Greeted by mud-filled lawns, brisk temperatures, and massive crowds, Boston Calling festival goers entered Harvard University's Athletics Complex for the first time on May 26. What was expected by most to be the first dose of summer festivities—normally characterized by sun, cold drinks, and tank tops—Boston's unforgiving weather significantly altered the narrative. Instead, attendees donned raincoats, drank hot coffee, and found warmth in the bustling crowd.
Due to its new location and increasingly notable reputation, the fifth installment of Boston Calling Music Festival was highly anticipated. The new location required a more attentive staff, a greater variety of vendors, and most importantly, a wider lineup.
This year's festival delivered all that and more despite brief logistical issues in regards to overcrowding. With over 40,000 in attendance on the first day alone, the festival confronted the growing pains that were bound to accompany its new, larger location. Despite the absurdly long lines, festival goers proved resilient as they patiently stood in line while listening to performances nearby.
Regardless of logistical issues in regards to a larger crowd, the three day festival was a success in every other respect. The performances offered opportunities for music lovers of all backgrounds to find something worth listening to. From Chance the Rapper's rainy Friday night show to Mumford and Sons' highly energized set on Saturday, the festival appealed to Bostonians and tourists alike.
It did not matter if the crowd belted out every word or seemed to be encountering the music for the first time, for musicians energized and involved the audience with each song. Performers like Whitney, Mac Demarco, Lucy Dacus, and Mitski emanated energy despite their shared laid-back stage presence. Artists such as Cage the Elephant, Bon Iver, Francis & the Lights, Tegan & Sara, and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats amped up crowds with each successive electric performance.
While the headlining performances were highly anticipated and more than exceeded the attendees' expectations, there were ample artists who likewise left their mark on the three Boston Calling stages.
With a cigarette and a bottle of Jameson in hand, Mac Demarco performed a late afternoon set that impressed with its indie, rock infused sound. Upon requesting a lighter, Demarco and company were bombarded with lighters, undergarments, and a variety of other items that the artist welcomed with a wide grin. As security tensed up, Demarco wandered over to stage left and took a running start and dove into the crowd as his band played the final song of their set.
Another noteworthy performance was that of Cage the Elephant. One of the final performers of the festival, the Nashville native band provided the perfect transition from indie afternoon vibes to the intensified and heavy sound characteristic of Tool. The crowd fed off of lead singer Matt Shultz's spastic energy, and with each passing song, the crowd grew more and more rowdy.
Perhaps the most collectively enjoyed set was that of Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. On the spectrum between alternative rock and folk with a sprinkle of vintage rhythm and blues, the band incited a massive sing-along that resulted in the crowd's collective head bobbing and swaying back and forth to each new tune.
Boston Calling's diverse lineup translated into a diverse audience and thus made the 2017 edition of the event flourish in its new location. Festival goers of all ages, races, and music tastes entered and exited the arches each day. On the festival's main site it warned, "Boston Calling is a rain or shine event." As witnessed this past weekend, that statement couldn't be more true. Despite the undesired gloomy weather and the unfavorable long lines, attendees and performers made the weekend one to be remembered.
Ultimately, the festival's new location proved to be a success and is bound to continue to do so in the years to come.
Proud midwesterner, but Boston is pretty neat too. Music over everything. Hoping to find a way to make a living on half written songs -- or something like that. Forever aspiring to climb Ron Swanson's pyramid of greatness.