Boston Calling – City Hall Plaza – May 27-29, 2016
This weekend was probably one of the longest weekends of my life. Boston Calling happened. It happened SO HARD. I will admit, I am not much of a festival person, and this was my first Boston Calling, but it did not disappoint.
I am not sure where I should start, but I guess the beginning is as good a place as any.
On Friday evening, the festivities began. It was a nice breezy sixty-five degrees out and there were three sets to ease us into the weekend: Lisa Hannigan and Aaron Dessner, Sufjan Stevens, and Sia. I started out my adventure with Sufjan and Sia. I have never seen either of them perform live, but it was pretty special. I am five feet tall, which means I basically saw a grand total of two minutes of Sufjan on stage, but he sounded fantastic. Luckily, they were screening his performance on the other stage so I could see his FANTASTIC costumes. His hype girls were really excellent, to the point where I was not watching him at all, but focusing on them. Balloons, face paint, day glow and fishnets –these are a few of my favorite things – were there in abundance during his set. It was really interesting and it definitely got me hyped up for what was to come.
Next was the queen of anonymity herself, Sia. As per usual, she had on one of her signature wigs (Cruella de Ville-style) and let her performers steal the show. It was pretty packed, as would be expected for a Sia show, but it was packed for a music festival in general. Surprisingly, I heard some girl complain for a good 15 minutes about how no one was “respecting her personal space,” which just made me want to tell her to get out. But before I let my inner “Masshole” emerge, she left. This was to my advantage because I was now able to stand in her spot and get a better view! I have to say that a few people, myself included, were a bit confused about Sia’s set. She had the performance on the screens next to the stage, and featured in her set were Tig Notaro, Kristen Wiig, and other famous people that pop culture is obsessed with. We finally figured out that what was being shown on the screen was actually pre-recorded. That was a huge bummer that left me disappointed. So I walked to the train and went home.
Fast forward eleven hours to day 2. I will not lie, it was a pretty rough day for me. It was a blazing ninety to one hundred degrees with no breeze, and high humidity – literally the worst situation for me. Did I mention I am pretty much an “indoor kid”? As you can imagine, I had a hard time coping with that. But the day started out with the band Palehound, who is from the Boston area. They absolutely killed it, which was a great start, and they were one of the bands I was most excited to see. Since it was pretty early in the day, there was a nice small crowd, which meant I had an unobstructed view. Next was Lizzo’s set, another one way up on my list. I have to say, Lizzo is a freaking inspiration. Her outfit was revealing and her hair was big. If you know me at all, you know those are the two things I value the most in fashion. Her backup dancers, “the big girls,” were really show-stopping. Lizzo’s voice is glorious and she knows how to dance. But what was most important to me was her speech about women in the arts following their dreams, and how no matter what size or shape you are, you can do anything you want and be awesome at it.
After Lizzo blew everyone’s minds, I took a break from music in order to find some shade, because even though I applied sunscreen in the morning, I found that I was cooking like bacon, except it was gross and painful. I found sanctuary – along with beer – at the Washington Mall entrance of City Hall Plaza. I sat for a good hour in the shade on the ground (in white shorts by the way, which was really poorly planned). Luckily, after a while, I was rescued by Palehound’s lovely founder, Ellen Kempner. We sat in the VIP area, took some Instant photos, did a quick interview (coming soon) and chatted for a while. At this point, I was getting cranky. I looked like I was going to have a stroke and could not bear the heat, so I got out of there immediately, and went home. It was admittedly one of my less productive days at the festival, but I’m weak and have come to terms with that.
Day 3. This was actually a great day from start to end. I got to sleep in, pick a festival appropriate outfit, and eat real non-festival food! I really cannot explain how great the weather was: overcast, a little breezy, and exactly what a townie like myself was prepared for. I got to Government Center right as my number one for the festival, Michael Christmas, was hitting the stage. I was so pumped up. He was absolutely amazing – a young guy drawing from the 90’s in such a good way. It was really refreshing. Everything in rap can sound so similar, but Michael Christmas has a unique style and a dope crew that make his performances stand out. I do have to take points off, though, because he didn’t play his new track, “Cell Phone.” I’m just a little biased, but other than that, he was brilliant.
I went over to the next stage, and had my mind blown by Christine and the Queens. I had never heard of her before, but I absolutely went nuts. I do not know if she did this intentionally, but she was dressed like PeeWee Herman, sans red bowtie, which is always a selling point for me. She is French, has a great voice, and most importantly, dances weirdly like I do. I really don’t know if I have anything negative I could say about her. She just may be the one perfect human in all of the world.
After Christine and the Queens, I watched a couple more sets then took another break. I couldn’t sit for too long on account of the fact that the one and only “Screaming Eagle of Soul” was about to go on! There was no chance I could miss Charles Bradley. I shoved myself to the front of the stage and fangirled wicked hard. He was wearing a sequin jacket and red jumpsuit – a.k.a. perfection. But that’s not all: he did a costume change into an all black velvet suit with crystals all over. They do not make men like that any more, and it is a damn shame.
At this point in the day I was ready to leave, but I could not do so without checking out the comedy stage! This was a great new addition to the festival. I am glad they had this stage at Boston Calling this year because it was nice to see a performance that was not music related. I sat on the ground at the Washington Mall entrance and watched Boston’s own Lamont Price and Ken Reid tear it up. Seeing the comedy performances was the perfect end to the festival for me. I left laughing all the way to the Downtown Crossing T station on my journey home.
Next year, the festival is saying goodbye to City Plaza Hall and is expanding to a brand new venue. Boston Calling will be skipping their usual September event and, in May 2017, they will back at it again except this time it will be in Allston at Harvard’s Athletic complex! Boston Calling organizers are also bringing along Academy Award-winning actress and Harvard alum Natalie Portman to curate a new film festival for future events.
Boston Calling – as intense, tiring, and overwhelming it was for me – was definitely a great experience. It is an event I am truly proud to say is held in my hometown. For those of you who have not gone, I strongly encourage it! This is one festival you do not want to miss out on.