Rock’s Not Dead, Just Older and Weirder | Boston Calling 2018

Lead Editor Rob Steiner recaps day 2 of Boston Calling 2018

Alright, look: I realize that in order to properly review and recap a festival, one has to actually walk around and do stuff at said festival that day. Go to the different stages, try the food, explore all the fun odds and ends of the three-day wonderland of music, booze, and IKEA lounge areas – all to ensure a comprehensive, well-rounded summary for all the readers attending the festival vicariously through me.

“There’s truly a strange beauty to watching someone get thrown across a sea of people, and the garage rockers’ indescribable mix of underground, punk, and psychedelia made the open Harvard field feel like a sweaty basement show.”

I didn’t do any of that on Saturday. I had like a sandwich and a Coke the whole day (BUT s/o to the Smoke Shop for a solid brisket sandwich), I didn’t lounge around with the IKEA DJs, and I missed Natalie Portman’s Boujee existential indie films. I was there for one specific person: John Anthony Gillis, otherwise known as Jack White. A little context: I’ve been a huge White Stripes fan since I was 12 or 13, basically when I discovered that the dude who wrote “Seven Nation Army” 1. had a ton of other, even better songs and 2. could hold his own against Jimmy freaking Page. But as luck would have it, I started following the Stripes right when they broke up in 2011, and since then it’s been abundantly clear that a reunion isn’t happening any time soon. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll never see a Stripes show in my lifetime, but I’ll damned if I wasn’t front row for the next best thing.

Since I camped out for Jack, I pretty much hovered between the Green and Red Stages all day, which ended being an entire day of rock bands tearing up the place. While yes, probably the biggest gripe about Calling’s lineup this year is that it’s very rock-oriented and pretty same-y – which is valid – as someone who is primarily a rock fan, it didn’t end up bothering me as much as it might’ve bothered other people. Besides, I didn’t even make it to the Blue Stage, which was pretty much hip-hop central the whole day.

The acts throughout the day ended being a nice mix of old, new, crowd-pleasers, and strangeness, which made for the easiest and most entertaining time I’ve ever had camping out at a stage. Things started off with veteran pop-punkers the Menzingers, whose pop-punk spunk brought a much more energetic start to the day than Friday’s low-key early acts. The band managed to get the crowd pretty lively, but the “Most Hyped Crowd” award definitely goes to Oh Sees, who managed to start the first bona-fide mosh pit of the day. There’s truly a strange beauty to watching someone get thrown across a sea of people, and the garage rockers’ indescribable mix of underground, punk, and psychedelia made the open Harvard field feel like a sweaty basement show (though the 90-degree weather probably helped with the “sweaty” part).

After that, Rhode Island’s own Belly took things back to 1993, playing some of their dream-pop staples along with cuts from Dove, their first album in 23 years. Manchester Orchestra then brought the heavy, emotional goodness to the Green Stage, which was a nice contrast to Royal Blood’s bluesy, festival-ready anthems. Things got wonderfully surreal with St. Vincent, whose trademark brand of avant-garde dance-rock kept the guitar-filled day from feeling too monotone. Wearing bright orange latex and supported by her masked, bowl-cut sporting bandmates, Annie Clark knows how to both break out the hits and keep audience members on their toes, making for one of the more compelling sets of the day.

Queens of the Stone Age looked like a fun show at the Red Stage, but I honestly wasn’t paying attention at that point. I was right on the barricade at the Green Stage, waiting for the artist I had been waiting six-plus hours for – and man oh man, was it worth the wait. Backed by one of his tightest touring bands yet, Jack tore up the main stage for a nearly non-stop two hours, pulling from all corners of his sprawling career to cap off a rocking Saturday. While his new album, Boarding House Reach, is definitely one of his most experimental and polarizing records to date, songs like “Over and Over and Over” and the jam-tastic “Corporation” translated really well in a live setting. Between his solo stuff, White Stripes songs, and even a few Raconteurs cuts here and there, the show was everything I had hoped for, ever since I was a wide-eyed, blues-loving thirteen-year-old.

The MVP for the day: I mean, come on. Jack’s obviously my pick. Even while he’s been in the rock game for a good while now, the man has proven over and over (and over) that he hasn’t lost an ounce of mojo, and has no intention of hanging it up any time soon. I lost my voice screaming along to every song, and my neck is sore from headbanging into oblivion – so all in all, that show was one for the bucket list. I promise I’ll actually do festival things on Sunday, but this day was for me. I regret nothing.  

 

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