Boston Calling changed. It used to be at City Hall, but this year it’s at Harvard Stadium. It used to be reasonably priced, but this year it’s questionably priced. It used to start with just a night set on Friday, but now it’s a whole day Friday and you’d have to skip work to see everyone. It used to be twice a year, and now it is one less time a year than that.
Most importantly though, it used to be just two stages, and you could stand in one place and see every single act. Now it’s three stages, and you have to move [insert gif of the entire earth rolling its eyes], and you also have to choose between artists. Don’t worry though, the choosing will be easy. I’m doing it for you.
Vundabar vs. Xylouris White
Xylouris White vs. Lucy Dacus
Vundabar seems kinda fun. Like, I’d be overjoyed with them as an opener for a concert, but I doubt I’m going to go to a Vundabar headlining show.
Xylouris White has a really interesting sound, but does not seem like a great way to ease into a day of music. A little intense, but probably worth swinging by for a song.
Lucy Dacus is my first artist I’m circling on the schedule. Go see Lucy. She has a legitimate hit, and it’s less than 3 minutes long, so you’ll have plenty of time for other stuff if you catch it.
Whitney vs. Deerhoof
Whitney is solid, but I’m more familiar with Deerhoof. If you gave me this show-down in a small venue, I might say Whitney. On a festival stage? I’m hoofin’. No bad choice here.
Francis and the Lights vs. Car Seat Headrest
Car Seat Headrest vs. Sylvan Esso (Kick Jump Twist)
Car Seat Headrest will blow the proverbial doors off Boston Calling. They are one of the top 5 bands I would be going to see if I had a 3-day pass this weekend (I have a 0-day pass).
Francis and the Lights seem like a fine alternative if you don’t want to rock out. Pretty Phil Collins-y vibe.
Sylvan Esso vs. Car Seat Headrest is impossible. It’s honestly part of the reason I’m not going on Friday. You can’t overlap two acts this good this early in the day. Sylvan Esso will be really fun, but I’d stand strong with Car Seat Headrest here just because their most recent album is better than Sylvan Esso’s most recent album. Gotta find an edge somewhere when the matchup is this close.
Mac Demarco vs. Migos
This was originally the funniest section of this post, but I just Googled “Boston Calling lineup” before I was about to publish to make sure there was no funny business, and guess what! Funny business! Solange has dropped out and been replaced by Migos. I have nothing funny to say about that; that stinks.
Migos will be fun, I’m sure, but I guess I’d switch over to Mac during this time slot now. Basing this comment on seeing many, many disappointing live hip hop performances in my life…I cannot imagine Migos sounds good in concert. Plus, their catalog isn’t exactly audibly diverse, so you’re going to get tired of that after about 2.5 songs. Mac changed things up on his new album – I’d go check him out, then maybe swoop in to Migos for their last song.
Bon Iver vs. Sigur Ros
Sigur Ros vs. Chance the Rapper
My assumption here is that Bon Iver is going to be packed. Bon Iver is not a festival musician. Sigur Ros, on the other hand, could do some really interesting stuff to tide you over until Chance steps up. That’s my move. Get weird with Sigur Ros, move over to Chance, and catch Bon Iver in a more Bon Iver-y environment next time he’s in town.
Chance is the main event. Sorry, Tool. Sorry, Mumford. He’s the #1 reason to go to Boston Calling, and word is he puts on a heck of a show. Go see a great artist at his peak, and skip both Bon Iver and Sigur Ros and maybe even dinner to get there early if you have to.
My ideal Friday schedule:
Vundabar > Lucy Dacus > First Half of Deerhoof > Second Half of Whitney > Dinner Break > Car Seat Headrest > 2nd Half of Sylvan Esso > 40 Min of Mac Demarco > End of Migos > 1-3 Sigur Ros songs > Chance
Alexandra Savior vs. Tkay Maidza
Tkay Maidza vs. Kevin Morby
Alexandra has a more upbeat Lana Del Ray thing going on. She’s got some potential, for sure, and she has a great voice. This early in the day, I’m not looking to get too crazy.
Tkay is too crazy. Not my style to begin with, butalso not the type of act I’m looking for at this part of the day. Hard pass, no offense, Tkay, I only listened to three of your songs to come to this conclusion.
Kevin Morby sneaks in by default here, and I actually might just go take a nap instead. Or go to Morby and take my nap there. He has a nice voice, but needs to speed things up a bit.
Strand of Oaks vs. Russ
I looked at these band names and was immediately conflicted. Strand of Oaks sounds like it would be a band that involves a fiddle. Russ sounds like Boston Calling just carved out a timeslot when they expect a homeless guy to wander onto stage and yell at people about soap conspiracies for an hour.
This was incorrect on both accounts. Strand of Oaks is very enjoyable. Here’s how I imagine coming into Stand of Oaks fandom: you were a big 90s rock fan, then “couldn’t really get into anything” for a while, then went to a concert your friend dragged you to and Strand of Oaks was opening, and they were really solid, and now you’re the one dragging your friends to go see them. They’re my pick here.
No offense to Russ, but he’s not holding my attention too well. I might opt for the version of him I had in my head, to be completely honest. Actually, that’s not fair, I’d pick that version over pretty much the entire weekend’s lineup, I want to know what’s going on with my soap.
Moses Sumney vs. Cousin Stizz
Cousin Stizz vs. Oh Wonder
Moses Sumney has a beautiful voice and makes interesting, complicated, layered music that sounds like it would translate incredibly well in person. He would be the #1 artist I’d be going to Boston Calling to see on Saturday. Stay through to the end; if he’s playing “Lonely World,” you’re probably going to reach a state of euphoria typically reserved for hard drug use and successfully landing a cartwheel.
Kind of already said this in the Migos section, but I just wouldn’t trust Cousin Stizz to put up a memorable set. And I’d get bored. When music is mostly about the lyrics (which rap tends to be), it’s almost impossible to connect with a song in concert when you don’t already know the lyrics. Maybe I just have terrible hearing. Maybe it’s a structural flaw in an entire genre of music. More likely I just have bad hearing, now that I’m looking at my options.
I think Oh Wonder is my pick here. The lead vocals are solid, they have some fun songs and good harmonies. It’s the type of thing I could relax to for a mid-day set and maybe leave with a couple new songs to add to my playlists.
Brandi Carlisle vs. Danny Brown
Danny Brown vs. Tegan & Sara
Tegan & Sara vs. Majid Jordan
Majid Jordan vs. Nathaniel Ratliff & the Night Sweats
Okay. This is a lot to take in.
I’d be going to see Brandi, for sure. This day needs a little punch, and she’s packing it with new tracks and old. I’ve never seen her live, but I imagine this will be one of the best performances of the whole weekend. “The Story” is an all-time jam, and Danny Brown does not have any all-time jams (yet).
That last sentence is pretty unfair until you get to the “(yet)” – that totally evens things out. Danny Brown has jams. I would gladly go see a Danny Brown show, and I honestly might split my time between Brandi and Danny here. One thing is for sure: if I go see Danny Brown, I am NOT leaving early for Tegan and Sara. This is a controversial take, and I’m more than happy to defend it.
Tegan and Sara are going to be a blast. But I’ve been to shows where you “have a blast” many times. They’re a lot of fun! You’ll forget it by July, even if they do the song from “The Lego Movie.” You can probably go to about half of this show and just have 30 minutes of fun and be happy about that. Plus, they tour all the time.
Majid Jordan is just in a tough spot here. Earlier in the day, absolutely, go see Majid. He’s got a bit of a 90s throwback jams kind of feel to him. Between Tegan and Sara and Nathaniel Ratliff? Sorry, man.
The Night Sweats bring a ton of energy, have good variation in their songs, sound great live, and most importantly, are approved by my Dad. Approved by my Dad so much that he bought me their album. If they are Dad-approved AND me-approved, you know it’s worth checking out. I’m going for the full Night Sweats set if I’m there Saturday.
The xx vs. The 1975
The 1975 vs. Mumford & Sons
The xx are iconic. Jamie xx is brilliant and came out with an incredible album of his own a couple years ago. I went to see him on that tour, and it was an insane dance party. So, worst-case scenario they just play songs by The xx. Best case scenario they mix things up and you get The xx songs and Jamie xx songs weaving in and out of each other. This will be one of the highlights of the weekend. I’m not sure I need to do any convincing here, this is a complete non-conflict for me.
Here’s a little plot twist. I would swing over to see The 1975 before Mumford & Sons. I’m sure a Mumford & Sons show is plenty of fun. I am also sure I wouldn’t need to be there for two entire hours of Mumford & Sons, and I would expect them to come out at least 10-15 minutes after their scheduled start time. That clears plenty of room for you to slip away to The 1975 for the end of their set. You’re not getting a good spot for the Mumfies anyway, so you have all the time in the world to get over there.
Then come back for Mumford & Sons so you can catch 14 songs in a row that have aggressive intros, then are quiet for the next minute, build tension, then totally unexpectedly climax for the last minute. It’s fine. They’re good. But just…it’s a formula, and we’re all being tricked into feeling emotions by them. Come at me.
My ideal Saturday schedule:
Alexandra Savior > Kevin Morby > Strand of Oaks > Moses Sumney > Food Break > whatever’s left of Oh Wonder > Brandi Carlisle > some of Danny Brown > the rest of Tegan & Sara > Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats > The xx > the end of The 1975 > 90 minutes of Mumford & Sons
Mondo Cozmo vs. The Hotelier
Mondo Cozmo’s “Shine” (below) is one of the best tracks I uncovered in putting this piece together. He seems pretty upbeat across the board. It’s only a 35-minute time slot, so it’ll be worth your time just to catch that one tune, even if you hate being upbeat. Getting in an early highlight like that sets a great tone for a long day.
The first few notes I heard from The Hotelier got me pumped up. Straight out of the 90s alt scene. And then the vocals kick in, and it’s like the lead singer from Sum41 is trying to do Dropkick Murphys songs. Really rough listen, and the only artist in this piece I had to skip past. Sorry, guys! Have someone else sing!
Hiss Golden Messenger vs. PUP
PUP vs. Mitski
Hiss Golden Messenger is a very pleasant listen. He sounds like he’s coming from a different era and is singing to his daughter, but it’s not so soft that she falls asleep, it’s just the right temperature for her to stay awake and enjoy it.
PUP shreds and screams and now I’m realizing this is the day Tool headlines and a bunch of these bands are booked to cater to the Tool audience. Tool is my bag. PUP is not my bag. They’re not bad though. I would consider going to see them if I was in a weird mood.
Mitski, on the other hand, I’m going to see no matter what mood I’m in. She was the darling of the indie music scene in 2016, and rightfully so. I don’t do a ton of musical comparisons because they’re sloppy and lazy (please don’t scroll up to my assessment of The Hotelier), but I’m projecting a similar path to St. Vincent (this is high praise, non-St.-Vincent-knowers). Mitski is one of the reasons I would buy a Sunday ticket, so I’d go all-in on her set.
Buffalo Tom vs. Converge
Buffalo Tom has been around for a billion years. I could see them opening for any band from the Goo Goo Dolls to the Gin Blossoms to Weezer. Actually they are kind of opening for Weezer here. How bout that?! They have a very casual 90s alternative sound that would play during a “Julia Stiles is just having fun being a teen!” movie montage – you will nod your head, you will tap your foot, you will enjoy yourself. Very good casual mid-day band to see.
Remember a few minutes ago when I said I didn’t want to see PUP because of the screaming? Okay, I take it back now, PUP is a very light snack compared to Converge. Converge sounds like they either A) trying to physically harm their instruments and their bodies simultaneously or B) trying to open the gateway to Hell. I’d be going to Buffalo Tom for the music, but now I’d also be going in case Theory B is correct and Converge is successful.
Flatbush Zombies vs. Frightened Rabbit
Frightened Rabbit vs. Piebald
This section is a little deceiving. If you put all three bands on stage at the same time, I would say go see Frightened Rabbit. They have the most to offer, catalog-wise.
That said, I would probably try to go see a little bit of all three bands here.
Flatbush Zombies are a welcome break to all the rock bands playing in the day, and I think they would put on the most fun show of the three. Frightened Rabbit I already covered, and if I’m going to pay to see a show by just one of these bands, it’s them. Piebald is not my jam, vocally, but the rest of their sound is solid. Not someone I’d be going out of my way to see normally, but if they’re right there, yeah, sure, I’ll give ‘em a whirl and see if the vocals are better in person or just get drowned out completely.
Run the Jewels vs. Wolf Parade
This is another complete non-conflict for me. Run the Jewels is a band I’ve wanted to see for a few years now, with their album Run the Jewels 2 being one of my favorite albums to come out in 2014. They bring ferocity, energy, and probably some Bernie Sanders support to the stage, and they would be my top artist to go see Sunday besides Tool.
Wolf Parade is pretty solid. They fit into the theme of the day, putting more rock bands on stage and diverting from variety. They’re much tamer and more accessible than a lot of the other acts that precede them though, so you won’t have to worry about your ears bleeding, which is just a nice thing not to worry about.
Major Lazer vs. Weezer
It’s painful to have to make this decision, but it’s another non-decision for me. Major Lazer is a ton of fun, and they’d be perfect for a festival stage/crowd. “Lean On” is worth half the price of your ticket on its own.
That said, you bought that ticket to see two bands on Sunday, most likely, and one of them is Weezer. I saw Weezer a few years ago when they did a special show at The Sinclair in Cambridge. They pretty much only played their new album, which I wasn’t gaga over, but they sounded absolutely fantastic live. And good news for you, Sunday concert-goers – their recent setlists show they’re pretty much sticking to the hits this tour. Absolutely go see Weezer, but maybe slip out when they start the last song so you can get a good spot for Tool.
My ideal Sunday schedule:
Mondo Cozmo > Hiss Golden Messenger > Mitski > Buffalo Tom > 1st half of Flatbush Zombies > Frightened Rabbit > 2nd half of Piebald > Run the Jewels > Dinner, then arrive early for > Weezer > Tool