As the sun began to set on Stokes Lawn Saturday evening, small clusters of underclassmen clad in bell-bottom jeans, backless rompers, and tight patterned pants trickled through the designated gates. Somehow I missed the memo about athletic jerseys, which was the attire of choice for about 80% of Boston College guys in attendance. The quad felt larger than I anticipated for a crowd of 2000; some were sitting on the sacred grass or lined up to play corn hole while others hugged the stage during Juice’s opening performance.
StokesSet, BC's re-branded fall concert hosted by the Campus Activities Board, was a significant success for the inaugural event. CAB has managed to revamp the music scene on campus, transcending the fall concert from an under-attended performance by O.A.R three years ago to a sold-out MisterWives show this past weekend. The organizers were already inquiring at the gate about preferences for Plexapalooza performers, an event that has also improved drastically from DJ Enferno three years ago to the Chainsmokers last year.
Though a large part of the crowd was only there to see MisterWives perform their hit song “Reflections,” there were whoops and cheers at the sight of a stagehand — a hint the band would emerge shortly. As soon as lead singer Mandy Lee began bouncing around the stage with her beaming smile, brilliant red hair, and characteristic youthfulness, MisterWives exploded with charisma. The stage came to life with their opening song “Best I Can Do.” Groups of friends were jumping up and down, separating from the crowd, and dancing wildly like the drug-infused hippies of yesteryear.
Lee admitted that the group had not performed live in a few months. Based on their Instagram, their last performance was at the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival in Montreal, Canada in July. Since then, they have all been writing and recording new music together at what they call the “MisterWives band camp.” Lucky for us, the band previewed one of their new songs which was highlighted by the resounding refrain, “What do I do to deserve you?” The song preserves their upbeat vibe while incorporating a sultrier flair. The show only got better after that, with a very well-received rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
Fun attitude and energetic demeanor aside, MisterWives has experienced a winding and often obstructed road to success. Lee reflected on the progress the band has made, recalling, “All the people in this industry who told us we weren’t going to make it – who told me my music wasn’t good enough.” Despite bass guitarist Will Hehir’s flaming yellow hair and the band’s cartoonish and whimsical album cover – a tree house bursting with a bright blue elephant, a green dinosaur, and a hot pink octopus – MisterWives is not as childish a band as critics might have told them.
Their music is fast-paced, vibrant, and optimistic, but it addresses larger, everyday issues. “Best I Can Do” acknowledges the feeling of not being good enough and not living up to expectations, but the crescendo leading up to full-on exaltation in the chorus captures a triumphant resilience through acceptance of imperfection. “Not Your Way,” the second to last song of the night, is a defiant cry against preconceived notions of how we should look and act, and is something of a feminist anthem. Lee sang out, “No it’s not your way, not your way / Not going to obey, to obey / This is my body, body / And you don’t have a say, have a say / This is my own life, own life / Not growing up to be a trophy wife.” Even “Reflections,” whose psychedelic intro and atmospheric vocal riffs catapult the listener into pop ecstasy, is about broken and unrequited love.
After a minute or two of cheering and chanting for them to return, MisterWives obliged and took the stage for an encore, performing their signature closing song and the title track of their album, “Our Own House.” Whenever they perform this song live, they include a long drum portion right before the final chorus that builds until the audience screams out with them, “We built our own house, own house / With our hands over our hearts / And we swore on that day / That it will never fall apart.”
The best part about MisterWives is that their performance lacks any hint of pretension. They are a refreshing image of individuality and genuineness, built from their own personal experiences and hard work. While MisterWives has performed across the U.S. and beyond, at big music festivals and small venues alike, they have maintained a down-to-earth vibe and the same authentic spirit they found while jamming out in somebody’s garage.