PHOTOS BY JASON SPEAKMAN
Day two of the second Boston Calling was a bit unprecedented. Looking at May’s festival and day one of fall’s kind of made sense: indie bands, a little bit of folk and harder rock, the usual. That’s my kind of lineup right there. But this time, as Brian Appel said in our chat with him prior to the fest, it was a big dance party. Most notably, off the bat, the crowd was a lot younger. Freshmen and sophomores showed up in droves, and the crowd was gigantic pretty early in the day (something that, I would assume, most festivals try everything they can to accomplish).
First off was Royal Teeth, another winner from Sonicbids. The Louisiana-based electro-pop ensemble released their debut LP, Glow, last month and offer it for a free download on their site. Honestly, I was most impressed by their rendition of the Knife’s “Heartbeats,” which they made a bit more emotional but while maintaining the same bite. They also broke a drumstick two songs in, which is pretty impressive.
Bearstronaut played next on the Blue Stage, and played just as the really big crowds were filtering in.
From Boston and signed on Vanya Records, my compatriots and I all decided that they’d be the perfect band for an ’80s training montage.
They also brought the danceability, and it didn’t go away all day (seriously, my legs are still tired).
— Cady (@HELLA_DRELLA) September 8, 2013
We really do.
Next up: Big Black Delta on the Red Stage. Their set began within seconds of Bearstronaut’s finishing, and was heralded by this weird motorboating noise. Their electro-pop relentlessness was a lot for 2 p.m., but with two drummers and their lead singer doing a jelly bones dance, the already-formidable crowd of youngsters was really going for it. Seriously, how did they have that much energy?
Was I ever like that? Why can’t I get it back?
I was pretty excited for Flume’s (nee Harley Streton) set, especially since we interviewed the Sydney native a few months back in anticipation of the release of his critically-lauded self-titled. My photographer friend came up to me after being in the photo pit
and declared that he has seen his first earnest twerking of the festival. He seemed delighted.
Solange played the Red Stage next, and as a worshipper at the alter of Beyonce, I’d obviously revel in any chance to witness a Knowles sister IRL. Solange’s latest EP, November 2012′s True, contained seven tracks that finally set her apart from the considerable shadow of her sister. Rather than a pop princess, Solange brought a hipster R&B sensibility to her set at Boston Calling that kind of encapsulates the image she’s going for now. And it suits her.
“What I’d like to do for this song is turn this festival into a high school grind fest,” she declared. Honestly, it wasn’t that much of a stretch anyway. Here is a joke I made about it at the time:
Solange just told us to “turn this festival into a high school grind fest.” Which means next festival will be a Teen Mom fest.
— Cady (@HELLA_DRELLA) September 8, 2013
Now that we’ve all had a good laugh about that, I’d like to say that Solange is evocative of the old-school, ’90s pop-R&B that I really wish more artists were trying for lately.
She’s still fiercely modern, but with the honest sexiness that inexplicably went out of fashion when bubblegum pop came on the scene and that I think is due for a comeback.
Following her set, things took a turn for the weird. It was now the afternoon, and the weather was perfect and the crowd was reaching a pretty large capacity and then Flosstradamus got onstage and the scene just boiled. They climbed around on set pieces and dancing like crazy people.
“What up, Boston?!” they shouted. “We’re from Chicago! Chicago in the building!” And then they started singing along to their mash-up: “Face down, ass up, that’s the way we like to fuck!” Then they said, “I want all the ladies in here to get up on somebody’s shoulders. We wanna see y’all.”
And they did! It was sort of magnificent.
Wolfgang Gartner‘s job, then, was pretty easy. The scene was already frothing, they just needed something to pour into. And Gartner provided. Possibly, the mark of a good DJ is understanding what the crowd wants at any given time. His set was straightforward-looking, but provided the exact sonic accompaniment to the mood of the festival at this point in the afternoon.
My favorite set of the day, though, was Major Lazer. Dear god those guys are insane. Say what you want about Diplo being kind of a jerk (by the way, I have confirmed through several sources that he absolutely is, and after that set I don’t really care).
They opened their set with a sample of Rihanna’s “Stay,” which is certainly not a song I’ve cried to in the car.
“All my weed smokers put your hands in the air!” they instructed. And yeah, alright, sorry mom, I did.
Then one of them came out into the crowd in a giant zorb. If you need more information than that, I can tell you right now you wouldn’t have liked this show very much. I did, though. It was just so fun. Maybe more fun than I’ve ever had at a festival. They told everybody to take off an item of clothing and spin it in the air. I took off my jacket because buy me a drink first, but the concrete ground was literally shaking as it went on.
“If you don’t have something off to wave in the air, go to the other stage now,” they said. And then everybody threw their clothes in the air. A girl behind me got the most nude I’ve ever seen in City Hall Plaza. And a kid from the audience got his lap danced onstage and then was crowd-surfed all the way to the back of the audience when it was revealed that he was from Chicago.
Dance party: achieved.
Then the huge crowd sprinted across the plaza to see Kendrick Lamar‘s set. He’s played almost every major festival this year, so he wasn’t a stranger to the giant crowds. The dude’s got serious hustle, having apparently played at Syracuse University earlier THE SAME DAY.
We were treated to favorite “P&P,” early on. That stands for “pussy and Patron,” which becomes pretty evident after he says it about 500 times in one minute. Unsurprisingly, “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” became a gigantic rager.
Finishing out the day and the festival and arguably summer (*sniff* *wipes tear*) was Passion Pit. If Boston Calling got flack in May for not featuring enough local acts, letting a Boston band headline should shut the haters up.
“Hello, we are Passion Pit from Boston, Massachusetts!” lead singer Michael Angelakos shouted before going into, “Make Light.” They followed it up with “The Reeling,” to the joy of the longtime Passion Pit fans.
Then something amazing happened. Angelakos declared during a break that, “This set is dedicated to the Boston Phoenix and WFNX,” which we thought was very sweet.
And then when he shouted out the Dig we found it to be transparent pandering. Just kidding, we were psyched.
— Dig Boston (@DigBoston) September 9, 2013
So that’s what happened. It was the highest-energy group of people I’ve seen in Boston in a long time, and props to the festival organizers for keeping everybody safe and happy.
The only thing I would recommend is maybe another one this year. Winter Boston Calling, anyone?