Seven Bands To See At Boston Calling: #2, St. Vincent

It’s almost time! It’s only a few days 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, #4. Marina and the Diamonds, #3. Beck


Today we talk about our #2 pick, St. Vincent

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

Festival Review:: Boston Calling Music Festival

image
Written by Eric Riley.

Earlier this month, I spent yet another few days in the wonderful city of Boston.

And for the third time, I was lucky enough to be spending the my time working at the Boston Calling Music Festival.

May’s production, which was the first to include a Friday night performance, would prove to be a tough act to follow. Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, Tegan & Sara, Brand fucking New – May was certainly the biggest, boldest to-date.

To be expected, and continuing with the trend of creating magic, Crash Line Productions and company built yet another spectacular weekend this September. And, not allowing themselves to be outdone by their pasts, this round’s festivities not only boasted an all-star lineup, but showed that this young festival could join the ranks of the big names.

Opening on Friday night again, which will seemingly (and, according to crowd reactions, thankfully) continue for the foreseeable future, the show was able to add in a third batch of performers – Future Island, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The National (whose Aaron Dessner has helped curate the festival’s lineup). This addition run into a few bugs in May, in regards to photo-pit entrances, overcrowding, etc., but those were remedied by the time Saturday morning rolled around. This time around, the few kinks that were present in the spring (and more likely than not unnoticed by most in attendance) made no appearance in the fall.

Now, before I start on the details of the show, here’s how my weekend started: I worked a morning shift in New York on Friday morning, from 6am until 1pm. I then rushed home, grabbed my bags, and sped to the Albany bus station to hop onto a 1:50 bus that would take me into Boston. As I made my way east, my phone rang and my housing for the weekend was apparently no longer an option. So, the potential for an hour or two of the sleep that I didn’t get the night before was also not going to happen. Instead, there was now a frantic search of bus and train schedules throughout the greater Boston area. The bus pulled in at 6:00, and as I sprinted from South Station to Government Center, my brother texted me saying his couch would be open. In Providence. So when The National’s first three songs wrapped up (which I estimated would be around 9:55), I would again sprint

back

to South Station to catch the last commuter train at 10:10 to Rhode Island. And, since I’m a damn professional, everything worked out.

Anyway, you don’t need to know more about any of that. Boring stuff, not important. But what

is

important is how impressive practically everything about those three days was.

Friday night opener Future Islands began the weekend with a set that can be summarized as interesting, to say the least. A combination of clean vocals and brutal, borderline-violent throat singing made for a unique sound and left a lasting impression long after their brief set wrapped up. Neutral Milk Hotel followed, taking the stage devoid of pit photographers and video monitors, requesting fans to experience the show with their eyes and ears rather through screens and lenses. As The National closed out the first night, their performance not only pleased those in attendance, but also reminded us that there were still two full days left of music to enjoy.

As the sun rose on Saturday, it was obvious that the day would be a scorcher. By the time noon rolled around, the temperature was in the high 80’s and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Neither the heat nor the humidity slowed anyone, with an energetic, eager crowd progressively filling the plaza during each passing performance. Sky Ferreira proved to be an early highlight, filling the air with her strong, electric pop sound. When Bleachers entered onto the adjacent stage, fans rushed over to watch as Jack Antonoff (guitarist of debut Boston Calling headlining act fun.) brought his moody 80’s synth-pop to life. Closing with “I Wanna Get Better,” which is arguably the best song from this summer, he left the audience happily entertained.

Now, as great as things are, they can’t be perfect. And as much as we all hoped against it,

something

was about to happen. After The Hold Steady (aka the best bar-band in America) opened their set with a track from

Stay Positive,

the idea of keeping a good attitude became seriously important. As their set closed, dark clouds gathered and General Admission guests were asked to vacate. Within minutes, heavy rain and winds were tearing through the empty plaza as thunder and lightning roared overhead. And while this delay – which [understandably] paused the show for around two hours and [also understandably] cancelled performances by Volcano Choir and Girl Talk, may have bothered a few fans and took a few banners for a ride, the situation was handled brilliantly. The fact that a festival in only its fourth production was able to not only clear out thousands of guests calmly and swiftly, but then managed to restore the stages’ functionality, keep the fans updated to-the-minute on Twitter, readmit them, and

still

have the two headliners perform, I could not have been more impressed.

Twenty minutes or so after the gates reopened, Lorde walked on stage and looked out over a sea of reenergized (and moderately damp) fans. Her performance was exactly what we had expected it to be – strong, eerie, and absolutely captivating. As ambient distortion swirled in the background, she delayed the beginning of “Ribs” (my favorite of hers, I might add) to address the crowd. Timid, shaky, and both visually and audibly moved, she thanked the audience. Worried that the show would not resume, and then worried that people wouldn’t return once the announcement was made, she delivered a sincere, strong “thank you” in a cracking voice before wiping her eyes and regaining composure.

Where Lorde’s humility struck the crowd’s hearts, Childish Gambino’s confidence closed out Day Two in high fashion. As he took the stage, Donald Glover’s presence and power was instantly felt. There was no time for modesty or reserve, but rather relentless poise, composure, and dominance. His command over not only the stage, but the audience, was unreal, at times holding the microphone away from himself for full verses, knowing his crowd would fill in the blanks. There may have been a pause a few hours before, but a little rain wasn’t going to end the day. And Glover capped it off exactly how it should have been.

The heat and humidity of Day Two was nonexistent on Sunday. In its place, mid-70’s and clear skies. The weather was as ideal as possible, and the bands took full advantage. Boston natives Gentlemen Hall kicked off the final day and were welcomed with open arms. With trumpet, violin, and a whole lot of grit, Brooklyn’s San Fermin left their mark early on. Even as the day drew to a close, I still heard murmurs and rumbles of people talking about them.

Between the last two performances on the Red Stage – one of 2013’s biggest breakouts the 1975 at 6:00, and punk legends The Replacements at around 8:20, the median age within the crowd jumped twenty or thirty years. Where we heard teenagers and college kids cheering for Matty Healy at dinnertime, we heard their parents reminiscing about seeing The Replacements back before the House of Blues hit Lansdowne Street. Before their performance at this year’s Riot Fest, it had been more than two decades since The Replacements had played in-concert. Getting to watch a band that inspired so many of my favorite bands, but also hadn’t performed since I’ve been alive, was surreal and probably one of the coolest things I’ve experienced.

The Replacements’ performance was huge. That’s inarguable. But, it wasn’t the best thing to happen on Sunday – that honor goes to two guys from Ohio.

At 5:00, the crowd began chanting and screaming for twenty | one | pilots. And when the duo crept on stage donning their trademark ski masks, the cheers were deafening. To accurately put their performance into words is a difficult task – it’s part ukulele, part hip-hop, part piano rock, part pop. I don’t really know what to say about it, and I’m a diehard fan of theirs. Regardless of

what

it is, it is undeniably infectious. To detail the group’s stage presence is tricky, because that would limit it to the stage. Drummer Josh Dun found himself performing a drum solo while balanced on a wooden platform above the crowd, while vocalist Tyler Joseph spent as much time on his piano as he did playing it, eventually finding himself in the seating area near the back of the audience. The two finished their set on individual risers atop the crowd, banging water-soaked drums before bowing and announcing “we are twenty | one | pilots, and so are you.”

Like it seems to do each time around, September’s show proved to be even better than its predecessor. Brought to life by a group of dedicated music professionals, packed from start to finish with incredible performances, filled to the brim with passionate fans, and kept running smoothly by a tirelessly-working staff, volunteers, and vendors, Boston Calling doesn’t only impress, but reaches and exceeds every expectation. Sign me up for May. 

Seven Bands To See At Boston Calling: #3, Lorde

Hellooooo again! We’re back for our third run with Boston Calling and we’re as excited as ever, so we’ve decided to bring back our “Seven Bands To See” feature! The lineup this time around is as great as it has ever been, and the weekend is shaping up to be the biggest one yet. So, here’s who to keep an eye out for!

On our list so far: #7. Sonicbids Winner/Gentlemen Hall#6. The National#5. The 1975, #4. Bleachers

Today we talk about our #3 pick, Lorde.

Like I mentioned a bit earlier, there were a handful of artists who dominated 2013. Earning four Grammy nominations (and two wins) at 17, Lorde had a pretty decent year. The success of “Royals” placed her in the spotlight, but it’s the undeniable charm and ambiance throughout the rest of her Pure Heroine that makes her special. Later this year, she will be curating the soundtrack to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, as well as releasing a new single for the movie and working on her follow-up album. When she takes the stage in Boston for the second time this year (after a sold-out show at The Orpheum in May), there’s no doubt she’ll captivate.

For fans of: Grimes, Tegan & Sara, Lana Del Rey
For a taste, check out: “Ribs,” “A World Alone,” “Team”
When you can see them: Saturday, 8:15pm, Capital One Red Stage

Seven Bands To See At Boston Calling: #1, The Decemberists

With Boston Calling approaching, we’ve decided to make a list of seven bands you do not want to miss. Whether they’re a headliner or an opener, whether they’re hip-hop, dance, rock & roll, or something somewhere in the middle, there are a handful of sets that you’re definitely going to want to pencil into your schedule.

On our list so far: #7. Magic Man/The Box Tiger#6. Bastille#5. Jack Johnson#4. Tegan & Sara#3. Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, #2. Brand New

Today we talk about our #1 pick – The Decemberists!

The Boston Calling folks kept things interesting this year for their lineup announcement. First, the reveal came after a city-wide scavenger hunt for vinyl albums with the bands listed on them. After this, there was the mention that there was still one more band to come. When the BC staff swiftly denied any rumors that Outkast would be performing (sorry, Miss Jackson …), the flood of guesses and rumors began. And when the last slot on the lineup was uncovered, it took many by surprise to see The Decemberists on the list.

Not only is Boston Calling the band’s only festival slot in 2014, it will also be their first performance together since August 2011. Later that week (on the 30th), the band will be performing at a benefit in Portland, Oregon, playing their debut Castaways and Cutouts in its entirety.

Reunions are always meaningful experiences to witness. This time last year, almost exactly to the day, Fall Out Boy played the Boston date of their reunion tour. And if the massive line wrapped around the House of Blues hinted at anything, it’s this – a three-year gap is a long time for a band to be absent, and their first return to the stage is bound to be special. Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s going to be a sight to see and an experience to remember.

For fans of: Bright Eyes, Dustin Kensrue, R.E.M., The Frames, The New Pornographers
For a taste, check out: “Sons & Daughters,” “This Is Why We Fight,” “Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect”
When you can see them: Saturday, 8:10 PM

Seven Bands To See At Boston Calling: #2, Brand New

With Boston Calling exactly a week away, we’ve decided to make a list of seven bands you do not want to miss. Whether they’re a headliner or an opener, whether they’re hip-hop, dance, rock & roll, or something somewhere in the middle, there are a handful of sets that you’re definitely going to want to pencil into your schedule.

On our list so far: #7. Magic Man/The Box Tiger#6. Bastille#5. Jack Johnson#4. Tegan & Sara, #3. Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls

Today we talk about our #2 pick – Brand New!

One of the most beloved, discussed, and enigmatic acts around, Brand New have been leading the pack for nearly a decade and a half. As a group that has earned a following that borders on crazed (just ask anyone who tried getting tickets to their shows back in December or those who are already awaiting a Deja Entendu vinyl preorder), their set this weekend has potential to be massive. Could there be mention of that ever-elusive fifth album that has always been “in the works?” Will it be another full-album setlist (and if so, what if it’s Daisy from start to finish? Will the ungrateful fans flood the message boards again?)

There are a lot of questions that won’t get answered until the band takes the stage, but we can be certain of this – the fact that Brand New are playing Boston Calling is a pretty big deal. There have been fans, myself included, who have waited a while for this band to start consistently doing things again, and this weekend marks the start of a pretty substantial touring schedule that runs through the end of summer. This last winter, scalpers were selling tickets for upwards of $250 (I know, I know – that’s disgusting) for the band’s club shows. That being said, having Brand New sharing a stage with a handful of other amazing artists this weekend is just icing on the cake.

For fans of: Alkaline Trio, Saves the Day, Say Anything
For a taste, check out: “Jesus,” “The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot,” “Seventy Times 7”
When you can see them: Sunday, 8:15 PM

Seven Bands To See At Boston Calling: #3, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls

With Boston Calling exactly a week away, we’ve decided to make a list of seven bands you do not want to miss. Whether they’re a headliner or an opener, whether they’re hip-hop, dance, rock & roll, or something somewhere in the middle, there are a handful of sets that you’re definitely going to want to pencil into your schedule.

On our list so far: #7. Magic Man/The Box Tiger#6. Bastille#5. Jack Johnson, #4. Tegan & Sara

Today we talk about our #3 pick – Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls!
image

Few do what they do as well as Frank Turner (and not having him as the #1 artist says something pretty special about the next two groups. But, we’ll get there when we get there). Backed by his band The Sleeping Souls, the group boasts an impressive balance between solo acoustic material and full-band punk anthems, making the live show an experience to be had.When he released 2013’s Tape Deck Heart (which was second to only Sara Bareilles’ The Blessed Unrest for my Album of the Year), he continued with his tradition of being one of the most honest artists around.

With English charm and endurance to match, Turner, who is always on an endless cycle of writing, recording, and touring, always brings a full performance. His current schedule has him booked internationally through the middle of September, including a last-minute addition on Sunday the 25th in Cambridge for the fans who couldn’t make it to Boston Calling, as well as taking his folk-punk brilliance out on to open water, tagging along with Flogging Molly and Gogol Bordello on the Salty Dog Cruise.

So, if you’re interested in seeing one of the best live acts around, or if you tend to get a little seasick, be sure to be planted in the crowd and don’t miss a note. Also, bring your dancing shoes, because it’s such an energetic set and you won’t be standing still (mostly because Turner makes his audience do jumping jacks during the chorus to “Recovery,” because he’s that cool.)

For fans of: Flogging Molly, the Front Bottoms, Ramshackle Glory
For a taste, check out: “I Am Disappeared,” “Substitute,” “Broken Piano,” “Four Simple Words”
When you can see them: Saturday, 6:00 PM

Seven Bands To See At Boston Calling: #4, Tegan & Sara

With Boston Calling exactly a week away, we’ve decided to make a list of seven bands you do not want to miss. Whether they’re a headliner or an opener, whether they’re hip-hop, dance, rock & roll, or something somewhere in the middle, there are a handful of sets that you’re definitely going to want to pencil into your schedule.

On our list so far: #7. Magic Man/The Box Tiger#6. Bastille, #5. Jack Johnson

Today we talk about our #4 pick – Tegan & Sara!

When they released their seventh studio album, Heartthrob, at the end of January, Canadian duo Tegan & Sara started 2013 off with what was inarguably one of the best records of the year, as well as a giant, broadening stride in their career.

This fall, the twins will spend their time on the road in support of Katy Perry. But before hitting the road on the Prismatic Tour, they’ll be making their rounds on the festival circuit, with performances at the Hangout Music Festival, Summerfest, Firefly, and CBC, with a handful of headlining dates scattered throughout.

Regardless of which side of the Quin sisters we see at Boston Calling – whether it’s the electronically-infused synth-pop that Heartthrob brought or the gloomy acoustic anthems the two are known for (though I expect the setlist to be a fair balance between them), there’s sure to be a full crowd singing every word.

For fans of: Lydia, Eisley, Lorde, Metric, Rilo Kiley
For a taste, check out: “Nineteen,” “The Ocean,” “I’m Not Your Hero,” “The Con”
When you can see them: Sunday, 6:05 PM