Inside the Boston Calling Festival
Boston Called, Mother Nature answered. Despite the consistent rain, wind, and insanely low temperatures for Memorial Day weekend (even in Boston), 19,000 flooded City Hall Plaza for the first of the two-day inaugural Boston Calling Music Festival on Saturday.
Not even the horrid weather conditions could dampen (no pun intended) the atmosphere of Boston’s first very own music festival. Festival goers danced and jumped their way through the massive puddles in the plaza and gladly trudged through the flooded Beer Gardens all afternoon.
The festival involves two stages. The Main Stage is set up in the left corner of the plaza along Court Street and is visible from just about anywhere in the plaza. The second stage, City Hall Stage, is tucked up against City Hall across from the John F. Kennedy Federal Building and has an amphitheater feeling to it with the City Hall Plaza Stairs providing a natural bowl shape.
The biggest flaw of the event was the entrance, located by the Government Center T stop. Upon arriving, I had no idea where to go to get into the event. There was no specific line and there was no apparent end to any of the “lines” either. This made the gates hectic, especially because no one knew what to expect.
Once inside the festival, the first thing festival goers see are the food and merchandise tents to the right of the entrance. There were plenty of options in terms of food with several vendors offering an array of festival-like food with Italian sausage, French fries, fried dough, etc. There was even a Chipotle tent.
I made my way over to the media tent where I was able to see the latter half of MS MR, an upcoming duo from New York; perform on the City Hall Stage. Immediately I was impressed with the quality of the sound, especially for the smaller of the two stages.
Matt & Kim were the first group I saw take the Main Stage, and they came out with a blast. Until that point, the energy of the festival was not entirely there. The City Hall Stage cannot be heard throughout the festival, unlike the Main Stage. But the buzz was evident throughout Matt & Kim’s entire set. The duo, consisting of two New Englanders, led a confetti filled, balloon infested party in City Hall Plaza consisting of “Let’s Get Weird” chants and a great mix of hilarious banter and great tunes.
After Matt & Kim came my first disappointment of the afternoon. I came to realize just how many people were at the festival, once everyone was gathered at the Main Stage. With Portugal. The Man set to play on the City Hall Stage, I had to decide between leaving my post to watch that set, or keep my spot at the Main Stage for The Shins in an hour. A large portion of the crowd already at the Main Stage did as I did and bypassed Portugal. The Man, which was just out of earshot.
This has always been my gripe on music festivals. The timing in between bands is just small enough to where if you want to see bands playing back-to-back, you’re going to have to watch one set from a mile away.
The video boards around the Main Stage showed Portugal. The Man’s set, which I heard was killer, but we could not hear a thing. But, my disappointment ended when The Shins took to the stage after a surprise visit from Mayor Menino on the Main Stage.
Even though it was raining harder than it had all day, and the temperatures were beginning to drop as the evening carried on, the plaza was packed from the stage almost all the way back to City Hall for the entirety of the hour long set list.
When The Shins were finished, the crowd dispersed with people taking the opportunity to eat, or to make their way to the City Hall Stage for Marina & the Diamonds. This is when temperatures dropped significantly. The summer kick-off festival started to feel a lot like a late November evening in Boston.
With only two bands left to play, it seemed like a lot of people decided to cash in for the night and head back into the warmth, and honestly, I do not blame them, because that’s exactly what I did. When I left, it was 42 degrees, and the wind was roaring through City Hall Plaza like it always does.
Still there was fun to be had (again with the puns) as many people were beginning to pack in around the Main Stage as I headed toward the gate for the nights headliner, fun., who was due to take the stage at 9pm.
Overall, Day 1 was a success, concessions moved fluently, the stage set up was ideal for the space given, the sound was amazing, every band started on time and the weather was not enough to kill the spark of the afternoon sets.
Day 2 kicks off at noon with music starting at 1:30. The lineup includes Caspian, Youth Lagoon, Dirty Projectors, Ra Ra Riot, The Walkmen, Andrew Bird, Of Monsters & Men, Young the Giant, and The National.
Follow @McWham on twitter for live-tweets during the last day of the festival and Stay tuned to the Suffolk Voice for an overall recap of the events at the inaugural Boston Calling Music Festival at City Hall Plaza.