Boston Calling Day One Wrap Up!
Day one of Boston Calling is complete…with round #2 kicking off in just a few hours! Yesterday, fans got the lay of the land and ran across the fields with the over laps but everyone was having a great time. With thirteen sets yesterday as well as the first day of Natalie Portman’s series of events in the arena, it was hard to find yourself being like, “I have nothing to do”. It was my first year covering the festival at the Harvard Athletic Complex versus City Hall Plaza and it was just incredible. The larger space allows for three stages versus the two, tons more food vendors, free water stations and clearly very important, all the port a potties a girl could need . I went in with a schedule of the artists I wanted to see/an interview with Charly Bliss but still made it for at least a few tracks for every artist/band minus one or two!
First up on the bill of events for the day was making a quick little sprint to the Blue Stage which is on the opposite end of the grounds for Brooklyn’s Charly Bliss who have had a incredible year since their acclaimed debut record “Guppy” coming out in 2017. The band provided the perfect summery vibes to kick off the festival. Their energy was so addictive and their clear chemistry really brought the show to another level. With the stage’s last act of the day being Paramore, there were a few die hard fans that ran to the stage and likely sat through the whole day’s events but besides those few fans, the crowd showed up for Charly Bliss and rocked their way through out the length of the set. They played a new song which was something I definitely picked apart in my interview later that day with the band. They have a stacked year this year, opening up for Death Cab for Cutie all fall and just came off their own headlining run! Lead singer Eva Hendricks’s banter with the crowd was everything, introducing songs with great quotes like ‘This is a song about my therapist’ to something as simple as “Let’s dance!”
The band really reminded me of locals Weakened Friends who will be opening the day on Sunday, those strong female guitar and bass players, the fun energy, and definitely someone to see if you enjoyed Charly Bliss on day one! I ran across the fields to catch a song of two of This is the Kit who were in the same time slot as Charly Bliss so decisions had to be made and I’m so grateful I made the trek. This is the Kit is ethereal goodness. This is the Kit is known as “The Musical Adventures of Kate Stables and Friends” and friends it was, about nine of them as a matter of a fact. I was able to catch the last few songs for the band and was super surprised. Even giving a shout out to the crew, which was the first one I saw all day, screamed a class act!
Post This is the Kit, it was time for the first food stop of the day. There are right around 150 different food options available at the festival this year. I found even more about halfway through the day where I will most definitely be eating some meals from but my first stop was Jaju Pierogis, , a family owned company out of Gloucester that started 65 years ago, who at the festival are doing a deal of 3 for $7 for about five options. I went for the classic cheese and potato option, one with sweet potatoes and caramelized onions and the last was a kielbasa and green pepper option. These were insanely delicious and can strongly recommend. I grabbed a spot in the media tent to devour them to a delightful soundtrack of Citizen playing in the background, which soon after, I made a mad dash to catch the rest of their set.
Citizen was one of the bands I really wanted to see yesterday and they stood up to any expectations I had of the band. Lead singer Mat Kerekes had the crowd wrapped around his finger with standouts for me being “In the Middle of it All” and “Sleep”. It’s clear how personal these lyrics are and it made for an intimate moment in a day full of rock performances but Citizen can still rock. While they had these slower tracks, they were some massive huge screams from Kerekes during the performance. With great music breaks through out each track, Citizen is a unit that just can’t be questioned and was one of my easily highlights of the day. As the ended their set, Kerekes went “Please don’t go anywhere, pretty much one of the greatest bands is coming up after us, (Sandy) Alex G”.
With the recommendation, I came back around for (Sandy) Alex G, who originally was one of my maybes and thank god I came back. The band is in a pretty similar vein to Citizen but also a little bit of Touche Amore with most songs being tops two minutes in length. Three songs into the set, the band had only been playing for ten minutes. Just little soundbites of excellence. They reminded me a lot of a long time covered band for me, The Lonely Forest, as well. Just pure indie rock goodness.
Next, I headed over to the Green stage to see Chicago’s Noname who apparently had a few drinks before her set and consistently apologized for it. Even saying at one point, “Boston, I promise you I’m drunk,” but that just shows how natural of a performer she is because she still slayed the set. But she can’t take all the credit, her back up singer, Sophie I believe, would take the lead at points and her voice was just as magical. The crowd still provided huge rounds of applause after every song despite the set being cut short by Noname about twenty minutes hour and apologized endlessly for doing so. She still was a great set on Day One. I think the top quote from her was “I’m going to maneuver two more songs then go take a nap in my van”. Either way, girl killed it.
I took a bit of a breather then made my way to the blue stage (clearly this was a pattern yesterday) to see much talked about Pussy Riot. Yes that Pussy Riot, the Russian act who got arrested for protesting via performance in a church in 2012 and served jail time for it. Even scarily earlier of this year, having two of the members go missing for a few weeks or so. The band opened their set with a Q&A on the screens and continued to have that visual element for the whole set. With intros to songs like “This is a song about morning exercise in prison”, the crowd seemed hooked the minute it started. While the band started out on a heavy note, for the last half of the set it was a little more carefree with examples like their new song “Pimples” and “Straight Outta Vagina”, with the latter creating a very loving reaction in the audience. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Pussy Riot but they were the only set I didn’t wander from all day. I didn’t want to for Citizen but I had an interview calling but these two bands were two out of my three favorite performances of the day. The band even came out for an encore at the end of the set despite not being the headlining performance but it was warranted as fans were left screaming for the band!
As I returned back to the Green stage to catch a few from Portugal. The Man, despite Noname only being an two hours before, the crowd had pretty much quadrupled. I get it, I know that people work during the day but it makes me sad that so many great acts were missed during the day. With some great bands opening it up today be it Tauk to Lillie Mae, and same for tomorrow with STL GLD and Weakened Friends, hope it’s not a similar situation!
Portugal. The Man has achieved some major success this year, even winning a Grammy, but it’s been a long time coming for the band. And there were some outlying fans who were clearly there for the latest record but definitely some hardcore fans in the crowd as the band was serenaded back by the crowd’s voices the whole set. Something that really stood out to me were the messages flashing on the screen behind them, one a great dig and one such a stereotype. First it said That’s rad lads. No computers up here. Just live instruments” and then second, “We love playing (City Name)”. The latter is one of those stereotypes that I can’t stand after seeing so much live music. ‘You guys are so beautiful, can I take a picture please?’ or changing the name of a city in a song to make it the city that you’re in. Or when the band introduces themselves as like “We are (so & so”)” when they’re playing an incredibly sold out headlining gig.
Before I headed over to Paramore, I caught the first twenty minutes or so of The National. Just before the band took the stage, they had set up a camera backstage so you could see the final put in of the in ears, flashes of the tour manager getting everyone ready, a flash of Natalie Portman on the screen. Portman came out to introduce The National and the whole crowd just audibly swooned. Portman is just as incredible in person as she is in films, and I most definitely went home and started watching ‘Anywhere but Here’ post festival. The band’s performance was so endearing, with the crowd at the same level too. With bubbles being blown over the crowd and couples slow dancing next to me, it was a blissful experience and something I love seeing at festivals. There was a moment later in the night when the Killers were playing where a guy behind me just said ‘This is the best, this is exactly what I wanted’. Little known, well maybe a little more well known, The National’s Aaron Dessner as well as festival co-founder Eric Appel curate the festival together and have since the beginning, and what a great line up they created this year.
(I know this clip is older then most but this song is just … my jam)
After a few songs at The National, I headed over to the Blue stage where there were easily four to five thousand people, for long time act Paramore, who as I was walking over were finishing their smash “Still Into You”. Even if people don’t like Paramore, you have to respect their live performance. They destroyed their set last night and didn’t have bells and whistles to make up for the pure performance element. Fan adored Hayley Williams ran around the stage clad in a simple white baggy pants and a white t-shirt tied up with checkered vans and made it seem intimate despite the huge crowd they were playing too. After every song, the stage cameras showed her turning back to the drums with a huge grin on her face and even taking a seat on the front of the stage at a point, talking about the heart and process that went into their fifth record that the band released last year. The crowd was incredible for this set as well with a couple wearing matching shirts to a group of girls dancing in a circle with each other to that’s “What You Get”. The performance along with formerly discussed Citizen and Pussy Riot were my top three performances of the day!
Next up were the headliners The Killers, who have also been one of my top bands, but finally getting to see them play TD Garden this January, those first time butterflies flew to the wayside. The performance was still great but I felt they were unsure of how many true Killers fans there were in attendance. They opened with the iconic “Mr. Brightside” which was one of the last tracks they played in January, and most of the hits were with in the first thirty minutes of the set which left to a lot of people playing early. Even when the intro came on for “Smile Like You Mean It”, you heard a few isolated cheers, but nothing like you would have expected. Front man Brandon Flowers even said, ‘Should we play that again for you?’ Despite all that, the band still put on a solid performance and even picked from three signs up front to have a fan, Nick come up and play the drums for “Run for Cover” and he DESTROYED It. It lead to the crowd chanting “Nick, Nick, Nick” for a solid thirty seconds.
That’s it for Round 1 as I write a casual like four thousand words about it! Today, I plan on spending some time in the arena as well as catching a lot more of the day time acts! As well…as eating some great food.
See you tomorrow!