire festival, with everyone, as the lyrics say, trying to “make some sort of contribution/not to be part of the problem but part of the solution.”
The Bosstones were in prime form, and their set list spanned their career, with hits like “Graffiti Worth Reading” and “Someday I Suppose.” Dicky made a point of introducing the whole band, calling out trombone player Chris Rhodes as “the only Yankees fan I love.” Right after introductions, Dicky brought a group of 17-year-old horn players from Ipswich to the stage to back up the band on…wait for it…“The Impression That I Get.” Other special guests, guitarist James Lynch from Dropkick Murphys and slide trombone player Vinnie Noble from Bim Skala Bim, joined for encores like “A Pretty Sad Excuse.”
But the final night of the festival wasn’t over quite yet. Boston Circus Guild, a collaboration of over fifty musicians, artists, circus performers, dancers, and event producers from the Boston area, was busy hosting their Speakeasy Circus at the Spiegeltent! An amazing revue steeped in old world vaudeville, the Speakeasy Circus had the tent absolutely packed, with the crowd cheering and stomping along the whole show. Acts like hula-hooper extraordinaire Little L, chanteuse Lilly Bordeaux, big band Hot Club of Somerville, and acrobatic/swing dance fusion duo Zookioya (who certainly enjoy their drink) prompted, er, impromptu swing dances in the audience, and had everyone reluctant to leave the party after the final strains of the Hot Club’s cover of Squirrel Nuts Zippers’ “Hell” faded away. If you made the scene all day, was there hell to pay? We don’t think so!
And there you have it – the final full day of Outside The Box, in more words than you probably wanted to read. If you made to the end with us, you hold a special place in our hearts. Come say hi today during the final hours of the Fork Lift Food Fest (open until 5pm), along with headliners Shye Ben Tzur and the Rajasthan Gypsies at the Beacon Stage on the Common. See you there!