Boston personal reflections travel budget travel planning

Free Boston Rocks Outside the Box

The woman seated next to me on the WOW Air flight from Reykjavik to Boston last Thursday said she was going to Boston Common to see Gin Blossoms in a free concert that night. Gin Blossoms had two hits in 1993-94 when I was a grad student at UMass Amherst with Hey Jealousy and Found About You. Blew me away in the 90s to learn Doug Hopkins, the songwriter for the band’s two biggest hits, was kicked out of the band and committed suicide as these songs hit the Billboard charts.

I asked Kelley on the airplane if she wanted to go to the Gin Blossoms show. She still was not speaking to me after I put us on the wrong train for Copenhagen Airport and we nearly missed our flight home to the USA.

The joy of marriage. If I had been traveling alone, I’d have been rocking in Boston Common Thursday night. After two 20-oz Stella Artois at the Comfort Suites Boston Logan Airport hotel, Kelley had mellowed and her mood turned good again. The Gin Blossoms show was over by then.

Living Outside the Box Boston

After dropping Kelley off at the airport Friday morning, I walked around Boston touring the North End. The National Park Service offers several free tours of historical Boston departing from Faneuil Hall.

NPS Faneuil Hall Boston

I did not know there were NPS walking tours at Faneuil Hall. I was listening to Grey Season rock the crowd with an electric-folk blend sound outside Faneuil Hall.

Grey Season Faneuil Hall

Grey Season performance outside Faneuil Hall Boston.

Last month Kelley and I ran into an old friend we had not seen for over 30 years. He said his son was a touring rock musician who had studied at Berklee College of Music. Kelley thought he meant U.C. Berkeley. I knew he meant Berklee College in Boston.

Berklee performers IC Boston

Berklee musicians performing on Boston Waterfront outside InterContinental Boston as part of Berklee Summer in the City.

And they played real good for free

High quality free music performances have been a notable highlight of my week in Boston this month. Back in the 1980s, my sister worked at Harvard and said she was familiar with Tracy Chapman from her days as a street performer on Harvard Square.

I have heard terrific music performances underground in the T, on the streets, in back alleys, and in the parks around Boston.

Army rockers

Massachusetts 215th Army Band rockin’ crowd outside Quincy Market on July 2.

Solo singer Quincy Market

Singer outside Quincy Market.

Outside the Box Boston July 14-19 free festival at Boston Common

Gin Blossoms were one of some 70 music performances at Boston Common during the six day of the Outside the Box Boston festival this past week from Tuesday, July 14 to Sunday, July 19. There were several music stages with Beacon Stage as the primary concert venue in Boston Common.

Outside the Box festival to return to Boston – Boston Globe (April 21, 2015).

Outside the Box was founded in 2013 by Boston businessman-philanthropist Ted Cutler. He made his fortune in charter travel and technology trade shows.

Alex Preston

Alex Preston performing at Beacon Stage, Outside the Box Saturday 7/18/2015.

His debut CD is coming out this week.

New Politics

One of the most entertaining bands I saw rock the crowd are New Politics. I thought it ironic that I was in Boston seeing a band from Copenhagen when the only reason I was in Boston was for my WOW Air flight to Copenhagen this month. Their website has a video West End Kids with aerial imagery of Copenhagen and some shots from their adopted home of Brooklyn. Their new album Vikings is being released next month.

New Politics

Amazing that after New Politics performed outside for an hour in Boston Common during the hottest part of the day, the lead singer finished the show standing on his head for about a minute. Lots of energy with these guys.


Guster, a band who came together in the 1990s while college students at Tufts, headlined Saturday night. There was a lot of musical complexity in their songs, but I actually was less entertained than I expected to be. I was also surprised that I knew far more of their songs than Amsterdam.

I watched the Amsterdam video in the link above for the first time while writing this piece. Recognized every place in the city travel video. Rokerij is one of the many coffee shops closed now in a big regulatory reduction over the past decade. The pool at Rijksmuseum was an ice skating rink on my trip to Amsterdam in February.

Guster singer Ryan Miller made two notable comments during the show. After playing Amsterdam, he commented how the crowd is always so energetic for that song as a cloud of pot smoke wafts onstage. He reminded the crowd it is a romance break-up song. There were some little clouds of smoke during the song, even in the public space of Boston Common.


Two women went on stage and danced around during one Guster song. Ryan commented how the incident confirmed they were not rock stars. He said, women mob rock stars. These two women simply danced around him.

Most notable band I saw yesterday at Outside the Box Boston was Ruby Rose Fox. The crowd was about 10% of Saturday’s crowd.

Ruby Rose Fox

Ruby Rose Fox has powerhouse vocals in a set of angry woman songs. A real treat of a show.

Spontaneous Travel Plans

I had expected to spend a day touring the North End of Boston (did that Friday), a day at Harvard and MIT, a day cruising the harbor and visiting islands.

I ended up spending nearly all weekend at Outside the Box Boston festival in Boston Common. I don’t see much live music these days. During my life, one of the most inflated events in terms of ticket prices has been live music. I don’t want to pay $50 to $100 per ticket to see live shows. YouTube is my best music friend.

Thanks Ted Cutler

Big thank you from this Boston tourist goes out to Ted Cutler, who financed the Outside the Box Boston 2015 festival largely with his own money. I hope Outside the Box Boston returns next year.

If You’re Going to San Francisco

If you’re going to San Francisco in October, our city by the Bay also hosts a free festival each year in Golden Gate Park at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. This year, the three day music festival happens the weekend of October 2-4.

Some headliners last year included Ryan Adams, Lucinda Williams, Chris Isaak, Emmylou Harris, Tweedy and Bruce Cockburn.

October is the most likely month of the year when San Francisco can hit temperatures in the upper 80s and 90s. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is also primarily the effort of one philanthropist F. Warren Hellman (1934-2011).


  • Travis Swanson July 21, 2015

    I love the Gin Blossoms from those early 90’s days. Just a few weeks ago I looked them up and was surprised they are still touring. Haven’t heard about them in a couple of decades. Had a bit of nostalgia and purchased “New Miserable Experience” and have been listening to it the last few days. I enjoy your reports and down to earth personality.

  • Jamie July 23, 2015

    When I was a kid growing up in Jacksonville, FL for several years in a row we had what we thought of as “The Beach Boys concert”. It was actually a free one day music festival at an outdoor venue by the river that the Beach Boys headlined. But it was a whole day of music from that same approximate era. I remember The Four Tops and Three Dog Night, as well, but there were many others. What a wonderful time we had!! We would pack a cooler and go downtown to spend the whole day at the concert. A few years later we got a different mayor and the concerts stopped. I always wonder about the economics of events like that. It was such a wonderful positive experience, but it must’ve not fit in on the balance sheet somewhere. To me those are the kinds of things that make people want to live in and visit a city.
    (oh, and your missing out on the Gin Blossoms due to the snafu with the train to the airport does give me a giggle. sometimes the relationships with the people we love the most are the most difficult. oh well, what can we do. just as she eventually got over nearly missing the flight, you too will get over missing the Gin Blossoms.)

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