Photos and Review by Bethany Anna Packer
Galleries: Big Thief, Brockhampton, Citizen, Cousin Stizz, Lillie Mae, Maggie Rogers, Manchester Orchestra, Noname, Oh Sees, Paramore, Perfume Genius, Pond, Portugal The Man, Pussy Riot, Royal Blood, St Vincent, Stl Gld, Taylor Bennett, The Menzingers, Tyler, the Creator, and Zola Jesus
Memorial Day weekend, Boston Calling Music Festival once again brought some of the moment’s biggest names in music to Beantown for it’s 2018 edition. This years festival seemed much more comfortable it’s new home compared to last, after having moved from the building confined City Hall Plaza to the sprawling athletic fields and additional 10 acres of Harvard University’s Athletic Complex in 2017.
Last year’s switch to the festival’s new digs did not come without a few growing pains, but it was clear that coordinators learned from prior faults, and put in the effort to be sure the issues were addressed this season. Entrances to the festival ran more efficiently and staff seemed better informed. The amount of food vendors and restrooms were multiplied, almost eliminating lines all together … with the exception of Do Cookie Dough Confections which had a crazy line the entirety of the weekend. (Full disclosure, I waited in that line. Twice. And it was well worth it.)
Food options were overwhelming in the best of ways, from the good old Boston favorite Tasty Burger to Whole Heart Provisions healthy and delicious “veggies with style” there was something for everyone. Boston Calling wouldn’t be the same for many without the triumphant return of last years must try food item, the BBQ Bomb (a waffle cone filled with BBQ brisket, beans, mac and cheese and coleslaw created by the Smoke Shack). Multiple seating areas allowed for a cold beer out of the sun, including the return of the Miller Lite sponsored Bar 75 as well as the Mikkellar Beer Garden hosted by Mikkellar brewery. New additions were also added including the Ikea Food & Music lab, with it’s club like atmosphere and ridiculously delish veggie dogs.
Friday started off in typical Boston Calling fashion with the perfectly well rounded line up. After an energetic blend of indie, pop punk, emo and alt rock delivered by Citizen on the Delta Blue Stage, Perfume Genius sashayed his way in the hearts of Bostonians with his theatrical performance on the Red Stage. Rapper Noname, otherwise known as Fatimah Warner admitted at the start of her set to have partied a little to hard earlier in the day, which evoked a barrage of cheers from the fans at the Green Stage. “We’re gonna see how this goes” she said, before spitting song after song flawlessly to an eager crowd. If Noname had too many cocktails with lunch she certainly didn’t show it during her killer performance. Song writer Maggie Rodgers moved around the stage in a colorful jumpsuit and cape playing off of the energy of fans at the barricade.
Friday closed out with one juggernaut after another as Portugal. The Man (who were introduced by none other than MTVs Bevis and Butthead) delivered a funky, bass-driven beat that shook the fields at Harvard. Paramore was well… Paramore. Hayley Williams is the front women of all front women and as always she had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand from her first kick to her last spit, always incredible. The Killers headlined day one on the Green Stage and delivered every hit in their stacked arsenal to a chanting sea of fans showered in confetti.
On Saturday Lillie Mae performed early, distributing a dose of Nashville country. The Menzingers then ramped the energy up a notch to set the tone for the day. The Oh Sees were my pleasant surprise of the weekend… I didn’t see them coming, but I am glad they came. The garage rock band from San Fransico with dual drummers and a spitting, jumping, string bending front man had everyone (including myself) completely captivated.
The energy carried over to the next performance on the Green Stage, Manchester Orchestra. The indie rock band’s daylight performance was more enjoyable than any time I have seen them in a club setting and had the audience singing along throwing beachballs. Royal Blood was one of my favorite performances of the weekend. The drummer and bassist duo not only has a blues meets hard rock sound that I cannot get enough of, but their energy is infectious and so much fun to watch.
Brockhampton unfortunately had lost a member prior to the festival and throughout their performance it was evident that the group was having a hard time dealing with the loss as the members started to visibly breakdown on stage, only to later announce the cancellation of the rest of the groups scheduled tour dates.
St. Vincent was the goddess she always is and despite the fact that the majority of her set was played from the back riser (when she usually moves around quite a bit), Annie Clark is forever a show stopper.
Tyler, The Creator closed out the blue stage with a killer performance, bouncing around the stage like an energizer bunny and Jack White wrapped up the night with a nearly two-hour-long stream of almost unbroken guitar riffs and drum beats from a flood of blue lights.
Sunday, in true New England form the weather was a stark contrast to the sunny heat of Friday and Saturday. Chilly and wet, the weather couldn’t keep Boston down as the crowds showed up early. It was apparent that “Slim Shady” had attracted quite the crowd as the sea of Eminem apparel reached as far as the eye could see.
Boston’s own hip hop act STL GLD opened up the day on the red stage. If anyone was sleepy from the two days prior, they we’re brutally slapped awake by STL GLD as the first sound of a hardcore scream led into energetic rhymes. Zola Jesus’ performance was simply a work of art from her beautiful and dark sound to the red cape she wore over her head.
Psychadelic Australian rock band Pond was an absolute blast and Julien Baker’s beautiful song writing attracted a cultish following. When rapper Stormzy dropped from the lineup, his spot towards the end of the day was filled by local Boston rapper Cousin Stizz. Despite the fact that the rain started to really come down, Stizz grabbed the opportunity by the proverbial balls and slayed his performance in the name of local hip hop.
Mike D of the former Beastie Boys performed a DJ set which consisted of current hits as well as various Beastie Boy’s tracks, that was sorely disappointing. By the time Khalid took the Red Stage the rain was relentless, but so were the fans. When the singer performed “Young Dumb & Broke”, thousands of voices screamed every lyric. Eminem closed out the weekend and lived up to every expectation. Fireworks exploded, gun shot sounds echoed throughout the air and the rapper performed hits from throughout his expansive catalogue old and new.
It’s an incredible thing to see how far Boston’s favorite little music festival has come since it’s inception. The event just keeps outdoing itself, and has proven itself, this year more than ever that it is a huge force in the music festival world and we all can’t wait to see what next year has in store!
With music fans and critics still abuzz from this past weekend’s Boston Calling, the nationally acclaimed music festival has officially announced the dates for its 10th edition: May 24 – May 26, 2019. The festival will once again be held at the Harvard Athletic Complex.