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Boston Calling first arrived at City Hall Plaza in May of 2013, and has since become an anticipated semi-annual festival offering Boston top artists in pop music. This past weekend it featured some big name acts such as Lorde, Neutral Milk Hotel, Childish Gambino, Spoon, and Nas & The Roots, while including more local talent than ever with bands such as Cliffside, Gentlemen Hall, and Lake Street Drive. With events planned in May and September of every year, the fest has quickly become the top pop music festival of its kind in Massachusetts. Guardian Liberty Voice reports from on site.
Music could be heard all over Downtown Crossing the first weekend of September, when thousands of music lovers covered City Hall Plaza. The plaza itself is seems rather small for the stadium packing talent incorporated, but can hold over 20,000 people. The red brick floor spares festival goes of the usual dust and mud, and only spans about a few thousand square feet surrounded by hotels and office buildings, which were put to work perfectly with lights and visuals. The festival has two stages, side-by-side and performing in turns. The usual brews and foods surround the stages, properly included favored Boston restaurants, with a naturally large feature on Sam Adam’s Oktoberfest.
Day one started late, with Baltimore’s Future Islands kicking off the eventful weekend. They were followed by beloved 90’s alternative rock idols, Neutral Milk Hotel, on their yearlong comeback tour. “The band has asked there to be no photography or video during the performance.” informed a pre-show announcement, but lead singer Jeff Mangum later stated during the set that he was not too concerned about it. Although a private man, Mangum knows not to deprive fans of the memoirs they desire. The National closed out, with their indie rock hits surging the crowd and leaving everyone in smiles.
Day two put the pressure on the capacity, opening up with St. Nothing followed by Boston’s rising act, Clifflight. S.Carey, a smooth folky artist did not translate well to the inner-city festival scene, but as model pop star Sky Ferreira hit the stage the crowd gather back. Bleachers were up next, excited for their first Boston show, followed by another NYC band The Hold Steady, who’s lead Craig Finn reminisced about growing up in Boston never once thinking he would eventually perform here. After plenty of forewarning, dark clouds rolled in, canceling Volcano Choir and Girl Talk’s performances as torrential rain ravaged the city.
The gates open back up with a similar sized crowd to Netherlands’ icon Lorde, bringing another one of her famously emotional sets, and helping fans ignore the puddles at their feet completely engaged with her presence on stage. Needless to say, she was the most anticipated act of the festival. “You guys are officially my favorite crowd in America” She proclaimed, “I hope none of you got struck by lightning.” Childish Gambino followed her, emerging to a half soaked crowd seconds after Lorde exited. The hip-hop outfit of actor and comedian Donald Glover has been rising in fame since 2011. For the attendant that event, the closing acts were worth facing nature.
Boston’s rising indie band, Gentlemen Hall, started out Sunday to clearer skies. San Fermin, White Denim, and The War On Drugs graced the audience with their top hits – keeping the high-energy feel of the festival. Lake Street Drive changed the pace a little, with their soulful and jazzy infused rock music relaxing the environment.
Twenty One Pilots then confused the crowd with a slap stick rendition of Dr.Dre’s The Chronic, before signing the crowd off to The 1975. From Manchester, UK, the band filled up the fest to near capacity. Indie rock gods Spoon, were to follow, along with punk outfit The Replacements; keeping up with their reunion tour. Nas & The Roots came to the stage to sign off with a jazz infused hip-hop team. Nas made the right move, starting with old favorite before moving on to his Roots.
Boston Calling does well in its attempt to include something for everyone, and has even made up for the criticisms in the past by including more Boston talent and vendors to the call. Its fourth run was met with many improvements, pleasing the crowd in a venue so limited on space. It leaves attendants looking towards the future of the festival, and what Boston Calling has to offer next time around.
By Morgan Louchen
Personal interview with Boston Calling