Boston Calling Spring 2015 edition was Boston to the bones. A strong wind blew Friday evening, the life-size Samuel Adams cardboard cutouts skittering down the concrete steps of City Hall Plaza, event staff racing to collect them. Temperatures Friday and Saturday nights scraped the low-forties, and Sunday was scorcher near ninety. Fickle weather, good local brews, and a whole lot of alt-indie rock. Could it get much more Boston than that?

Here are our highlights from last weekend’s festival:

Most likely to show you her undies: Halsey

In lieu of a review, I’m tempted to simply transcribe a few of Halsey’s musings she shared while on stage. Here it goes: “Can you see my nipples right now? …You guys in the front are perverts… but I kinda like that.” “You guys wanna see my Power Ranger undies?” “I’m gonna give you a nice, clean pop song.” I can’t help but wonder what she chose not to share.

Unfortunately, her music didn’t feel like much more than “nice, clean pop.” Or rather, fine, explicit pop. Her band was intentionally nondescript, blending into the stage equipment, and Halsey, the pearl of the performance, dressed in a short, white dress-skirt, very teal hair, and sunglasses, swayed about stage. She had at the very least twenty fans in the front row (the “perverts”) who swayed (and yelled) along with her.

There was a young and reckless vibe about her – which, considering she’s twenty, makes hilesense. And not only is she young, but she’s also purportedly new to singing, starting seriously a mere 11 months ago. An impressive rise to Boston Calling!

– AK

The woman who harmonized with the wind: Sharon Van Etten

Indie-rocker Sharon Van Etten and her band played to the early crowd on Friday, who held on to their hats and listened to a mix songs old and new. The wind swished Van Etten’s black bangs over her eyes.

Van Etten doesn’t exactly play the kind of music you want to open a music festival—it’s music that’s full of heartache and longing, her guitar doing the crying. It’s music that’s hung out to dry on an overcast spring day. It’s music for listening, not for moving. As the wind whipped over the plaza bricks, Van Etten added a chilling harmony.

As dark and yearning as her music is, her stage banter stands in opposition—small-town and charming, which, while rare, added color to her set. “If you see a tall boy who looks like me, it’s my brother, Petey. He’s a hugger. Say hi. Sorry, Pete, you’re a hugger!”

– JS

But my money only went down: Ilovemakonnen

Ilovemakonnen, a rapper, seemed like a sweetie when he wasn’t yelling as if his mic was nonfunctional. In short, the performance was loud and mostly unintelligible, save a few golden moments during which Ilovemakonnen taught us all how to “whip it” and chortled “money going up, money going down.” On the plus side, the songs were short and zippy, designed for those with a short attention span. (Chronic weed smokers?) And the headbangers of Boston Calling found them perfectly danceable (rave-able, even).

Better sound quality and volume control would have ameliorated his set, but it was definitely solid enough to “whip” to.

– AK

The Danish rubber band:

26-year-old Danish songstress, , contorted her away across the stage with some seriously impressive and elastic dance moves, singing songs from her 2014 debut studio album, No Mythologies to Follow, as well as covering Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There.”

Backed by duel drummers, MØ took her mic for a dance, crouched on the edge of the stage, and eventually even crowdsurfed at the end of her final song, continuing to demonstrate her elasticity. Is MØ made of rubber?

– JS

The artist most likely to play Riptide: Vance Joy

Vance Joy hails from Australia where he played football (think rugby) for the Coburg Football Club and studied law in university. He also happens to be the singer-songwriter of “Riptide” fame. In addition to performing his smash hit (to which few sung the words wrong), he performed a few other tunes in a tasteful acoustic set. His backdrop gave off a pixie-sticks-down-the-toilet impression while his ukulele seemed to be saying, “this would sound nice on a patio, too.” Chill, pop-y, and good-looking are three words that come to mind. 

– AK

The weirdo who was hypnotized: Beck

A crescent moon hung over City Hall Plaza as Beck and his band took the stage in front of a Matrix-esque screen of digits and right-angle lines. On top of groovy bass lines and tasty keyboard licks that spilled out like a fruit roll-up, Beck got the crowd clapping. He played a set full of old hits like “Loser,” “Go It Alone,” and “Girl,” dancing around the stage in his fedora and spouting gibberish between songs. Something about strawberry, blueberry, cucumber vaping?

“I’m slightly hypnotized by City Hall,” Beck said, pointing to the pulsing neon-light projected onto the building. “That’s the most psychedelic city hall I’ve ever seen. That’s the way it should be.”

Beck was too weird and too good, and the crowd had him out for an encore.

– JS

The crash test rockers: Krill

Hometown garage rockers, Krill, got the party started Saturday afternoon. The trio combined spastic drums, delayed vocals that swirled into the crowd like fog from the fog machine, and heavy, distorted guitar. “We’re Krill, and we’re from here,” said singer and bassist Jonah Furman, the delay on his mic blurring his speech.

Krill pumped out a short set of raucous songs that all came to a halt faster than a crash test dummy meets his airbag.

– JS

The rap stars who stand with Tom Brady: Run the Jewels

Hip-hop duo Run the Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P) walked on stage to “We Are The Champions” and quickly proved that claim to be true. With rapper Kille Mike’s arm in a sling from a recent shoulder surgery, the duo injected furious rhymes into the festival, as well as a welcomed hometown sentiment. “I don’t give a fuck what they say,” Killer Mike said. “I’m riding with Tom Brady.”

El-P and “one armed-Willy” lived up to the hype—Killer Mike’s brash bars and a deep voice reminiscent of Biggie Smalls fused with El-P’s fast, feverish beats. Run the Jewels are robbing the rap game, one verse, one stage at a time.

– JS

The man who reminded us that music is for everyone: Ben Harper

Ben Harper’s brand of funky world music was the perfect antidote to a day of pop and alt-rock. Backed by a tight supporting band (The Innocent Criminals) that featured cajon-playing Roxbury-native Leon Mobley, Harper played his hits, including “Steal My Kisses,” “Diamonds on the Inside” and “Burn One Down.”

“Hey, is it legal yet in Massachussetts?” Harper asked the crowd, who answered with puffs of weed smoke.

– JS

Most supple wrists and legs: TV on the Radio

After a country and pop dominated afternoon, Sunday evening came as something the devil himself might have approved of. To commence the approaching hellfire, TV on the Radio performed a loud and spirited set infused with distortion, trombone, facial hair (think Black Karl Marx), screeching-guitar-dissonance, and Dancing With the Stars-worthy hip action. From hopping like Roger Rabbit to prancing like gazelles in slow motion, TV on the Radio gave a visual performance in addition to a taste of their idiosyncratic rock sound.

The volume detracted slightly from the nuance of their music, but galvanized the crowd, which at this point may have had the highest smokers per capita of the day. Also galvanizing the crowd was the rhythm guitarist’s right wrist; it moved so quickly and so ferociously it could hardly be seen. The rhythm player, however, was vastly overpowered by the lead, an icon of the band, dressed in blue robes, sunglasses, and a Santa beard. He soloed frequently, making enjoyably discordant, jarring noises and accompanying facial expressions.

The drums and bass laid a funky foundation—it’s a pity the trombone could hardly be heard.

– AK

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