Review | Boston Calling 2017

Review | Boston Calling 2017

// Review by Martin Smith

The Boston Calling music festival took a big step forward this year. They started by moving the location from the Boston’s City Hall Plaza to the much larger Harvard Athletic Complex. Festival goers navigated between three music stages, a comedy club, and in their down time, entertained themselves with craft beer tents, local food vendors, wine tasting, a giant connect-four, jenga, bag-toss, and even a ferris-wheel. While years past have included some big name national acts, the Boston Calling crowd remained mostly local. That all changed with the expansion of the 2017 festival, which really stepped it up bringing iconic artists to the stage, ensuring Boston Calling’s place on the national festival circuit and bringing festival-goers from the left coast, Arizona Bay, and the other corners of the country, to Beantown.

Tool closed the festival to one of the largest crowds of the weekend, treating fans, many of whom have been longing to see the seldom touring band, to a visually striking show with classic Tool horror-esque and psychedelic imagery. Front man, Reverend Maynard, disappeared into the background wearing an all-black combat-style costume to the disappointment of many fans and photographers who wanted to see the legendary front-man up close. But, as expected, their music and message was as powerful as ever they charged through their hits including Ænima, before which Maynard joked had the perfect “fuck it all message” if all the “Memorial Day unity” stuff he previously preached about failed.

Friday, the uber popular urban poet Chance the Rapper closed the night preaching his gospel of Chance and positivity to his hoard of millennial fans. Mumford and Sons closed out Saturday and showing us all why they won a Grammy for album of the year by making acoustic music cool again.

Cage the Elephant reminded us what a rock ‘n roll show should look like, inspiring numerous crowd surfers and even one ill-fated stage diver. Nathaniel Rateliff brought his soulful folk blues rock to the main stage on Saturday evening playing one of the most popular sets of the festival that left his fans wanting more, chanting the hook to his hit song “S.O.B.” for 10 minutes after he left the stage.

With a much larger lineup, this year’s festival goers couldn’t see it all. In possibly the toughest decision of the weekend, fans had to choose between Weezer and Major Lazer, whose sets were at the exact same time. Weezer packed the third stage to capacity and proved that arena rock kicks ass, while Major Lazer provided the most entertaining set of the festival complete with t-shirt cannons and pyrotechnics. They even convinced the crowd to shed their shirts, wave them around, and throw them into the air. Even the Tool fans were shaking their asses.

Tegan & Sara and The 1975 fans queued up long before their sets to be a part of the dance parties that both bands incited. Other artists like Bon Iver, Sigur Ros, and The XX could have headlined at any other festival but with monumental lineup of the 2017 Boston Calling they brought their more demure acts to the fest in a supporting role.

The weekend was surprising light on politics given the political turmoil currently enveloping the country and world. Killer Mike from Run the Jewels asked everybody to stay active and stay engaged. Maynard asked us to respect servicemen and women and reminded them that they are fighting to protect our right to be artists and “whiny, entitled snowflakes.” But as Matty from The 1975 opined, being from Manchester, England only a few days after the tragedy at the Ariana Grande show, that this was not his show but a show for all of us and time was short so they wanted to play their music for the fans so we could have fun and dance. And have fun and dance we did for three unforgettable days that already have fans anticipating how even more impressive Boston Calling will be in 2018.