The second half of the last day of any music festival presents a challenge. Anyone who’s stuck around from the beginning may have difficulty maintaining interest. Bands can get stuck playing for audiences who’ve already O.D.’d on live music sometime within the immediate past. To mitigate this unavoidable ennui, I’m guessing Boston Calling organizers rigged Sunday evening’s schedule to appeal to one-day ticket buyers, those who knew they lacked the fortitude to withstand two and a half full days: Old people, in other words.
Personally, if I’m to judge a festival’s success by the ratio of acts I remember fondly a day later versus how many bands I forgot about 20 minutes after their last song, Boston Calling fall ‘15 was much better than an average music festival! Chvrches, Bully, Fidlar, Father John Misty, Alabama Shakes, and Doomtree all either ruled as much as I figured they were going to, or wildly surpassed my expectations. Walk the Moon was also memorable, because Walk the Moon was barf, and barf is unforgettable.
Mandy Lee from MisterWives looked like she was having way, waaaay too much fun. To the extent where I wondered if she exaggerated her enthusiasm in hopes that her false enthusiasm would inspire genuine enthusiasm amongst her audience (if so, I think it worked). I also wondered if she had taken powerful drugs of some kind. But an adept “P.Y.T.” cover always equals an automatic three-and-a-half stars, and MisterWives’s guitar player’s half pink/half purple hair is so stupid it crosses the threshold, comes all the way back around, and becomes rad. MisterWives is good energy, great drugs (maybe), and even better hair.
Of course I’d rather get kneed in the groin than ever hear Nate Ruess’s somehow-equal-parts-milquetoast-and-grating voice announce an intention to “Set the world on fyyy-ya!” ever again, and I didn’t appreciate his draining the life out of “Let’s Go Crazy” — although it’s sort of impressive how Ruess’s blandness is so all-encompassing, it can even make a Prince staple boring. But in the big scheme of things, I’m not a part of this guy’s target demographic. It doesn’t really matter if I think he sucks; he was never trying to convince me to buy stuff from him in the first place. Those of you who are members of Nate Ruess’s target demographic and saw his set probably enjoyed yourselves, and y’know what? That’s super. I got to see one of my favorite bands this weekend too. Everybody won.
Better yet, an instance of unique timing almost salvaged Ruess’s set for me. As he managed to not butcher Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” the moon came out, and the moon looked weird. It was a cool moment! This is a picture!
“Whoa, this guy is depressing,” thought I. Even the closest Ben Howard came to upbeat was pretty darn somber. Every time he had to sing an “ooooh,” Ben Howard made a droopy sad puppy face. Mandy Lee must be some sort of happiness vampire — a reverse vampire, who bursts into flames if she goes out and night – who drained all the serotonin out of Howard earlier in the day.
I didn’t think I knew who Hozier was until he wrapped up with “Take Me To Church,” and then I says to myself “Ah, ha, he’s that guy.” Hozier is kind of like if Josh Groban and Chad Kroeger had a baby, gave him up for adoption because they were ashamed of their mutant power of male pregnancy, and then was adopted and raised by Dave King from Flogging Molly, then grew up resenting King for his hard partying, anti-mainstream, punk rock ways.
A lot of people seemed really excited to hear Hozier!
Some of the old people in the VIP section got pumped up when Hozier mentioned that he used to play tiny rooms at Berklee whenever he came through Boston. Boy, has Hozier ever come a long way! As for me, I thought Hozier was fine and good and well enough.
By no fault of Hozier’s, maybe 40 percent of the audience fled in mass exodus after he was done doing his thing, and fuck those people, because…
…They left before the best part. By channeling the ghosts of roots music’s raunchy past, Brittany Howard and her robust roster of associates (there was, what, like 11 musicians on stage?) summoned more passion and fury than the aforesaid three soft-rock radio ciphers put together.
“We got ourselves a blood moon and a lunar eclipse. That means it’s time to get weird,” Howard, no relation to Ben, observed. And she would’ve been right, except Boston Calling at that point was a mix of exhausted folk, and those in a hurry to get home to go to bed because work in the morning.