From April to June, I am embarking on an 11-week, 11-music festival trip across the United States, beginning with Coachella and ending in Pasadena at Arroyo Seco. The seventh stop on the trip was Boston Calling at Harvard Athletic Complex. Read up on my trip into Boston for Boston Calling! You can also read my recap I did for QRO Mag here, and also my Best + Worst of Boston Calling post I did for my blog here!
BOSTON CALLING (ALLSTON, MA.)
THURSDAY, MAY 25
I flew into Boston on Wednesday — it was my first time ever in the city, and it would also be my first time ever staying at a hostel. I stayed at the Backpackers Hostel in Everett, and it was really cheap (about $40 a night) to stay in a room with eight beds. They offered a free shuttle to the nearest T train (their version of the subway), which was convenient. The cool thing about staying in a hostel is it was such an international experience. Most of the people staying there were from other countries where hosteling is a pretty normal thing. I met people from Australia, France, Germany, Sweden, and some other spots.
Thursday, I went to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game against the Rangers. It was raining that day, and I was able to get a ticket on StubHub for 90 cents. I ended up sitting next to some people in from Philly who were also going to Boston Calling and I chatted to them a bit. I did a little bit of walking around Boston, but was mostly saving my energy for the weekend.
FRIDAY, MAY 26
I took the T-train down to the fest and got to the gates way too early. For some reason I thought the gates opened at 1 PM, but they didn’t open until 2:30 PM. The first thing I noticed about Boston Calling 2017 was how young the crowd was. Teens everywhere. Chance the Rapper was headlining, and when the gates finally opened, many of them ran full speed to lock up a spot on the rail.
The first act of the day was a local indie rock band called Vundabar. They were quite weird — lots of dad jokes and the drummer made the weirdest faces while playing I’ve ever seen. They weren’t really my style but a lot of people seemed to really dig their set. Singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus was up next, and her sad jams were a perfect pair with the rain, which started to come down a bit during her set. I had brought a poncho and was well protected. I went and caught some of Deerhoof and didn’t vibe with them at all, and left to get a good spot for Francis and the Lights.
Few acts are on the fest circuit as hard as Francis and the Lights. I caught him at Coachella back to back weekends and really enjoyed his set. I’ve been into his music dating back to his first EP many years ago. His album last year was one of my two or three favorites of 2016. He was performing on the same stage Chance the Rapper would headline that day, and he managed to impress Chance’s fans with his dance moves and swag despite coming from a much different genre. He brought out Chance for the last song to dance during “May I Have this Dance”, which was really cool.
Up next was Sylvan Esso, who I was seeing for the 10th time. I really love their new album and their shows have gone to another level on this album cycle. “I’m from Cambridge, I feel right at home,” Amelia Meath said. “People are so mean.” She dedicated “Hey Mami” to Harvard Square, where she says she remembers getting catcalled for the first time. Speaking of swag, she has all of it and it is amazing how dynamic their live shows are considering it’s electro folk and it is just two of them on stage.
After Sylvan Esso, I grabbed some Firefly BBQ and ate some beef brisket and potato salad, chatting some people up near me in line. I got a spot for Bon Iver that would allow me to get headed to Sigur Ros on the far away Blue Stage as soon as he ended. I chatted up these two dudes who were talking about the Tampa Bay Bucs, my NFL team I root for. They were passing around a joint when Bon Iver started and were kind enough to pass it my way. My vape pen had just run out of juice for the weekend so it was well timed.
Bon Iver delivered my favorite set of Boston Calling. It started raining a bit and then really started coming down hard during “Holocene” once the sun came down, and the crowd cheered the rain on wildly and I got goosebumps. He followed it up with “Skinny Love” and my night was made. Afterwards I headed over to Sigur Ros, who didn’t have a very big crowd, allowing me to get a good spot. I stayed for almost the whole remainder and then headed over to Chance’s headline set.
I got to Chance the Rapper just in time for “Sunday Candy”, my favorite of his early mixtape jams. He was preachy in a good way on stage and he’s a great role model for young kids to look up to. There were so many of those “3” hats in the crowd. He closed the night with “Same Drugs”, which I think is one of the best written songs of the past few years. It was a good way to end the first night. I headed back to my hostel and took a shower and chatted up some people who were also at the fest and staying there. Some people from Rhode Island came in for it that were pretty cool. I watched a documentary on the Silk Road before passing out.
SATURDAY, MAY 27
I got to the fest in time for the opener on Saturday, Alexandra Savior. She had a really shy way about her, and her sound was a bit like late-stage Fiona Apple and a dash of Lana del Rey in her. Afterwards I headed to Kevin Morby. I didn’t know anyone at Boston Calling, and I found this thread on the Reddit page for the festival of solo trippers who were attending and meeting up using this app called GroupMe. I ended up meeting with one of the dudes from that thread at Kevin Morby, who had some Bob Dylan in him. Then we went over to Strand of Oaks and met up with some other people from the GroupMe chat, which is dope.
Next, I went with some of the people from GroupMe to watch some of Moses Sumney. I’ve seen the LA-based Moses a handful of tmes, he really made an impression on me opening for Hundred Waters a few years back. He really won over the crowd despite his chill tempo tunes. Next I ran over to catch some of Oh Wonder before heading to the media tent for some free Tasty Burger. Damn that was delicious. I also chatted up some fellow media folks who all seemed to be pretty local.
Next I caught some of Brandi Carlile, who really impressed me with her rockin’ Americana tunes. Then I ran over to catch some of rapper Danny Brown on the far-away Blue Stage. I wasn’t ever a huge fan of his until his Middlelands set earlier on this trip, he drops some fucking BARS.
One of the few people on the lineup I was seeing for the first time was Tegan and Sara, who I have been a fan of for quite a while. They cracked up the crowd with their jokes and their tunes were so fun. A fan at the front of the crowd passed out and a cart had to come out for them, Tegan and Sara killed time by making jokes. Sara said she’s gay but would accept a marriage disposal from Harry Styles, saying she was straight enough.
Next, I met up with more of the GroupMe people for Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. Their set was a ton of fun and they will be banking tons of money on their big hit “S.O.B.” for years to come. Next I caught some of The xx. I had seen them four times already on my trip, and their act was getting a bit stale to me because even their banter between songs is the same from show to show. For being so emotional, they are a bit too robotic.
I actually went over to watch some of The 1975, a band I mostly loathe. I find them to be a homeless man’s version of INXS, and when I first saw them at Coachella in 2014, the lead singer was drunk and the show was horrible. They were much improved since then, though it still isn’t quite for me. I went to watch some of Mumford & Sons on the main stage, but the sound quality from where I was standing was shitty, the volume was too low. It wasn’t at all as good as their Hangout Fest set the week before, through no fault of their own. I bailed early and called it a night, picking up Dunkin Donuts in the T subway terminal on the way back.
SUNDAY, MAY 28
I got to the fest Sunday in time for the opener, Mondo Cozmo. I caught most of their set the previous weekend at Hangout and loved that he sang a little bit of “Fell On Black Days” as tribute to Chris Cornell. I met up with one of my GroupMe friends in the crowd. Mondo Cozmo started playing “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve, and I noticed a dude near us with a weed pen. I asked nicely if I could hit it, that mine were all dead, and he let me and my friend. Then he pulled out a joint, sparked it up, and handed it to us. It took the entirety of “Bittersweet Symphony” to smoke it. Then they started playing this song called “Shine” — where the lyrics are “Let em get high / Let em get stoned / Everything will be alright if you let it go” and the guy whipped out a second joint and said “Well, can’t not smoke this when this song is playing.” By the end of it I was so stoned — smoking analog weed really gets you there when you’ve been used to smoking digital for the last few weeks. I stayed high the rest of the day off those two joints.
Next I caught bits of Hiss Golden Messenger and then some of PUP — who had bits of so many genres in their music. PUP was punk with a dash of emo to go with it. Then I caught Mitski, who I had rushed on a bicycle to see Coachella weekend 2 and was sweaty and gross the whole time. This time I got to be chill and her set really blew me away — her voice and angst was Chris Cornell meets Alanis Morissette. I got some food and listened to Flatbush Zombies before lying on the turf to hear some of Frightened Rabbit.
I went and saw Run the Jewels for the ninth time and they delivered a killer show as usual. Cage the Elephant followed, and they’re one of the best American rock n roll bands out there today. A fan somehow got on stage and attempted to stage dive and botched it so bad that lead singer Matt Shultz winced. The diver tried clearing a 15 foot gap and apparently landed right on the bar on his ribs. Watch the video at 2:40 below, it is hilarious.
Next, Weezer had one of the largest crowds of the weekend closing out the Blue Stage. The turf was packed, the bleachers were packed, and nostalgia was high. I sat in the bleachers pretty high and chilled out. “Say It Ain’t So” and “Buddy Holly” were a killer one-two punch to end it, and they threw in a cover of Outkast’s “Hey Ya”.
Afterwards I tried getting psyched up for Tool but the main stage was again thwarted by lack of volume, causing Tool fans to yell “Turn it up!” The visuals were dope but I couldn’t get into a half-volume show and left after 30 minutes. i went back and stayed up pretty late, packing my bags and chatting some of the other guests of the hostel until going to sleep. I had an 8 AM bus from Boston to New York in the morning. I’ll be at Governors Ball this weekend, looking forward to seeing Childish Gambino and a sea of many others!