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Boston Calling: Through Thunder & Lightning, Lorde, Nas & The Replacements Answer Our Prayers

This past weekend was a sonic jolt for a crowd of music-lovers descending upon Boston’s Historic City Hall Plaza. With a city that’s been undergoing massive infrastructural changes and has been welcoming back a slew of college students and their mattresses, Boston Calling was the perfect round-up and release for Boston. The word “wicked” could be seen and heard everywhere, and if there’s one thing Bostonians are passionate about, it’s music.

Friday night kicked off with Neutral Milk Hotel, Future Islands and Cincinnati’s own The National, who sound like Aimee Mann and Pavement got drunk and made an album together. Punchy, smart and brooding.

Saturday was poised to be another perfect day of weather set off by a very grunge-clad Sky Ferreira and Lena Dunham’s darling Jack Antonoff’s new band, The Bleachers.

But around 5pm, after the Hold Steady finished their set, ominous clouds filled the sky, then lightning and thunder, and attendees were forced to evacuate. A cancellation was a huge possibility and the clock was ticking as attendees filled the local bars while an empty plaza filled with rain. Everyone was great about tweeting updates and around 9pm after the last storm cell past, the crowd re-convened for Lorde and Childish Gambino, which unfortunately meant that Girl Talk and Volcanic Choir got clipped. But this was a rain or shine event, so no refund demands were honored.

Enter the troubadour, Lorde, who was ever the spry, yet humble power-pixie, musing about how much it meant to her that people stuck around by saying: “You guys are officially my favorite crowd in America right now” and.. “I hope none of you got struck by lightning.” She also mused about how much Boston reminded her of home and had the meatiest lobster rolls, before perfectly segueing into “Royals.”

Multiple costume changes later and Trent Reznor-type head thrashing, we felt as if we were witnessing Kate Bush’s lovechild as she launched into a soul-stirring “Team”.  A profound lyricist with a love of soul music who hasn’t been jaded by the music industry, all wrapped up in a 17 year old body. Amanda Palmer, who dropped in for Lorde’s set has this to say:

I Think I figured Out Why I Love Lorde So Much, With A Detour Through Lana Del Rey, by amanda palmer

just saw Lorde perform a short set at the Boston Calling Music Festival…where i stopped just for her set before heading home to the cloud club to get back to work tonight.  i’ve been listening to her debut since it came out…it provided me endless hours of listenable-brain-thought soundtrack while i wrote the book in australia. i usually get bored of an album but this one just didn’t bore me, it stuck. and stuck and stuck. i’ve also been really loving the production on lana del rey’s records. it’s just gorgeous. really. damn. it’s just gorgeous, beautiful music. but i can’t get over not actually liking The Image, and a lot of the lyrics. it stings the music, poisons it. i’ve been trying to wrap my head around it. and trying not to judge. lorde manages to comport herself with a kind of grace that most pop stars her age can’t manage. yet she isn’t doing the perfect tragic feminine beauty queen thing (a la lana del rey), or the art star thing (a la gaga). i believe her more. why is that?i think it’s because she manages to be so honest in her lyrics, and in her interviews, about the fact that she isn’t perfect, doesn’t totally get it. isn’t afraid to say that she doesn’t get it, even while she’s trying to.there’s something so refreshing about that honesty. it reminds me of the music i loved so much when i was a teenager.

 Read entire Post by Amanda Palmer.

Childish Gambino was pitch perfect and the crowd went nuts during “Crawl” and “3005” backed by an electric band. The sound and lighting design added for a masterful atmospheric effect allowing Gambino to float back and forth between mellow and hyped.

Childish Gambino. Boston Calling.

Sunday was a masterpiece. Perfect weather. Boston’s own “Lake Street Dive” were tremendous. The War on Drugs were phenomenal. Adam Granduciel Lindsay Buckingham-style vocals had us wanting to drive off into the desert. Twenty One Pilots did a lot of interesting covers. Not my cup of tea, but lots of energy. Spoon brought a unique blend of Philly electro-soul and The 1975 brought the perfect brand of Manchester Brit, power-pop.

Lake Street Dive. Photo Credit: Kay V

The Replacements BLEW US AWAY. Replacement purists may disagree, considering the very youngish drummer on this reunion tour. There was even a quip about “Where’s Chris?” and the guy next to me kept yelling: “C’moon, you’re in Baustin, play some Neighbahoods!” to which Westerberg resoundingly replied. “Why? I’ll play what I want.” And the Replacements did just that, covering Chuck Berry’s Maybellene and the Jackon 5’s “I Want You Back” much to the approval of Questlove of the Roots, who was waiting in the wings to go on with Nas right after:


Westerberg was full of quips, saying “duct tape makes a shit bridge” when his guitar started acting wonky, smelling the waft of weed from the audience. “Is that weed I smell?…Bunch of fucking hippies.” A beautiful rendition of “Androgynous” brought a spell towards the end of the set. Replacements proved they can still transcend and rock ‘n’ roll is still very much alive.

Replacements. Boston Calling 2014. Photo Credit: Kay V
Replacements. Boston Calling 2014. Photo Credit: Kay V

Watch The Replacements perform “Androgynous” here: Post by We Love The ‘Mats.

And last, but most certainly not least, Nas came out totally energized and totally himself, talking about how great it felt to be performing again.  Earlier that day, Nas had met up with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the girls from the M.I.T “I Know I Can” program.

Solo-wise, Nas brought the classics. “One Mic,” “The World Is Yours,” and  “I Know I Can” which were simplified grace and beauty. Nas’ lyricism is unmatched and his understanding of political and spiritual issues weaves effortlessly into his lyrics. The Roots then jumped on stage after coming off of a non-stop three day tour in NYC, LA and Denver. They did covers of “Jungle Boogie” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” along with the classics such as “One Love”. Check out the view from behind Questlove’s kit:

And with that, Boston Calling 2014 proved that come rain or come shine, music will always reign supreme. It always does. We look forward to next year’s line up. Thank you, Boston Calling!

About Kristen Damasida

Writer and Photographer for Virago Magazine, Kristen grew up listening to vinyl and highlighting the dictionary. Her work has appeared in IrockJazz.com, The East Harlem Journal, Boston's Culturehive, the Ithacan and other publications. Her love of music cannot be eclipsed by her love of words. She's been coined the "Akira Kurosawa of Blogs" by such people as herself. An aspiring musician, she has a serious penchant for peach-flavored anything, multi-tasking, slow-paced thrillers and dreams of going back to South America, laying on the beach, and drinking from a coconut.

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