Saturday at Boston Calling was hot. The kind of hot where you might just pass out no matter how much water you drink hot. It was so hot that people waited on a line to fill their water bottles and cups for up to 30 minutes. With the festival moving to the Harvard Athletic Complex next year and being near a river, this kind of heat maybe won’t be as big of a problem, but being on concrete all day definitely made it worse. While it was hot, I didn’t notice anyone being taken away due to heat exhaustion and the festival was constantly handing out bottles of water to the crowds in front of the stages to pass back to other attendees. The staff at Boston Calling is always top notch and they showed why once again on this scorcher of a day.
Boston Calling has always done a great job of supporting local acts and Palehound kicked off the festivities on day two with a solid energetic set. The three piece band showed why they have been shown love by music critics this year. Wasting little time they moved from song to song with barely a moment to catch your breath. Lizzo was out next and stole the day. Her energy was infectious and with her two dancers and DJ in tow, she owned the stage and had the crowd going wild. With a super soaker fight, a message about loving yourself no matter what, and dam good rapping, Lizzo was easily had one of the best sets of the entire weekend. Nothing but smiles could be seen on everyone’s face at the festival whether you were working or just attending during her slot.
The three piece experimental rock act Battles were up next and they filled their time with a wildly mad sonic soundscape that didn’t translate as well live as it does on record. It wasn’t bad, but with the temperature rising, it was hard to focus on the music the band were laying down. English rockers The Vaccines played a fun set following them. They stormed through a typical lovely British indie rock set and while that might seem like a slight, it isn’t. The band were on fire and had the crowd in the palm of their hands and probably could have kept going if there was time to, but as with any festival, you can only get so much time on stage to show the music lovers in attendance what you can do.
BØRNS’s set was next and while the crowd ate it up, it did nothing for me. He has a great voice, but the songs don’t sound like anything special to me, but as long as the crowd loves it, it was a great booking by the festival. He did cover both Arcade Fire and David Bowie in a medley near the end of his set, but overall he was an act that you could have skipped and gotten some shade and not have missed much of anything. Courtney Barnett stormed the stage with her bassist and drummer next and proceeded to do what she does best and rocked out for the entirety of her set. Playing most of her album, as well as a few newer singles, the crowd was constantly dancing and going wild for her. One complaint I had over the weekend is that the Day of the Dead compilation, put together by festival curator Aaron Dessner, played over the PA all weekend between bands, but some of the bands on the compilation played the festival and didn’t play their contribution to it. I had a chance to speak with Courtney before her set and she said they have only done it live once, recently on Jimmy Fallon, and maybe in the future they would add it in, but not yet. This seemed like a perfect opportunity for the bands who participated in the record to play some of it live, but it wasn’t meant to be. Regardless Courtney was a huge highlight of the weekend.
City and Colour followed her with a very slow set of music. The heat was getting to the crowd and everyone was looking tired and this set didn’t help anyone out with that. Many took to seek some shade during their slot as it was midafternoon and with a lot of dancing to come once the sun went down, it was a set to find a place to relax. Miike Snow emerged next to a thunderous applause and got the crowd ready for what was to come the rest of the evening. While the group plays its’ own instruments, their music veers towards EDM and the crowd ate it up. While Miike Snow had the crowd dancing up a storm, Lady Pills had the new small local stage rocking out. The three piece female band, yet again showing that Boston Calling gives women a platform whereas most major music festivals don’t, were making the small crowd watching head bang and appreciate live rock and roll. While the stage was tucked away they had some great comedy, led by Lamont Price, and usually had a small amount of people watching what was happening, even if it was just to get some shade from the overbearing sun.
Odesza took to the stage to a wild crowd ready to dance and move to some EDM. They had a great light show, but it just wasn’t interesting music. Again the crowd was really into it and shows that Boston Calling knew what they were doing when booking the duo, who brought in a couple of horns to expand the sound of their music. Robyn headlined the evening and man can she dance and move about the stage. From the moment she walked on she never seemed to quit moving about. Her set was glitzy and glamourous and she debuted her live remix show. It seemed some of the crowd was expecting more of the hits and not remixes of the hits and as her set wore on, the crowd thinned out far more than it should have for a headliner. The heat of the day probably had something to do with it, but her set just didn’t seem to hit home. Saturday’s Boston Calling was a success, but due to the heat, it may not have been as big of a success as it should have been.
Article: Bryan Lasky