In the annals of history, Saturday’s portion of Boston Calling will in all likelihood wind up overshadowed by the 90 degree beating we all took at the hands of Mr. Sun, that miserable bastard. Unless you found somewhere shady to hang or have access to an unlimited supply of water, you’re kinda fucked over here. It’s a drag, because at a festival that’s occasionally been accused of adhering too close to the comfortable, inoffensive middle ground, this edition included some palpable variety. It’s not just a mostly indie rock festival this time. It’s not just a mostly electronic music festival, either. S’got a little sumpthin’ for the whole friggin’ bunch of us.
Before L.A.’s Børns carried out the weekend’s inevitable David Bowie cover with a B+ rendition of “Heroes” at around 4:30 p.m., the following occurred.
Sia shattered reality on Friday night, so perhaps we were all in need of some comparatively old fashioned, gritty, grimey, glossless rock ‘n roll. Enter local favs Palehound. Front-woman Ellen Kempner arrived with no knowledge that she’d be projected on a big honkin’ video wall, and said she found her own giant-sized image distracting. This tells us that she has never been to a Boston Calling festival before, otherwise she would’ve expected this. We all need to start giving Palehound more money so they can afford tickets to stuff like this, me thinks.
I was under the impression Lizzo was a rapper, which she is, but I did not realize she sang about half the time, and her decisively powerful vocals caught me off guard. Shows what I know. A handful of songs aimed to inspire a healthy sense of self-worth in its listeners, regardless of their body type. I’m a dude, so literally no one ever tries to make me feel bad about my appearance (or bad personal hygiene, or terrible attitude, oddly enough), but many of us who are not dudes may find better use for such Lizzo tunes than I am able to. As the great Homer Simpson once said about 18 to 45 year old white males, everybody listens to me, even if my hot take is nuts ‘n gum.
Like Sufjan Stevens the previous night, Lizzo came accompanied by backup dancers, who demonstrated not only more skill than Stevens’ flanks, but more wisdom. Apparently aware of how brutally uncomfortable the heat would make City Hall Plaza, Lizzo and Co. foresightfully opted against wearing pants. They also brought Super Soakers to spray the crowd — a thoughtful gesture, seeing as how the wait in line for free water looked precariously long by that point.
Let’s face it — festival crowds don’t really care about innovative soundscapes, slow-burning arrangements of samples melded with live instruments, or the slick decision on the part of drummer John Stanier to place his crash cymbal far, far too high up to ever whack it by accident. Dude is a verifiable rhythmic assassin, and racks up an additional nine points for the courage to play a bright yellow drumkit.
But back to the point, most of the audience for Battles was oblivious to all that sort of thing. They just wanted to hear something they could dance to. Fortuitously, the lyric-less NYC threesome demonstrated no shortage of bangerz, thereby servicing music dweebs and casual passersby alike. Battles wrapped their presentation with “The Yabba,” a seven-minute epic, and left us all to contemplate a future in which we are all immortal cyborgs and all music sounds like this.
At the risk of reducing The Vaccines — a spunky garage rock act likely deserving of more in-depth analysis — to a dated TV reference, I spent most of their set reminding myself that I was not watching a spirited performance by Driveshaft. As has been well documented, bassist and lyricist Charlie Pace survived the crash of Oceanic Flight 815, but did not live through its aftermath. It was Not Penny’s Boat, let’s remember. Also, Lost was a TV show that took place in fairytale imaginary land, and therefore, Driveshaft cannot play music festival here in the real world.
Unaccustomed to a trio — not a pair — of Boston Calling stages to keep track of, I read the schedule wrong and missed Nemes. Like I said, the heat was starting to get to me. Luckily I get a few more chances to catch cool shit on the Verizon Stage, and I won’t make the same mistake twice. But you can listen to our interview with them here.
Stay tuned for part two of the Day/Night 2 of Boston Calling, coming later at some point.