Who: Run The Jewels, Lucius, St. Vincent, Halsey, Jason Isbell, The Lone Bellow
What: Boston Calling Music Festival, Part 3
When & Where: 5/22/15 – 5/24/15; Boston, MA
By: Eric Riley
For full gallery, click here!
Boston Calling Music Festival City
Hall Plaza; Boston, MA
May 22nd – May 24th 2015
Pre-show Grade: With only a few standout acts (in comparison to past festivals), this
was more of a grower than a shower. B
Post-show Grade: After a handful of fantastic performances from acts I didn’t know much about, such as MØ, TV On the Radio, and The Lone Bellow, there were surely countless new fans, myself included, gained by plenty of bands. Meanwhile, those who were expected to be dominant – St. Vincent, Marina and the Diamonds, HALSEY, and Tenacious D to name a few, lived up to and exceeded expectations. A-
Highlight & lowlights: Boston’s own The Ballroom Thieves opened day three with a bang, drawing an expanding crowd that grew with each song, while hometown heroes PIXIES closed the festival in expert fashion. Not every band could generate the same heightened buzz, however. A few midday acts on Sunday, with focus on Vance
Joy and Jason Isbell, drew the crowds, but didn’t seem to hold their attention throughout the duration of their lengthy set lists. But even without being at full steam, the energy was still better than most. B+
As always, the plaza was immaculate, not showing any signs of wear-and-tear from the 10,000+ weekend attendees. After a few tinkers and tweaks over the last few years, the stage setup has been perfected and cemented, with the dual-stage setup allowing for quick changes to one without distracting from the other stage’s performer, and giving any festival-goer the ability to see and hear from any spot within the grounds. A+
Not like this can be altered or changed by the people in charge, but it helps when it leans to the more favorable side, which it did. A chilly Friday night wasn’t a big issue, thanks to the three-act introductory lineup. The sun shone bright throughout Saturday and Sunday without feeling overbearing or uncomforting. My only issue was some big-time light during a few acts, but really, that’s just me looking for something to say. Good job, Mother Nature. A
Much like the stellar groundskeeping, many other amenities were beyond acceptable. Though I can’t speak for the parking situation since I stayed at a hotel about a block away (which, I’m going to give BC a point for that, as well), public transit allowed attendees to arrive from all over the city. Plus, if people did have trouble parking, that was probably their fault for trying to drive in the city anyway. The portable bathrooms were kept clean and stocked (I mean, as well as a festival’s portable bathrooms can be), and there were designated VIP restrooms to those with higher-level tickets. A handful of vendors and sponsors offered free food or beverage samples, drawing in customers a wide selection of local and widespread options. Shoutout to the Chicken and Rice Guys, Polar Drinks, and Chipotle. I love you all. A
It’s no secret that I love the Boston Calling festival – it’s a killer music weekend in the heart of my favorite city, staffed by some of the nicest, most-accommodating people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. And those are the factors that the general public rarely see, which makes it even more special – they aim for the best in every aspect they can. It sounds biased, but I’d be willing to bet that any random, impartial concertgoer would second at least a few of my opinions. And every piece of the festival that seems impressive is magnified even greater when you consider that this past May was only the fifth time it has been put on, and only the third as a three-day show. Somehow both huge yet centralized, providing all of the key elements with a creative touch, Boston Calling is an up-and-comer if there ever was one. A-
And Go Bruins!
Written by Kara Kokinos and Eric Riley.
Photos (Halsey, Vance Joy, TV On The Radio) by Kara Kokinos.
Photos (The Ballroom Thieves, ILoveMakonnen, Lucius, Jason Isbell, Tenacious D) by Eric Riley.
On Sunday, the final day of this spring’s Boston Calling, there was a sense of anticipation that hovered over the crowd throughout the day. Following Saturday’s vivacious performers, festival goers had to question if the performances on Sunday, those punctuated by Tenacious D and (Boston’s own) Pixies, could reach the high bar that had
been set over the previous two days.
Starting once more with a local act, Sunday began with The Ballroom Thieves – a simple trio with a sound far larger than their roster would lead you to believe. With the two-stage setup that attributes to a large portion of Boston Calling’s success, fans of that evening’s headliner can arrive early and camp out on a barricade, knowing they’ll have a cushy spot later on. That being said, I witnessed people trek over to the Red Stage during
The Ballroom Thieves, sacrificing a key vantage point for a chance to see what all the fuss was about. The band’s massive sound, along with their (relatively shocking) command and confidence did not disappoint the Blue Stage defectors. Though, those who chose to stay put were equally lucky, with showstopper Halsey following suit. A newcomer to the music scene, having only been active for the last 11 months or so, the blue-haired badass oozed charisma, drawing up comparisons to Day Two performances – Marina’s vocal prowess coupled with Tove Lo’s raw, unabashed sexuality and charm. Her energy was incredible, made even more impressive by her brief history and her low billing. If she makes her way back around to BC in the future, do not expect to see her filling the second slot of the day.
The next pair of performances, those by ILoveMakonnen and The Lone Bellow, were as different as possible. The former was a solo hip-hop artist, while the latter were a soulful folk-rock group. Each drew admirable-sized crowds, though the transition between the two acts was arguably the least cohesive of the weekend. With Chet Faker originally slotted to follow these two, a smoother changeover, which was quite likely planned, would have been felt. A last-minute injury forced Faker to drop off of Sunday’s bill, but
swooping in to fill the open slot were Boston Calling alum Lucius, an equally appropriate fit.
The duo’s return to Boston Calling was kicked off with a breathtaking performance of “Go Home,” and while a somber, heartbroken ballad may not seem like the ideal introductory song, it left the crowd thundering with applause. Lead vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig entered in signature matching outfits, this time in black dresses, mirrored sunglasses, and vibrant red lipstick rather than the black-and-white getup from their first appearance. Known for their strong vocals paired with a mix of piano and synth, an extended (and wild) drum solo by the vocalists was a standout point in the weekend.
Both Jason Isbell and Vance Joy had strong performances, but the consecutive pairing of the two, as well as the length of their sets, acted more as a disservice than intended, causing the songs to feel lengthy and muddled, leaving some watchers underwhelmed. Had the two performed earlier in the day, or had a buffer artist performed in between the two, each could have had much greater success. The day was not beyond saving, however. TV on the Radio hypnotized for nearly an hour, combining soul, reggae, punk, and a thousand other genres into something strictly theirs.
Back when I wrote the preview for the show, listing the 7 bands to see, I listed Tenacious D at the top of that list. And after watching their set, I didn’t waste that list. Jack Black and Kyle Gass, despite not being the visual poster children for what you’d expect from rock stars, thrive off of this, delivering the unexpected. Brilliant musicians in their own right, their backing band kept up at every step throughout a set full of fan favorites
across their discography, a handful of wardrobe changes, and a freeform jazz
solo. The pinnacle moment of the set, possibly the evening, and maybe even the weekend came after Gass and Black noticed that their electric guitar player was “looking a little strange,” as Black put it. The band then kicked into “Beezleboss (The Final Showdown),” exorcizing the Devil from their bandmate through an epic metal battle and
sending his sorry ass back to Hell.
Lastly, it was the Pixies’ chance. Festival veterans, music legends, hometown heroes – that’s a pretty lethal résumé. No matter the age, every person there at some point had either A. grown up with their music or B. grew up with a band who had the Pixies to thank for getting them started in one way or another. Closing out the weekend with a 30+ year setlist was a culmination of the festival as a whole – music for fans from all eras, of all ages, and from countless areas, coming together and singing along.
We’ll see you in September.
It’s almost time! It’s less than one week away until we’re back at Boston Calling once more. So, to keep with tradition, here is our list of who you need to be keeping an eye out for!
On our list so far: #7. Sharon Van Etten / Krill / The Ballroom Thieves, #6. Run The Jewels, #5. Halsey
Today we talk about our #4 pick, Marina and the Diamonds.
I’m not entirely sure how to describe her, but all I
can really say about Marina and the
Diamonds is that I am 145% sure we are going to have a ridiculously great
time watching this performance. She’s part dancefloor, part opera house, but it
Her crowd will be wild and energetic and ambitious, which
will be a perfect fit. And for those who may be new to Marina and aren’t sure
how to handle it, it’s simple: rule number one is you gotta have fun.
For fans of: The Ting Tings, La Roux, Ke$ha
For a taste, check out: “Homewrecker,” “Primadonna,” “How to Be a Heartbreaker”
Catch them: Saturday, 5:45, Red Stage
It’s almost time! Happy Saturday! Yesterday marked ONE WEEK until we’re back at Boston Calling once more. So,
to keep with tradition, here is our list of who you need to be keeping an eye
In the past, we’ve begun these countdowns with the winners
of the contest that granted them the opening slot on each day. However, this
year, we’ll shake things up a bit. There’s no contest to discuss, and it came
to my attention that, in discussing the openers on Saturday and Sunday, I was
unconsciously ignoring the Friday night support. Shame! So, let’s fix that,
Friday evening, the night (and the festival itself) will
begin with Sharon Van Etten.
Her soft, yet strong voice is sure to draw in the
concertgoers who are waiting around outside, unsure whether or not they should
bother showing up early. Hint: you should. This is just a suggestion (or, more
of a hope), but if she begins the night by playing “Serpents,” we’ll be off to
a very favorable start to our weekend.
Saturday and Sunday mornings will start off in more
customary fashion, with a local act leading off the day. First, Krill bring along a sound that is
somehow both unpolished and sharp, with a vibe that spans decades – 70’s
psychedelic rock meets 90’s garage grunge and modern grit.
Sunday, the Boston trio The
Ballroom Thieves will start things off a bit cleaner. Their folk-pop brand
slips in and out of a handful of genres, making them a great choice to begin a
diverse day’s lineup.
For fans of:
SVE: A Fine Frenzy, VÉRITÉ
Krill: The Front
Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, Bright Eyes
For a taste, check out:
“Afraid of Nothing”
“Theme From Krill”
SVE: Friday, 6:30, JetBlue Stage
12:55, Red Stage
TBT: Sunday, 1:00, Red