Day three of Boston Calling, day three of grabbing as many free KIND bars you can fit into your pocket (blueberry vanilla & cashew, anyone?).
From garage punk, to power pop, to smooth soul, Sunday’s line-up transitioned from one genre to the next like clockwork. Here’s what we thought.
The Vocalist That Doubled as Motivational Speaker: Dirty Bangs
Local band Dirty Bangs was an unexpected pop of sunshine to start off Sunday. Wearing a fedora and an all-white outfit—right down to a pair of white high-top Converse—frontman Evan Kenney was the brightest guy on stage by a longshot, especially given the rest of the band’s black and grey attire. His stage persona was just as radiant. “I love each and every one of you. Y’all need to know how beautiful you are,” he repeated in between songs, at one point launching into a monologue about “lasers shooting down from the universe into his heart” (and then something about trains).
Besides being relentlessly positive, Kenney was a joy to watch. Grabbing at his shirt in anguish, slamming his hands against the ground, and eventually inciting a singalong to “We All Gotta Die Sometime,” he burst across the stage while his band pounded out head-banging pop rock.
The Band That Gave Berklee the Middle Finger: FIDLAR
Apparently, singer of garage/punk band FIDLAR, Zac Carper got kicked out of Berklee and still has a grudge. “I went to Berklee and I got kicked out. Fuck you, Berklee!” he said midway through the band’s set.
With fuzzy guitars and Clash-esque melodies, FIDLAR rocked Boston Calling Sunday afternoon, prompting three or four people to crowd surf. At one point, the band had everyone sit down on the plaza bricks during “Cocaine” — some sort of prayer to the punk gods. And in a homage to the millions of non-hipsters of the world, FIDLAR played “Cheap Beer,” with the lyrics: “I drink cheap beer! So what! Fuck you!”
The Band That Gave Us Winter: Daughter
After FIDLAR’s rowdy punk set, hearing Daughter felt like eating one of those throat lozenges Luden’s was handing out near the festival entrance. Soothing. A scream to a whisper.
Daughter’s gentle, moody music isn’t the type that’s going to translate well to a daytime slot at a music festival. But for those willing to stop and listen, it was worth it. Elena Tonra’s beautiful, haunting voice soared across the plaza as the sun hid behind a building, casting a cool shade over the audience. The wailing guitar and thumping of drums conjured images of snow-capped mountains and deep, dark caves.
“If you feel too depressed, feel free to go and get a drink,” guitarist Igor Haefeli joked.
Now Playing on Broadway: Nate Reuss
Nate Ruess, best known as the singer of Fun. and The Format, has the kind of voice that’s built for anthems — a high-pitched tenor; clean, fluid, and unwavering. This guy belongs on Broadway and he knows it; the scene on stage looked like the set of a musical with its light pink drums, aqua blue drum kit, and paradise-town backdrop that read Grand Romantic.
Ruess’ performance was a series of realizations that, wait, you do know the lyrics to that song because you’ve heard it a thousand times on the radio and in almost every commercial on TV. It was no surprise, then, that Ruess — leaping around the stage and on top of the piano — induced some of the loudest singalongs of the weekend. From Fun. hits like “Carry On” and “We Are Young,” to new solo material like “Nothing Without Love,” the crowd probably sang just as much as Ruess.
The Lead Singer That Preached Tolerance with Bad Pushups: MisterWives
New York City’s indie-pop upstarts, MisterWives, had the beach balls popping from song one, lead singer Mandy Lee jumping up and down on the stage like a flea. She let out a shrill, “Boston Calling!” and the band jolted into their set.
One of the coolest moments came when they covered The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” transitioning into a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” and then back into The Weeknd. However, the non-musical portions of the set fell a bit flat.
“Do you ever feel like society’s norms for women and for men are complete and utter bullshit?” Lee asked her fans, in between pushups that had the worst form I’ve ever seen.
Despite not tucking in her elbows, Lee and the rest of MisterWives were loud, poppy, and entertaining. She ended the set with a drum call and response, banging a snare drum at the front of the stage, trading rhythms with her drummer.
The Man Who Harmonized in the Dark: Ben Howard
With sad-sounding guitar plucks, smokey visuals on the projector backdrop, and guitar rhythms that called to mind U2’s The Edge, English singer-songwriter Ben Howard took the Blue Stage as the third-to-last act on Sunday. Much of Howard’s music starts calm, warm electric guitar washing over you, quickly building to a folk frenzy.
There is a quiet power to Howard’s music, a restraint that comes with years of playing shows. His overhand guitar-playing technique makes the accuracy of his song melodies and tightness with bandmates all the more impressive.
As Howard harmonized with his band, stage light shut off for effect, two EMT vehicles beeped their way into the crowd, searching for the overzealous Festival goer.
The Artist Who Actually Took Us To Church: Hozier
Just over a year ago, Hozier was playing in front of a small crowd at Berklee College’s Red Room at Cafe 939. Now, he’s headlining Boston’s biggest musical event — but he still hasn’t forgotten where he started. “Ever since, this city has had a very warm place in my heart,” he said.
Hozier, supported by a mostly-female band, brought a soulful hum to the evening with the gritty gospel of “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” and the finger-snapping “Work Song.” Alana Henderson’s cello was the special ingredient throughout as she weaved warm, velvety tones into the material, including a cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird.”
An appropriate closer, the cathartic “Take Me to Church” saw the crowd erupting in a chorus of “amens.” By the end, the girl standing next to me was clutching her chest. She heaved out the words “I have nothing left.”
The Band That Made the Moon Bleed: Alabama Shakes
The moon was eclipsed and blood red, and today’s premier blues/rock band, Alabama Shakes, was on stage.
Brittany Howard, lead singer and guitarist, pounded her chest, belting out songs with ferociousness and delicateness, an almost impossible display of vocal dynamics — easily sliding from dormant to eruption in a second. Playing tunes from their debut album as well as their sophomore record, Sound & Color, Howard and her band were the perfect end to the weekend. She sings like a modern-day muscle car, and everyone was happy to go for the ride.
At one point during a song Howard broke a string on her electric and played through, with no apparent drop in volume or tenacity. “The first time I played here was at the Paradise Club,” Howard said to the cheering crowd. “So I know about this town.”