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Boston Calling festival delights thousands

Published: September 20, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.


There were a lot of things that could have gone wrong with the Boston Calling festival this past week. It took place in a venue that isn’t as large as most festival venues, in a city as crowded and busy as Boston, and drew at least 20,000 people to attend. Nothing went wrong last year, however, and unsurprisingly, Boston Calling’s sophomore attempt was as overwhelmingly successful as the last.

The festival venue was managed easily and smoothly; every stage was marked clearly, the food trucks were at one end of the venue and there were stands for beverages at every corner. Organizers utilized space brilliantly.

The first band I had the pleasure of watching was You Won’t, a duo from Massachusetts. Having never heard of them before, I didn’t know what to expect. I was surprised by their utilization of a multitude of instruments like harmoniums and kid xylophones to play simplistic contemporary music. Like most people who saw them, I was charmed by their musical sophistication and, of course, their wind chimes.

The next band I saw was Okkervil River, an amazing folk band from Texas. They started out with “It Was My Season,” a song from their new album “Silver Gymnasium,” which offered a good peek into their brand of energetic folk music. Their set was a brilliant collection of songs from their new album, as well as favorites like “For Real.”

Airborne Toxic Event followed with one of my favorite sets of the day. Anna Bulbrook’s haunting viola solos and Mikel Jollett’s effervescent stage presence stole the show. The entire crowd sang along to the very popular and catchy songs like “Changing” and “Timeless,” while tossing large beach balls. At one point during the set, two of the band members climbed over the scaffolding on the stage while one of them crowd surfed. The crowd was in a frenzy when the band started throwing mementos out into the audience, such as signed drumsticks and guitar picks. “Airborne Toxic Event” managed to be very involved with the large crowd and their magnetism left an impact on every person.

After a long wait, Local Natives, the now very popular indie pop band from LA, took the stage. With their new album “Hummingbird” they have left a niche in the indie pop music scene, and that confidence oozed in every song they performed. I felt that hearing the comparatively folksy songs of Local Natives after Airborne Toxic Event was strange in comparison. Yet, most people in the large crowd were enthusiastically singing along, and shrieked the words to “Sun Hands” and “Airplanes”. The highlight of their performance for me was their brilliant cover of Talking Head’s “Warning Sign” and their excitement about being introduced by Boston mayor Tom Menino, which they mentioned a number of times during their performance.

The set times were matched perfectly with performers playing on alternate stages, so that it was easy to experience every performance. It got a little chaotic towards the end, however, when most fans were waiting for the day’s headliners Vampire Weekend to perform. Most fans did not move after Local Natives’ performance, instead choosing to wait for an hour and a half for the headliners to arrive. This caused a lot of discomfort within the crowd. This would have left me disgruntled, if it weren’t for the fact the Vampire Weekend’s performance was worth all that wait and disorder.

While all the other bands performed with no significant changes to the stage, Vampire Weekend chose to change the stage background to match the cover of their third and best album yet “Modern Vampires of the City,” which added to the appeal of their performance. From the first song “Diane Young,” the entire crowd was bewitched by their relaxed yet dynamic stage persona. They played many of their unforgettable songs like “Ya Hey” and “Obvious Bicycle” from their new album, along with songs like “A Punk” and “Cousins.” This was one of their best sets, showcasing their marvelous variety.

I left the venue exhausted and dehydrated, but still reflecting on the music. On this night, I did not want to leave Boston.