As someone who grew up in the Boston area and spent many weekends enjoying the activities at City Hall Plaza, I wasn’t entirely sure how Boston Calling would work. Now, after experiencing it, I know the holiday weekend festival is a well-oiled machine. The short transitions between acts meant more dancing, and numerous local vendors ensured all of your long weekend needs were met.
This year, Boston Calling packed 23 acts into three days. Each day, 22,000 music lovers filled the fenced-off area in the center of the city. The festival managed to provide a healthy mix of seasoned musicians like Death Cab for Cutie, Built to Spill, and Modest Mouse, while including newer acts like The Neighbourhood, Bastille, and Boston natives, Magic Man.
It was a breezy 54 degrees on the first night as Cass McCombs took the stage, but that didn’t stop beach balls from soaring over the crowd. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros frontman Alex Ebert had enough energy for everyone. He kept the crowd alert by coming off the stage to greet them and dancing with the photographers in front.
Before Jack Johnson’s performance, new Boston mayor Marty Walsh came out with words of encouragement for the already excited crowd. The night ended with a duet between Johnson and current tourmate Ebert singing “Rocky Raccoon” by The Beatles.Day two included the US festival debut of English alt-rock band Maximo Park. Canada's Walk off the Earth performed their impressive one guitar cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know.”
Wearing retro sunglasses and a rainbow-colored suit that matched her guitar Jenny Lewis included two Rilo Kiley songs -- “Close Call” and “Better Son or Daughter” -- in her set.
Frank Turner made one fan’s dream come true, when he brought him on stage to play the harmonica solo for “Dan’s Song.” A little rain didn’t stop The Decemberists from performing a career-spanning set, and two new songs, “Lake Song” and “Philomena.” Death Cab for Cutie brought the night to an end with the calming “Marching Bands of Manhattan” as the last song of their encore.
As the sun broke through the clouds, The Box Tiger kicked off the final day of Boston Calling. Then Tigerman WOAH!, hailing from Lynn, MA, transported the crowd down south with their raspy, banjo-driven folk rock.
After The District left the Red Stage, Kurt Vile and the Violators delivered a relaxing set, starting with “Wakin on a Pretty Day.”
Veteran rockers Built to Spill were all about their music. There was very little banter with the crowd as lead singer Doug Martsch delivered most of the lyrics with his eyes closed.
With only two more acts until the end of the night, Bastille made sure to keep the energy at an all-time high. As usual, Dan made his way through the crowd singing “Flaws” and he coordinated jumping during “Of the Night,” which is a mash-up of “Rhythm of the Night” and “Rhythm Is a Dancer.”
Long Island's Brand New kept the crowd's momentum going with their heavy rock sound. It wasn’t long after Brand New wrapped up that those who had been waiting since noon began chanting “Modest Mouse!” After a Memorial Day tribute led by the US Airforce Heritage of America Band playing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it was time for the headliner.
Throughout the day, those who aren’t in the path of the speakers tend to relax and hang out like they’re at the beach. However, when Modest Mouse took the stage, there was no sitting. It was time to dance. They closed out the last day of Boston Calling with songs that spanned their 20+ year career, but most came from their Grammy-nominated album, Good News For People Who Love Bad News. After the 3-song encore, which ended with "Satin in a Coffin," some people lingered in the hopes that the night wasn't over. But as those who knew better walked away, the screens on either side of the stage displayed Boston Calling’s Fall lineup as if to say, “See you in September.”
Passes for the next installment of Boston Calling are currently available on Ticketmaster. The lineup includes Sky Ferreira, Twenty One Pilots, Nas featuring The Roots, and The National.
All photos by Karl-Lydie Jean-Baptiste.