The third and final day of Boston Calling featured an eclectic onslaught of modern music that reinforced the events ability to stay true to its identity while successfully changing locations and doubling in size.
Best of Day Three: Run The Jewels
RTJ slays their crowd like a dragon night after night and the larger the audience, the more it amplifies their talents. Killer Mike and EL-P had roughly 20,000 music fans eating out of the palm of their hand with high energy songs that consist of modern beats and two MC’s with telekinetic chemistry trading versus. Mike commented that he’s from Atlanta and even though they got their asses kicked by New England in the Super Bowl, he’s always been a fan of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. He then added that he considers RTJ the Belichick/Brady of hip-hop because they always come to win.
Worst of Day Three: Major Lazer
Diplo and Co. did what they always do, serve up a set of generic EDM that overcompensates for its vanilla flavor with an over the top production including tons of confetti and an on-stage twerk-a-thon by backup dancers. While everyone is entitled to their own tastes, the quality of their music wasn’t nearly as problematic as the way it was mixed. The bass was so powerful it made hearing anything else impossible. From the soundboard it sounded like sitting in your car with the windows rolled up, at a red light, when another car pulls up next to you blasting an overly obnoxious sound system. You can feel the base, but you can’t hear the music.
Mixed Bag of Day Three: Tool
The Avant Garde Alternative Metal icons were easily a major highlight of the weekend, but based on their back catalogue, stage production and rabid fan base, this was to be expected. While they played great and served up a solid setlist, it was clear they were phoning it in. The quartet hasn’t released an album in over ten years and when their fifth LP will drop is anyone’s guess. In the years since 2006’s 10,000 Days, frontman Maynard James Keenan has released three albums with Puscifer and drummer Danny Carey has done magnificent work with his Prog/Jazz Fusion act, Volto! Since the start of this tour, Tool has played the same setlist night after night with the exception of a few interchangeable songs. Their material and Tool’s ability to perform it is better than ever but without material released since Saddam Hussein was alive, things are running slow in the originality department.
Analysis and Conclusion
Boston Calling put all their chips on the table this year and they walked away as major winners. Having previously held a 20,000 person event twice a year at Boston City Hall Plaza, the promoters doubled down by moving the event to the playing fields at Harvard Athletic Complex and doubling capacity. While the event got bigger, Boston Calling honored their roots by having a tent to watch the Sox game along with an on-site Dunkin Donuts. The lineup showcased bigger acts but still followed the curated formula they utilized for the previous seven events.
They now have three stages, a comedy venue, art installations, a Coachella-esque Ferris wheel and with that, much higher overhead. The event doesn’t release attendance figures but judging by the crowd size it seems like they sold the tickets they needed to make their nut. The change in venues could have easily presented numerous deal breaking obstacles but all were avoided. The layout was great, allowing for easy movement across the grounds. There were plenty of vendors, toilets, water stations, on-site EMS and private security. Lines to get in were too long but that’s nothing that couldn’t be fixed with the addition of a second entrance.
Following the tragic terrorist attack in Manchester last week, security concerns were heightened, not just during the event, but after it ended. Multiple law enforcement agencies collaborated to keep everyone safe. The major roadway running alongside the Harvard Athletic Complex was closed down and the entirety of Harvard Square was closed to traffic after the event so attendees could flow en mass from the stage to the subway safely and efficiently. The BPD had an appropriate presence within the festival grounds themselves. Outside, Cambridge and State Police did a great job closing off the roadways and patrolling by boat along the mile stretch of the Charles River that separates the athletic compound in Boston from the rest of the campus in Cambridge.
Boston is a small city with an oversized presence in the world of sports, healthcare, academia and politics but it’s still got an inferiority complex when it comes to New York City. Since its inception a few years back, Boston Calling was The Little Festival That Could. The first event was headlined by Fun. and The National while NYC’s Governors Ball showcased performances by Kanye West, Guns N’ Roses, Kendrick Lamar and The Avett Brothers. This year, Boston Calling wasn’t just great “for a Boston festival,” it might wind up being the Best East Coast Festival of 2017. This year, the lineups for Governors Ball, Panorama, Shaky Knees, The Hangout Festival and Firefly all pale in comparison to Boston Calling. The lineup is superior, the location more centralized, the price highly competitive and the grounds manicured and managed year round by an institution with an eleven-figure endowment.
Boston Calling is no longer The Little East Coast Festival That Could. After this weekend, it’s the East Coast Festival all others should be judged by. Consider them all on notice.