At Clambake, a long day’s journey into rock

Performances by Gogol Bordello at the all-day WFNX Clambake in Boston. Performances by Gogol Bordello at the all-day WFNX Clambake in Boston. (Photos By Robert E. Klein for The Boston Globe)
By Marc Hirsh
Globe Correspondent / June 29, 2010

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If WFNX plans on making the Clambake an annual event, the first thing the radio station needs to do is figure out how to stave off fatigue. Setting an earlier start time for the all-day concert would help. So would not splitting it between two separate stages — one in the open air on Lansdowne Street and the other in the House of Blues. It’s one thing to have three bands left to go after a long day in the sun; it’s another to herd the audience indoors for what was effectively another complete concert. By the time the nine-hour inaugural installment ended at 1 a.m. on Monday, it already felt like second annual Clambake.

In what felt by the end like a younger, simpler time, Henry Clay People opened like a scrappier version of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers infused with the defeated-true-believer spirit of the Posies. Against Me! followed, assisted by former Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay; but it was singer Tom Gabel who brought a burnished intensity and an authoritative bite to their fist-in-the-air punk anthems.

Next came Matt & Kim’s hypercaffeinated keyboard pop. The chorus of “Yea Yeah’’ — consisting of the titular word repeated 38 times — typified the duo’s approach: positive, relentless, upbeat, and ultimately mindless and content-free.

Gogol Bordello offered its multi-ethnic, coed, cross-generational stew of Eastern European folk music and punkish abandon minus both electricity and half its lineup. With just acoustic guitar, accordion, violin, percussion, and one additional singer, their set seemed more like something that breaks out spontaneously in the corner of a pub. But even when Eugene Hütz put down his guitar to castigate the timid happenings that pass for celebration on “American Wedding,’’ the contagious chants and purely rhythmic thump were enough to make his point.

The opening line from “Lazy Eye’’ — “I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life, but it’s not quite right’’ — summed up the Silversun Pickups’ combination of exuberance and tension. “The Royal We’’ was driving, unsettling and ominous, and “Well Thought Out Twinkles’’ was a constant series of explosions anchored by Nikki Monninger’s simple but commanding bass. Drummer Chris Guanlao was key, breaking up the beat just enough so that it was impossible to tell where the next hit would come from.

Right up through the Silversun Pickups’ 100-minute performance, each band eked out incrementally more stage time for themselves; but the move indoors reset the clock and Rogue Wave’s 30-minute set wasn’t enough time for their diffuse power-pop to catch fire. Aided by onetime Guided By Voices guitarist Doug Gillard, Nada Surf’s power pop variations were just as sonically expansive but without fuzzing out so many details.

Metric hit the stage just past midnight and made clear that they would not accept exhaustion as a response. Showcasing a remarkable balance between electric and electronic instruments — James Shaw’s guitar never forced its way in but never ceded its ground to born frontwoman Emily Haines’s synthesizer, either — songs like “Sick Muse’’ and the hard-hitting “Satellite Mind’’ possessed exactly the right amount of hookiness to fizzle in the ear without sacrificing depth. They concluded with the appropriately named “Stadium Love’’ — a massive boom at the end of a nine-hour fuse. At that moment it seemed like the loudest thing in the world.

Marc Hirsh can be reached at


With Silversun Pickups, Metric, Nada Surf, Gogol Bordello, Rogue Wave, Matt & Kim, Against Me!, and Henry Clay People

At: Lansdowne Street and the House of Blues, Sunday