Live Review: Sunday solidifies Boston Calling’s elevation from Really Big Concert to Major Music Festival


All photos by Eddy Leiva for Vanyaland; see his full Day 3 gallery here.

Boston Calling was a roaring success for the same reasons everyone’s complaining about.

The turnout’s sheer volume — rumors place it in the vicinity of 37,000 — constantly interfered with our individual abilities to enjoy our favorite bands and easily get from where we were to where we needed to be. And Boston Calling’s whole raison d’etre is to sell as many tickets as possible, so “too many people” is not a problem for Boston Calling by any metric that matters.


You wanna know about another place that’s notorious for really long lines? It’s called Disney World. Nobody ever calls Disney World a logistical failure.

Still, the City Hall Plaza versions of Boston Calling played out more like Really Big Concerts than what we think of when someone says they’re pumped for a “music” “festival.” Assuming the galactic-scale amount of financial exchanges that occurred between Friday and Sunday translate to a mountain of profit, the Really Big Concerts are over until Calling organizers migrate back to Government Center for retro-cool, nostalgia editions of Boston Calling Classic in, like, 2026.

I suppose there are much worse situations to have to make the best of.

By the by, the security douche I had my tiff with on Saturday could learn a thing or two from the staff I dealt with on Sunday. Astoundingly, they managed to keep the festival safe and comfortable without insulting, lying to, and stealing shit from those of us who showed up to work and hear some mad jamz.

The Hotelier [blue stage]

Mad jamz like “Your Deep Rest” off 2014’s Home, Like Noplace Is There which The Hotelier dispensed upon my 1 p.m. arrival. Shortly thereafter, The Best Thing To Ever Happen Or Come Out Of Worcester, Ever, kicked into “Sun” off last year’s Goodness. The Vanyaland staff was supposed to vote “Sun” onto the Top 25 Songs of 2016 like I insisted, but due to what I presume was a humiliating clerical error, it didn’t wind up on the list. Luckily, Karen Muller interviewed the shit out of Christian Holden, so Vanya’s on the way to getting its credibility back.

PUP [blue stage]

PUP is Sum 41 if Sum 41 only ever did that one Sum 41 song I really like, and maybe a bunch of other songs in the same vein as that one Sum 41 song I really like. Not only did the Toronto quartet’s set mark my day’s first sighting of That Guy In The Hammerhead Shark Costume and his friend The Banana, PUP also talked to Vanyaland later that afternoon about Spike’s Junkyard Dogs and not bathing and which one of them is Barb. (They took the question literally, but of course it was meant rhetorically. We Are All Barb.)

Mitski [red stage]

I don’t recall too many specifics about Mitski except that she did “Drunk Walk Home” — which is your favorite Mitski song if you’re the sort of person who thinks swear words are inherently more interesting than ordinary words (I am that sort of person). Mitski’s about as heavy as an artist can get while retaining the ability to do stuff like open for Feist, which, in the context of this festival, made her an ideal segue into…


Converge [green stage]

Onstage, Jacob Bannon speculated his band would be the loudest we’d hear all weekend. In fact, Converge was the loudest band in the four year, eight-festival history of Boston Calling, and the crazy thing is they weren’t even supposed to be there. The Massachusetts metalcore institution only got invited as a replacement for Modern Baseball, who canceled all their Modern Baseball-related plans back in January due to psychological wear and tear. From what I can tell, the years of Cookie Monster growls have reduced Bannon’s vocal chords to shreds, but his decimated mouth muscles feel weirdly appropriate at the center of the post-apocalyptic warzone that is the rest of Converge.

Piebald [green stage]

If the punk rocker kids I knew in high school hadn’t declared “emo” a catchall phrase for bands who weren’t tough enough for them to like, maybe I’d be an OG Piebald fan today. Instead I wanted to fit in with the “punk” clique for some reason, and now I own three Less Than Jake CDs I never listen to (horn sections made bands tougher, somehow). A toddler reportedly sired by bassist Andrew Bonner made his way to the stage to frolic before Piebald commenced their performance, and some college buddies I ran into speculated that this young gentleman was The Real King of Boston Calling. They may very well have been correct. Overall, he definitely got better reviews than Tool.


Run The Jewels [red stage]

I was worried Run The Jewels would do the exact same set I saw them play three months ago. I’m not certain if this romp was all the same songs in the same order as that last one, but I do know El-P pretended to quit the band as a mid-set comedy skit at both gigs. But eh, whatever, Run The Jewels is fun, and I saw The Hammerhead Shark Guy and The Banana again.

Staring Blankly Off Into Space Because So Very Tired

… … … … … … … …

Weezer [blue stage]

I’m pretty sure you had to hear Pinkerton at a very specific point during your adolescence to still care about Weezer, and I missed that window. They did “Hey Ya!” by OutKast, and that was amusing. They also did new and new-ish original Weezer cuts “Feels Like Summer” and “Beverly Hills,” which are dangerously close to a latter-day Offspring-level of bad.


Tool [green stage]

Hooo boy.

Haggard in the mob awaiting Tool as Major Lazer wrapped up their dumb shitty thing on the other side of the field, my dead brain drifted back to my first Tool concert in 2001. Before that point, I had never driven as far as Mansfield without adult supervision, and so I inevitably got lost on the way home and wandered aimlessly for what must’ve been hours before I eventually found Route 3A — a conduit to everywhere anyone ever needs to go on Massachusetts’ South Shore. I know I listened to Leftover Crack’s Mediocre Generica multiple times during that ride, because I remember purchasing an independent record store’s last remaining copy that very same day. I remember being essentially a human puppy forming intense psychic attachments to all these goofyass bands and songs because I had to build my worldview around something and music was the only option that (kind of) made sense.

I thought about that stuff, and then I thought about the bombing in Manchester.

Then, finally, “The Grudge” lurked into a sound system that would plague and hamper a deified prog-metal outfit for the next two hours, and I didn’t think too much about anything for a while.

I don’t understand how we could all easily tell which song Converge was playing all the way back in the media tent, while Tool barely cut through Boston Calling 2017’s signature audience chatter. Tool and Converge played on the same stage for crimney’s sake. And now I feel ridiculous for complaining about young’uns screamtalking over Tegan And Sara on Saturday, ‘cos it turns out plenty of their elders would also rather listen to the sound of their own voices than a concert for which they paid hundreds of dollars.

“Whoa, how many of these people were even born when this came out?!” shouted an especially disagreeable stupid asshole shoving past me while I tried to soak in “Aenima.”

That one’s from 1996, so the answer to his question is most of us, but who was he even screamtalking to? I sure do hope his dick rots off.

To really enjoy Tool on Sunday, you had to take a handful of steps. 1: Not be Mitski’s drummer. 2: Don’t come anywhere near Tool’s private security. They sound like jerks. 3: Stand far enough back so the person-per-square-foot ratio wasn’t so dense, and you could escape all the screamspoken non-insights about how many drugs this band has done. 4: Forgive songs like “Third Eye” for meandering and gazing deeply into Tool’s collective navel. 5: Forgive Maynard for a bizarre between-song lecture regarding the roles of artists, snowflakes, and authority figures (Sooooo, Maynard loves cops now? I guess? But Maynard also loves snowflakes?) 6: Make peace with the sound quality fizzling and fading the whoooole time.

I managed all of these steps, with plenty of time to spare to very much enjoy Tool’s extended, solo-ed out, decisively not meandering rendition of “Stinkfist” that closed out the festival.

I hoped Tool playing down the street from my apartment would be The Best Thing I’d Ever Seen, and it wasn’t, but I’m okay with that. It was Tool, and I guess sometimes, that’s enough.

For all of Vanyaland’s Boston Calling coverage, click here; follow Barry Thompson on Twitter @barelytomson.