Boston Calling took place in City Hall Plaza this past weekend, and the entire area buzzed with energy and excitement the whole time. Surrounding the two stages were dozens of tents where local companies and vendors sold food, flower crowns, and handed out samples. People flowed in and out between performances, but there was also a constant, huge mass of people right in front of the stages, waiting for the next performer to come out. The energy increased greatly during performances, fed by both the performers’ and the crowd’s excitement to be there. The crowd danced and sang along with the performers, all whilst cheering, tossing around beach balls, and waving their arms and blue light sticks along to the music (in the attempt to join the camaraderie, someone even waved his crutch instead). Boston Calling is truly an event that captures the youthful and fun personality of Boston.
Boston Calling had 23 different artists over the three days, allowing you to pick and choose which concerts you wanted to attend, which works great for college students. With psets, applications, and papers that demanded attention this weekend, I incentivized my work schedule around the performances I really wanted to see. Of Monsters and Men got me to finish my 6.0001 pset, Alt-J helped me get through 22.01, and the prospect of watching Nate Ruess got me through 8.03.
All the shows were phenomenal, largely because the performers were so engaging and dynamic. The focus on merging visuals with their music defined Alt-J’s uniquely multisensory performance. The lead singer, Joe Newman’s eerie, ethereal voice (which I happily discovered is not the effect of autotune) was paired with colorful, geometric graphics and visual overlays on the big screens flanking the stage. Of Monsters and Men entranced the audience with their delicate and perfectly harmonized voices, but they also enthused the crowd by performing “Little Talks” (there’s something particularly satisfying about finally hearing your favorite radio staple live). Similarly, although Walk the Moon’s entire performance was fantastically lively, supplemented with jokes, dancing, and upbeat songs like “Anna Sun” and “Different Colors,” the applause following “Shut Up and Dance” was easily the loudest I heard the crowd get that weekend.
Although it is great listening to songs from the band’s albums, listening to a performer’s take on another song can just as fun. To hear a classic reinterpreted by another artist can both truly convey his/her unique style while reinvigorating the song. For instance, listening to Nate Ruess cover “Rocket Man” by Elton John was certainly a highlight of the weekend, because his voice perfectly fit the song and displayed his impressive vocal range. The standout performance of the festival though was one that I just happened to stumble on while waiting for Nate Ruess: MisterWives. The lead singer, Mandy Lee, was mind-blowingly energetic. She was somehow able to jump and dance wildly while still singing on key, periodically address the crowd, and at a certain point, randomly whipped out some drumsticks and did a drum solo, all without seeming tired or out of breath. Misterwives’ peppy songs “Our Own House” and “Best I Can Do,” paired with their impeccable covers of “I Can’t Feel My Face” by the Weekend and “Pretty Young Thing” by Michael Jackson made this an unforgettable performance.
In addition to the musical talent, the entire festival logistically was beautifully run and coordinated. I really got the sense that they put a lot of effort into making the audience’s experience as great as possible. The stage lighting was beautifully and artistically done, individualized to each performer’s style and sound. The process of getting into and out of the plaza was quick and stress free, meaning you did not have to spend all your time in a line trying to get in. The team behind Boston Calling also built a beautifully designed app specifically for the event. The app quickly tells people about the daily schedules, sends notifications when a performance begins, and allows the user to build a schedule customized to their preferences.
Boston Calling will be back in May with a whole new lineup.