Boston Calling: Fall 2014 [Festival Review]

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Boston Calling was the is this past weekend and if you couldn’t make it to City Hall Plaza, your escape from the festival’s gravitational pull may very well go down in history as “lame.” Metrojolt has always had a blast at the fest, and last weekend’s edition was no different. Here’s the best of what we saw.

 

Friday

Neutral Milk Hotel (8:00 pm Blue Stage)

Some might assume the worst when a ‘90s indie band (one which hasn’t released a single album in over 15 years) plays at a college-aged festival. These college-aged patrons were most likely still trying not to wet the bed when NMH made it into the music scene. Despite the age gap, Jeff Mangum walked across the stage, wild roars defying the creaks of time, and settled at stage left. The roar continued into a swoon with Mangum’s solo opening of “I Will Bury You In Time.” He wasn’t much about the whole Eddie Van Halen stage romping, so it wasn’t a surprise when Mangum didn’t light his guitar on fire (no bat or dove eating either). In his humble midst, the other band mates brought the energetic twinge, balancing the odd with their multi-instrumental talent. Strings, brass, (saws!), and accordions twisted into a sound, recreating that distinguished Neutral Milk mustache all over again. Definitely a show for the fans, but most of all: the commencement of an eclectic weekend line-up.

Later that night, The National had a light show.

 

Saturday

Sky Ferreira (3:05 Blue Stage)

Sky’s set distracted the midday crowd from grumbling about the nasty, sticky, humid, gross and otherwise typical Boston summer heat. Like a busy philanderer, the weather was getting around to everyone. Even Sky got hot and bothered…she halted two songs due to some technical issues. It was a bit distracting to her performance, but the Boston Callers didn’t make too much fuss about it because at least she didn’t split open her shin onstage…or get arrested for ecstasy possession…or a vocal chord hemorrhage… She seems to be prone to accidents, so yeah, we were all glad it was just a minor blip on the day-dar.

Take, for instance, the initial tornado warnings. Spits of rain predicted something was going to happen, but most people thought those tornado warnings were just a twitter buzz-frenzy. Then the clouds rolled in. Then the festival went into emergency mode. Flip flops flapped their way into the safety of Quincy Market, others dove into bars, and, Lorde fans wept beneath the newly electrified air.

Volcano Choir and Girl Talk weren’t able to prove certain non-believers that they actually are people, not just Spotify noise.

Lorde (8:15 Red Stage)

As soon as Lorde stepped foot onstage, arms went up reaching high with smart phone arm-extensions. Not a moment went by in which Lorde’s set went uninterrupted by a screen. The Beatles had a tough time doing live shows because of self-sacrificing shrieks coming from thousands upon thousands of Beatle-crazed female fans. Lorde has Snapchat and Instagram to reckon with. There’s definitely a reason for her snowballing super-stardom. The precocious teenager stepped up in front of thousands, danced like a long-sleeved shirt on a windy summer day, sang just like her record, and took time between numbers in order to relate to her audience. These in-betweens proved how mature seventeen can be: bold and sweet; righteous with a twang of gratefulness. Somebody said Royals and Lorde swam on, wearing red-flowing robes, looking like Queen Bee. Without the fully developed cache of an older artist, Lorde’s set rose and fell and rose again. Each song has its merits but no others topped the energy after Royals. She was fierce, maintained control, and rebuilt confidence in a storm stricken Boston crowd.

 

Sunday

White Denim (2:15 pm Red Stage)

Walking in on White Denim’s raw-ckin set was a fine way to wake up. There was some stringy stage presence going on, especially when James Petralli changed his guitar into an electric harp, de-stringing the beast until the song said, “I’m over.” Mr. “Pearly” Petralli’s teeth were practically backup singers throughout White Denim’s set. Ask any photographer about who had the best smile, and well…yeah…it’s Petralli. The four-piece Austin crew looked like they were a bunch of dudes doin’ tunes for the fun of it. And it went cool.

The War On Drugs (3:05 pm Blue Stage)

The War on Drugs led the White Denim fans to another musical oasis. It didn’t get too reverb-y, it wasn’t synth-y, it didn’t hit that afternoon lull where the crowd fades out. It was a sound like sex-y. And that baritone sax. In Red Eyes, the saxophone rose up like the sun, bringing light to Adam Granduciel’s masterful guitar playing. The sound was the right fragment of clean, and made an incredible song alive. Rounding off with Lost in the Dream wove the set together, leaving the crowd in a moment, wanting more.

Lake Street Dive (3:55 pm Red Stage)

Lake Street Dive had the jazz. Aside from bringing out the inner 38-year-old shoulder rockin’ father in all of us, the New England Conservatory graduates swung the college crowd around within itself. The quartet’s stomping grounds, wooing in bright upbeat songs had a full hour of running in LSD’s groove. Not the drug. The abbreviation of the band. I’m sure one person was high on LSD. But the rest were high on Lake Street Dive. The soulful whimsy that Lake Street Dive brought, had to have carried away a fresh netting of new fans.

Skipping along, we pass by Twenty One Pilots…oh and hey! Look there! It’s the 1975!

Spoon (7:10 pm Blue Stage)

Spoon. This is that Austin band, named after heroin’s gateway utensil. No? They didn’t name themselves according to heroin? Is that why their set held up as perfectly as it did? In fact, I’d be damned if Spoon didn’t have a healthy bowl of Wheaties prior to the show. Or they just had spoonfulls of spoons. Who’s to say? (After an odd run of an analogy, the writer of this article woke up from an awful dream and decided he would finally talk about the performance.) “Small Stakes” and those glorious cheers gave proof that the crowd wanted all of Spoon, and not some “fancy new album after a four year hiatus.” However, the classic mix of Kill the Moonlight, Gimme Fiction, and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (etc…?) illuminated the golden solidity of this band’s track record. They Want My Soul fit right in alongside the legendary singles and songs of Spoon lore. It seems like Britt Daniels is using his live sets to perfect some sort of ongoing career spanning album. Or should I say career-spooning??? No? Okay. Apologies.

Overall the days of this Boston Calling were long bouts shortened by the great talent that made it to the festival line-up. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Quinn Banford