Exchanging rain ponchos for sunglasses and boots for sandals, fans lined the lawn for Boston Calling’s Saturday lineup. Artists big and small enjoyed swaths of listeners lounging in the sun, ready to impress with musical stylings ranging from ethereal vocal machinations to contemporaneous rock.
Folk rock artist Timothy Showalter of Strand of Oaks showed off powerful low vocals as his band supported him. The aural experience was a bodily affair as Showalter’s deep guttural lyrics were supported by a pulsing beat of the drum. As his songs progressed, Showalter often paused playing the guitar, letting the rhythm and drums take the lead as he integrated his hands and body into the music. When the band was made whole again, righteous sultry solos blasted into the crowd. The rocking talent of Strand of Oaks made waves and set an upbeat tone for the early afternoon.
Los Angeles-based folk and soul artist Moses Sumney offered an entrancing set of songs that brought the afternoon into the recesses of heady ideas. Throughout the performance, one could not help but draw parallels from Sumney’s style to various noise-pop artists. To those passing by, much of Sumney’s sound may seem like idle noises, but upon close examination, one can see the true complexity of his performance. His impressive range danced with the waning sounds, wailing, and swelling beats. The resulting sound felt like waves of the ocean progressively getting more intense in size, but ginger in delivery. The other worldly qualities of his sound brought listeners into a separate emotional space.
London-based alternative pop duo Oh Wonder jolted its audience with its immediate stage presence. In a playfully performative way, Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West wore emotionally charged expressions on their face as they sang songs like “Without You” and “Dazzle.” The pair strengthened the content of their song through the collective fervor implicit in their performance. Oh Wonder felt as though each jest, whether it be hands in the air beckoning celestial energies or a pensive downward head-bob, was a elicited by genuine emotion on stage rather than a feign of feeling.
Brandi Carlile returned to the Bay State to sing both her classic hits and soulful ballads, appeasing the Boston crowd by opening a Red Sox hat. She balanced her more upbeat rock tracks such as “Mainstream Kid” and “The Things I Regret” with slower acoustic songs such as “The Eye” and “The Mother.” Her voice was unique as always with an unforgiving strength and comforting raspiness, perfect for delivering her most famous song “The Story.” She paused the music in her set to talk about her project with War Child, asking for the audience’s support for the organization as well as explaining the importance of aiding the Syrian refugee crisis. She had her crowd both jumping for joy and tearing up, making for an emotional but fun late afternoon.
On a completely different note, Danny Brown unleashed a killer set that brought more than just hands into the air. As he ripped through favorites like “25 Bucks,” “Really Doe,” and “Dip” fans surged forward, aggressively manifesting expertly spun verses. Bodies surfers ruled the crowd for the whole of the 40 minute set at the serious dismay of security. But the whims of Brown fans proved too strong to stop. When Brown began to shred the first lines of “Smokin’ & Drinkin’” the mosh pit was in play and the rowdiness of the Delta Blue stage was unrivaled. Inside the pit, it became hard to discern if the energy was controllable as a fight broke out between two fans. The energy of the pit broke up the altercation, as distances were quickly created. Overall, Brown unleashed one of the highest intensity performances of the festival.
Folk band Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats sported custom-embroidered jean jackets to perform its bluesy take on both rock and soul music. The band attracted a crowd of all ages, keeping them up and moving with upbeat tunes such as “I Need Never Get Old” and “Look it Here.” The band kept it simple and classic, opting for a black and white screen to project their concert to the masses. Rateliff’s voice was clear, powerful, and soulful and the band’s instrumentals displayed immense talent and diversity. It fostered a very lively and fun atmosphere throughout, keeping everyone in the crowd dancing through to the end, playing “S.O.B.” as its finale.
On the comedy side, Hannibal Buress headlined the day’s set of laughs. To a completely packed crowd in the Bright-Landry Hockey Center, Buress confidently created a memorable experience in his 45 minute set. Wading through light-hearted fare, Buress detailed his ideal funeral, explained his desire of having a whole disease named after him (Buress with one ‘r’), and various tropes within the rap community. Buress remained one of the most effective comedians of the day as he got the audience to engage with his content through a tactful approach.
One of Buress’s most effective jokes came as he dissected a reddit review of a hook-up he had had. Though, for the average audience member, the threat of exposure on the internet is slimmer than that of celebrities, but Buress makes the entirety of the bit effective by showing his thought process remains similar to that of average people.
Saturday was a big success for all the performative ilk. As the sun set on the momentous day and the crowds settled into the last few songs of Mumford and Sons, strobe lights could be seen dotting the sky. In a way they signaled the end of the day, but in another, they marked that Boston called and the masses answered.
Featured Image by Josh Mentzer / Heights Staff