For this edition of the Indie Playlist, contributors were asked to write about the songs and artists they would bring to a summer music festival on the Outer Cape. The new guy blew our budget to smithereens on the first band, but Ryan Fitzgerald’s cost only as much as a Ouija board. Listen at tinyurl.com/tzk4fe5f.
Red Hot Chili Peppers performing ‘Aquatic Mouth Dance’ (2022)
The Red Hot Chili Peppers do not have a great track record with music festivals. A fiery ending to their set finale at Woodstock ’99 and a wrongful death lawsuit from a 2017 show might reflect their punk rock beginnings. But the band members are now old enough to withdraw from their well-funded Roth IRAs, so it makes sense that they’ve mellowed out in their new album Unlimited Love.
I think we can trust this version of the funk-stuffed, lyrically confused RHCP at our envisioned Outer Cape Festival.
On “Aquatic Mouth Dance,” bassist Flea takes center stage with his octave-ranging and string-popping funk line. The welcome presence of John Frusciante, who rejoined the group in 2019 after a 10-year break, has helped the band rediscover their chart-topping sounds from earlier albums Californication and Stadium Arcadium.
Frontman Anthony Kiedis maunders in a rhyming stream-of-consciousness that never fully explains the meaning of an “Aquatic Mouth Dance,” but audiences should nevertheless expect a rollicking live show. In the late summer Cape weather, all four band members will undoubtedly appear onstage dancing shirtless. Raised on beachside performances, the RHCP can jam by a different ocean with the full lineup rocking alongside one another again. —Thomas Lyons
Pat Benatar performing ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ (1980)
Radio stations on Cape Cod are stuck in the ’80s. And I’m not complaining. My roommate swears she heard “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar three times on the same station in one day. It has since found its way back into our Spotify rotations, and I think it’s only fitting that Pat Benatar join the lineup of an Outer Cape music festival.
I heard the first staccato electric guitar chords of Benatar’s 1980 hit (pun intended) playing Guitar Hero with my cousins in the early part of the last decade. It was the easiest song in the game, and the only one I could remotely keep up with (I might have played guitar at the time, but hand-eye coordination wasn’t my strong suit). Growling along to “you’re a real tough cookie…” makes me feel as powerful as Pat looks with her arms thrown back onstage, microphone in hand, vulnerable to anyone’s best shot. —Abbey Dwight
Fine Wine Act
Irma Thomas performing ‘Please Don’t Mess With My Man’ (1959) and ‘It’s Raining’ (1961)
I first heard Irma Thomas sing on Sept. 24, 1983 at Pontchartrain Beach in New Orleans, and I was hooked. I remember with particular fondness her New Orleans nightclub, the Lion’s Den. A sprinkling of white folks came to the club, but it was indisputably a Black space. I was welcome but felt my outsider status clearly. It was wonderful.
Years later, I took my husband, Christopher, there to test his mettle. The club was small, and from our high top we were close enough to Ms. Irma that we could have touched her. In between sets, she served red beans and rice to patrons at the back of the club, which says something about the kind of host that she was.
It’s all gone now. Pontchartrain Beach closed in 1983, and the Lion’s Den was swept away by Katrina. But Ms. Irma is still singing and still reigning as the Soul Queen of New Orleans. Revered in the city, many people — me included — think she sings better than ever. At 81, her voice is mature, slightly deeper and richer than in decades past; yet she has not suffered any loss of range, pitch, or nuance.
Choosing one song of hers feels like admitting to loving one child more than the rest. So, I’ll choose two: Released in 1959 as her first single, “Please Don’t Mess With My Man” is a funny, raunchy R&B anthem. And “It’s Raining” is a regional classic, an iconic example of New Orleans R&B-soul credited to Naomi Neville and produced by Allen Toussaint in 1961. Ms. Irma’s reflective, plaintive voice rises and falls in counterpoint to piano and backup vocals as she sings of love and heartbreak with dignity and sorrow. —Edouard Fontenot
John Denver performing ‘Rocky Mountain High’ (1972)
I’ve never been to the Rocky Mountains, but I feel like I’m there every time I hear this song. This may not be the beach-y theme an Outer Cape music festival is looking for, but this is what I want to hear. The song itself speaks to the beauty of nature: Denver sings about sitting around a campfire with friends and appreciating the natural beauty around them.
As for the elephant in the room, most people under 30 are unaware that John Denver has been dead for 25 years. His name will make this festival pop.
Denver has a strong, unique voice that carries across the entire song, pairing perfectly the casual strumming of his guitar. The famous titular line of the chorus will sound somewhat subdued, of course, when we throw Ed Miller on stage with a guitar and a Warhol wig.
Whether you’re attending a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, or an imaginary music festival performed by John Denver’s ghost on the Outer Cape, appreciate the nature around you. —Ryan Fitzgerald
beabadoobee performing ‘Talk’ (2022)
I’d like to see someone perform a short set out of the back of the Old Reliable Fish House with the audience members sitting on the ancient pier pilings facing the building. Of course, in the real world, this building has a lot of baggage. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an imaginary music festival where we could sidestep that for a moment?
“Why d’you have to be so complicated?” is precisely the question that 21-year-old beabadoobee asks in “Talk,” her new pop-rock earworm single. Even as I write this, I’m not sure why I like the song so much, but I’m not going to complicate things. I just know she’d put on a great show at the Old Reliable Stage. —Cam Blair