Lead Editor Rob Steiner recaps day 1 of Boston Calling 2018
Back when Boston Calling moved to the Harvard Athletic Complex for the first time last year, the fest faced a simple but lofty task: prove a bigger space could work. For the most part, it succeeded in doing just that – but that’s not to say the weekend was won without some growing pains. Food ran out fast, bathrooms were a mess, and wifi and cell service was non-existent. Basically, it boiled down to festival organizers underestimating what was actually needed to keep a higher-capacity festival running smoothly, which unfortunately meant long lines and disgruntled festival goers waiting in line for food scraps.
“We’re now one day in the can, and right off the bat it seems like organizers heard peoples’ complaints and learned how to utilize the space better.”
An understandable miscalculation, all things considered. The Athletic Complex is a completely different ballgame (sorry for that) than the festival’s original grounds at the much smaller City Hall Plaza, so it’s not like there was much of a precedent. So now that there is a precedent, Calling still had their work cut out for them this year, both in putting together a good lineup and keeping people on the ground happy.
We’re now one day in the can, and right off the bat it seems like organizers heard peoples’ complaints and learned how to utilize the space better. There were more food and drink stands spread out throughout the grounds (i.e. that new “Green Monster” drink station in between the Red and Green stages definitely came in handy), bathrooms and water were easier to get to, and between the three music stages, the IKEA DJ space, and the comedy tent/Natalie Portman film extravaganza, there was pretty much always something going on.
“You’d think people would’ve left after hearing the Killers’ by far most popular song, but the band gave them plenty of reasons to stay until the end, putting on a glitzy and flashy show fit of their Vegas origins.”
So brownie points to organizers for keeping things moving and making the grounds a fun hangout spot, even in egg-cooking weather. The Friday lineup definitely leaned on the indie-rock side of things, but at least from the acts I saw, I thought the day had a good flow and built-up the energy well from the show openers to the big headliner, even with the slight lack of variety. Things started off mellow and moody with Big Thief and Perfume Genius, then the energy was brought up a slight notch with the Noname’s effortless rap jams and Maggie Roger’s upbeat electro-folk. After that, Portugal. The Man (aka “The Greatest Band in the World,” according to Beavis and Butthead) and Paramore really got the party going with both new hits and old favorites, and headliners the Killers brought it home with a, well, killer set.
Though it was clear the majority of people were there for the old hits, Brandon Flowers and co. still kept things interesting by throwing in a Tom Petty cover, having a fan play drums for a song, and in perhaps the ballsiest move I’ve seen from a headliner, opening with “Mr. Brightside.” You’d think people would’ve left after hearing the Killers’ by far most popular song, but the band gave them plenty of reasons to stay until the end, putting on a glitzy and flashy show fit of their Vegas origins.
The MVP for the day: Maggie Rogers. Not only was her set only her second performance with her new band and not only did she play her biggest hit “Alaska” only four songs in, but she also dedicated the vast majority of her set to completely new and unreleased songs. Testing out an upcoming album to an unfamiliar audience is a hell of a gamble, but luckily, it paid off: The crowd was a dance party the whole time, and Rogers and the band had the collective confidence to pull the trial-by-fire off. It was a cool and unexpected move to see so early into the day, and considering how people were chanting “Maggie” by the end of the set, it’s clear there are only good things ahead for the up-and-coming artist.