Article and Photos by: Richard Knowles
Boston, MA — This past Memorial Day weekend Harvard Athletic Complex became the epicenter of one of the most on the rise music festivals out there. Boston Calling has been consistently offering up one of the most diverse festival lineups you’ll find, and the 2018 lineup was no exception. This years headliners featured the likes of Eminem, Jack White and The Killers but with every festival, it’s legitimacy and strength is heavily drawn from the lineup as a whole and with artists like Paramore, Tyler The Creator, Portugal The Man, and Khalid also on the bill, it’s safe to say Boston Calling is more than legit.
Friday night always seems to set the tone for the weekend and each band scheduled to take the stage on this night definitely got the memo. Whether it was Perfume Genius, whose silk shirt matched perfectly with his silky smooth performance or poet/singer Noname, who self admittedly was “real drunk” but still put on a sobering performance letting her lyrics and emotions take control. Everything was blending together perfectly. Portugal. The Man had their shot in a prime time spot and proved why the band has garnered high praise this year. There’s absolutely no doubt that anyone who experienced their set won’t “Feel It Still” for years to come.
As night fell and the lights on the ferris wheel illuminated the festival grounds, two heavy hitters were taking their respected stages. The National on the Red Stage and pop powerhouse Paramore. The National delivered a signature slow burn performance building momentum with each song, setting a fire throughout the crowd. Paramore on the other hand with singer Hayley Williams at the helm, addressed the crowd and blew the doors off the place from the start. The energy of their set was arguably the highest of any of the other performances throughout the entire weekend. With a catalogue of dozens of hit songs and a rabid fan base, they had the audience eating out of the palm of their hands while singing every lyric loud enough for the the whole festival to hear it.
This night, however, belonged to The Killers. Opening things up immediately with “Mr Brightside,” they made sure nobody was going anywhere and it was their time to shine. They burned through their hits and mixed in a great cover of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” before eventually closing the night off with a massive confetti blast and an extremely solid “When You Were Young.”
With a beautiful day in the forecast and not a cloud in the sky, the stage was set for Saturday’s lineup to take their shot at the Boston faithful. Some early performances that really stuck out that day were San Francisco based rockers Thee Oh Sees. Their face melting guitar shredding and heavy sound really catapulted the crowds energy from a 5 to 10. Manchester Orchestra did their part with one of the weekends most underrated sets while Daniel Caesar’s soulful and mesmerizing set on the red stage captured everyone’s attention.
English Rock duo Royal Blood easily put on one of the hardest rocking and most memorable sets of the weekend. Royal Blood singer/guitarist Mike Kerr actually broke his foot on stage, that’s how hard they rocked. All-American Boyband Brockhampton has been on a completely meteoric rise the last couple years and their performance was without a doubt, out of this world. Their energy, mixed with an audience hanging on every word they said, showed that their rise to fame and popularity is no fluke. St. Vincent dazzled per usual, Queens Of The Stone Age slayed the crowd and Tyler The Creator, well, Tyler The Creator created magic on the blue stage in a way that only he can. The energetic and unapologetic hip hop superstar brought the house down with amazing visuals on the screen behind him and a signature style that only he possesses. Jack White had the honor of closing out the night and did so in style. Seamlessly transitioning from White Stripes material to another of his multiple projects The Raconteurs with the song “Steady As She Goes,” he proceeded to close the night off with the massive hit “Seven Nation Army” and left no questions as to why he was in that headliner spot.
Day 3 brought the rain and clouds but with Eminem set to perform later that night, it didn’t stop anyone from showing up. This was truly a day for Boston’s most up and coming artists to showcase their stuff as well. Two of the cities hottest hip hop acts STL GLD and Cousin Stizz made it a point to leave a mark. Both of these acts proved that not only did they deserve their opportunity, but that they deserve even more of them. Also hailing from Boston/Maine was Indie Rock trio Weakened Friends. They’ve been on a steady rise and there was no better place to showcase why they’ve been rising than on the main stage at Boston Calling. Mike D of the Beastie Boys also jumped on the lineup after Bryson Tiller had to drop off. It was so cool to see such an iconic member of the music community showcase his skills. He brought everyone in the crowd to their feet during his DJ performance. Pop superstar Khalid sang and danced his way through a rain soaked set while Fleet Foxes, The Decemberists and singer/songwriter Julien Baker brought a more mellow approach but all with equally exciting performances.
After not performing in the area for close to 15 years, the announcement that Eminem was headlining came as a surprise. A very good surprise. With rain soaking the audience the stage was set for arguably the greatest rapper of all time to take the stage. Performing close to 30 songs with every lyric being relayed back by the audience, the connection was special. Skylar Grey joined Eminem onstage for “Walk On Water” “Stan” and “Love The Way You Lie.” This was a performance for the ages. As fireworks blasted off from above the stage Eminem pushed through the lousy weather and finished off the night with “Lose Yourself,” which ended a truly remarkable weekend.
There’s no telling what Boston Calling has in store for next year but it’s safe to say, it will be an event not to be missed.