For many of us, festival season flies by and we yearn it for the rest of the year. Boston Calling was a great start to our season because it didn't feel like that. All of the acts brought their own variety, and we always saw a different vibe given off from the crowd. The last day in specific was what we were most excited for, and boy, did it live up to our expectations. Here are some of our highlights from the last day of the Boston Calling festival!
Mitski's Afternoon Aesthetic
It was great to consistently get a breath of fresh air from the opening artists during the festival-- Mitski was no exception. While roaming the festival grounds on Sunday afternoon, we saw "Mitski" projected on the sides of the red stage. To be honest, we knew nothing about her and were expecting a Russian band named after a band member's last name. Fortunately, Mitski turned out to be an indie rock artist that was accompanied by her fantastic band. The drummer in particular was having a ball, and it great watching him jam out. Mitski, the bassist and lead singer, brought a unique flavor to Boston Calling. Her sorrowful singing and rolling guitar riffs stood out the most compared to the many other acts we've seen on the same stage. While her band was on stage for most of the performance, she transitioned into a solo performance towards the end of her set. Not only was she a great artist, but she was also very gracious for having the opportunity to perform. She even joked about how the dready afternoon weather somehow "matched her aesthetic". Mitski takes the cake for one of the most surprisingly pleasant shows of the festival.
Flatbush Zombies Raided Boston
Flatbush Zombies made no effort to sweet talk the Boston audience. They made it clear that they woke up and came from New York, that the crowd needed to reciprocate their energy, and that they had a bad taste for the Boston Celtics. Although it could be written off as arrogance, we mostly see it as the group having character. No other artists were willing to make the crowd work harder than Flatbush did, it almost felt like we used cheers and moshpits as currency for more stage presence and unreleased music. And believe me when I say this, there was A LOT of unreleased music. We managed to get a video of one of the unreleased tracks and have posted it down below for you to listen. The zombies weren't the most energetic act from the weekend, but they're definitely up there. At one point one of the rappers came into the crowd and performed while getting pummeled inside of what they classified a "nasty oval pit". Later on they got a fan on stage to perform with them, and surprisingly he killed it. Well... up until he tried to plug his Soundcloud.
Run The Jewels -- The Belicheck and Brady Of Rap
Killer Mike and EL-P, the self-proclaimed Belicheck and Brady of rap, took over the red stage with fists and pistols on Sunday. It had been three months since their last stop in Boston, and they came back looking more ready than before. The production behind their songs, which is mostly done by EL-P, rumbled over the speakers and controlled the crowd with its changing pace. Both rapper's energy was contagious to the point where some sections of the audience never stopped bouncing. I'm not a fan of their song "Call Tickerton", but hearing Mike's verses live sent chills down my spine. The crowd's hype got to a point where the only good place to get photos was towards the back, as everywhere else seemed like a wavy sea of people. The DJ had his time to shine when he did some scratch routines towards the end of some songs, which I give praise for keeping the art of traditional DJing alive. Before I give some criticism, let it be known that I'm a huge fan of the group. As someone that's seen Run The Jewels before, it was a little disappointing to see the same skits performed; such as the one before "Oh My Darling Don't Cry". It made the transition between songs feel less genuine and not as creative as I'd hoped. They also played mostly the same tracks as back in February, with a majority of the tracklist being from RTJ 3, and a few from the other two albums sprinkled in. It would've been nice to hear a lot more of their earlier music performed, but that's unrealistic due to RTJ 3 being fairly new. Nonetheless, the group did a good job of spreading their message of political activism, and gave an unexpected fan a memory of a lifetime. If you have yet to see this group perform live, I recommend checking them out at least once.
Cage The Elephant Exhibit The Spirit of Rock
Skyrocketing into popularity with songs like "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" and "Cigarette Daydreams", it was only a matter of time for Cage The Elephant to make their Boston Calling debut. The band took the stage with some flashy stage production, which felt minimalist compared to other headlining artists. This type of stage fit Cage The Elephant nicely, as it would've felt overwhelming to have more lighting around a six piece band. Apart from the headlining act of the night, Cage The Elephant was one of the harder rock bands we saw throughout the festival. We definitely took away an appreciation for their music and recognition of talent for the members. The lead singer, Matthew Shultz, had some of the craziest dance moves we had seen the past weekend-- and he still give a stellar vocal performance. The two guitarists were steadily cruising along to the beat, when one of them decided to get into the crowd, and the other stood on top of an amplifier. If there's any artist or band on the lineup that's destined for fame, our bet would be on Cage The Elephant. Although they're already fairly big, their style of music can appeal to almost anyone. The die hard fans were visible in the front, singing along to every song the band played out, while the casual fans were vibing out in the back. Appealing to both audiences is something artists struggle with, but Cage looked completely confident in anything they played. If the band keeps heading down this trajectory, they'll have big things in store.
Tool Leaves Boston Calling Awestruck
Thousands of heads were turned towards the green stage during Major Lazer and Weezer's performances. The Tool fans had started to occupy the green stage early, waiting for the enigmatic band to make their appearance in Boston since 2012. Once the lights dimmed out, the Harvard Athletic Complex roared with excitement as band members Danny, Adam, Maynard, and Justin walked on stage. We had no idea what to expect, but there was no doubt that this show was one for the books. The stage set-up was unlike anything we've ever seen before. The psychedelic visuals, some of the guitarist Justin's makeup work, and LED shape hanging overhead left the audience speechless. It seemed like the only time the audience cheered was after a song finished, and knowing Tool that could take an upwards of 20 minutes. Very few artists can captivate an audience for that long, but Tool is without a doubt one of them. Danny Carey showed the crowd what a globally-renowned drummer sounds like, playing some of the most intricate breakdowns we've ever heard. Surprisingly, Adam and Justin appeared motionless, yet were shredding on the bass and electric guitar to a headbanging audience. Maynard stayed back in the shadows and delivered a dynamic vocal performance, dipping down low and crouching during breaks in his verses. He stopped during the show to give a statement about the police, military, and over-sensitivity in the world, ending his spiel off with, “Divided we fall. Don’t believe the hype dumb-dumbs, we’re all in this together.” The second half of the show was heavier, and it looked like more of the audience started to get into it. Two songs that come to mind are "Stinkfist" and "Vicarious", where the guitars sounded more heavy and apocalyptic. The band has been around since the 90's, and Sunday's performance has shown that age has yet to phase them. It was a pleasure getting to see this experience live and catch one of the most anticipated acts throughout this festival's history.
Food of The Day: Roxy's Grilled Cheese
Roxy's Grilled Cheese is a small joint located along Cambridge street. Despite my love for grilled cheese sandwiches, I had never tried Roxy's before. So on the last day we made it a mission to wait in line and get a hot honey bacon grilled cheese. The line was enormous to get Roxy's, but it was worth the half hour wait. Living up to the hype, the sandwich was delicious. The bacon, cheese, and honey were all a great match with one another. Due to a higher demand of food at the festival, it looked like it was pre-made; so it wasn't as warm as could be. But even then, a single sandwich from Roxy's was tasty and filling enough for the rest of the night. We will definitely be stopping by this local place more often!
What improvements could be made?
The festival's change in location and increase in performing artist was bound to create some minor issues. The first day of the festival was run sloppily, however, they really picked it up on Saturday and Sunday. The only two big complaints we have are the lines at vendors in the evening, and lack of media area for photos. The line for the vendors made us want to skip out on some options because it seemed like an hour long wait was ahead of us. We get it, it's a festival and it should be expected. A way to fix this issue could be to have more vendors between the red & green stage to the blue stage-- since it seemed like there was a lot of empty area in the two roads. There was no media area near the stages to get photos, apart from people that had a photo band. At last year's festival, media was allowed into VIP sections and could do their work from there; making it easier to get a decent view of the stage. This time we had to camp out and wait for certain acts because we wanted to get higher quality photos. These two complaints are fairly minor, and we want to give the Boston Calling team props for the improvements they made over the weekend. They were always active on social media and updated fans on what changes were being made, as well as answering attendees questions. It's good to see that from a festival that has grown a lot over the past few years.
The Community Still Thrives
It was an honor to be able to go to and report on the festival's change and the music acts they brought out. The first day we were skeptical, but the new festival layout is a huge improvement over the one at Boston City Hall. One aspect of the festival remained unchanged, and that's the amount of times you'll see a familiar face. Everyday of the festival I went in alone, and came out with a group of friends that I had no idea were there. Having that kind of connection to the Boston community is still one of our highlights, and we hope that never changes.