Boston Calling Spring ’14 Festival Recap

By: - Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 1:15am

Bastille(Bastille singer Dan Smith had Sunday’s crowd in the palm of his hand)

I’m not a huge fan of standing. It’s better than walking or running, I guess, but not as good as sitting or lying down. So when I say Boston Calling made spending the better part of three days on my feet enjoyable — amazing, even — just know where I’m coming from.

An estimated 22,000 people per day filled the concrete desert of City Hall Plaza for the biannual music festival’s third installment, and we braved the crowds to bring you the bests and worsts from the three days. Mostly bests, though, because no one likes a Negative Nancy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA (Before and after: City Hall Plaza at 5:30 p.m. Friday, then a few hours later during Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros)

Best unofficial opening act: Keytar Bear. Boston’s most beloved street musician greeted festival goers streaming out of the Park Street T stop Friday night with his signature brand of funky pop covers — I caught the tail end of an inspired version of Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.” The Government Center construction forced fans to walk a few extra blocks to City Hall Plaza, but it was totally cool because they needed that time to post K.B. pics on the interwebs.

Best crowd participation: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. “You wanna put the cameras away and dance for a minute?” asked lead singer Alex Ebert, before jumping into the crowd to join the party, even handing off the mic to a fan for a verse or two. Ebert also takes the Pink Floyd award for confusing everyone into thinking he was in fact Edward Sharpe, and the Matisyahu/Russell Brand award for the dude who looks most like a Matisyahu/Russell Brand lovechild.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 12.49.04 AM(Edward Sharpe frontman Alex Ebert climbed into the crowd Friday night)

Best example of sharing: That dude who passed his vape to you right before Jack Johnson’s super chill Friday night headlining set, even if you did put your mouth on something that was probably smuggled into the festival in (best-case scenario) his sock or (worst-case scenario) his undies. Probably best not to think about it and just enjoy the music. Hawaii’s favorite surfer-turned-filmmaker-turned-songwriter serenaded the crowd with his signature laid-back jams, then brought out Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros for crowd-pleasing covers of The Beatles’ “Rocky Raccoon” and Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.”

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 12.20.15 AM(Jack Johnson, all bundled up for Boston’s 55-degree “summer”)

Best gratuitous use of the “Boston wicked”: Wicked Free Wi-Fi. Cell service on various providers clogged up and made it impossible to text/tweet/IG/FB, and if you can’t post about something on social media is it even really happening to you? Stepping in to save the day was the city’s Wicked Free Wi-Fi initiative begun earlier this year by our kick-ass, Twitter-chattin’, Uber-lovin’ Mayor Marty Walsh, who made a cameo appearance on stage Friday. Texts were texted, tweets tweeted, and FOMO successfully induced in our friends who skipped this to save up for Lorde in September.

Worst gratuitous use of the “Boston wicked”: Wicked Wines. I’m sure your wine is delicious, guys, but the thing about the Boston wicked? It’s an adverb, used to modify a verb, adjective, or another adverb. Example: “My boy’s wicked smart.” Wines is a noun, so your wicked functions as an adjective. Just change it to Wicked Good Wines and maybe this fall you could win…

Best alcoholic beverage: Sam Adams Porch Rocker. The summer shandy from the Boston brewery (celebrating its 30th anniversary) gets the nod here over its Boston Lager, IPA and Summer offerings. I’m a huge Sam Summer fan but it just tastes different from a can — an opinion confirmed in BDCwire’s annual Boston Calling Beer Tasting (I’m the “photographer guy” Juliana mentions at about 8:10). Sam also takes our award for best viral marketing campaign for letting people take silly pictures with Sam Adams cutouts and huge plastic beer steins. I peed in one.

Neighborhood(The Neighbourhood singer Jesse Rutherford wasn’t flipping off the crowd, just playing along with his “Afraid” lyrics: “You’re too mean, I don’t like you / Fuck you anyway.”)

Best food vendor: Chipotle. Honestly I forgot to eat dinner all three nights. Whoops. I’d love to reward a local like Bon Me, Tasty Burger, or Chicken & Rice Guys, but Chipotle went all out in their setup — and most importantly, handed out gift cards for free burritos. Free food > not free food.

Best stage outfit: Jenny Lewis. The former Rilo Kiley singer accented her seductive stage presence with some sweet shades and a killer pantsuit. Your move, Hillary Clinton. Your move.

Worst stage outfit: Phosphorescent. So Phosphorescent is just the stage name for singer/songwriter Matthew Houck, who wore a Phosphorescent T-shirt on stage, accessorized with an ironic “I Love Miami” hat. Maybe the shirt was “ironic” too, but if it’s a fashion faux pas to wear the shirt for a band you’re going to see, what about wearing the shirt for your own band at your own show?

Most sincere attempt at buttering up the crowd: Frank Turner. “Boston is the greatest city in America. It’s been scientifically proven, by science,” said the British folk-punk troubadour, who would also win our award for best festival performance if we were giving out actual serious awards here. His high-energy Saturday afternoon set (featuring a guest spot by a random fan brought on stage for a harmonica solo) proved his Boston love by itself, but he followed that by packing up his gear and high-tailing it across the river for a sold-out show at The Sinclair.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 1.20.31 AM(Frank Turner: As punk rock as anyone with an acoustic guitar has any right to be)

Least sincere attempt at buttering up the crowd: Maximo Park. Singer Paul Smith (another Brit) actually complimented the brutalist concrete architecture of noted eyesore Boston City Hall. To be fair, he doesn’t have to see the physical embodiment of Big Brother every day like we do.

HeadandtheHeart(Seattle folk rockers The Head and the Heart welcomed the rains Saturday night)

Most synergistic relationship between artists and weather: Saturday night. When Decemberists’ frontman Colin Meloy welcomed the audience to “the Pacific Northwest portion of the evening,” he could have been talking about the rain or the respective hometowns of his band (Portland) sandwiched between Seattle’s The Head and the Heart and Death Cab for Cutie. If it had to rain at all during Boston Calling, this was the time. Also, our award for best glowing orb in the sky goes to “The Sun” for coming out to play Sunday and feeding into the fantasies of everyone who thought this was Coachella East.

Best tweet: Tigerman WOAH!

Worst guitar solo: Kurt Vile, “Wakin On a Pretty Day.” Try an electric guitar next time you want to break out the wah pedal, Hendrix.

Best song that made me scream like a teenage girl and sing every word and probably embarrass myself but whatever it was awesome: Tegan and Sara, “Closer.” I WON’T TREAT YOU LIKE YOU’RE OH SO TYPICAAAAL!!!

Best fans: Brand New. North Carolina couple Rachel and Zach drove 14 hours, snagged a front-row spot, and waited nine hours to see the emo/alternative rockers. Even more impressive? They subsisted on just a few sips of water to avoid bathroom breaks. I had two beers and needed to pee in a beer stein.

Bog32DKIcAAQmyP-1(The die-hard Brand New fans. Book a show in North Carolina sometime, Brand New)

Best ode to a destroyed city played in a destroyed neighborhood: Bastille, “Pompeii.” Is that song even a metaphor for anything or just a literal recollection of what it was like for average Pompeii residents when Vesuvius went off? Anyways, it was one of the highlights of a festival that took place on the former location of Scollay Square, the vibrant entertainment district that the city bulldozed and paved over in the ‘50s to make way for Government Center. Pour one out for old Scollay Square, homeys.

(Modest Mouse closing out Boston Calling Spring 2014)

Best goosebumps-inducing moment: Modest Mouse, “Float On.” I heard these guys didn’t like to play their biggest hit live, so when those opening arpeggios kicked in I basically lost it.

Then the entire crowd joined in for the last chorus:

And we’ll all float on, all right / Already, we’ll all float on, all right…

I looked around at the hands in the air — so many of them, like me, still rocking Friday’s green wristband. Three nights and two days of Boston Calling added up to about 24 full hours of music, beer, food… and standing. My voice was hoarse. My back hurt.

Don’t worry, we’ll all float on / Even if things get heavy, we’ll all float on, all right…

Modest Mouse still had a few songs left in their set, but this? This was as good as it gets — in Boston, or anywhere else.

It’s scientifically proven, by science.

Photos by Sean O’Connor, Jim Martinho, Katie Pelkey, and @OnlyInBOS.