Anna Cieslik ’16 / Emertianment Monthly Editor
Photos by Dan Goldberg ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Writer
For thousands of Bostonians, the 2014 summer went out with a bang at Boston Calling Music Festival. From September fifth through the seventh, massive crowds descended on City Hall Plaza in the heart of the city to rock out to an incredibly stacked lineup. Emertainment Monthly was there to document it all, and we have more than a few highlights to share from the festival. So without further ado, let’s get into it!
On Friday, Boston Calling started off with a laidback vibe to ease festival-goers into the marathon weekend. While there were only three bands slated for the evening, it was still an eventful night.
Neutral Milk Hotel – The notoriously attention shy indie rockers came out ready to wow the crowd. After years of being on a hiatus, Neutral Milk Hotel came out of the woodwork in 2014 with a reunion tour, which naturally evolved into a string of festival sets this summer. Boston Calling was lucky enough to host the band, and the festival’s decision to place Neutral Milk Hotel on Friday proved to be a perfect fit.
Frontman Jeff Mangum initially asked the crowd to refrain from any photography, but this was ultimately a fruitless effort. As the set progressed and more and more excited fans took out their phones to document the reunion many thought never would come to fruition, Mangum accepted defeat and gave the audience permission to snap away.
During their hour-long set, the band rolled through a large chunk of their discography. They delighted fans with hits like “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea,” “Two-Headed Boy,” “King Of Carrot Flowers,” and plenty more. There was something particularly moving in seeing the crowd, which ranged from 20-something-year-old college students to middle-aged professionals, singing in unison with Mangum’s crooning voice. All in all, the set was a fun and uplifting way to lead into the heavier sound of the night’s headliners.
The National – Lead singer Aaron Dessner has been a co-curator of Boston Calling since the festival started, giving The National a figurative home field advantage. The band already played the festival’s inaugural weekend back in the spring of 2013, but that didn’t stop them from bringing their all this time around as well.
As soon as The National took to the stage, audience members exploded into screams and shouts of excitement. The band fed off this energy expertly, building on the fun atmosphere created by Neutral Milk Hotel, while also adding a distinct rowdiness thanks to their more hard-hitting brand of indie rock.
The band drew from their six-album discography to animate the crowd and Dessner did a remarkable job interacting with everyone at City Hall Plaza. In between popular tracks like “I Should Live In Salt” and “England,” Dessner thanked everyone for coming out and expressed his gratitude regarding the festival’s success.
Saturday was the first full day of Boston Calling, featuring ten acts lasting from early afternoon through 11 at night. Despite a temporary closing thanks to a terrible rainstorm, audience members stayed positive and basked in the glory of sets from the likes of Lorde and Childish Gambino, among others.
The Hold Steady – One of the heavier rock bands featured at this year’s Boston Calling, The Hold Steady thrashed and shredded through their set. While their sound was more than a slight departure from earlier Saturday acts like Sky Ferreira and Bleachers, The Hold Steady were proof alone that Boston Calling is dedicated to giving Boston a world class music festival, regardless of genre.
Plenty of younger audience members enjoyed the set, but The Hold Steady really hit it off with the slightly older crowd members. Festival-goers in their mid and upper 20s belted along with frontman Craig Finn’s gruff lyrics on songs like “I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You” and “The Weekenders.” Nestled among Saturday’s buzz band acts, The Hold Steady proved to be an oldie-but-goodie of sorts.
Lorde – City Hall Plaza was evacuated for over two hours following The Hold Steady’s set, taking out Girl Talk’s timeslot entirely and cutting into current it-girl Lorde’s time as well. However, the clouds parted just in time for the New Zealand teenager to take the stage and festival-goers rushed into the plaza by the masses to catch her set. People were literally running toward the stage, soaking wet from the rainstorm but seemingly undeterred and excited.
Lorde has shaped up to be one of the biggest act of this year, but her Boston Calling set served as proof that she hasn’t let the fame go to her head. Throughout her performance, she paused to talk about how happy she was to see so many people return for her performance and how grateful she is for all of her fans. Despite the fact that she was playing on a giant stage with tens of thousands of people before her, Lorde managed to create an intimate vibe that more resembled a cozy venue set rather than a headlining festival set.
On numerous occasions, Lorde opened up to the audience and explained personal details that led some of her biggest hits. She told stories of teenage love that influenced “Ribs” and “White Teeth Teens,” and reflected on her life growing up in suburban New Zealand, which inspired “Royals.” These stories made it so that everyone in the crowd could connect with her music on some level, whether it was in a nostalgic sense for older audience members or more direct for the younger ones there.
Childish Gambino – The witty rapper, whose real name is Donald Glover, closed out Saturday night with a high energy set that got everyone moving. He might have been one of the only rappers featured at this Boston Calling, but his extremely intelligent verses and plethora of pop culture references are not too far removed from the lyrics of Sky Ferreira or even The Hold Steady, making him an astute addition to the lineup.
Social Media sites like Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with rumors that Childish Gambino had pulled out of the festival after his set time was cut short due to the rain. But these rumors were quickly put to rest as his eccentric background graphics turned on and the rapper came on stage. He started his set with more recent tracks like “Crawl,” “Sweatpants,” and “3005,” which the vast majority of audience members seemed to appreciate.
As the set progressed, however, Glover announced that he hadn’t forgotten about his longtime fans in the midst of his ever-growing popularity. To prove this, he dedicated the end of his performance to playing older songs like “Heartbeat” and “Bonfire.” This apparent love for his fans made the earlier rumors of Glover’s diva behavior and subsequent withdrawal from the festival comical to say the least. By the end of the night, there was no doubt that Glover is a passionate musician who appreciates any opportunity to perform.
If Saturday was the day for big name buzz bands, then Sunday was the day for well established acts that are getting better and better by the year. With that said, there were still plenty of up-and-coming bands to check out, making Sunday perhaps the most well rounded day of Boston Calling.
The 1975 – These Manchester indie rockers might be a relatively new band (they only formed in 2012), but they owned the stage like seasoned vets and held up to Sunday’s heavyweight names. Lead singer Matt Healy’s cheeky humor punctuated the set as he joked about his bandmates and the screaming crowd’s love for the band, even referring to it as a “narcissistic playground.”
Despite Healy’s playful humor, The 1975 ultimately returned the love to their fans when they invited one lucky girl on stage. Healy had noticed the girl singing along wholeheartedly throughout the entire set and decided to make her day by inviting her to sing with the band in front of the crowd rather than in it. While some might perceive this to be a bit cheesy, it seemed like an incredibly genuine move on Healy’s part and was ultimately heartwarming above all else.
Spoon – The longtime rockers brought in the night with a jam-packed setlist. Fresh off the release of their 2014 album They Want My Soul, Spoon delighted festival-goers with songs new and old during their performance. Their upbeat, danceable set started with the undeniable hit “Small Stakes,” letting the crowd know exactly who they would be rocking out to for the next hour or so. Set to the festival’s backdrop of variegated lights projected all across the plaza, Spoon let it all out and the audience accepted them with open arms and dancing feet.
As the sun set on Boston, Spoon continued full steam ahead, rolling out hit after hit like “The Underdog” and “I Turn My camera On.” Despite their age, the band was energetic and lively, which perfectly matched the carefree vibe permeating the entire festival on its last night. From the first song to their finale, there was no denying Spoon’s perennial catchiness, proving that they have years of wonderful melody making ahead of them.
In the end, Boston Calling was a whirlwind weekend featuring acts sure to please everyone, regardless of age or musical taste. The festival is already gearing up for their spring 2015 show, happening on May 22 through the 24. Presale tickets are already sold out, but definitely keep an eye on the Boston Calling website for future ticket releases. The lineup might not be out yet, but if the festival’s past shows are any indication, this spring’s Boston Calling isn’t going to be one you’ll want to miss.