Boston Calling – Harvard Athletic Complex – 5.25.18-5.27.18

Boston Calling Music Festival
Boston, MA – 5.25.18 – 5.27.18
Words and Photos by Jordyn Beschel

What can we say about this year’s Boston Calling festival? There’s just so much to say. It was adventurous, it was exciting, and it certainly kicked our asses. Whether we were sweating waterfalls from the unexpected mid-summer heat, dancing around like maniacs in the crowds to keep warm when temperatures dropped to the 50’s, or slip-n-sliding in the rain trying to book it down that hill by the Delta Blue stage, Boston Calling was a memorable one. Of course, a major highlight each day was seeing our most anticipated acts as noted in our previous Artists To Watch posts, but every artist on the bill put on a top-notch performance, despite the extreme heat or the almost-disastrous rain.

Something we learned this weekend was to never neglect the openers (not that any other show is an exception, either), though both Charly Bliss and Weakened Friends were on our list of top bands to watch anyways. The first act of the whole festival was the cheerful and honest rockers in Charly Bliss, who absolutely slayed and started off the weekend for us the right way. Frontwoman Eva Hendrick is such an animated performer, and her commentary on the songs made them that much more relatable. The more local rock outfit Weakened Friends helped warm us up on the unexpectedly cold and damp afternoon of Day 3, shaking up the start of the day with a little angst and a lot of punch. What made both of these acts so enjoyable was the natural chemistry between the members of both bands. They were having their fun, and they had everyone in the crowd jamming with them–even the die-hard Paramore or Eminem fans that were camping out for hours on end on their respective days.

Michigan-based rock group Citizen had a powerful set this weekend. Playing earlier on in the day, they woke the crowd up a little when they kicked off with “Roam The Room” from the cult-favorite album Youth. Being one of the heavier bands on the bill this weekend, they drew a very eclectic crowd, but naturally their truest fans made their way to the front to scream along every word. Alvvays similarly drew an interesting crowd. Their fans’ ages ranged from middle-schoolers to middle-agers as more and more gathered for the Canadian beach-rock group’s set. Frontwoman Molly Rankin cracked jokes about our unexpectedly cold weather that day, schmoozed with the crowd on sports teams, and played some of our favorite songs off their latest album Antisocialites.

Indie-folk band Big Thief and solo multi-instrumentalist Julien Baker both brought a mellow wave to the high-energy weekend. Both acts drew some of the biggest crowds for being middle-of-the-day acts. This was the first time we got to see Big Thief live, and hearing Adrianne Lenker’s velvety voice in real life was dream-worthy. Julien Baker gave an exceptional and emotional performance, as if we could expect anything less. Despite her fingers being too cold to comfortably play her more intricate songs and the technical difficulties with her pedalboard, she left the sea of new and old listeners speechless.

There were certainly some colorful and theatrical acts on the line-up, too. We absolutely had to make time to catch the groovy solo artist Perfume Genius, seeing as he just performed with Florence + The Machine for an intimate show in LA and will be heading out on some future tour dates with the group as well. Seeing Mike Hadreas’ exotic and sensual dance moves and hearing those Freddie Mercury-esque vocals livened us up entirely. Heading out on the same stage was Maggie Rogers, who stepped out in the prime of golden hour. When she ran out on stage in her wild, primary-colored cosmic-themed jumpsuit (cape included) the entire sea of fans went ballistic over her majestic entrance. She started out slow with “Color Song” before busting out into “On + Off”, running angelically from each side of the stage. 

While we’re on the topic of intriguing stage costumes, Zola Jesus was a highly emotive performer as well. She stepped out in a frilly red, black, and white ensemble that covered her face, starting the set off very mysteriously and ominously. As her hauntingly infectious electronic music revved up, she started stripping away her layers and livening up into one of the most energetic sets of the festival. Patrons roaming by the stage during her performance quite literally stopped and stared.

One act we were very intrigued to see this weekend was Pussy Riot. You may have heard of Pussy Riot as the Russian political artists who got thrown in jail for their opposition, but if you haven’t listened to their music itself, you’ve got a lot to catch up on. Their set began with a few minutes of projector screens reading off facts about the government and its corruption, many of which had the crowd cheering in agreement on how broken the global systems are. It seemed much of the crowd was turned off in the beginning, but once the members stepped foot, dropped their insane beats, and started their synchronized dance moves, everyone–and I mean everyone–in the crowd was following the choreography and singing out the lyrics displayed on the big screen. The crowd even called out for an encore when they left, and we got it.

We ran into an issue when it came down to having to choose between two incredible bands, The National and Paramore, which Hayley Williams actually made her disappointment for missing out known on stage (which tells you who we ended up seeing). Paramore was nothing but flawless, and I’m sure the hundreds of people watching their set that night thought so, too. Surprisingly, the song a lot of people were most anticipating wasn’t even performed–it seems “Misery Business” was replaced with some newer songs like “Pool” and “Idle Worship”. Of course, they catered to those who may only know their radio hits like “That’s What You Get” or “Ain’t It Fun,”–it was a festival and not their headliner after all–but their performance was surely one that fans of any era could enjoy. As much as we hate to play favorites, Paramore’s way up there on our top performances of the weekend.

Though many of the younger fans left after the more current mainstream artists’ sets (i.e. Paramore, Tyler the Creator, and Khalid) we made our way over to the headliners each night to finish the days the right way. It was a wild experience getting to witness some of the biggest musicians of our time like The KillersJack White (The White Stripes), and Eminem to close out their respective nights. It was our first time seeing the rock and rap legends in action, so we can check all three off our musical bucket list all thanks to Boston Calling. The crowd was unbelievably packed for their sets each night, it was truly like an endless sea–they were the festival headliners after all!

Now, don’t let my rambling about the music make you think that’s all Boston Calling has to offer. Each day has been filled with great food and exciting attractions as well. As far as food goes, a major highlight for us was the luxury of having some cruelty-free treats from the local Whole Heart Provisions. Weaving throughout the festival’s geography, there was always something to see or do. Lawn games like cornhole had strangers mingling and making great memories. Barefoot had a booth where patrons could sample fine wines (if you’re of-age, of course), ride the waves on their surfing simulation, or hang out and sunbathe on some cozy bean bag chairs. Kevita’s kombucha truck (yes, it was as awesome as it sounds) made it feel like summer was finally upon us in their tropical-themed set-up. Festival beverage and food vendors were found on roughly every corner, so there was no need to go great lengths just to hydrate or for a pick-me-up, and the turf fields made for perfect hangout spots on the far ends of the stages. And of course, the huge ferris wheel that had an astronomical line every single day. You can say that Boston Calling was like an adult carnival on steroids, with one of the most impressive musical line-ups to go along with it.

All in all, if you haven’t picked up on it by now, Boston Calling was an exceptional experience that is truly unmatched. If you’re already planning your festival season for next year, Boston’s own must be at the top of your list. The commute was simple enough for non-locals to get by with ease, there are plenty of places to stay and sight see if you’re traveling from out of state, and anything you could possibly want to eat or drink is within arms reach from any stage you’re hanging out at. Though we’re a bit bruised, sunburnt, and missing our voices from singing every day, we hope to do it all again next year!