The Boston Calling Music Festival is back with cheery crowds and a few tricks


Last weekend, Boston Calling made its long-awaited return to Harvard University Athletics Complex after two years of cancellations, and for a while – as Friday’s overcast skies gave way to a sunny afternoon just as where the main gates were opening – it appeared that the festival’s luck might change for the better.

It had been three difficult years: canceling the festival in 2020 and 2021, finding three replacement headliners for 2022, planning a major event amid expanding COVID variants. But as Paris Jackson and the Pom Pom Squad warmed up Friday’s early crowds, the mood was upbeat. By the time British glam-rock band The Struts took over the main stage, it got downright festive.

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Mia Berrin of the Pom Pom Squad performs on day one of the Boston Calling Music Festival. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Sure, this year’s festival was different — thanks to heavier headliners Nine Inch Nails and Metallica, a more eclectic-than-ever undercard, and canceled arena events — but it also offered plenty of fun. pleasant surprises. The addition of a fourth stage allowed the festival to feature more Boston-area acts, and an afternoon set from the Roxbury Avenue rapper brought out as much energy as anything happening. elsewhere on the festival grounds. But the biggest twist of the night came midway through Avril Lavigne’s nostalgic pop numbers, when the crowd received what would be the first of several unfortunate notifications: The Strokes, which was due to headline Saturday night, no would no longer be able to occur due to a COVID case within the band. Instead, Nine Inch Nails would make headlines on Friday and Saturday evenings. Despite some fan disappointment, the general mood quickly rebounded – and once the heavily strobe-lit and foggy Nine Inch Nails set kicked off, their heart-pounding performance of “The Downward Spiral” favorites and… other early singles left room for little thought. of anything else.

Boston Calling festival goers were evacuated due to inclement weather on Saturday afternoon.  (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Boston Calling festival goers were evacuated due to inclement weather on Saturday afternoon. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

But if the unfortunate news of The Strokes threw a metaphorical dark cloud over the lineup, those clouds actually materialized on Saturday afternoon as thunderclaps ripped through some excellent sets from the garage act. -Madrilenian pop Hinds and rising rock’n’roll Celisse. Just as local indie pop Frances Forever was about to take the stage, a festival-wide announcement urged attendees to head for the exits to take refuge in Harvard Square, or, more ambiguously, ” shelter in sight”, which led some to take refuge. under metal concession tents. Others headed to the underbelly of Harvard Stadium, which had been open to attendees but was not clearly advertised, possibly due to limited space. Sending tens of thousands of people through a few busy intersections in dangerous weather appears to offer little real benefit to festival-goers’ safety, and Saturday’s upheaval suggested evacuation plans may need work in order to prepare for the future events.

When the downpour broke and the ground reopened around 6pm, the crowd cheered the news – only to read more of the festival statement and realize that prolific jammers King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard had also dropped out the night’s lineup due to a positive COVID test. Kennyhoopla helped revive the mood with a loud pop-punk set, complete with a laid-back backflip and crowd-surfing performance that thrilled the eager young fans. Later, energetic performances by Atlanta hip-hop duo EarthGang and festival mainstays Run the Jewels quickly picked up steam, and by the time Nine Inch Nails took the stage for the second time, it seemed like ost of the crowd – even those who had been looking forward to The Strokes – had decided to stick around. Those who did were rewarded with a set focusing on deeper cuts, as well as a cover of David Bowie’s “Fashion.” Bandleader Trent Reznor once again took on the role of gracious host, apologizing to those who looked forward to the evening’s original lineup, reminiscing about his early days recording at Syncro Sound on Newbury Street and joking about the awkwardness of the occasion: “I promise you we’re not playing tomorrow… as far as I know.”

Left: KennyHoopla dives into the crowd during his set at the Boston Calling Music Festival.  Right: El-P and Killer Mike of Run the Jewels performing at the Boston Calling Music Festival.  (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Left: KennyHoopla dives into the crowd during his set at the Boston Calling Music Festival. Right: El-P and Killer Mike of Run the Jewels performing at the Boston Calling Music Festival. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast performs at the Boston Calling Music Festival.  (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast performs at the Boston Calling Music Festival. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The last day of the festival came with no additional surprises, other than the size of the crowd, perhaps. While Friday and Saturday each posted good turnout, people poured through the doors all day Sunday, providing a lively reception for early afternoon sets from locals Oompa and Cliff Note. Fresh off of last weekend’s Saturday Night Live performance, Japanese Breakfast established itself as one of the biggest highlights of the day while serving up scintillating ’80s-tinged indie-pop. , somewhere between Modest Mouse’s dutiful greatest hits hour and Weezer’s singalong set, the fields in front of the main stage filled side by side. Metallica took the stage in front of what might have been one of the biggest Boston Calling crowds of all time, going through a string of 80s and 90s hits before closing out the festival with “Enter Sandman.” It was a fitting note to end on: arguably the festival’s busiest year yet, but nonetheless, a crowd pleaser at the end.

Metallica performs the closing set for the 2022 Boston Calling Music Festival. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Metallica performs the closing set for the 2022 Boston Calling Music Festival. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
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