QUINCY — Last year’s inaugural In Between Days Festival was, in the words of one of the team members behind the festival, a beta: eight alternative/indie rock acts in one day to test the waters for the grander vision. On Saturday, that grander vision began taking flight, kicking off a two-day event that tripled the number of acts. It’s a tricky gamble trying to squeeze one more multi-day festival in a Boston and Boston-adjacent summer calendar that already has plenty, but day one of year two showed a tremendous amount of promise.
Situated at Veterans Memorial Stadium, a one-mile walk from the Quincy Center T stop, In Between Days couldn’t compete with the scale of festivals like Boston Calling or the Newport folk and jazz festivals, and it smartly didn’t try. At the size of a high-school football facility, there was both standing room on the field and seats in the stands for those who wanted to take a breather or get an unobstructed view. And the two stages, situated 90 degrees from one another, were programmed for simple scheduling efficiency rather than choice overload; acts would quite often begin within seconds of the previous one finishing their set, with zero fanfare or announcement.
The lineup also seemed to have been chosen with an eye toward showcasing local talent as much as possible, with more than half hailing from Boston, Quincy or, close enough, Portland, Maine. The pub rock of Gypsy Moths started things off, followed by the brightly churning Paper Tigers, math rock in sound if not structural complexity. Wielding her bass like she was bracing herself, Carissa Johnson was tense and driving, occasionally touching on dark postpunk new wave.
Fronted by a subtly off-putting and magnetic Leah Wellbaum, Slothrust came next with songs that that were both discordant and anthemic They took unpredictable turns by pulling from a dozen strands of indie at once; “Cranium” was crawling, skeletal, bass-forward, and gently bent, and they transformed “. . . Baby One More Time” into slacker postpunk disco.
Following Dutch Tulips’ power rock, the instrument-swapping Fantastic Cat was a Traveling Wilburys conglomeration of four New York City singer/songwriters (complete with a Jeff Lynne lookalike in Anthony D’Amato) that swung successfully from a sneering Dylan-and-the-Band roll to Marshall Crenshaw fronting the E Street Band to touches of ‘70s country. And Quincy’s Shallow Pools came across like a junior MUNA, queer-forward, indie-danceable, and built on processed shards of sound that burst in joy.
A double dose of Portland followed, first from Oregon with Blitzen Trapper’s gothic (but not goth) Americana. With guitar leads coated in moaning reverb, space keyboards whootling occasionally and Eric Earley’s tight buzz of a voice, their songs were exploratory but compact enough so that they never got ponderous. The agreeably bratty yelp of Maine’s Weakened Friends, meanwhile, was the offspring of Liz Phair and Kathleen Hanna, with some stray DNA from Olivia Rodrigo’s wilder impulses.
Jeremy Enigk promised “some sad rock music” at the top of Sunny Day Real Estate’s set, but as knotty and gripping as the emo pioneers were, the spindly, interlocking guitar figures and probing bass grinds were heart-bursting and explosive as Enigk sang with open, intense determination to the sky. New Zealand’s deeply ingratiating the Beths pulled off something akin to the inverse, playing sunny, beachy guitar pop given a melancholy undercurrent by frontwoman Elizabeth Stokes, whose soft-edged voice served as a dagger.
Modest Mouse closed out the day with its trademark shudder and twitch intact nearly two decades on from their “Float On” breakthrough. They wasted no time, leading with the off-center sway of “King Rat,” where singer/guitarist Isaac Brock was spasmodic and braying, belching the words out of his mouth like they kept getting caught on his teeth. Jagged and stompy, with spidery guitar riffs galore, the band had the ability to make even a basic 4/4 time signature sound off in “Fire It Up” and “Satellite Skin.” “I can usually check out for half the day,” said Brock of the lineups of the festivals he usually plays. “It’s a nice day that you got here.” And it was only the first one.
Marc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @spacecitymarc
IN BETWEEN DAYS FESTIVAL
At Veterans Memorial Stadium, Quincy, Saturday