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Boston Calling Highlights

Over the course of Boston Calling’s three-day festival just a few weeks ago, there were plenty of moments that struck a chord with the audience. These came from acts big and small, and we at LOL wanted to recap some of our favorite sights and sounds. From fresh faced newcomers to seasoned festival veterans, every act at Boston Calling performed with aplomb – read on for some of the stellar moments observed by our editor, Kara Kokinos, during the three day festival.

Best Stage Show
It is not easy to enchant me with heavy bass and lots of
pretty lights, but if there was ever a group that could do it, that would be
Chromeo. While musically their set became a bit of a blur, the infectiously
funky tunes were brought to life by two musicians whose commitment to engaging
their audience was a breath of fresh air. It was a perfect set up for the rest
of the night’s performers and a wonderful way to get everyone’s blood flowing
on a chilly night.


Most Consistent
Alt-J have a soft spot in the hearts of many fans of ambient
indie rock because of their ability to churn out well produced and well written
songs that are not necessarily stand alone hits but always have tremendous
musical merit. It doesn’t hurt that the band has been able to craft a live show
that reflects much of the same attention to detail and subtlety throughout.


Most Diehard Fans
Friday has almost always been a slower day for Boston
Calling, as expected from a weekday show and its shorter bill. Trust the Avett Brothers
to change all of that. Ticket sales have reportedly been higher this year than
in years past and it was clear from the presence on Friday night that the
choice to book the folk rockers was a wise one. I had the pleasure of meeting
two fans of the band who informed me that this was their 27th time
seeing the group perform live – and that they knew plenty of people in
attendance whose numbers made their own look weak in comparison. Although I was
familiar with the band’s music, I was not prepared for their fans. It’s easy to
go to shows, especially festivals, and see plenty of people with arms crossed
and dead eyes. That simply would not fly while the Avett Brothers performed. The
clamoring of the crowd was coupled with enough dancing and clapping to truly
start the festival off with a bang. While much of the crowd succumbed to the
cold of the night as the group chugged along, everyone who remained left with
broad smiles and a roar in their eardrums.


1-2 Punch
Nothing makes my heart sing more than fuzzy garage rock, and
the combination hits of Bully paired with FIDLAR was a tribute to the Allston
Pudding loving, basement show going members of the crowd. Bully’s singer Alicia
Bognanno delivered all of her lyrics with a bite and thrashing guitars set the
tone for the least subtle band to grace the Boston Calling stage. FIDLAR initially
had an audience that was half enthralled and half in a state of utter confusion
but midway through the set everyone seemed to be on the same page, whether you
were there to see the band or just caught up in the infectious energy that
comes with screaming, “I drink cheap beer, so what? Fuck you,” on repeat. The
intensity was enough to make anyone who had partied too hard the previous night
a bit queasy.


Most Heartbreaking
Although many of the acts packed an emotionally charged set,
Daughter’s set was incredibly stirring. While the trio’s recorded music is
particularly haunting, seeing it performed was an unsurprisingly moving
experience. While the entire set had a somber tone, the execution of “Smother”
and “Youth” was enough to visibly bring audience members to tears. Singer Elena
Tonra was adorably nervous during the set, the trembling timbre of her voice
coupled with guitarist’s Igor Haefeli’s playing of bowed guitar was incredibly
atmospheric and evocative. With the addition of Remi Aguilella’s supporting
instrumentation, the band was able to take the ethereal and ground it enough to
be hard hitting and captivating for an audience who tuned out a lot of the more
quiet acts of the weekend. All of this was done during a daytime performance,
following the howling intensity of FIDLAR, a feat that deserves respect in
itself. The band, who have opened for fellow performer Ben Howard, was
unforgettable in the best way.


Tame Tidings
When Father John Misty takes the stage, you anticipate
something a bit wild. While audience members were able to see that in his wild
motions on stage, J. Tillman was shockingly unshocking in addressing the crowd.
Though he encouraged the audience to “gourge yourself on pleasure”, there was a
slight air of either disinterest or apathy in his performance. In case this
seems like a harsh assessment, the singer recently came out with covers from
Taylor Swift’s 1989 in the style of the Velvet Underground and claimed that the
ghost of Lou Reed appeared to him in a vision and told him to take them down in
order to make a statement about the media’s penchant for all things
nonsensical. The man does not shy away from making a statement, and while he
let the music speak for itself, there was a sense that a ball was going to drop
at any moment but never quite hit the ground.


Let’s Hear It For The Girls
With more and more festivals getting attention for the lack
of women gracing their stages, it was refreshing to see such a strong female
presence in the performers at Boston Calling. While this could be attributed to
the smaller number of total artists performing, eight of the 23 acts performing
had female core members and many had one or more female instrumentalists in
addition to their primary members. This was not counting the many touring
members of several bands, including percussionists, singers, brass, and string
instrumentalists. Although not the strongest showing, it’s a welcome step in
the right direction, especially with such a variety of music styles being
showcased, at all career levels. This was also the first time that a female
fronted act had closed out Boston Calling. Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard had the
entirety of City Hall Plaza on their feet by Sunday night but there were plenty
of exciting artists exploring genre and technique. Whether it was Doomtree’s stylized
hip hop led by the unapologetically hard hitting Dessa, CHVRCHES’ Lauren
Mayberry who has made headlines both for her delicate yet commanding voice as
well as her lack of tolerance with misogyny, both online and at her band’s
shows, or Misterwives’ Mandy Lee whose vocal ability keeps getting stronger and
isn’t afraid to voice her own frustrations in the music industry, ripping into
gender stereotypes while doing pushups. It’s always fantastic to see female
musicians advocate for themselves while churning out music that packs a heavy
punch.

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