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Boston Calling Day 1 Review: The Killers, The National, Pussy Riot, & More

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It’s already 85 degrees as I make my way from the Harvard T stop through the crowds of festival goers, and begin the 15 minute walk through Harvard Square, over the Anderson Memorial Bridge, and finally arrive at the gates of the 9th Boston Calling Music Festival.

It’s the festival’s second year at the Harvard Athletic Complex, and it already feels like many of the kinks from last year have been worked out. As I make my way from the pierogis to the cookie dough (because you know, research) and on to each of the three stages, it’s clear that the festival’s layout is more fluid.

My first stop is to check out Big Thief, a band that’s seen significant growth in the last few years.  With a distinctive, ethereal sound, vocalist Adrianne Lenker’s voice rings throughout the festival, setting the mood as fans wander in. They put on an excellent show—the perfect start to the day.

Next I check out Natalie Portman and Friends in the arena. The AC filled auditorium is a nice break from the heat and the event itself is a captivating experience that pairs one of the first surrealist films, La Coquille et le Clergyman, with a live orchestra compliments of ACME. It’s a beautiful experience, one that I wish I could have experienced without the constant in and out of people (but so it goes at a festival.)  I can only imagine how breathtaking the experience might have been in a closed off setting.

Since it’s hot outside, and the AC is doing its job inside the arena, I hang out after Natalie Portman to catch a bit of Lovett or Leave It—a podcast that I’m ashamed to say I’ve never listened to prior to Boston Calling, but that had me in stitches as I watched them record live. If there’s one thing I take away from Boston Calling today, it’s that I’m officially subscribing to these guys.

Eventually it’s time to leave the AC haven, so I head over to the Blue stage to check out Pussy Riot, whose performance at Boston Calling wraps up their first US tour. It’s a quirky set, and they do not disappoint in the entertainment factor. They’re accompanied by a video screen with their lyrics and a variety of eccentric imagery, making for one of the more memorable performances of the day.

I leave their set a bit early to wait in line for the Ferris Wheel, which is donating all proceeds to the non-profit Music Drives Us, and while I’m there I catch Portugal. The Man—a performance I’ve heard attendees buzzing about all day, and by the looks of it, they’re not disappointed.

Once on the Ferris Wheel, The National is up, and for a band that has a strong catalog of slower songs, they put on an incredibly energetic, captivating performance. They’re one of those bands that I’ve followed lazily, but after seeing their performance, I’m going to go ahead and call myself a fan. I don’t know how I’ve missed these guys at past Boston Callings. Fellow artist Maggie Rogers joins them on stage for a beautiful rendition of their song “I Need My Girl”, and before long they’re wrapping up their set and hyping the crowd for tonight’s headliners, The Killers.

As soon as The National’s set wraps up at 9:15, the audience swarms to the Red Stage to catch The Killers. (Though the true fans secured their spot at the front of the stage an hour ago). Brandon Flowers and co. start the evening strong with their breakout hit “Mr Brightside”, and if their fans weren’t already at the stage, you can see a sudden rush of teenagers as they run (literally run!) towards the stage screaming the lyrics, dancing like no one’s watching, and taking in the music on this gorgeous Spring evening.

The band does a fantastic job of mixing old hits with newer tracks. At one point Flowers quotes Evil Knievel, and mentions that, Evil always said people pay to see the attempt not the perfect landing, (Ok but…does that really apply to concerts?) and that putting on a rock show is hard and more or less asked the audience to bear with them. To be honest, I’m not really sure what that means or why they opened with that, but throughout the set it’s evident that the band is doing their best—in fact, one of the things I like most about them is their awareness of stage presence. There’s nothing worse than a band that’s stiff on stage, but these guys are ever present, ever aware, and always on point.

Seeing them live reminds me of younger days spent listening to “Hot Fuss” and “Sam’s Town” and reminds me that I really ought to check out their newer albums—which if you ask me, is exactly what a good concert does. It reminds you of how much you love a band, and how much you still have to discover in them. It encourages you to check out new music, explore the unknown, and step outside your comfort zone.

On that note, let’s see what Day 2 has to offer.

 

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Angela Mastrogiacomo

Founder of Infectious Magazine & Muddy Paw Public Relations. Lover of passion, ice cream, and books.

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