Boston Calling Day 1: There’s always tomorrow…

WRBB x Boston Calling 10

Day 1 · Full lineup here

Hello from Boston Calling! We’re excited to bring you daily recaps from Boston’s best (and only) music festival. Music director Chris Triunfo, general manager Andrew Goldberg and technical director Catu Berretta are on the ground in Allston for the weekend. Here are their thoughts on day 1.

Chris: Truth be told, Friday’s lineup initially stuck out like a sore thumb. It read like the worst of the three days. But it also carried some hidden gems. Right after the festival gates opened, Turnstile kicked the day off on the main stage with an explosive set that only a few avid fans got to enjoy. The rest of the crowd, donning yellow duct tape and bandanas, was made up of Twenty One Pilots fans, who camped out for a little under 9 hours to see the Ohio duo. As the day went on, most of the musical performances were unfortunately lackluster. Bear Hands and Pale Waves failed to impress, and Mura Masa’s time on the green stage was carried by his guest, This Fliss. But around 5, Fred Armisen took the stage in the indoor arena. Hundreds piled in to hear the SNL legend perform an innovative set that surprisingly featured a broad range of instruments. “I nearly confused him for a fuckin DJ,” said a (very) drunk fan.

All the way on the other side of the athletic complex on the blue stage, Tank and the Bangas, a quirky funk group that won NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert in 2017, played a set that needed A LOT more energy. What made up for the weak performance was the colorful costumes and props they brought on with them, and an incredibly energetic saxophone player who drew some impressed gasps from the crowd when he decided to pull out a flute. At the same time, Christine and the Queens KILLED it with a set that featured an enthralling reinterpretation of Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It,” along with the French singer’s version of Kanye’s “Heartless.” Greta Van Fleet was… Greta Van Fleet – a bastardization of Led Zeppelin (who also bastardized the music of many black blues artists).

As the night started to come to a close, a mass of people made their way to the main stage for Twenty One Pilots, but a select few went into the arena to catch a special DJ set. While Friday’s headliners did their thing, I spent my time on Harvard’s hockey rink watching Yaeji perform an electrifying set. It was a nice end to an otherwise unusual day. It didn’t turn out to be as bad as we anticipated. 

Best of the day: Christine and the Queens

Worst of the day: Greta Van Fleet

Andrew: After an initial lineup frenzy, Boston Calling’s 10th iteration was soured by shocking dropouts from crowd-drawing headliner Janelle Monae to more boundary-using acts such as Young Fathers. With an ere of uncertainty around festival turnout and mood, Friday felt more like a toss up than anything else. Despite the push for barrier-side spots at Twenty One Pilots, the opening of the gates was met with lukewarm applause and a comfortable walk.

Early acts like Pale Waves and Mura Masa hit without much impact despite robust streaming support, leaving the crowds a bit unimpressed. Mura Masa’s set featured a few technical difficulties, highlighting how much one man could do on stage alone — and it’s not much. The mood reflected well with the subdued and cloudy atmosphere, leaving most of the astroturf heavily treaded with attendees searching for a worthwhile set. Acts later in the day seemed to recover, as Lord Huron and Tank and the Bangas revived dwindling crowds from their respective beer gardens, adding a much needed energy and poise. In the arena, Fred Armisen struggled through a played out stand up set, dealing jokes about being a quirky musician to fans only want to see him on iPads watching Netflix reruns of Portlandia.

I’m looking forward to the much more balanced and thoughtful lineup Saturday will bring, hopefully approaching the day with a heightened sense of comfortability and excitement on how the acts will translate live.

Best of the day: Lord Huron 

Worst of the day: Greta Van Fleet (but who was looking for anything else)

Catu: Entering the Harvard Athletic Complex mid-afternoon, I can’t help but note a sense of disorder. I’m not necessarily excited for today’s lineup but I’ve decided to have no expectations and see what happens. There’s a good amount of people milling around but the place still seems relatively empty. Turnstile’s heavy punk sound bleeds into the media tent and I can’t help but bob my head along as the lead singer screams into the microphone. We wander around the complex and I get some Old Bay (spelled Old Bae) fries from Shuck Truck while Andrew got a veggie burger from Tasty Burger. Both are equally average and end up settling in my stomach uncomfortably.

We make our way to the green stage in time for Mura Masa, where the crowd thickens with kids juuling and hardcore Twenty One Pilots fans, fully prepared to wait 6 hours for a front-row view. They’re distinguishable, pieces of yellow duct tape around their legs and arms, adorned in yellow bandanas and other tokens. Before Mura Masa takes the stage, Pale Waves is wrapping up their set not far off, performing with intensity to a relaxed crowd… and it’s deeply unimpressive. Finally, Alex Crossan takes the stage and is joined by This Fliss, to perform songs from his 2017 album, Mura Masa. It’s fun but somewhat tired. I end up catching Fred Armisen’s set at the Harvard arena. I know him from Portlandia and his humor is as whimsical and peculiar as it is on the show, as he engages with several instruments for bits. I am later very pleasantly surprised by two artists who are new to me: Tank and the Bangas and Christine and The Queens. The former is full of energy, with a dynamic set and a full band, including a saxophone and a flute. Tarriona Ball, the lead singer, is a stunning image in a gorgeous green-toned outfit and is seemingly brimming with joy.

I leave the set smiling to catch the beginning of Christine and the Queens, who’s real name is Héloïse Adelaide Letissier. The bass thumps energetically as her dancers pirouette and leap around her in a flurry of motion. Christine is an enigmatic performer and even if dancing in the crowd is not your thing, you can’t help but at least bob your head along. The crowd roars with excitement at every song and it’s refreshing to see a crowd today that is so connected with the performers. I finish off the day with quesadillas and chips from El Pelon. Despite being overpriced, it’s delicious and totally worth it. Overall though, the day is mostly forgettable with an average lineup and worse weather. But that’s the great thing about festivals, there’s always another day!

Best of the day: Yaeji 

Worst of the day: Twenty One Pilots

While you’re here… check out our podcast about the past, present and future of the music festival!

All photos by Chris Triunfo

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