With temperatures that cracked 90 at one point, Saturday felt like the official start of summer in Boston. The many food and brand booths that lined the main entrance were kept very busy as hydration, energy and free samples are necessary for any full day at a music festival. While the heat was tiresome, it wasn’t oppressive, and acts like St. Vincent and Tyler the Creator proved to be well worth the wait.

Most Likely To Offend Your Mom: Westside Gunn and Conway

Westside Gunn and Conway are the real deal from Buffalo: a fraternal rap duo that deals explicitly with the poverty and violence their city deals with, and signed to Sunday headliner Eminem’s Shady records. The first set of the day, Conway came out in a camo hoodie wearing a backpack, imploring their DJ at the very beginning to “play some real hip hop for this crowd”. The relatively short set was attended by small crowd who didn’t offer much in the way of participation—Gunn had to get down in the crowd more than once to keep the energy up. At one point, Conway asked the crowd for weed, and when nobody gave him any he tore into a short but expletive-filled rant against former Bills coach Rex Ryan.

Best Fiddling: Lillie Mae

The lone country act on the Boston Calling stage and a signee to Jack White’s Third Man Records label, Lillie Mae charmed the early afternoon, slightly boozed-up Green Stage crowd. A skilled fiddler as well as a singer, the traditional nature of her lyrics (“The first song was called “Honky Tonks and Taverns”) contrasted with her close-cropped hair and tattoos. Her decidedly Nashville style didn’t perfectly translate to this North East audience, but the strength of her songwriting was self-evident. As country continues to blur genre lines and becomes more open to unexpected collaboration, Lillie Mae is ahead of the curve.

 

Most Likely To Give A Hug When You Need It: Lekeili47

Lekeili47 wants you to like yourself. Like, really like yourself. The masked rapper lit a fire underneath a sleepy early afternoon crowd, peppering in self-love aphorisms and anthems in praise of individuality over easily digestible trap-tinged beats. She didn’t let the crowd forget her feelings for them, calling out looks that she liked from stage and dubbing the set “the best concert of her life.” In addition to her rapid-fire delivery and inviting stage presence, she had three highly skilled dancers, who kept the party going with precise and flamboyant choreography that electrified the crowd. The crowd fell in love with her and she fell in love with them- a match made in Boston.  

Most Likely To Buy A Used Synth: Mount Kimbie

Mount Kimbie brought their quirky brand of experimental indie to the Blue Stage. The crowd was lethargic, mostly due to oppressive humidity, but the band’s music also translates better on record than in a live setting. Songs like “Carobonated” had fascinating production on record that’s difficult to replicate live, so their sound was somewhat muddied. “Made To Stay,” their bubbling mega-hit closed out their set. While a small group of fans crowded the stage, many in the crowd were sprawled on the ground, a few of them fast asleep. 

Most Talented Teenage Heartthrob: Daniel Caesar

Crop-topped youngsters killed time by covertly swigging Fireball in the thick of the crowd below the eyeline of security as they waited for Daniel Caesar, who was late to his set by about 10 minutes.. In due time, he came out clad in a plain brown hoodie to delighted screams and the sound of crickets over the PA. He’s received a lot of critical acclaim, and deservedly so—songs he played off 2017’s Freudian show that he has a rare songwriter’s talent. Melodically, there is a passing resemblance to Frank Ocean here, but his traditional rooting in RnB and gospel gives the songs a warmth and accessibility that makes them a little easier to sing along to. Clearly adored by his young fanbase, he had an undeniable, almost seductive stage presence. He added flair to his performance with a creamy moog synth, and a vocoder on some of his cuts later in his set. Definitely one to watch.

Most Likely To Be Mistaken For Wonder Woman: St. Vincent

“I used to be one of you too!” exclaimed St. Vincent, once a Berklee student. Clad in a highlighter-orange latex jumpsuit she began singing a Boston-themed opening to her song, “New York.” “Boston isn’t Boston without you love…and if I call you/from the Middle East Venue” she sang, as she raised her arm in solidarity with the ocean of young professionals and students below her. Her set was a zany blend of tenderness and vice-like technical control, and a reminder that she deserves the same level of recognition as virtuoso guitar/vocalist (and Saturday’s main stage act) Jack White. Often, she’d stand stock still, planted firmly in front of a bank of brilliant white lights, while playing riffs, rendering complex phrases with brutal precision. After each song, a small figure dressed in sinister black leather would come out to switch one fluorescent-colored guitar for the other: yellow, blue, white, and orange before I lost track. As this slow-motion kaleidoscope of colors stretched through her set, her image as just a cerebral art-rocker faded—this was a pop star who knew exactly what she wanted. 

Most Kid-Friendly: Tyler The Creator  

Important to get this out of the way: there was a 2 year old wearing giant blue earmuffs at Tyler the Creator’s characteristically anarchic set. He was in a great mood, bobbing his head and smiling atop his mom’s shoulders while wielding a loosely-grasped glowstick. It was easy to see why he was so entertained—Tyler’s mood was lighthearted and upbeat, his dancing loose-limbed. Sporting a leopard-spotted bleach-blonde haircut and a highlighter yellow construction vest, he pranced atop a raised platform in front of projections of trees swaying, gently in the wind, deftly maneuvering between the emotional complexity of his recent album and the blind hedonism of his earlier material. The highlight of the evening was “Who Dat Boy,” an off-kilter banger which the crowd instantly connected to (and arguably overreacted to), seeing as a bottle of urine sailed into the crowd. While he certainly brought the energy, Tyler himself was hard to read during this set. He gave an enthusiastic “Shout-out to all the gay kids!” at the beginning of the set, but then asked the crowd to help him on the last song to “use all this energy before i get the f— out of this city”. I’m not sure if Tyler loved Boston, but Boston loved him.

Most Likely To Be Mistaken For Grima Wormtongue At A Distance: Jack White

Jack White is mainstay of rock n’ roll, and one of the few acts that can release a new rock album without feeling like a legacy act. A supremely talented guitarist, he bought a mix of songs that spanned his career to the Green Stage on Sunday night, at times leading impromptu jam sessions on the piano, extending songs via his white-hot guitar solos, and giving a raw edge to his songs by means of a highly distorted vocal mic. As he shredded and wailed, blue, radio-static waveforms pulsed on the massive screens behind him. Exhaustion from a full day of baking in sun and smoke prevented some from catching his whole set, but he saved “Seven Nation Army” for the very end—a satisfying set by a musician of rare talent.

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