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The second leg of this year’s Boston Calling Music Festival is officially over, but audiences are still buzzing over the captivating performances witnessed Sunday night at Boston’s City Hall Plaza. Last spring’s line-up was no match for last night’s, which boasted musical diversity ranging from electronic dance music to hip-hop and everything in-between, continuing over from Saturday’s great sets (which you can read about here).
Earlier acts Royal Teeth and Bearstronaut started the day with shots of kaleidoscopic, electro-dance music. Royal Teeth, hailing from New Orleans, introduced indie pop songs that floated with an anxious buoyancy, amplified by the eager energy they brought to the stage. Local act Bearstronaut, on the other hand, got the crowd dancing to their own blend of indie pop nailed together with electronic keys, the four men standing coolly behind their instruments. Their music quickly gets compared to Hot Chip or Friendly Fire, and “Moniker” broke whatever reserved shell crowd members had towards dancing.
For those new to Los Angeles’ Jonathan Bates, his solo project, Big Black Delta, took the stage with a surprisingly clear and enjoyable sound. Big Black Delta may ring a few bells due to his remixes of M83 and White Zombie, but Bates creates similar friendly music all on his own; his hit, “Money Rain Down,” pairs smooth saxophone lines with synths and bubbly electronic drums. If you aren’t already, make sure to keep your eyes and ears on Big Black Delta. He’s already played sets at England’s Reading and Leeds Festivals as well as Paris’ Rock en Seine–his stop at Boston Calling just another flawless set that’s one of many to line the beginning of a long career.
Another solo electronic musician performed next, but his trip was a little bit farther of a journey. The much talked-about Sydney producer Flume lived up to the hype. With a humble yet enthused aurora, the 21-year-old has come a long way since his first experience with music making at age thirteen when his curiosity rose upon finding a mini production disc prize inside a cereal box. His smooth electronic tones draw to mind Disclosure or similar chillwave-meets-hip-hop, and live they soared through the air and bodies of everyone within a mile radius.
Solange rocked the Red Stage promptly at 3:30, bestowing positive, neo-soul vibes upon the audiences below. For many, this was a first encounter with the younger sibling of international sensation Beyoncé Knowles–-reigning music industry royalty, who has accomplished just about everything under the sun since her days with R&B girl group Destiny’s Child-– and it was a positive one. As the sun shone on the stage through a slight haze, the natural-haired beauty belted out an impressive set, often dismissing her rhythmic motions in favor of a few sultry, impromptu moves as to go along with her songs. This was a woman who exuded confidence in every sense of the word, applicable to her vocals just as much as to her appearance, but one who, despite this, still kept an incredibly humble stage presence, speaking to her audience with a sweet tone and even once joking about the downfall of uncomfortable shoes in a performance setting. That was before, of course, continuing to kill it. If you thought you heard her launch into an elegant cover of “Stillness Is The Move” by the Dirty Projectors, you are correct. Day-one fans were in their zone as they sang in sync, and their favorite showed the rest of Boston that their emotional investment in her career had, in fact, been a satisfactory one.
Afterwards, Chicago-based DJ duo Flosstradamus turned the festival crowd into what came to look like a giant college party at the Blue Stage, their speakers blasting unconventional mixes of EDM, trap, and hip-hop. Had a pool been added, their performance could’ve easily been live footage from spring break, DJs J2K and Autobot encouraging the audience to “turn up” with each song they played. At one point, they played one of their latest tracks, “Mosh Pit,” and attempted to get everyone to literally mosh in the audience. Closing off their expletive-rich setlist, they made sure everyone knew of their severe disdain for parole officers and urine tests with their remix to A-Trak’s “P**s Test” featuring Juicy J, among others.
House producer and DJ Wolfgang Gartner kept the spring break party going as soon as Flosstradamus’ set ended. “Space Junk” and “Illmerica” threw down major basslines that immediately had people dancing in whatever way they pleased. Ravers were everywhere you looked, but even fans who were more in favor of Saturday’s folk could be seen twirling around, laughing as they danced with friends to the EDM music. When people tell you Wolfgang Gartner puts on a crazy live show, trust us–they aren’t lying.
Major Lazer would not be showed up, however. The electronic dancehall trio stole the show with a largely interactive spectacle that truly reached the audience–-literally. After the first few songs (during which back-up dancers whined and popped, shooting colorful confetti string into the crowd), producer and group co-founder Diplo rolled out on top of the audience inside a large, clear globe in a more playful version of the traditional stage dive. Later on, he and partners Walshy Fire and Jillionaire randomly called a member of the audience onto the stage, where one of dancers sat him down, bound him with electric pink tape, and there–-in front of thousands–-gave him quite a lap dance. Even with all the whistle-throwing, confetti, lights, and insanity, Major Lazer’s music was not outdone by their antics. The entire crowd was set to party mode extreme as the trio performed hits such as “Pon de Floor” and, notably, a contagious mix that paired RDX jam “Jump” with Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Major Lazer had barely finished by the time Kendrick Lamar took the Red Stage for a moment true hip-hop fans had long been awaiting. Kendrick gave several shout outs to his old school fans, spitting rhymes from older material on his Section.80, but the crowd would instantly lose it upon hearing the beat drop to any one of his good kid, m.A.A.d city tracks, including “B*tch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “Swimming Pools,” Drake-assisted “Poetic Justice,” and an ultra-energized “m.A.A.d city.” During a quick moment with his audience, standing before a mass of heads extending almost infinitely into the darkness, Kendrick made a promise. “And if you didn’t get nothin’ else out of this show, remember this: I will be back.” And a man of his word, he is. Kendrick, who’s been the hottest name in hip-hop since his good kid debut, most recently shaking an entire community with his verse on Big Sean’s “Control,” will be featured on Kanye West’s upcoming Yeezus Tour. The announcement of West’s first solo tour in five years, made last Friday on Twitter by ‘Ye himself, spurred intense excitement over the union of two hip-hop greats. By all indications, we truly haven’t seen the last of him–perhaps not even the best.
The final set of the two day festival went to none other than Boston’s own Passion Pit. One of the decade’s more notable indie-pop-meets-electronic bands, Passion Pit made sure to match their sound with an equally dazzling stage setup. Giant round lamps were scattered about the stage with four window-like screens hanging in the air, both of which projected trees, stars, and glittery background images to complement their sound. With the deep, almost awkward introduction of “The Reeling” and newer singles like “Carried Away,” they had people sticking around until the very end of their set. As expected, “Sleepyhead” got almost as many people dancing as “Little Secrets,” and frontman Michael Angelakos made sure to contribute on his end as well.
As Passion Pit’s set wound down and every last bit of energy was spent, the Boston Calling crowd drifted underground the city to travel back home, near and far, with their heads held high in hopes of what the festival’s possible return could bring–or if it could top this weekend’s successful line-up.