Powerhouse lineup draws crowds to MixFest
Backstreet Boys, Of Monsters and Men, Gavin DeGraw perform at Esplanade
Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 08:09
MixFest, a free annual concert held by Boston radio station Mix 104.1, drew an impressive audience last Saturday to the Hatch Shell stage on the Charles River Esplanade. The event, which began at 4 p.m., had attendees lining up before the gates even opened at 1 p.m., hoping to be among the first of thousands to enter the venue. Those who were successful received pink wristbands that granted them access to the stage area. Others who arrived later had no choice but to watch from afar — if they were allowed in at all.
The people who were lucky enough to make it inside, however, would likely agree that the show was worth the three-hour wait in the relatively cold and windy weather. With an impressive lineup that included The Backstreet Boys, Of Monsters and Men and Gavin DeGraw, fans were treated to an experience they will not soon forget.
The concert began on time with a short, 20-minute set from up-and-coming musician Alex Preston. Preston was offered the opportunity to perform after he won Mix 104.1’s “15 Seconds of Fame/Open for MixFest” competition. The singer-songwriter from New Hampshire performed several original songs, impressing the crowd and generating excitement for the main performers. His entirely acoustic set complemented the larger production acts that followed, and his delivery was both genuine and sincere.
The next artist to take the stage was Gavin DeGraw, whose history as a three-time MixFest veteran was evident through his comfortable stage presence and the jokes and conversation he made with the audience. In his roughly 45-minute set, he chose to vary his material, alternating between his better-known songs and some that certain spectators might not have recognized. All of the songs were well received, but “In Love with a Girl” and “Not Over You” were crowd favorites. He also took the opportunity to perform a song off his new album, “Make a Move,” set to debut in October. Throughout the performance, DeGraw continued to amaze fans and casual listeners alike with his incredible live vocals and music, bringing a touch of soul that made each and every member of the audience feel like a part of the show.
DeGraw would have been difficult to follow for any performer, but The Backstreet Boys have never been just any act. Immediately picking up on the energy of the crowd, the group performed a rather short list of songs to perfection. The group stuck to what they know best — crowd pleasers from their early days — but managed to sprinkle in a few highlights off their new album, “In a World Like This.” Fan favorites included “As Long as You Love Me,” “I Want it That Way” and, of course, the iconic “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” Perhaps the only disappointing part of their 20-minute performance was the end, where the group ignored an enthusiastic request for an encore and left the stage without much ceremony.
Finishing off a concert featuring such high-profile musicians takes a special kind of group, and Of Monsters and Men delivered completely. The Icelandic singing duo charmed spectators with powerful yet subdued vocals, and band member Ragnhildur Gunnarsdóttir amazed with her abilities on trumpet. Rather than sticking to their hits, the group took their time meandering through the songs on their albums, both singles and B-sides. They eventually closed with “Yellow Light,” a haunting number that embraced the almost palpable silence surrounding entranced concertgoers. As the song came to an end, snow began flying off the stage and onto the audience, reaching over their heads and into the streets.
An almost four-hour concert filled with performances from well-known artists, MixFest certainly surpassed fans’ expectations. The only downside of the afternoon was admission; the small capacity of the Hatch Shell unfortunately limited the number of people inside. For the thousands that were turned away and forced to watch from outside the gate, the concert may have fallen short. But for those early arrivers who managed to secure a spot inside, the show was unforgettable. And the best part? It was completely free.