Boston Calling Day 2: That’s more like it!

WRBB x Boston Calling 10

Day 2 · Full lineup here

Hello from the midst of 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 2.

Chris: The day was warmer and so was the lineup. Right after the gates opened, Northeastern student and indie darling Sidney Gish kicked the day off on the red stage with an intimate set. Surrounded by a sliver of Boston’s DIY community and sunshine, it was clear Saturday would be infinitely better than Friday. Only minutes away from Gish was New York’s very own Princess Nokia, who blew the crowd out of the water with one of the more energetic sets from the weekend. With her hair in braids, motorcycle shades on and two backup dancers who knew how to match her energy, Nokia was not deserving of such an early set. But according to her, she had to catch a flight to London. 

As the day trudged forward, so did the lingering heat and the sweat on everyone’s brows. The best part about the green stage isn’t the pyrotechnics or the headliners – it’s the shade. That shade, combined with the music of Massachusetts native (and other indie darling) Clairo, made for a pleasant mid afternoon break. After what seemed to be a collective lull, with everyone scrambling for a few beers and a snack, the festival was back in full swing with Mitski and Denzel Curry playing at the same time. Over on the blue stage, Curry brought the audience down to Florida, delivering a masterclass on excellent crowd engagement. After a draining walk across the athletic complex, Mitski made the trek worth it as she crooned all of her best songs while sitting, standing and laying on a tiny, white wooden table. The crowds at each stage were so different that the afternoon felt like a philosophy 101 case study into the duality of man. 

Princess Nokia. Photo by Chris Triunfo for WRBB.

Yes, it was hot early on in the day, but that only meant one thing—the evening would bring the best weather imaginable. And so it did. Before enjoying sundown, the Boston Ballet performed yet another set inside the arena, which didn’t see much traffic or use for the day otherwise. The set was a gorgeous interpretive dance to the tune of an acoustic guitar. Back on the red stage, Big Red Machine gave fans exactly what they wanted, as Justin Vernon brought out some students from the Berklee College of Music, which played out like an ode to Boston more than anything. Plus, it was nice to see Vernon (of Bon Iver) actually move around stage. Vernon has an extensive history with Calling – before this year, he performed right before Chance The Rapper in 2017. Once Big Red Machine left the stage, the wait for Tame Impala began. In between, King Princess, Hozier and ODESZA had sets that all failed to impress. A standout performance came from Anderson .Paak, who all but opened for Tame Impala on the green stage. Filled with infectious energy, .Paak, who was dressed in an outfit that brought back memories of Tyler, The Creator during Odd Future’s early days, put the crowd in a trance. Naturally, he brought out tentative one-hit-wonder Lil Was X as well for a wild rendition of “Old Town Road,” talk box included. 

Best of the day: Princess Nokia

Worst of the day: Lil Nas X during Anderson .Paak’s set…

Andrew: Day two of Boston Calling presented a stark contrast to the festival’s unceremonious beginning, filling lower Allston with an eclectic swarm of attendees. Saturday featured the most diverse and dynamic lineup out of the weekend, making the case that Calling still has the ability to effectively balance the ills of stocking a major production. 

Clairo. Photo by Chris Triunfo for WRBB.

With a callback to the festival’s formative years, the first set of the day featured local Northeastern University student and indie-upstart Sidney Gish, proving that solo sets can be engaging and suitable for larger crowds. We may be a bit biased at the station, but Gish’s energy and smart lyrics stood out immediately following a tame Friday. Other surprising sets included Mitski and her choice inclusion of knee pads and tabletop yoga, as well as Anderson .Paak’s perennially entertaining offering of high-octane R&B — a festival stalwart continuously proving his place and doing a dam good job at it. 

Though security stuck tight around the festival’s proximity, this didn’t stop most attendees from lounging, laughing and genuinely having a good time, something that was extremely missed from the day prior. Saturday seemed to be what Boston Calling needed to prove to the city that it beckons to all tastes and genres. 

Best of the day: Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals

Worst of the day: The festival sound — needs a reality check when you hear nothing but mud.

Catu: There are several factors that shape the beginning of day 2. I walk an extra mile to the wrong bus stop in the morning and consequently miss the bus AND Sidney Gish’s performance. When inquiring about oat milk at Dunkin’, the cashier misunderstands and rings me up for an instant oatmeal. I hate oatmeal but I hate clarifying even more so I quietly accept it. On my way into the festival, a girl walks past me pointing at different people, declaring: “they’re not gonna get in.” One of her designated victims is me. I want to wave my media bracelet in her face obnoxiously. The greater powers of this universe quickly humble me though as I open my bag at the VIP check-in to find the oat body lotion I’d grabbed last minute has exploded inside my bag. Indeed, oats once again betray me. However, all this is forgotten as soon as I make it to Princess Nokia’s set. Real fans (who listened to the Boston Calling x WRBB podcast) will know this is the set I’m the most excited for, other than Tame Impala. She is explosive, dancing and rapping with infectious energy. It’s so fun despite it being such a short set. I make a quick stop at The Sausage Guy where I get a “hot” sausage (otherwise known as a “sausage”). It’s delicious and I douse it in German mustard. 

I make my way to the green stage to get a good spot for Clairo and catch the end of Betty Who, who up until that point, is totally unknown to me. To my surprise, she has a refreshing set, coming across as a mixture of Katy Perry,  Britney Spears and Charli XCX — with a sprinkle of NSync. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like the most appetizing, but she’s energetic and the beat carries my body until Clairo takes the stage. Clairo is undecidedly sweet to watch and struts up and down confidently. Say what you will, but she has great stage presence. 

A young fan watches Mitski perform her set. Photo by Chris Triunfo for WRBB.

I jet over to the Arena where Boston Ballet is performing. Perched on a seat, I yawn. The dancers move beautifully but the music is tepid at most and I can’t help but get annoyed. I head back to the green stage where Mitski performs aerobatic moves in kneepads on top of a table. She’s wearing spandex shorts, a white crop top and a thick belt. I’m thoroughly entertained and it’s fun to be in a crowd that so clearly adores her. Whether it be singing along word by word or roaring in excitement when she poses in a strange position, this is not an ambivalent crowd passing the time. 

The day goes on — Denzel Curry is another insane performance, although it’s a bit bizarre to watch from afar, the sea of white hands waving up and down. Big Red Machine is interesting. The coolest part of the set is when they bring out Berklee students to play brass. I leave before they finish and get fried chicken and fries from a stall. Doused in (more) mustard, I devour them hungrily. I’m tempted to get fried oreos, but paying seven dollars for two oreos seems like a stretch. I finish the day off with Tame Impala and it’s an insane performance as expected. Day 2 beats day 1 by a mile and I head home happily.

Best of the day: Tame Impala

Worst of the day: Big Red Machine

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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