Photos and Review by Bethany Anna Packer
Galleries: Logic, Hozier, Twenty One Pilots, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Greta Van Fleet, Anderson .Paak, Chvrches, Snail Mail, Christine and the Queens, Denzel Curry, Lord Huron, King Princess, Gang of Youths, Shame, Mura Masa, Shek Wes
Boston Calling music festival once again made waves in New England on this Memorial Day weekend, bringing the 10th edition of the fest back to Harvard Athletic Complex in Boston.
This year’s line-up caused quite a stir as most people argued that this year’s bill did not live up to the years prior. However, throughout the three-day event there were definitely a good amount of stand up performances, which combined with the sunshine, great food and incredible atmosphere provided a banger of a kick-off to summer 2019.
Friday’s first performance that had me on the edge of my seat was Maryland based hardcore punk band Turnstile. I missed my opportunity to photograph these guys(Boston traffic giving me a run for my money) but my heavy music loving heart swooned over the group’s set on the main Green Stage. The performance was textbook Turnstile, which was an automatic win for any fans of mosh-ready hardcore.
The next set to make my heart happy on day one was Gang of Youths. The Australian indie rock group won me over when one song into their set on the Delta Blue stage, singer David Le’aupepe’s mic failed. The band handled the hiccup in perfect style as they played without skipping a beat, David screamed the lyrics as loud as he could as he encouraged the crowd to sing along. And sing along they did, as the group’s faithful fans carried the song until the sound situation was resolved.
A fan favorite, Lord Huron was next on my list. They drew the largest crowd yet of the day to the Red Stage. The Californian Americana-folk band with rock infused tendencies turned in an inspiring performance. The group’s expressive and sincere set ended with my personal favorite tune of theirs “The Night We Met” (from the hit TV show 13 Reasons Why) which had the sea of fans swaying to the hauntingly beautiful melody.
Also on Day One, Christine and the Queens made as much of a bang as their time at the festival back in 2016. Christine, the cropped-haired French singer/songwriter performed powerful lyrics with an equally gender-fluid cohort of athletic dancers who not only looked spectacular, but whose roles extend to physical theatre.
Greta Van Fleet was next on my list and their massive cult like following flocked to the Red Stage with an insane energy. The retro-rock bands rise over the past year has been nothing short of astonishing, and they continue to recreate the feeling of 70s rock glory with their stage presence, costuming and ravenous fans screaming from the first note to the last.
Chvrches, who also have become a returning Boston Calling favorite put on an incredible set as per usual. The band held nothing back right from the get-go. Front woman Lauren Eve Mayberry floated and spun across the stage in a pink tutu, without missing a single note and between songs, Mayberry was genuine and playful in her interaction with the crowd.
Headlining day one was a personal favorite of mine, the two piece power house of Twenty One Pilots. Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun alway put on an incredible show that once seen can’t be forgotten. However, this crowd seemed underwhelmed by the duo despite their lack of trying and it was clear that Tyler could feel the unusually lulled energy from the start of the set. I had to wonder if the lack of the usual sea of young and ravenously devout Twenty One Pilots fans just couldn’t shell out the money for the festivals high priced tickets.
Day Two, Betty Who was the first set on my list of favorites. The Australian singer/songwriter/dancer and downright performer is always a great time to see do her thing. Synth-pop fans strapped on their dancing shoes for a set full of joy, fun, art and movement as Betty delivered a high energy performance. She encouraged everyone to sing along regardless of whether or not they knew the words, and to simply get lost in the music.
British alternative-rock band Shame was my favorite surprise of the weekend. I had never heard or seen the group before but I was told ahead of time that their set shouldn’t be missed, and that information was absolutely correct. Their performance was the best kind of chaos. On stage singer Charlie Steen is utterly captivating, going from writhing around onstage to jumping into the crowd, as the other band members jumped kicked and spat around him creating a beautiful symphony of madness that was right up my alley.
Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals were also and overall favorite of mine of the weekend. Taking to the stage with a bang, metaphorically and quite literally with blasts of pyro, singer/rapper/drummer Anderson .Paak blew fans away with his massive stage presence. Joined by his band, The Free Nationals, Brandon Paak Anderson was feeding the crowd heaps of energy that they gave right back. From start to finish they had the crowd moving and bouncing to the smooth rhythms.
I’m always a sucker for Irish singer/songwriter Hozier. Backed by his massive band and background singers he delivers the kind of folk-soul hybrid that shakes the soul and moves the feet. Lyrically, Hozier plays with Biblical and Irish themes throughout his hauntingly beautiful music and his fans sang and swayed along to each and every tune.
Headlining Saturdays line-up was Tame Impala, an Australian psychedelic music project led by multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker. Tame Impala took to the stage sheathed in smoke that for the most part turned the group into beautiful silhouettes on the massive Green Stage, allowing their enchanting sound and mind bending light show do the talking. Cannons of confetti showered the field on multiple occasions creating a visual and audible euphoria throughout the crowd.
Day 3 favorites list began with Snail Mail, an American indie rock project fronted by guitarist and singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan. Lindsey is a total firecracker and when they appeared on stage they immediately launched into a furious opening jam session backed by a screen with an image of a giant snail. Small bursts of fierce intensity peppered the indie groove vibe of the set and it was gratifying to see to what extremes the band could take their sound.
Guster was another favorite of the day. I’ve seen this band more times than another name on the bill and I enjoyed every moment of their set as usual. The Massachusetts bred band has been on the scene for nearly 30 years and there’s good reason for their longevity. They’re solid. Their playful sets and crowd interaction by frontman Ryan Miller had the fans engaged from catchy tune to catchy tune.
Next up was the moment I had been waiting for all weekend. My current favorite band, Rainbow Kitten Surprise was slotted along side the incredibly talented Marina. And although most of the press and fans flocked towards her stage, it was an unfortunate loss for them. Although I’m sure she was great, I’m sure RKS was better. This band is everything, their musically solid and original indie/alt rock sound paired with each unique personality of the band members make them memorable and magnetic. Front man Sam Melo is incredible to watch and had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand until the final song when he ripped open his shirt to perform the end of the set in all of his hairy chested perfect glory.
Rapper Logic and singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile also performed side by side sets on Sunday, each of which thoroughly satisfied and almost equally divided crowd.
Headlining the final evening was rapper Travis Scott. Scott’s massive production had fire shooting from the floor of the stage as Scott constantly moved, danced and rhymed between the flames. He managed to keep the most of the tired crowd going until the very end of the last night and ended the weekend in style.
After the fest, having some time to recover and reflect I agree with the initial impression of the masses that this years edition of Boston Calling fell short on it’s headliners. Aside from the massive production, the performers lacked that wow factor that was missing. However, headliners aside the overall lineup was peppered with strong performances which made the weekend as incredible as usual. I can’t wait to see what Boston Calling Music Festival has in store for us in the future.
Photos and Review by Bethany Anna Packer