Anna Cieslik ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor
Simply put, Boston Calling Music Festival this past weekend was a never-ending dance party. Whether the crowd was swaying to Bat For Lashes’ mellow tunes or turning up and going crazy for Major Lazer’s bass-heavy set, City Hall Plaza was one giant sea of moving bodies for two days straight days. No matter what your preferred music genre is, there was sure to be someone there to get you moving thanks to the festival’s diverse lineup. With that said, certain acts stood out from the rest as clear highlights from the weekend. Here’s what we were really digging at Boston Calling:
Deer Tick: I’d be lying if I said that I was a huge Deer Tick fan before Boston Calling, but now I can’t get enough of this grunge-y indie rock band. The Rhode Island rockers surprised the crowd on Saturday afternoon by playing their new album “Negativity” in its entirety, despite the fact that it doesn’t officially come out until September 24. And while the new songs meant that even Deer Tick’s biggest fans couldn’t sing along, it didn’t stop everyone from swaying along to the folk rock songs. Perhaps the greatest surprise of all was when the band brought out Vanessa Carlton as a surprise guest to sing along on one particular track. Her soulful voice was the perfect accompaniment for Deer Tick’s mellow sound.
Bat For Lashes: I’ve been listening to Bat For Lashes for more than a few years now, so I thought I knew what to expect from this UK singer. When her and her supporting band finally took the stage, however, they all blew my mind in the best possible way. Natasha Khan, the lead singer and frontwoman, spent the entire set dancing around the stage in a remarkable rainbow hued, shiny skirt while still managing to hit every note. What surprised me even more was the wide range of live instruments Natasha’s band was playing. Throughout the set, a cello, various percussion instruments, and even a Theremin were featured. All of these factors worked together to create an amazing set that went above and beyond my expectations.
Vampire Weekend: I’ve seen Vampire Weekend perform numerous times before, but I never tire of seeing these dapper New England boys take over a crowd with their immense energy. After waiting for over two hours in the crowd, my patience (and aching feet) were finally rewarded when Vampire Weekend took the stage and put on the best show I’ve ever seen them perform. They performed a decent amount of songs from their newest album “Modern Vampires of the City” but they by no means forgot about their big hits from earlier albums. Rest assured, there was still a massive sing along when the band played tracks like Horchata, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, and Wolcott. Despite a day of standing and dancing and walking around, Vampire Weekend successfully made me forget how tired I was for an hour and a half while they played their signature upbeat, dance-y tunes.
Flume: Harley Streten, better known by his stage name Flume, is someone to watch out for. The 21-year-old Aussie is taking the electronic music world by storm right now with his gritty, trippy beats and haunting guest vocals. He might be a new name to most Americans, but Flume is already massive success back in Australia and after watching his set at Boston Calling, I’m not at all surprised. He had complete control of the decks at all times and rarely paused the music to talk to the crowd, a welcome change in today’s world of sappy interjections from many big name DJs. Instead, Harley let the music speak for itself and got the crowd dancing early on at the Red Stage.
Major Lazer: As a kid who was raised on reggae and dancehall music, there has always been a special spot in my heart for this Jamaican-infused electronic act. Diplo, Walshy Fire, and Jillionaire know how to get a crowd going and they sure didn’t fail on Sunday. The three DJs behind Major Lazer spent the set dancing around on stage, literally running on top of the crowd in a giant plastic bubble, and of course seamlessly mixing electronic and reggae tracks together. And from what it looked like, the crowd was absolutely loving it. Everywhere I looked, people were dancing laughing, and singing along to Major Lazer’s greatest hits. Even if you aren’t crazy about reggae, dancehall, or electronic music, I would suggest checking out Major Lazer if only to see how crazy their live shows get.
Kendrick Lamar: I found out earlier on Sunday that Boston Calling would be the second of three shows Kendrick was playing that day alone so I was a bit skeptical as to how good his show was actually going to be. Luckily for everyone involved, my skepticism was proven wrong when the 26-year-old rapper took the stage and proceeded to wow the crowd with his powerful songs. There was not a moment during his set that I questioned his intensity or talent. In fact, I was impressed by how far he has come as a performer since I last saw him in 2012. Kendrick has a very commanding presence and he knows how to use it to get the crowd’s attention.
These might be my top three acts from each day, but to be honest, there wasn’t a single set I saw at Boston Calling that didn’t impress me in some way. And that leads me to my favorite part about the festival, which is its smaller-than-average size. At bigger festivals, it’s easy to ignore unknown acts and just focus on the names you already love. Boston Calling, however, is different because there is only one act playing at any given time, so you’re able to check out bands you might otherwise disregard. Even though this was only the second edition of Boston Calling, they definitely proved to me that they are a festival worth keeping an eye on. If you missed the fest this time around, don’t stress too much. Boston Calling has already announced that it is returning to City Hall Plaza once again this Memorial Day weekend. So don’t slack this time and make sure to check out the festival for its third installment!