“This is our f**king city,” quoted Bad Rabbits’ frontman, Fredua Boakye, to nearly 20,000 people at the Boston Calling Music Festival on Saturday. The Boston-based group started off the festival with synchronized dances to their funk rock, creating positive energy on the somber, grey day.
Many performers thanked the crowd for standing in the frigid rain and tried to beckon the sun. Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim stood out the most for encouraging everyone to “get weird” and for passing out deflated balloons for the crowd to inflate and release. Kim even promised her sneakers to whoever could act crazier than she was, which is a difficult task because I have never seen such an enthusiastic drummer.
Marina and the Diamonds was another stand out performance. Most of Saturday’s performers fit into the alternative rock genre, but Marina put on a pop show. Despite her name, Marina is a solo act, and “The Diamonds” to which she refers are her fans. Her name originates from her last name, Diamandis, which means “diamonds” in Greek.
The neon “Electra Heart” and “Lonely Hearts Club Boston” signs promoted the persona Diamandis created for her sophomore album Electra Heart. She started the show in a wedding veil then exchanged it for an “M” letter jacket. Her performance was more visual and flashy than any of the other acts — it had Lady Gaga’s quirkiness and Lily Allen’s sass.
Sunday’s weather was sunny and more ideal for a music festival though it was still chilly for May. While people dressed to fit the Coachella look on Saturday by wearing shorts and floral headbands, more people dressed for the weather on Sunday. Even Sunday’s lineup had a different vibe and seemed more geared toward an older audience with acts like The National and Young the Giant closing the show as compared to Saturday’s closers Marina and the Diamonds and Fun – more pop-based acts.
My two favorite acts from Sunday were Andrew Bird and Young the Giant. Bird’s quick transition from violin to guitar was impressive, and his whistling sounded so close to a bird it was unlike any other impersonation I have heard. Also, his ability to restart songs set him apart from other acts because it showed he wasn’t concerned with putting on a show. Instead, he was focused on precision. I found this refreshing because many other artists used recordings or voice manipulators, but Bird sounded authentic and clean.
Young the Giant was another highlight because of frontman Sameer Gadhia’s powerful vocals. He used two microphones during their set, one for effects, but I felt he did not need to add anything to show the power in his range. During their set, the group presented new songs “Anagram” and “Fire” that they are working on for their sophomore album, a retired song, and their singles, including the latest “Apartment.”
I think Boston finally needed to have its own music festival. Even if Boston Calling was in City Hall Plaza and not in the desert like Coachella or Grant Park like Lollapalooza, it worked with the city. It was directly off the Government Center T stop and a minute away from Faneuil Hall, so everyone had the best of Boston and the great music all day.
However, I do not think the festival was perfect. There are a few changes they need to make before the next Boston Calling in September, such as stage arrangement and longer gaps in between acts. Since each performance led into the next, people raced from the Main Stage to City Hall Stage and had to stake out locations for a decent view. I feel they will work out these minor issues before the second festival, but this weekend was a promising first attempt, and I expect it to be even better in the fall!
The next Boston Calling is September 7 & 8 and will feature Vampire Weekend, Passion Pit, and Kendrick Lamar. Early bird presale tickets are available starting May 31st and regular passes are available starting June 7th.