With the constant threat of rain on their minds, popular pop rock acts Andy Grammer, Gavin DeGraw, and Train brought the summer concert season to a lilting close during Saturday evening’s Mixfest at Boston’s Hatch Shell.
Grammer kicked things off with a breezy set, incorporating a slightly sped-up cover of Snow Patrol’s hit “Chasing Cars” into the mix, ending with his current single “Fine By Me.” At that point, with the venue at capacity and the sun high in the sky, Grammer directed the audience to sing along to the easy-on-the-ears chorus.
DeGraw struck a chord with many an audience member, most of whom fell into the 18-24 age range and knew the affable singer from his earlier hits “I Don’t Wanna Be” and “Chariot”-both of which found their way into the surprisingly thorough and enjoyable set. DeGraw, a former contestant on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars, has shown throughout the years his ability to command a crowd, and his control over the Mixfest audience was sprightly and sincere. He often offered a back-story for his songs, like new single “Soldier,” which he claimed was about getting past that inherently gushy first phase of a relationship.
“Once you cut through all the bulls-t, it’s about when someone doesn’t just tell you, they show you,” DeGraw instructed the crowd before launching into the song that would’ve nestled in snugly in the background of One Tree Hill, were it still a show.
On songs like opener “Sweeter” and the inspired Aloe Blacc cover of “I Need a Dollar,” DeGraw proved his frontman ability as he masterfully belted and promised a good time even when thunder and lightning crackled in the sky.
“I’m still here if you’re still here,” he sang as the skies opened, before breaking out “Chariot,” sparking yet another audience sing-along in the rain. It was a moment straight out of a John Waters movie, cliche and kitschy but all at once cementing the moment as one of triumph over nature.
Following DeGraw’s punchy set, Train listlessly ambled onto stage, lead singer Pat Monahan never looking vaguely as interested in singing his band’s songs as he was with running his fingers through his hair aimlessly. It was, at first, a departure from the crackling hour audiences had just spent with DeGraw, who had taken the gospel trope of “taking us to the water” as literally as he could. Monahan and Train picked up steam on “Mermaid,” inviting a gaggle of nervous looking girls onto the stage to be “Boston’s mermaids” for the evening. It was trite but touching, engaging the audience and perking up Monahan in one fell swoop as the clouds once again descended upon the otherwise idyllic event. “This is our favorite song to perform,” Monahan said of “Bruises,” a track from the group’s April release California 37. He proceeded to invite the band’s self-proclaimed biggest fan onto stage to sing along to the track-her inability to do so proved a point about Train’s success in recent years, as well as the changing face of the record industry. Music is a singles game, has been for years, and shows no signs of stopping. Not even pop-rock groups like Train can expect the masses who showed up to hear the hits at Mixfest to know the deep cuts off of new albums, which is why its insistence on playing them struck many as odd.
But when Train shone, it unleashed the heavens above, torrents of rain battering the still legions of fans as the group soldiered through “Hey Soul Sister” and, most excitingly for everyone, “Drive By,” a buzzing eight-step of a song that relentlessly remains with listeners eons after its conclusion. Children and adults alike hopped around in the puddles forming on the ground and shouted along with the newly energized Monahan as he belted, “Oh I swear to you / I’ll be there for you / This is not a drive by .” It capped a muddled and musty, but eventually animated, 90 minutes.
The thing that many forget is how sterling of a legacy Train has established for itself over the past decade. Songs like “Drops of Jupiter” and “Angels” were radio staples of long ago, hits buried in all of our heads waiting to be dusted off and played again. They’ve always been there, and sure, we forget about them, but there’s something so cathartic about remembering them every now and then.