Boston Calling Saturday pics (The xx, The 1975, Tegan & Sara, Danny Brown, more)
After a rainy day one, the 2017 Boston Calling festival continued on Saturday (5/27). This is its first year at the Harvard Athletic Complex after previously taking place at Boston’s City Hall Plaza. City Hall Plaza is all paved, so the new grassy grounds meant mud for the first time at Boston Calling, but it was mostly dried up by Saturday and a big portion of the grounds (and the entire Blue Stage) are on astroturf which was nice with this weekend’s weather. 2017 is also my first year at Boston Calling since they expanded to three stages (four including comedy), versus the earlier years which had two stages and no overlapping sets. The mud and the conflicts are minor inconveniences, but the larger, more elaborate festival is definitely a more impressive event. It’s now got a ferris wheel, a pop-up bar, and lots more refreshments than it used to have. What started out as a relatively small event is now one of the Northeast’s most major music festivals.
As for the music, here are some day two highlights:
Danny Brown tackled tons of favorites from XXX, Old, and last year’s fantastic Atrocity Exhibition, and continued to prove himself as one of today’s top MCs. He rapped with immense skill, hardly ever using backing tracks except on hooks, and he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Every hook of nearly every song had the crowd shouting along, and the audience remained mesmerized during Danny’s twisting and turning rhymes. Danny almost always chooses beats with an experimental edge, but that didn’t stop the crowd from dancing and partying one bit.
Tegan & Sara focused their set mostly on their last two pop-minded albums, Love You to Death and Heartthrob, playing in front of VHS-era visuals and a giant inflatable “T & S.” Their indie rock era practically feels like a distant memory, and even some of the songs from that era (like “Northshore”) were given synthy reworks to fit in with the new stuff. The switch to their new sound was a little jarring at first, but now that it’s settled in, I couldn’t imagine seeing Tegan & Sara any other way. Especially at a festival, the Love You to Death and Hearthrob songs have Tegan & Sara fitting in better than ever. If you came ready to dance, Tegan & Sara delivered. Not to mention the crowd was shrieking and just generally losing their shit between every song.
The xx are a rare band who make quiet, minimal music but are still always successful on the festival circuit, and Saturday’s Boston Calling set was no different. Their self-titled debut album is still the one that connects most with fans, and every song off of it got the biggest cheers of the set, but in a live environment, the newer stuff works perfectly. They opened with “Say Something Loving” off the new album, which already feels like some kind of classic. The same could be said for the singalong “I Dare You,” and “Dangerous” had the whole place moving more than anything off the debut.
Aided by the sun setting, The 1975 had the most gorgeous, vivid light show of the day and it suited their performance well. The last 1975 show I saw, Matty Healy seemed uncomfortably awkward, not quite living up to being the overly dramatic performer we saw in the “Love Me” video.” This time, he meant business. He hardly spoke on stage, he kept his shirt buttoned the whole time, and his delivery was boldly professional. The flamboyance was missed this time around, but he still played like he firmly believes he’s the biggest rock frontman in the world. Their crowd-pleasing bangers came across in top form, from singalongs like “She’s American” and “Somebody Else” to a genuinely crushing performance of “Sex.” Their more ambient songs still aren’t my favorite to see in a live environment, but they did give the setlist a good ebb and flow. As they tend to do, The 1975 closed with “The Sound.” After witnessing the gigantic response this song got last night, I won’t be surprised if it ends up as a song of a generation. I’ve compared The 1975 to The Killers before, and this is their “Mr. Brightside.”
Day two of Boston Calling also had sets by Mumford & Sons, Nathaniel Rateliff, Cousin Stizz, Strand of Oaks, Kevin Morby, and more. Pictures are in the gallery above. Day one pics HERE.
Boston Calling wraps up today (5/28) with Tool, Weezer, Wolf Parade, Run the Jewels, and more. Check out set times HERE.
photos by Em Grey