FESTIVAL REVIEW & PHOTOS: Boston Calling

Published May 2013
Photo Gallery: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lucienflores/sets/72157635865179306/

Back in May, the city of Boston and Crash Line Productions invited indie and pop artists to City Hall for the first ever Boston Calling festival. The festival was a smoothly run affair that persevered through an unseasonably cold and rainy Saturday. The National, The Shins, Portugal. The Man, Of Monsters And Men, Dirty Projectors, and others mesmerized the city and paved way for the sequel on September 7th and 8th.

For the latest edition of Boston Calling, the organizers stepped up their game. The stages were moved directly opposite each other, which made traversing between the two remarkably smoother. Plus now it was easier to hear the music playing from anywhere on the grounds and members of the press got nifty VIP memberships.

Day one of the festival was limited to indie rock and pop acts whereas day two presented uncharted territory for Boston Calling with electronic music and hip-hop featured predominately on the bill. For this indie-kid, the second day was a baptism by fire. This was my first electronic concert and it was interesting to break out of that head bobbing and slight swaying comfort zone of indie concerts. Day two saw a surplus of fuzzy boots, glitter, neon, and clothes marked with the word “rachet.” That, and some of the most interesting dance moves that I have ever seen.

So as day two was a learning experience for me, I thought I’d impart some of my newfound wisdom onto loyal Beats Per Minute readers.

Lesson From Boston Calling

Vampire Weekend: Women Love Ezra Koenig

Seeing Vampire Weekend for the first time was the highlight of the weekend. Modern Vampires of The City is one of the finest albums of the year. Packed with sophisticated lyricism and musicianship, the album demonstrates the band’s maturation from a literate and preppy indie-pop outfit.

Vampire Weekend drew from all over their catalogue playing six to seven songs from each of their three albums. Their set list was perfectly curated and I got a kick out of the inclusion of “One (Blake’s Got a New Face)” and “Boston (Ladies of Cambridge).” Every song was so solid to the point where it was impossible to pick favorites — each of them got equal amounts of love from me.

Speaking of love, it is insane to see the reaction Ezra Koenig gets from young women. It almost gets to the point where they treat Vampire Weekend as “Ezra and the what’s-their-faces.” Yes, he is undeniably charming with a boyish smile, starched shirts, and wispy voice but it’s still interesting to see that so much of the audience doesn’t recognize Vampire Weekend for their lyricism, songwriting, and musicianship. I guess Chris Baio can’t win them over with his funky leg kicks and jigs…

Local Natives: Thomas Menino Is Hip For a 70-Year-Old Mayor

Boston’s longtime mayor, Thomas Menino introduced Local Natives to a huge ovation. The band was thrilled by the gesture and dedicated their set to the ailing mayor. Menino watched the band’s performance of “World News” and Local Natives kept referencing their new fan.

It’s great to see the festival having the continual support of the Menino and city hall—the fact that the festival is returning for the third installment in May is a testament to its success and efficiency.

Local Natives concise festival setlist was fantastic. It was short enough (13 songs) for them to pick their strongest jams but long enough to get a good breadth of their catalogue. Highlights include “Sun Hands,” “Breakers,” and their Talking Heads cover (“Warning Signs”)

Kendrick Lamar: Kendrick Needs To Be More Selfish

Kendrick Lamar put on a thrilling, yet somewhat short, set. “Fuckin’ Problems” was a riot as Lamar extended his verse and milked the hell out of the chorus. Of course, being the philanthropic rapper that he is, Lamar let the audience shine in singing the song’s top lyric of “girl, I know you want this dick.”

My only complaint is that Lamar was too generous with his microphone. On some songs, such as “Backseat Freestyle,” Lamar encouraged the audience to sing practically half of the lyrics. I love when artists encourage the audience to have join along, however, I would have enjoyed if Kendrick joined in singing along with the audience. As Lamar’s voice is his only instrument, it was a shame that he suppressed it so frequently.

Ultimately, Lamar’s set was the highlight of the second night. The audience was fiercely passionate and hearing real instruments on stage was a welcomed break after electronic sets.

American Sign Language Interpreters Kick Ass

Boston Calling employed three American Sign Language interpreters who supplemented every act. I was mesmerized by their energy and just how damn cool they looked while doing so. Unfortunately, I failed to pick up any signing skills aside from the “don’t wait” on Vampire Weekend’s “Obvious Bicycle.”

Most impressive signing of the night was the woman who worked frantically to catch up with Kendrick Lamar’s lyrics.

The Airborne Toxic Event Probably Couldn’t Sit Still

Having played more than 900 shows together, The Airborne Toxic Event was an impressively tight unit. It was easy to be entertained by their high energy and catchy rock tunes despite having no familiarity with their music. The highlight of their set was watching their surging energy — manifested in violinist Anna Bulbrook climbing over the shoulders of bassist Noah Harmon as singer/guitarist Mikel Jollett climbed the side of the stage. Another highlight was when three members of the band joined the drummer for a drum solo and a spirited cover of “I Fought The Law” to close the set.

The funniest moment of the set came when Jollett revealed his problem with modern music: it’s not iTunes, Spotify, or Pandora stressed the singer, but the fact that there aren’t enough bass solos. Of course this appropriately led into a bass solo.

Flosstradamus Really Likes Other People’s Music

Old fart alert, but…seriously how was this act so popular? Flosstradamus consisted of two guys and some technology, spinning other people’s work with some flourishes. Then again, they got the crowd moving so they must have been doing something right.

Regardless of where I stand, it was funny how much Kendrick Lamar they played considering the rapper would take stage in a few hours and completely overshadow them. But really, there were too many times where I though, okay wow are they really just playing two minutes of this other person’s song and throwing in some gratuitous snare hits?

Major Lazer Could Literally Get the Crowd to do anything.

From a musical standpoint, Major Lazer wasn’t the most exciting of sets, however, the group put on an unadulterated spectacle of electronic decadence that completely made up for it. The set included Diplo riding a gigantic hamster ball over the crowd; a dancing mascot; shooting streamers and glitter onto the audience; and two twerkers for hire.

Even more impressive was Major Lazer’s ability to get the audience to willingly do anything they asked, no matter how ridiculous. For example:

A)   Inviting an audience member on stage, tying him up, and having one of the twerkers give him a lap dance.

B)   Convincing the same festivalgoer to dance wildly in front of thousands of Bostonians.

C)   Getting the audience to send the same fan to the back of the crowd as punishment for his poor dancing.

D)   Compelling hundreds in the crowd to take off an item of clothes when prompted.

E)    Forcing “Bubble Butt” in my head for a week after.

Pretty successful set, I’d say.

 

 

 

 

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