By Dan Bosco. September’s edition of the Boston Calling Music Festival had everything a good festival should: explosive live music, delicious food, and refreshing beer (from Boston’s own Samuel Adams Brewery). It was an eclectic event full of buzzworthy acts in a full range of genres, emotions and styles.
The festival started with a palpable feeling of electricity for the first performers of the weekend, Future Islands. They kicked off the event with gripping intensity as their crashing drum and bass tones gave backbone to their infectious dance beats.
Several audience members told me to look out for headliners that night, The National, and I could see why. With no introduction given and none necessary, Cincinnati-based indie rockers The National came onstage to chaotic applause and performed a driving and energetic set with a light show that would have made Pink Floyd blush.
Drummer, Bryan Devendorf, gave an impressive performance with an impeccable finesse shifting between dynamic periods of intensity and ambient relief between vocalist Matt Berninger’s bombastic style that switched from intimate crooning vocals, to intense screeches and screams.
Saturday started out pleasant but with an atmosphere of caution with reports of thunderstorms coming to the Boston area.
The crowd’s energy was very low, the sweltering heat and thick humidity making the crowd sluggish and lethargic in the sultry September sun, but acts like Clifflight (interview coming soon!) kept the crowd active and engaged with fun dance grooves, and gave everyone a much needed boost.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Lorde’s set, but was pleasantly surprised. The Kiwi, at just seventeen years old, put on a show ripe with rich symbolism and contemplative appeals to the audience.
Before performing her song “Ribs”, Lorde talked to the crowd about her process of writing the song, in the wake of a house party. She spoke of needing to get the feeling down on paper. The feeling, she explained, was of the transition from being a teenager into adulthood, and it seemed to strike a chord with the audience, many of whom were around the same age as the young singer.
Sunday afternoon began with one of Boston’s own breakthrough bands, Gentlemen Hall. The indie pop rockers put on a captivating set, mixing a blend of new wave alternative rock, indie rock and pop. (Keep your eyes peeled for our interview with Gentlemen Hall coming soon!)
Another impressive performance that afternoon was given by Texas natives White Denim. They stood out from the rest of the more electronically based performances that weekend giving a very blues driven performance with funk and jam band influences as well.
The most striking performance to come before nightfall was most certainly given by Columbus, Ohio natives Twenty One Pilots.
They were one of the most high energy acts of the entire event. Singer, Tyler Joseph, epitomized enthusiasm, even at one point diving into the crowd to continue singing. The band also seemed to be very closely connected with their audience, at different points in the set saying to their audience “This song is a duet featuring you”, “This is your show,” and walked off stage saying: “We are Twenty One Pilots and so are you”.
Of course the big act that day was the last act on the Boston Calling lineup, Nas X The Roots. Rumors passed back and forth that Nas would perform his album Illmatic, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, in its entirety. Others speculated that both artists would perform with each other through the entirety of their time slot on each other’s songs, and they were right.
Nas hit the stage first with ferocious intensity, performing some of his big hits including “The World is Yours,” and “Represent,” and others from farther along in his career like “If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)” and “One Mic”.
One by one, members of The Roots came onstage to accompany Nas, and eventually took over the stage to perform on their own…
The Roots, who draw on so many different influences already, from jazz to hip hop, funk, and R&B, pulled even deeper for their live performance. The Roots put on a diverse set, playing not only their own hits but also unexpectedly performing a particularly bluesy rendition of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” that turned into a full blown jam session.
The best part about the Boston Calling Music Festival was the atmosphere of the event itself. Free water, orderly staff, and good entertainment kept the weekend flowing smoothly. It seems that Boston has another impressive asset to call uniquely its own. Be sure to look out for the next edition of the festival this spring, which I’m sure will prove to be another excellent event.
Photos by Kaleb Hart. For more photos, check out our photo gallery here.