LIVE REVIEW: Ethereal queens and local favorites bring it for Day 2 of Boston Calling
Going into this year’s rendition of Boston Calling, Saturday night was the night that was the one night of the festival that was entirely sold out, and for many clear reasons. While The Lumineers headlined the night in that final time slot, two legendary acts, The Flaming Lips and Alanis Morissette, played simultaneously. As well as the New England golden boy himself, Noah Kahan, who pulled in around 45,000 for his 6:05 time slot. And easily could have been the headliner for that night, considering how quickly his success has skyrocketed with his latest release, “Stick Season.” Pretty good for a guy living just up the street in Watertown, one would say. While the festival rounded out Sunday with the hottest day of the weekend, with highs up to just under 90 and ending with the much anticipated Paramore, it was the penultimate day of the weekend that hit perfectly.
To kick off my day, I headed to the Green Stage to catch a band that brought me right back to my Warped Tour roots, Los Angeles’s Loveless. The fact that I used to do forty artist interviews and then sprint around the grounds to catch maybe four bands. As well as barely drinking water and my diet for the day being a giant pretzel, we don’t miss her as a now “elder emo.” But Loveless allowed this human to dive back into that Warped energy. The band is blowing up right now thanks to some Tik-Tok trending moments and straight talent, with a slew of sold-out shows after the festival and sure only more to come. While the crowd took a moment to warm up to them, by the time the band hit the end of their set and left the stage, the crowd was cheering and asking for more. Like many bands, Loveless was a band that formed during the pandemic, and with the world fully open, it’s time for these songs to come to life. And clearly, they did for the crowd in attendance. Highlights for me were moments like Sorry I’m a Downer and insane crowd energy throughout. Loveless’s set was a perfect way to start a day. Frontman Julian Comeau also mentioned, which I loved, “It’s hot up here. I hope you have a lot of water today,” to a girl near me responding,”…we have alcohol.” Praying for all the girlies out there truly is all that could go through my head at that moment.
Next up was a quick little walk over to the Red Stage to see one of my most anticipated artists of the weekend, the ladies of The Aces! A band together for an insane seventeen years, proclaimed frontwoman Cristal Ramirez when talking about the title track for their upcoming full-length. With I’ve Loved You For So Long, which dropped just last Friday. The band is meant for festivals and performed like the veterans they’ve indeed become. The second the quartet stepped on stage because, of course, there were sound issues immediately as the band opened up with, Girls Make Me Wanna Die. But if only we could hear the band sing the words with the mics wholly cut out, did that stop this talented band? Nope, even though a word couldn’t be heard in the audience. I think the band realized immediately but continued to play the whole song with their hearts fully out, and the fans still went off to it. Later in the evening, we saw technical difficulties for, you know, casually, the stage headliner that day with Alanis Morissette. Hopefully, that all gets handled before Sunday’s insane slew of bands that would take that stage for the final day.
But post error of the first track, The Aces, flowed into the live show energy that fans have come to love. Fresh off the song, Ramirez whispered into the mic, “Boston can you hear us? Thank goodness. Alright, Boston, let’s have a really good fucking time!” As the band settled into play a set with, cross your fingers, no more sound issues before the band cracked into Stay. Ramirez continued, saying, “It’s not an Aces show without guitars, so you have to be patient with us.” And that patience paid off in the form of a setlist ranging all of the band’s releases from the early days of Volcanic Love and Stuck. To a fan favorite, it was evident in the audience with Daydream off their 2020 release. As well was plenty of banter from the band and fans through moments like Don’t Freak and My Phone is Trying to Kill Me. This included Ramirez engaging with a fan and teasing “Stuck” a little, saying, “I’d love to sign your underboob, I would, but I’m stuck.”
The set culminated in a beautiful moment of sisterhood with the band introducing the title track of their new album, as mentioned before, I’ve Loved You For So Long. According to Ramirez, it started as a song about the termination of a long-term relationship, but as the band progressed on it, it became a love letter to the band. Said Ramirez, “The Aces really is like the most special thing in my life. It’s really you all that is the biggest part of it.” It was a set that would stick with fans for a long time and was one of the only ones of the day that I had to be there for its entirety.
Next up was my first moment at the Tivoli stage, which is putting on four shows a day of local artists and several locals hitting the main stages each day. Sunday’s include longtime acts Juice and Mint Green, Saturday’s those names include The Q-Tip Bandits and Neemz. But our first of two visits to the Tivoli stage on Saturday were to catch the smashing Coral Moons. The crowd was filled when I got there about a song into the set and filled with smiles. Their banter with the crowd was on point, especially when introducing their track, Shrooms. Introducing the track, frontwoman Carly Kraft said, “This is a new one called “Shrooms.” It’s about getting high with your best friends.” And, as expected, within the first thirty seconds of the comments, the smell of marijuana started to permeate the crowd. But, honestly, any average festival goer is used to it at this point —just part of the experience.
As the band slowed, I made my way to the next stop of the day to catch the man of the hour, Declan McKenna, at the Blue Stage. My first Declan McKenna show went down at the iconic Sinclair in Cambridge. And it was a show that will forever be a core memory. That moment was him jumping off the balcony, an easy thirty feet above the main floor. While that couldn’t be a move quickly as pulled off in a festival setting, the general malarky that fans have come to expect with a Declan McKenna show was still present. And while fans enjoyed it, of course, you had your “music experts” loudly criticizing the performance the whole time to their eager audience of their mortified teenage son. But besides the peanut gallery behind me, fans were swarming into the audience and singing the words to each other around me. McKenna kicked it off with British Bombs and glimmered through some heavy fan favorites before I made my way back to the Tivoli stage to catch Allston’s own Actor/Observer.
Actor/Observer is a band filled with music industry professionals and one that has actively been DIY touring and releasing new music. And it was a set that couldn’t be missed at the Tivoli stage on Saturday’s lineup. With their latest full-length album only coming out in late 2022, “Songs For the Newly Reclusive,” it smothered all of their set to everyone in attendance’s glee. The crowd flowed in quickly as the band hit those first notes, but some friends and family were in the audience for the set. Including vocalist Greg Marquis’s older brother (a fellow musician and member of former act Vanna), in the crowd telling his son, “Look, there’s Greg!” It was a fantastic set for the band and the crowd in attendance too. It was also one of the only times I’ve seen photographers covering the festival actively make an effort to shoot a band playing on this stage.
Huge moments included Fool’s Gold, which Marquis had prefaced with, “For those of you fighting the good fight, this one’s for you.” This came after Marquis rightfully so spoke about how being a local musician and being able to stay in Boston is getting harder and harder. How “the price you just paid for that beer in your hand would get you into a local show,” said Marquis. As well as saying, “Don’t let this weekend be the only time you show up for your local music scene.” His comments resonated with the audience, and new fans of the band were clearly made. It was the first time I’d witnessed a mosh pit this weekend, considering it a bit more of a tamer festival this weekend. In regards to past incarnations with likes of bands like The Menzingers, Converge, and Piebald, for example. But it was a magical moment and feelings that needed to be shared.
Another significant commentary flowed into the song Man Enough, which was precluded with Marquis saying, “Stop projecting your shit onto women just because you weren’t taught how to process your own emotions.” Continued by saying, “You owe it to yourself to go to therapy,” as well as, “It’s being able to know this world doesn’t owe you shit.” Jumping into the track, the impact of his statements was clearly felt in the emotional whirlwind that became the crowd for the track. Ending the set on Arm’s Reach, the band easily delivered one of the best performances I’ve witnessed all weekend. The way the band wears their heart on the sleeves put them up there with acts I watched this weekend, like The National and Noah Kahan, swiftly after Actor/Observer’s set yesterday. Mental health is a message that should be continued to be spoken about, and music to be used as an outlet. It’s 2023. We all need to look out for ourselves and each other.
Before I headed over to Kahan’s remarkably impressive crowd of an estimated whopping 45,000 people, as I previously mentioned, I made a quick pit-stop to see a few moments of Fletcher’s set at the Blue Stage. In a similar fashion to Niall Horan’s turnout yesterday, walking up to the stage, Fletchers’ fans had been buzzing in front of the barricade until her set. Lucky for them, it was about two hours before when Horan took the stage the night prior. Unlucky for them were yet again some sound issues that delayed Fletcher’s set from getting going. For her first festival ever, which was a growing trend with many of this weekend’s performers. After thinking about it and looking through discographies, many bands playing this year’s lineup didn’t start getting going/formed until the pandemic. And while the world has been re-opened for about two years now, you didn’t see the significant level festivals happening again until about a year ago. So I’m sure it was disappointing to have sound difficulties right as you take the stage, but Fletcher quickly rebounded to the crowd’s glee. A big smash for Fletcher came soon in the set with Serial Heartbreaker, and Fletcher wooed her audience after following it by saying, “You guys look sexy the way this golden light is hitting your faces.” After this, she went, “I want you to scream these lyrics as loud as you can,” to which a girl in the audience went, “She’s so me.” While my time with Fletcher was brief, I’m glad I prioritized witnessing her quickly moving success.
But it was time to see New England’s golden boy of the moment, Noah Kahan. When talking to others throughout the day, people were trying to pinpoint why Saturday, out of all the days, sold out entirely. Especially with Paramore and Queens of the Stone Age on Sunday’s roster, the night before with Niall Horan and Foo Fighters. But the answer became apparent when it came to the insane crowd that formed for Kahan’s solid 6:05 set-time on the Green Stage. After seeing aerial shots post-set from that night, I thought it was as big of a crowd as Foo Fighters had the night before, if not larger. It was a sea of people swooning to the long-time New England act. Kahan said it was easily the biggest crowd he’d ever played to “after playing pretty much every other venue in Boston.” The rapid succession of his latest album, “Stick Season,” spoke for itself. Walking up to the set, Kahan was in the thick of She Calls Me Back, which the crowd was utterly attuned to, and afterward began introducing his band with, “I want to introduce my band. Without them, I would just be another white guy from Boston.” He then swayed through both old and new, prefacing the next track with “This one is for the old fans, sing along if you know,” with a lyric I fell in love with, “Look at you all dressed up for someone you never see.” Which can be found in False Confidence. The crowd was singing every word of this one for the most part, which is fair considering it dates back oh so far back to 2019, but I loved every moment of it.
While there were tons of Kahan fans in this audience, the crowd was starting to be traversed by people clearly trying to get a good spot for the incoming Alanis Morisette set. But who could blame them? The same idea was on my mind as well. Kahan’s fans didn’t flinch, though, as he made his way through moments like New Perspective and Growing Sideways. The latter track I spoke about was one Kahan prefaced with a conversation about his own battle with mental health. Just before he broke into it, he commented, “There are a lot of people here tonight, and the one person here who needs therapy the most is the happiest person here.” Before I started making the walk over towards the Red Stage for Alanis, he got me with another lyric within Northern Attitude, “If I got too close, and I’m not how you hoped,” Kahan gained a fan in this one.
As I progressed slowly to get a spot for Alanis, I had almost given up hope. Due to the literal onslaught of people trying to get to the Red Stage and the enormous amount of people trying to get out of the Green Stage area post-Kahan set. Which, of course, he ended with “Stick Season.” Sweetly commenting before the notes hit, “This is the one that got me here.” Pretty good for a guy living up the street. Kahan was great, but the crowd seemed absolutely feral at this moment. No one was going to dare to try to push their way through. Otherwise, it could have become a stampede. Alanis’s set was delayed slightly, probably to allow whatever was happening in the crowd to happen. Still, the seemingly endless battle paid off for those headed towards Morisette’s stage as those around me stumbled into an opened-up patch with a great view of the stage…and a grassy lawn littered with smashed beer cans. Even someone near me said, “Where are your parents? I need to speak to your parents!” There was nary a beer can in sight on the ground during Foo last night. Come on now.
But we were there, and we were settled in, to yet again deal with a sound issue. Alanis’s ethereal voice could be barely heard for at least the first ten minutes of the set. This incredibly quiet time in the set, even including one of her biggest hits, In My Pocket, was painful. But don’t worry, Morisette made an effortless entrance, and thanks to her harmonica, the music flowed through the crowd. Morisette quickly made her first interaction with the crowd in a simply beautiful way, saying, “So glad to be here with you.” Morisette quickly wooed the loyal attendance in hand with her 90’s goddess energy glimmering from the stage on her first New England show in almost 15 years. Be it moments like the anthemic Head Over Feet, to Perfect, off her iconic album, “Jagged Little Pill.” Despite sound difficulties, the crowd constantly swooned over easily one of the most influential artists of our youth. To be frank, many in the crowd were confused about why she wasn’t the closing set. Morissette’s performance was flawless on her part and included a classic spinning move several times through the set. The crowd was hers, and those in attendance weren’t letting a few sound difficulties stop us from literally feeling like we were in a state of emotion together.
The opening notes of Ironic hit quickly from her, and music videos from the previous tracks were put up in the extensive background screen for the other significant moments in her set. But for Ironic, it was a moment needed by the band and fans. This being a beautiful tribute to the dearly departed Taylor Hawkins, who, while he was the drummer for the previous night’s headliner for over twenty years, lesser known is that he was Morissette’s drummer for just as long. Hawkins was still Morissette’s official drummer at the time of his untimely death, and for this track, a beautiful reel of behind the scene moments’ spotlighting a very young Hawkins was played. At the finale of the loved track, a huge photo went up of Hawkins with the words “In memory of Taylor Hawkins” to raucous applause from the crowd.
Teasing the crowd with a snippet of Morissette chanting, “You were my teacher, my mentor,” with You Oughta Know, Morissette quickly burst into the iconic track a few moments later. And the crowd quite literally exploded with emotion. Once this moment hit, most tried to go off searching for a spot for the night’s headliner, The Lumineers. But those that stayed behind were treated to something magical. As Morissette shamelessly played past her time, she dabbled in short thirty-second versions of tracks before fully going into Uninvited. Alanis jumped off stage fifteen minutes after her set time was supposed to end, leaving her crowd speechless. An insane vocal performance and all you could have wanted from such an ethereal legend. Now on to Sunday! Another day filled with many incredibly talented women and some Boston Calling long-time veterans like Bleachers and Queens of The Stone Age. Let’s go!