The third day of the ninth annual Boston Calling music festival was a cold and soggy mess, but the rain didn’t extinguish the enthusiasm of many real music fans. Sunday’s installment was a diverse lineup that was, unlike the previous days, more dominated by hip-hop and DJ-oriented artists, but the overall selection was still very diverse.
My day started off with one of my new favs from Portland, Maine by the name of Weakened Friends. I just caught them for the first time a couple of months back, but frontwoman and guitarist Sonia Sturino, bassist Annie Hoffman, and drummer Cam Jones captured my heart very quickly. They got a little help from Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis on a single last year, and that fit in to their already heavy 90’s indie rock influenced sound like a buttered hand into a silk glove. Then there was the hypnotic and witchy goth-pop power of Zola Jesus who threw herself into a wild and spellbinding show and was really breathtakingly amazing. I can now count myself as another devout worshiper of the holy Nicole Hummel.
Brooklyn alt-rock greats Dirty Projectors got a late start but did start cooking after a couple songs despite the rain starting to pour and having to cover most of their equipment in plastic, although I still feel it to certainly not be their finest show of theirs I had ever seen. Next was the Australian psych band called Pond (not to be confused with the 90’s American grunge band by the same name), and they are known for sharing members back and forth with fellow Aussie band Tame Impala, but I personally found their sound to have more of a sort of wacky art-rock feel and landing somewhere between Queen and The Flaming Lips. The next band I really fell for band a couple years back, and Alvvays took their ethereal dream-pop to all new heights at this show, turning out one of the best sets in the whole festival. To hear Molly Rankin’s angelic voice in person is like tasting the nectar of the gods. After that, I saw the proggy funk/jazz outfit led by Stephen Lee Bruner and his gargantuan bass called Thundercat, who I’ve been especially fond of since they popped out one of my fav albums of last year, but I did have to bug out before the end of their set as it started raining too hard for my tastes.
I took some refuge from the rain in the Arena for a big comedy show featuring some of the leading comics in the biz today. First, I caught Max Silvestri, who is known among the Brooklyn comedy scene for his long-running “Big Terrific” comedy series, but he has more recently come to more national notoriety for his own cooking competition show on Bravo called Recipe for Deception. Then there was a particularly hilarious routine by Cameron Esposito, who is known for her lesbian-oriented activism and humor, as well as her podcasts and being a regular on late night talk shows including Chelsea Lately with Chelsea Handler. After those came David Cross, a comic just about anyone not locked in a box for years would recognize, as his work on everything from TV programs from Mr. Show to Arrested Development, and also roles in more movies than I can count, is truly iconic, and yes, he was sidesplittingly hilarious.
I did get back out into the rain to catch a bit of the last performance of the rap happy “boy band” BROCKHAMPTON, after apparently one of its members Ameer Vann was slapped with some sexual misconduct allegations, although I’m sure its brainchild Kevin Abstract will eventually soldier on in some new form eventually. That set was the supposed start to the rap selection of artists taking on the Red and Green Stages, but there was also a more traditional mellowing and folksy rock choice also starting across the grounds on the Blue Stage, and that’s where the Portland outfit called The Decemberists turned out a truly beguiling set that appeared to span the entirety of their heavy eight album discography. Following them was another Pacific Northwest alt rock great by the name of Fleet Foxes from Seattle, and they crafted another of my favorite sets of the whole fest with their lush and layered harmonies and making me truly melt into gushy goo.
Meanwhile, over on the other side of the venue, it seemed like many of the masses were just beginning to flood into the venue for the hip-hop finale of the festival. Apparently, Bryson Tiller was originally scheduled to play a warm-up DJ set for the headliner, but had to pull out at the rather last-minute, but was instead replaced by rap great Mike D of the Beastie Boys. Michael Diamond did indeed play more of Beastie’s classic cuts than I could count and I definitely went on nostalgia overload through the whole set. He rapped most of his own parts and the other BBoys bandmate’s vocals were just played off wax DJ style, which as turned out more seamless than I expected, and he and his backup DJ also merged together many modern classic dance, reggae, pop, and rock tracks from “Stop That Train” to “99 Problems.” He was, of course, followed by the festival headliner Eminem, who was sadly not joined by his most famous collaborator Dr. Dre as he had recently at a festival out in California (even though he did cover Dre’s song “Medicine Man” as an opener), but others did hop up on stage like Royce da 5’9 and Skylar Grey. It was certainly a bizarre closing to the weekend, as the crowd’s attitude definitely changed towards the end of the night towards and some ugly fights broke out, which was definitely a contrast to the other ultra-peaceful headliners across the way. Still, it was the variety at this festival that really attracted me up North this year, and despite some foul closing weather, it was a festival I will never forget.
Article: Dean Keim