Boston Calling

Back for round 3

Only one year after its inception, Boston Calling is already making a name for itself as a top music festival for rock-lovers all along the East Coast. Fans of all ages, from enthusiastic high schoolers to parents, came together Memorial Day weekend to listen to some of their favorite artists while downing Sam Adams and dancing the night away.

The lineup this spring included big names — alternative rock band Death Cab for Cutie and smooth rocker Jack Johnson, to name a couple — as well as more local bands like Magic Man and Tigerman Woah!, both of whose styles fit in with their better-known counterparts.

A new addition this year was a kickoff concert on Friday evening. Even though only one stage was in use and only three acts performed, the City Hall Plaza was packed as people squished toward the main stage. Up first was Cass McCombs, his attractive melodies punctuated by spectacular guitar solos. Next was the spiritual and spectacular Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, followed by Jack Johnson’s smooth acoustics. The evening chill that eventually settled in did little to dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm.

Though there were ten acts on Saturday, only one band played at a time, so no one had to miss their favorite act. Notable acts included The Neighborhood — who played their popular “Sweater Weather” with more recent songs from their new mixtape #000000 & #FFFFFF (HTML color codes for black and white) — as well as Jenny Lewis and The Head & The Heart.

The long anticipated “mystery band” in the original lineup, The Decemberists, was well worth the hour-long wait in a heavy downpour. Nearly the entire audience waited to listen to Cab for Cutie — the most anticipated act of the night.

The Sunday schedule was, for some, the most anticipated lineup of the entire weekend, evidenced by the crowds extending almost to the food stands bordering the plaza. Most of the better-known acts played near the end of the day, and the weekend concluded with an astounding performance by Modest Mouse.

Built to Spill, often credited as one of Modest Mouse’s biggest musical inspirations, played a very boisterous yet still enjoyable set in the afternoon. Next was Phosphorescent with a rock sound laced with psychedelic themes, followed by two of the more pop-like acts, Tegan & Sara and Bastille.

These two were in stark contrast to the band Brand New, which played a heavy punk- and metal-influenced set. Although it might have been too loud for some (like me), it sent those in the first rows into a wild, ecstatic, thrashing dance. Modest Mouse wrapped the entire festival with the last act of the night.

Because their last tour was almost four years ago, as soon as Modest Mouse hit the stage, the audience went crazy. They played a wide variety of their songs including crowd-pleasing “Float On” and “The World at Large,” during which multiple crowd surfers could be seen having the time of their lives. They even came back for a three-song encore, playing “Cowboy Dan,” “Shit In Your Cut,” and “Satin In A Coffin.”

Overall, the show was a great success and perhaps an improvement over last year. This year’s festival was completely sold out, with total attendance rising to 60,000. Additionally, the alcoholic drinks were no longer contained to a single area, and the audience was easy-going and willing to dance.

On the ride back, I overheard plenty of conversation discussing plans to come back in September for another round of Boston Calling. Although fewer rock musicians will be present, this September’s edition will include artists such as Lorde, Childish Gambino, and Neutral Milk Hotel. Fans can buy tickets for September’s Boston Calling online at