REVIEW: Boston Calling 2018 – Festival Grows from Modest Beginnings

Boston Calling used 2018 to prove it has come quite a long way. From it’s modest beginnings as a more indie affair in Government Center, to contender for festival lineup of the year at Harvard’s Athletic Complex, this years edition featured plenty of things to boast about. Walking into the festival for anyone who hadn’t been since the location moved, it could be a little overwhelming with the amount of things to do. The weekend was one for the books, featuring show stopping sets from the likes of Paramore, Queens of the Stone Age, St. Vincent, and Eminem to name a few.

B-Sides kicked our weekend off with an energetic set from Citizen, who drew a fair audience for such an early day one slot. They performed on the Blue Stage, which was tucked in the corner, away from the Red and Green(Main) Stages, which were directly next to each other. Wandering over to the Red Stage following Citizen, we caught Perfume Genius’ set next to a ferris wheel that was catching the setting sun in it’s spokes. Friday had a very chilled out vibe for most of the day, with people using lots of their time to explore the massive selection of food stands, as well as lawn games available across the festival grounds. The night really started to get going when Portugal. The Man took the stage, with a set that focused on a lot of insane visuals, light vocals, no stage banter, and covers such as Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and The Beatles “I Want You.” Paramore was the first band of the weekend to bring the heat, with Hailey Williams taking the reigns for the Friday night audience. They balanced some old favorites between a set that focused heavily on their impeccable 2017 album “After Laughter.” The energy during their set was palpable, and set the stage for what the weekend was to hold. Brandon Flowers and Co. did an honorable job closing the first day, bringing that Las Vegas charm to the main stage, but make no mistake; Paramore owned the night.

Saturday was the highest energy throughout, with almost no time let up between sets to do anything but rock out. Which was honestly no surprise, given the line-up of talent. The Menzingers got people moving early with their unique blend of storytelling rock, and punk melodies. Thee Oh Sees showed everyone the legitimacy of synchronized drumming. Manchester Orchestra used their 4:40p.m. set to prove they could’ve just as easily handled the 8:00 o’clock slot. Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr rocked so hard, he broke his foot, chugging a bottle of Patron to finish the set before ultimately being carried off stage. Brockhampton turned their predominantly teenaged crowd into a frenzy of raised hands, and screaming voices. St.Vincent brought her perfect blend of weird music and weird visuals for a truly stunning performance that could have won the night if it were’t for what was to follow. Josh Homme was born in a desert, and it’s lead him to a life intended to play outside. Queens of the Stone Age didn’t steal the night, because it was rightfully theirs. Masterfully barreling through a setlist at a machine gun pace, they barely gave the audience a moment to breathe. By the time they starting cutting into the insane introduction to “Song for the Dead,” the crowd would be begging them to stay and do it all again. Jack White brought it home gracefully, pulling songs from all over his storied career, but surprisingly focusing a great deal on The White Stripes. It was a true treat to end day two with.

Sunday was the only day the weather decided not to cooperate, with rain on and off all day, but it didn’t matter. Rain wasn’t going to deter this audience from catching the man of the evening, who hadn’t performed in Boston in 14 years. Leading up to his performance, the audience remained in good spirits. The rain was almost poetically appropriate for Julien Baker’s incredibly hushed, personal, emotional performance. Alvvays was less than thrilled to discover they’d left cold Canada, only to arrive in cold Boston, but they helped warm things up regardless. Mike D did a perfect job getting people moving with his DJ set, with a healthy blend of old school favorites, and more current jams like “Nice For What,” and “DNA.” Fleet Foxes was maybe the calm before the storm everyone needed. Their set was great, but slow burning, and low energy for the time slot. They would’ve been a nice chill cap to the weekend, but Marshall Mathers had other plans, drawing an audience seemingly double the size of the first two nights. Eminem explored his entire catalog in front of a fully stocked live band. He jumped from new songs off his latest release, to old gems like “Criminal,” and ended with a massive literal bang (of fireworks) during “Lose Yourself.” Anyone who questions why Eminem is successful only ever needs to see them live.

This year, Boston Calling stepped up their game something fierce from their humble beginnings. The food available was incredible, featuring a bevy of selections as diverse as their lineup. The stages rarely bled into each other, the audience had a great vibe, and the bands all sounded amazing. Boston Calling is putting in the work to become one of the best festivals around, and you’d be a fool not to get in while the gettin’s… getting good? Too many gettings, got it. See you next year, Boston Calling!

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