To read Day 1, hit this here.
Waking up for Day 2 of Boston Calling was off-putting. For anyone who has pet, you’ll know the feeling. Every morning they are there; for me, Benny the Cat trying to sleep at the end of the bed while Scout the Dog tries to get everyone to play with her. I’ll be honest, I’d rather have Scout sloppily placing all of her toys around me than to sleep in.
Getting past that, the first mission of the day was breakfast and coffee. Dunkin Donuts provided an easy option as we walked to the T, but then again no. We have those in Connecticut, everywhere. Plus, it was a vacation, we deserved something nice. So we again took the T into Boston proper, yelped and urban spooned until we found something that looked enticing.
The place we stumbled upon was North Street Grille. It had all the breakfast foods (all of them), coffee, and a 45-minute wait to get a table. The wait was worth it when I got the French Toast and Bourbon (not our sister website). Like lemons can find a cut, the sugary sweetness found every sweet spot I have reminding me that I need to see a dentist.
Finally caffeinated and satiated after the long morning search, we got to Government Center to see the end of an energetic set by Krill. They sounded better than their opening slot designation, the first of many times I found myself saying that over the next two days.
There was time to warm ourselves in the sun as the day rolled on, a slight breeze threatening a repeat of the night before. DMAs played, a band from not America, that sounded like all the other not American bands from the 90s. They played to a strong audience, though, and I don’t have any official numbers, but this may have been one of the most attended days I’ve ever seen at Boston Calling.
An explanation might begin with the day’s lineup, especially Run The Jewels. They performed way, way too early in the day, but they ran out on stage like closers. Personally, in an ideal world, I would have had them open for Beck, moving Van Etten to their spot on Saturday. Killer Mike and El-P strutted the stage, adored by the vast sea of fans. People scribble messages to them on beach balls trying to reach the rappers like you might a Venezuelan president with a mango.
The music was manic. Those two have a ferocious spirit as infectious as ebola. The bass was killer, and I might have been standing too close to the speakers without plugs. Oh well. It was worth it. Killer Mike was fresh off a surgery, arm in a sling, and let the fans know that it was them that made it worth it for him. Class act.
My legs were starting to hurt from standing and walking around all day, so Naseema and I found a place to sit off to the side. This is when I was approached by a dapper young man who wanted to take my photograph. “The style, the fit; it’s perfect,” he told me, explaining that he did a fashion of Boston Calling every year and he wanted me to be in it. I agreed, of course, but tried very hard not to laugh at the whole thing. I still don’t know what’s special about a yellow sweatshirt, button-up, 501s and Converse, but I guess I was flattered—they are my clothes, so I do like them.
When they left the stage, they left a gap in the lineup for me. Not being a particular fan of the brand of pop that Marina & the Diamonds, Mo, or Tove Lo belong to, I allowed myself to be distracted once again by the grounds. They did give off a certain energy that was certainly popular with the crowd. Tove Lo did flash the crowd, which was controversial (?) because of some reason. From what I’ve learned after the festival, she is a supporter of the #freethenipple movement designed to rally against the idea that women have dirty, dirty nipples, but men’s nipples are o.k. because culture is insane in weird ways.
After that weird, but welcome intrusion, Gerard Way came on stage. I didn’t know that Gerard Way, formerly of My Chemical Romance, was still recording music. From what I heard it sounded a lot like his old music, and didn’t rock very hard. We took this opportunity to grab some food from the Chicken & Rice Guys, which is now one of our Boston Calling traditions. We’ve gotten it 80% of the times we went because it’s delicious in a stupid way that just chicken and rice should not be.
Hunger now sated, Way now over, we took our positions for St. Vincent. It would be hard to briefly describe how hard she and her band rocked. Certainly a relative of the Man Who Fell to Earth, her maneuvers were robotic and strange, her solos like an industrial grinding machine that was a big fan of Television. Through all of this, she never backs down from the performance aspect of her show. It is a work of art, balancing a fine edge of choreography and freestyle—she is a consummate professional far beyond the scope of your average rocker. Such is what we’ve come to expect from Annie Clark, advanced being.
The set was almost too much for her by the end of the “Cheerleader.” Mocking the female frailty, she ended her set by being swung over the crowd on the shoulders of a giant security dude. Tired of playing her guitar, that too was swung over the crowd for the aimless hands to pluck the strings. She was plopped down on the stage recouping before launching into a powerful rendition of “Your Lips Are Red,” perhaps a nod to Kurt Cobain’s infamous Reading performance when he was pushed out on a wheelchair after his Rome overdose.
Ben Harper was up next. He was positioned mostly to chill everyone the fuck out after St. Vincent. Hawaiian lap steels, djembes, and funky bass were the order of the hour, I have to assume someone on stage had a ukulele. His set was crisp and welcoming against the backdrop of St. Vincent’s alienating performance. I thought I would be bummed out by his set—all festivals are mixed bags and you aren’t supposed to like every single band—but I genuinely enjoyed his show.
There were forays into the few songs I know, such as “Steal My Kisses,” which I still think they play too much on the radio, but the familiarity of the song helped me to get into his gig. His back-up band, the Innocent Criminals, were excellent, jamming through songs I’ve never heard before. They ended their set with “Burn One Down,” which of course was perfect for what again seemed like a large portion of the crowd to burn one down. Smoke once again filled the air, a polite haze, as the crowd waiting for My Morning Jacket.
It was during this wait that someone hit me in the head with a beach ball. The same ones that had been floating around all day. The crowd gathered in a prolonged “oh,” as if I might be enraged (I was). It seemed intentional. I don’t know why they did it, but it seemed intentional. I think it might have been the Yankees hat. Or that I was standing front row. Either way, I assume whoever did it was drinking and a bro. (I feel like it was absolutely necessary to mention this.)
When My Morning Jacket finally emerged, all my troubles were gone. Jim James in all his Royal Dudeness was rocking an epic coat with neon patterns that could be best described as South American in influence. Through the adoring applause, they launched into the first two songs from the new record, The Waterfall. The two songs have explosive energy, live and on the album, and they soared out into the crowd before hammering on “Off the Record.” In short, it was nothing less than perfect.
Song after song kept coming as MMJ steamrolled through their set, trying to cram as many songs as possible into their time. The rhythm section here deserves credit: the combo of bass, drums, and rhythm guitar was like a tank rolling through Government Center. At one point it felt as if my heart had actually stopped to sync with the drums on “Big Decisions.” It is the key ingredient for James to sing and solo over; the latter there was plenty of.
Out of all the bands over the weekend, they had the best set. It was a study in how to please an audience; a consistent mix of old favorites peppered in between track from the new album. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the new album is one of, if not the best album of their career. And it was impressive to watch MMJ translate some of the more complex ideas into a live setting as they did with “In It’s Infancy (The Waterfall).”
The set ended with an impressively long rendition of “One Big Holiday,” which only served to remind me that mine was almost over. The ringing in my ears after standing up front for Run the Jewels and St. Vincent and MMJ sounded like an extended James solo note all the way back to Somerville.
Article: Christopher Gilson
Photos: Shayne Hanley