Despite rainy weather, Boston Calling 2017 did not disappoint
Arts editor Madeline Killen '18 and production editor Kourtney Kawano '18 review Boston Calling 2017.
Boston Calling 2017’s headliners included Chance the Rapper and Mumford & Sons.
Through long lines and rain, we, Kourtney and Madeline, successfully survived our first music festival. Saying we had a blast would be an understatement. Nearly every performer we watched exceeded our expectations by giving audiences a mix of tracks for new and die-hard fans. Despite the rain on Friday and the subsequent muddy patches throughout Harvard University’s Athletic Complex, the artists and attendees — numbering more than 30,000 thanks to the venue’s relocation from Boston’s City Hall Plaza — embraced the weather to enjoy a weekend celebrating music, comedy and art.
We began our adventure on Friday by watching Francis and the Lights, a one-man “project” by singer Francis Farewell Starlite, who gives off “electro Phil Collins,” vibes according to Madeline. While Starlite’s vocals were mellow enough to entertain us, his eccentric dance moves were the real showstoppers. Although Starlite was too busy dancing like Michael Jackson to sing most of “I Want You to Shake,” his emotional performance of “My City’s Gone” really sold us on how versatile this artist is. Of course, then Starlite brought out Chance the Rapper to dance onstage with him to “May I Have This Dance,” effectively causing everyone in the crowd to go wild in anticipation for Chance’s performance later that night. It’s okay, Francis. You gained two new fans in us.
Solange had to drop out of Boston Calling last week, and in an effort to fill her spot, the festival booked Migos to replace her. Only thing is, we didn’t anticipate the hour-long set to be filled mostly by some rando named DJ Durel playing the “Top 40” playlist from Spotify and asking if we were ready for Migos yet. Ready as we’ll ever be, DJ Durel. After the Durel-fueled delay that had me (Madeline) wishing I’d brought a book to read in my downtime, hearing “Bad and Boujee,” “T-Shirt” and “Slippery” live was fine but nothing special, no matter how “lit” it may have appeared on our Snapchat stories. Migos also kept repeatedly thanking the crowd for making it “the number one group in the world,” to which we fact-focused journalists only had “Excuse me, sirs, by what metric?” as a — yelled, during the concert — response.
During Bon Iver’s set, fans got a rather serendipitous experience. While we — politely — maneuvered our way toward the front of the green stage for Chance, Bon Iver started to perform “Holocene,” a Grammy-nominated song that evokes the imagery of the cold and wet outdoors. For Scott Lloyd ’19, the moment that ensued felt “scripted and unreal.” Because this is New England and summer here really means winter in California, it started raining as Bon Iver sang the song to the delight of fans who started screaming. The band concluded its set with a soulful rendition of “Skinny Love,” during which lead singer Justin Vernon seemed to have a team of accompanying vocals 30,000 strong. With the rain still pouring, Zoe Leonard ’19 noted that this performance was her favorite.
“It was so magical and couldn’t have been cued any better,” she said.
The highlight of our night, unsurprisingly, was Chance’s performance. His down-to-earth personality — and dimples — made us love him even more. Even with all of his prestigious accolades, Chance reminded us that he is a people person. He performed his biggest hits off “Coloring Book” as well as crowd favorites such as “Sunday Candy” and “I’m the One.” To go along with his taste for gospel rap, Chance tried to get serious with the crowd during different moments of his show, asking questions such as “How many of you wanna get to heaven” and having people point toward the sky during the line, “When the praises go up” in the song “Blessings.” We weren’t sure what to make of it, but the crowd response was overwhelmingly positive as people clapped, yelled and cheered because well, it’s Chance.
If Friday’s lineup served as an ode to American-based music, then Saturday’s lineup, with the exceptions of singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile and pop duo Tegan and Sara, is evidence that Brits do it better. Oh Wonder, The xx, The 1975 and headliner Mumford & Sons performed killer sets that made us hate ourselves a little less for spending $7 on a suspicious medium rare (just rare?) cheeseburger from Tasty Burger, $8 on beer and $70 on a hoodie because I, Kourtney, am a wimp when it comes to temperatures even slightly below 60 degrees (but really, it was the windchill).
Oh Wonder kicked off our second — and last — day at the festival and reminded us of the joy of listening to small, alternative bands à la Misterwives circa Green Key 2015. Not only did the group perform beloved hits such as “Midnight Moon” and “Without You,” it also played new tracks such as “Ultralife,” the name of the band’s anticipated second album. We followed this high through Tegan and Sara’s performance of “Boyfriend,” The 1975’s performances of “Somebody Else” and “Chocolate” and Mumford & Sons’ performance of “White Blank Page” — obviously, we are all about mainstream hits.
The gem of the day was Carlile. The 35-year-old Americana and folk rock songstress gave an unapologetically moving performance of “The Story” as well as a sweet tribute to her daughter Evangeline in “Mother.” However, the real treat came at the end of Mumford & Sons’ set, during which lead singer Marcus Mumford welcomed Carlile, Nathaniel Rateliff and Kevin Garrett to perform “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Carlile outshone everyone on that stage. Even Mumford got lost in her rapturous voice; after he heard Carlile sing “Would you believe in a love at first sight,” he started to sing the next line but couldn’t help laughing and telling the crowd, “She’s so good.” And Carlile, unfazed by the praise, remained completely immersed in the tune, belting her harmonies and adding to the most unforgettable performance of the night. Not bad for a collaboration that “had never been done as a group before,” according to Mumford.
While we obviously can’t give Boston Calling enough praise, there are flaws in our judgment because we both don’t have other music festival experiences to compare. If we’re comparing this past weekend to Green Key 2017, then Boston Calling is everything and more. Still, we wished the organizers didn’t schedule performers so close to one another. (Kourtney: I’m still salty that I missed The xx perform “Intro” because the group’s performance overlapped with The 1975’s.) Also, more efficiency in the food lines, please, and chairs because standing for hours really takes a toll on your legs even if we are sprightly 21 year olds.
More importantly, this weekend was a stark eye-opener to the world of music festivals. Like getting tattoos or ear piercings, they’re addicting, and now, we can’t help but look for future festivals to attend. But thanks to Chance and Carlile, we surely won’t forget our first.