Lead Editor Rob Steiner recaps the final day of Boston Calling 2018
Considering that Boston Calling is still a pretty young festival, one of the currently ongoing goals is finding an identity distinct enough to compete in the inflating number of festivals every year. While the lineup, space, and activities helps with that, it might be the most New England thing ever to start the weekend sweating your ass off in 90-degree heat, and end it shivering underneath your poncho and four layers of clothing. You don’t get that at Coachella.
For me personally, the change of weather offered a much-needed break from the heat, especially since my skin was about to enter uncharted shades of red if I did another full day of direct sunlight. In fact, I personally wasn’t exactly in pristine physical shape by Sunday: I was sunburnt in places that didn’t even get sun, my legs and back felt like they were matching my spiritual age of 75, and my neck was tight from all the head banging the night before (thanks, Jack White). But in reality, if your body isn’t ready to collapse like a Jenga set by the end of a music festival, then you probably didn’t do the festival right. I loved running around catching as many sets as I could, camping out for hours, toughing out the weather, and taking in as much as I could all three days. Aches and all, I wouldn’t have done anything differently.
That said, I was very sore and very sleep deprived on Sunday, so while I was still moving around, I was moving much more slowly. I rolled in just in time to catch the tail end of Zola Jesus’ set, whose electronic, goth-pop sound made for a pretty intense and emotional day opener. It would’ve been a cool set to see a night in an intimate venue – but considering they performed the middle of the day, outside, and to a crowd of burned out festival-goers, the show didn’t really land as well as it probably could have under ideal circumstances. Next up was the ever-evolving Dirty Projectors, who are just starting their first tour since their 2017 self-titled album. Things started off a little shaky due to technical difficulties involving the bass player (pro-tip: if your instrument is active, it’s probably the batteries), and the band seemed to still be getting comfortable with the new songs off their upcoming album, Lamp Lit Prose. Luckily, David Longstreth and co. were much better with the old, pre-nasty breakup material, nailing songs like “Impregnable Question” and the vocally acrobatic “Beautiful Mother.”
“Hearing the lush, reverberated harmonies on ‘White Winter Hymnal’ and the bittersweet musings of ‘Helplessness Blues’ was not only perfect rain music, but it made standing in front of the stage for hours drenched in water completely worth it.”
After that, I managed to crawl my way from the Blue Stage over to the Red Stage for Alvvays, whose shimmering dream-pop probably would’ve been better suited for Friday or Saturday’s weather, but still made for a fun, chill mid-day set. In fact, “chill” is probably the best word to describe the rest Sunday, which basically consisted of me grabbing an IKEA veggie dog and a Belgian waffle and parking at the Blue Stage for the rest of the day. The ragers happening at Taylor Bennett and Cousin Stizz’s Red Stage sets looked fun, don’t get me wrong, but I wasn’t really looking to get swallowed in a mosh pit of high school frat bros that day. Instead, I was more about Julien Baker, whose raw, heart-wrenching ballads were almost too perfect for standing in the rain on a cold, cloudy day.
The Decemberists brought the energy back up with their campy modern-indie shanties about miners, Ben Franklin, and how everything is awful (their words). A highlight of the weekend was definitely watching the band go full cheese with “The Mariner’s Revenge Song,” complete with choreography, polka jams, and a giant inflatable whale for good measure. The evening capped off with Fleet Foxes, who unfortunately played to one of the weekend’s thinner crowds, likely due to a combo of rain, the Celtics game, and people getting in position for Eminem. All those people missed out, honestly, because the Seattle-bred band played one of the best sets of the weekend, blasting both old and new songs with masterful precision, often times without even stopping. Hearing the lush, reverberated harmonies on “White Winter Hymnal” and the bittersweet musings of “Helplessness Blues” was not only perfect rain music, but it made standing in front of the stage for hours drenched in water completely worth it. The last time I saw the band was in 2011 back home in Berkeley, California – that also happened to be the first concert I ever went to – so to finally see them again in 2018 and feel like nothing has changed was a really special thing to experience.
So there you have it. I took off before Eminem, so sorry to the people dying to hear my hot take on that. But from everything else I did this weekend, I’ll say that it was a fun time all around. The lineup wasn’t as diverse as last year’s, but that’s probably my only major complaint. The whole weekend otherwise ran smoothly, organizers ironed out the kinks from last year, and it now feels like Calling couldn’t happen anywhere else except at the Athletic Complex. So good work, Calling – good music, good food, good company.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go slab some aloe vera on my face and hibernate until next week.