Co-written by Knar Bedian
It was quite the sight last Sunday afternoon: thousands of festival-goers lounged across the cobblestone, basking in both sun and sound with not a care in the world. Indeed, after a lively first two days at Boston Calling, the laziness was justified. Acts like Kurt Vile and Phosphorescent were the perfect soundtrack to midday relaxation.
But as the festival’s final day progressed, it became clear that fans were only re-charging. The latter part of Sunday featured perhaps the most electric energy of the weekend, band T-shirts and all (Brand New and Modest Mouse, anyone?) Whether that meant fanbases warring for the front row at the Blue Stage or Dan Smith of Bastille tearing it up, Boston Calling certainly ended its May festivities with a bang.
The band from Boston that made us forget we’re in Boston: Tigerman Woah!
Boston’s own bearded, tattooed, and overalled band certainly offers something new to our city. The group sounds like they drove a big ol’ pickup truck from Georgia all the way to Boston but crashed into a pack of heavy metal bikers on the way. On Sunday, Tigerman Woah! played everything from a Southern death march of sorts, to croaking, gritty bluegrass. But don’t be deceived by their rough ‘n’ tough image. There were moments when the band showed us what they truly care about the most: the music. It was obvious to our ears, but we caught a glimpse of this when upright bass player Kevin Landry stealthily tweaked the peg of his bass mid-song to make sure he was still in tune.
Yet no matter how many times you listen to their albums, you’re never quite prepared for the foot-stomping shenanigans these guys bring to the stage. When he wasn’t plucking away at his instrument, Landry was planting a kiss on lead singer Adam Kaz’s head. He even took the classic rockstar finish to a new level. Forget saluting the crowd by raising your guitar — Landry ended the set by triumphantly lifting his upright bass into the air.
The band most likely to have major neck cramps: Kurt Vile and the Violators
Has anyone ever seen Kurt Vile’s face? No luck for Boston on Sunday, but Vile certainly brought a rock ‘n’ roll ‘tude — complete with red cigarette jeans and a mane of brown, wavy hair that any girl would be lucky to have. From opener “Wakin on a Pretty Day” right up to the saxophone squeaks on last song “Freak Train,” Vile and his accompanying band were hunched over their instruments — hair draped across their faces — as if the audience wasn’t even there. Instead of alienating listeners, though, it somehow become a symbol of effortless cool. Underneath Vile’s Dylan-esque drawl, hazy guitar licks and meandering melodies melted through the air just the same as the smoke trailing from the stoners in the crowd. If Vile and co. suffered any post-gig neck cramps, it wasn’t in vain.
The band that was most under-appreciated: Phosphorescent
Puffs of smoke signaled the start of Phosphorescent’s set — one filled with slow burners like “Terror in the Canyons (The Wounded Master).” The act’s solo artist Matthew Houck was backed by a pair of drumsticks, fingers running across a piano keyboard, the strumming of a sparkly blue electric guitar, and the steady shake of one handful of maracas.
But neither enthusiastically whoop-ing his way through “Ride on / Right On” nor attempting to get the audience to clap along seemed to interest the crowd much. Somehow they even resisted the perfectly summery twang of steel pedal riffs. So when closing out with a sluggish “Nothing Was Stolen (Love Me Foolishly),” Phosphorescent was ushered off stage with polite applause, but not quite the ovation the performance deserved (or even as loud of a cheer as given to the ASL interpreters he thanked.)
The band that had a lot to say: Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara could probably charm their way through anything… apparently even a set plagued with sound issues (to the fault of Boston Calling, at least). It was no matter that their vocals sounded muted at times; their sisterly stage banter more than made up for it. Not a song intermission went by without the leather-jacketed duo addressing the crowd or playfully arguing with each other. At one point, Sara turned a setlist dispute into a metaphor for life (“I’ve got agency over this setlist. I’ve got agency over my life… I’m gonna do what I wanna do”), later joking, “The band’s called Sara, not Tegan and Sara.”
Of course, the sisters didn’t just showcase their talking skills. They demonstrated their musical prowess with a standout set that brought a tasty serving of pop to an otherwise rock-heavy lineup. Sparkly, dance-y numbers like “Walking With A Ghost” were the rule, not the exception, so even a track like “I Know I Know I Know” pulsed with extra synth. And as for their dual vocals? Well, turns out that for every onstage disagreement, we got a perfect harmony.
The band that won Boston Calling: Bastille
There was no need to tell the crowd to throw their hands up in the air last Sunday — they were already up there when it came time for Bastille. Sure, the audience had their fists pumping and arms flailing en masse, but frontman Dan Smith matched their energy as he jumped around on stage, twirling his single drum stick. When Smith finally bounded off stage to make his way through the crowd, you could see his grey hoodie bobbing up and down as he danced through the sea of fans.
But the band did more than make female hearts throb — little baseball hats could be seen nodding to the music as even the younger kids in the crowd sang along. It was a performance for the young, the old, the Bastille devotees, the crowd members who’d only ever heard “Pompeii” on the radio. The only catch was that Bastille didn’t give us everything we wanted all at once. Dramatic pauses created just the right amount of suspense as the crowd held it all in before breaking out into the next verse.