Seattle Center; Seattle, WA
Friday, September 2nd – Sunday, September 4th, 2016
Written by Kelsey Rzepecki
Lineup: Headliners included Death Cab for Cutie, Tame Impala, KYGO, and of course, Seattle’s very own, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis who put on a lengthy 2 hour set. Other mentionable artists included: Pretty Lights, ZHU, Explosions In The Sky, Bryson Tiller, G-Eazy, Third Eye Blind, Fetty Wap, Halsey, and Tyler, The Creator.
I was also pleasantly impressed by many of the lesser known local bands reigning from Seattle such as: Rabbit Wilde, The Flavr Blue, and Shaprece; all incredibly talented acts. A
Members: Evan Ambrose (Vocals), Omar Ahmed (bass), Nate Lotz (drums) Genre: Garage Rock Location: Los Angeles, CA Recent Release: “Everybody”
When LA rockers Blacktop Queen released their debut single a few weeks ago, we were completely into it. Filled with gritty vocals and catchy riffs, the track (which was self-produced and recorded in one take) is a relatable one to those who have been in toxic relationships and just can’t seem to stay away. Though a new band, Blacktop Queen is no stranger to the scene. Lotz plays drums for Halsey and Ryan Adams (yes – you read that correctly) and Ahmed plays bass in Youngblood Hawke and Kitten. So basically, Blacktop Queen is the band we’ve all been waiting to come to life and now our prayers have been answered. Get to know Blacktop Queen below!
How did Blacktop Queen form and come to be what it is today? Blacktop Queen came from the death of a lot of previous project and bands. We had all known each other from playing music in the past, and it just so happened that we were all free’d up around the same time, it was a pretty a natural thing.
Who are some of your musical influences – both as a band and individually? Omar – Radiohead, Chance The Rapper, BRMC Evan– Oasis, the La’s, the cars, Nas Nate – the pixies , refused, the clash
What do you enjoy most about playing shows? I really enjoy the energy, from the crowd and from my band mates on stage. I love the interaction between everyone, trying to push yourself and your bandmates musically, its really fun having musicians that can all pull people in certain directions depending on the moment.
What do you do when you’re not playing music? Omar – I love TV series, podcasts, and video games Evan– play with my dogs, drink wine, listen to podcasts, and watch fail videos Nate – go out to eat, go to museums, lay on the couch, play star wars video games
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-
Crowds: 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+
Grounds: 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+
Weather: 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
Amenities: 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
Overall: 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-
Over the course of Boston Calling’s three-day festival there were plenty of moments that struck a chord with the audience. These came from acts big and small, and we at LOL wanted to recap some of our favorite sights and sounds. From fresh faced newcomers to seasoned festival veterans, every act at Boston Calling performed with aplomb – read on
for some of the stellar moments observed by our staff during the three day festival.
Next Big Thing Halsey was an absolute stunner, especially considering the length of her career (less than a year!). With the amount of buzz around her Room 93 EP, which has been featured heavily n MTV and Buzzfeed, it was shocking that her time slot was so early in the day. However, the little starlet packed a huge punch with her single ‘Hurricane’, a ballad that is equally biting as it is heart wrenching Halsey has a tremendous future ahead of her if she continues with this momentum, be sure to check her out on tour with Imagine Dragons this summer!
Middle School Flashback Gerard Way is the obvious choice for this category – the singer did not perform any of the hits from the My Chemical Romance roster but it was obvious that those in attendance were tenured fans. His performance was eerily reminiscent of the past, glad in the same signature black and red getup and bleached hair dyed back to black. The singer’s positivity has still remained contagious but the extremely warm welcome he garnered can be attributed to the loyal support of his t-shirt wearing fans and nostalgia factor.
Best Crowd Interaction While an argument can be made that many artists on the Spring bill are deserving of this slot, there was nothing quite like the reactions that Tenacious D elicited from their
audience. Fans were hollering lyrics at the top of their lungs, with just as many laughs being elicited as cheers. Not many musical comedy acts are able to support their humor with a musical talent to match but Jack Black and Kyle Glass managed to balance the two in a spectacle that highlighted and played off of both skillsets. The minimalistic presentation but entirely engrossing performance was a testament to how well the duo command a crowd.
Most Underrated Performance I will not lie, when Chet Faker was forced to drop off of the Boston Calling bill, Sunday lost a bit of its luster in my eyes. Despite this, his replacement act and City Hall Plaza veterans, Lucius, came in and blew us all away. The vocal chops of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laesig, who met at Berklee, were enough to convert even the most disgruntled and fit the overall tone of the festival perfectly.
Best Summer Song I need some heaviness to my singles, especially in the summer. It’s the season of ruining
your speakers with heavy bass and head banging in the car so Run The Jewels’ “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” is my go to selection from the Boston Calling lineup. Any song by the duo should be on your summer playlist- they’re absolute fire and need to be on your radar.
Best Individual Artist Marina (and her Diamonds) showed the Boston Calling crowd that pop music done well is always something to celebrate. Her brightly colored fans came out in spades to jump
around to new tunes off of her album Froot and older hits like “Primadonna” the pop diva was returning to the stage with. Her performance was classy, energetic, and jam packed with happy, electronic vibes.
Best Band TV on the Radio were a band that brought so many musical styles that it was almost impossible not to find something in their set to jam out to. The translation of recorded
music to its live presentation is a spectacle not to be missed. Their lead singer, Tunde Adebimpe, has the sly swagger of a frontman who can execute a flawless performance every night while depending upon his fellow performers to pack a hefty punch.
Best Overall Performance Bow down to all that is St. Vincent. Annie Clark and keyboardist/guitarist/backup vocalist Toko Yatsuda stunned with a performance that was equal parts calculated movement and improvised perfection. The duo’s tiny, robotic choreography was not lost at any distance and fell perfectly in line with the music, while Clark’s purposeful collapses emoted a break in facade and composure that all could relate to. Clark’s venture into the crowd also won her bonus points, still looking effortlessly cool and composed with audience members clamoring at a chance to touch the singer. St. Vincent earned her spot as this festival’s highlight and possible the best act to grace the Boston Calling lineup.
Most Popular Beck. Beck. Beck. Did anyone on Friday talk about anything other than the Grammy winner? Yes, but he was on everyone’s minds and had an absolutely stunning performance that met or exceeded expectations. An incredible amount of people swarmed the plaza leading up to his performance, braving the Boston wind-chill to watch an hour and a half set that blew the audience.
Best of Boston This one is (obviously) going to Boston band, The Pixies. While we salute the other hometown artist’s tributes to the city, there’s nothing that gets a Boston crowd going quite like a hometown act with gritty guitars and a killer light show. Pack decades of
hits like “Debaser” and “Where Is My Mind?” into the mix and you have a perfect choice for the closer to this city’s one and only festival.
Best Cover Don’t ask a Boston girl how to pronounce her name, but MØ’s cover of “Say You’ll Be There,” the 90’s hit from The Spice Girls, was absolutely EVERYTHING. The singer’s energy was off the walls but you could tell this was one of, if not, the song that she was most excited to perform. The singer wore her hair specifically to pay homage to the girl group and loved every second of it, just like the crowd.
Written by Kara Kokinos. Photos by Eric Riley and Kara Kokinos.
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.
Today’s the day!! It is day one of Boston Calling and you can expect to see tons of coverage from us over the next couple of days! Wrapping up our Seven Bands To See At Boston Calling, we bring you our number one artist you need to be keeping an eye out for!
They be not angels,
they are but men. But, though mere men, they make up TENACIOUS D, The Greatest Metal Band in the World. While they have
their roots planted deep in comedy, it would be impossible to deny the serious
talent Jack Black and Kyle Gass both have.
With a new album (potentially) planned for 2016-2017, and a
trio of rock operas in their arsenal, Sunday night is going to be absolutely
insane in the absolutely best way possible.
For fans of: everything. For a taste, check out: “Beezleboss (the Final Showdown),” “Tribute,”
“Kickapoo” Catch them: Sunday, 8:05, Red Stage
I first saw ST. VINCENT when she performed on The Colbert Report last February, and
then seeing her a few months later on Saturday
Night Live had me hooked. It was this strange combination of energetic and
frigid, staged and theatrical, yet free and random.
Her music has been labeled “baroque pop” and “art rock” and
a dozen other things, but I think it’ll be something different to each
different listener. And when it translates to stage, it’ll be even more. (Also,
her self-titled album took home “Best Alternative Album” and made my Top 10
from 2014; maybe that’ll hold some merit?)
For fans of: Scissor Sisters, Tegan & Sara, the Dresden
Dolls For a taste, check out: “Prince Johnny,” “Teenage Talk,” “Digital Witness” Catch them: Saturday, 6:50, JetBlue
The Boston Calling
folks couldn’t get Beyoncé this year, so they booked Beck instead. (Not really.)
It deserves to be mentioned that Beck’s 12th (12TH!)
album brought home the Grammy for Album of the Year this year, but it also isn’t as big of an achievement as
it sounds, since the man has been winning Grammys almost as long as I’ve been
alive. I sincerely doubt you have better Friday night plans.
For fans of: The Arcade Fire, BASTILLE, Modest Mouse For a taste, check out: “E-Pro,” “Blue Moon,” “Modern Guilt” (And “Loser,”
obviously) Catch them: Friday, 9:15, JetBlue Stage