When I rolled out of bed Sunday morning, still tired (though exhilarated) from a wet, but killer, inaugural day of Boston Calling Music Festival, it was already clear that day two was off to a good start.
The sun was peeking its sheepish head out from behind the clouds (where were you yesterday, bro?) and I didn’t have to put on galoshes and wool gloves to venture out to City Hall Plaza, so I was in business. As were the roughly 20,000 other people swarming the Plaza yesterday afternoon, the increase in attendance having skyrocketed with the improvement in the weather. (Where were you yesterday, bros?)
And we were all pretty damn glad to be there. Those of us who stuck it out in the freezing rain Saturday night might have found ourselves forcing the cheer between sets — Sunday, the good times they were rolling. On Saturday, many of the less stalwart fans (this one included) watched the stages from the relative shelter of the two beer gardens. Sunday’s crowd spilled out into the sunlight, lounging on the concrete steps in front of the side stage to watch charmingly earnest indie-kids Ra Ra Riot perform, which is right around when I showed up. The last time Ra Ra Riot played a venue this big here in town, they were opening WFNX’s Seaport Six show at the Pavilion last summer to a sparsely populated audience, more of whom than not, I suspected, were there for heavier hitters Two Door Cinema Club and Cake. Not so this weekend.
Every band on Boston Calling’s bill, from local funk darlings Bad Rabbits to the festival closers The National, held their own. Ra Ra Riot were visibly pleased to be there (they always are) and their good vibes spread through the Plaza like so much sunlight.
Heading over to the Main Stage for The Walkmen’s mid-afternoon set (after a not-so-brief detour at the beer garden — the lines of people queuing up for Carlsbergs and summer ales were significantly longer this time around. Also, they ran out of IPAs!) I was amped. I’ve heard naught but good things about their live shows and was prepared to be impressed. And I was, though not entirely floored by their energy. The Walkmen kept it fairly one-note, though perhaps their very chill set was just what the crowd needed to ease us over the midday hump. Andrew Bird, up next, was similarly chill — though that was expected. I watched his set from the tree-lined beer garden, leaning against the railing along alongside other lazy fans, nodding along in matching aviators.
Before Of Monsters and Men hit the main stage, I made a run for wall of Porta-Pottys set up to the left of the side stage. A note about the Porta-Pottys: this was a survival of the fittest situation. I waited with the two or three other people who were attempting to be civil before forgoing common courtesy and dodging past those suckers. All’s fair in bathrooms and big music festivals, and Of Monsters and Men had finished their sound check.
I was prepared not to be impressed by Of Monsters and Men. I dig them, but have heard lackluster reviews of their live shows. Instead, I was entirely floored by their energy. They stirred up the crowd easily, their lilting indie-folk proving surprisingly danceable. “Am I the only one who thinks they sound exactly like Arcade Fire?” this dude my friend came with asked. Yeah, pretty much, I told him, until realizing that, at that moment, he kind of had a point. That’s not a bad thing, by the way.
When the National finally took the stage around 9 pm, darkness had fallen and a chill was in the air. Good thing, then, that I’d drank half my weight in Carlsbergs by this point. The jazzed up, similarly boozy crowd pressing up around me toward the stage provided any extra warmth I needed.
Anyone who’s seen the National perform before know that a) they put on one hell of a live show and b) Matt Berninger has this thing for coming down from the stage and wandering through the audience. Both of these statements proved true last night. I can’t think of a more fitting end to what turned out to be a bonafide music festival smack dab in Boston’s city center than the image of Berninger making his way through a howling crowd of fans, phones held high to capture the moment like so many beacons of city pride.
Boston Calling, I’ll see you in September. Sun, you’d better be there too.