Highlights (in no particular order after No 1!)
1. The Decemberists. As Mark’s favourite band, these guys get a lot of airplay at home so I was looking forward to seeing them play live again (we caught them playing an off-the-beaten-track stage at Big Day Out 2010). Even though it was a bit rainy by this stage of the festival, which they said was usual Decemberists weather, it was a great set with a range of songs from their latest album to classic oldies from the back catalogue. They finished with “The Mariner’s Revenge”, where the audience was to participate with a large scream when the characters in the song are swallowed by a whale. To our surprise a huge, angry whale also made an appearance at this part of the song!
2. The Fleet Foxes. Another favourite, I love the harmonies and they didn’t disappoint live.
3. Brandon Flower’s golden suit. I was a bit concerned when The Killers’ first song was “Mr Brightside” and was soon followed by “Somebody Told Me”, where can you go to from here? The answer is a costume change for an encore in a fantastic golden suit!
4. Matt Berninger’s Beer Run. The National always put on a good show, and Matt Berninger headed into the crowd and off to the bar during “Mr November”. He actually ended up very close to where we were standing and the crowd loved it. Maggie Rogers, who had performed earlier in the day, sang on “I Need My Girl” which was a nice touch.
5. Rock is Not Dead (Day 2 of the festival). There were some great sets from the The Menzingers, Oh Sees, Manchester Orchestra and Royal Blood. Mike Kerr from the Royal Blood was so into it that he broke his foot! But he kept playing, and left in an ambulance as soon as the set ended, very Rock n Roll!
We really enjoyed The Menzingers, who we’d never heard of before. They were very self-depreciating about their past as 90’s rockers. Mark’s favoruite quotes were “What are we going to do now are 20’s are over?” and “If anyone needs a crutch, I need a wheelchair”.
6. The White Stripes. Well it wasn’t exactly the White Stripes, but it was clear which songs the fans wanted from Jack White! At any opportunity there was lots of spontaneous singing of the Seven Nation Army riff (which was finally played in the encore).
7. Leaving a wailing female singer/songwriter for Thundercat. Mark and I have a difference in opinion on female singer/songwriters. So I ran away from Julian Baker and headed to Thundercat who played a mean bass in what looked like boxing shorts! I don’t know what all the waiting Enimem fans thought of it though (but essentially Rap has come from RnB which has come from Jazz?)
8. Pussy Riot. After seeing the Midnight Oil documentary recently, I was lamenting the lack of political bands these days. Although calling Pussy Riot a band might be a bit of a stretch (it was essentially cheesy beats with shouted Russian raps), they are definitely political! A very interesting set indeed and I think they are unlikely to feature on a Aussie line-up anytime soon.
9. Mark Enjoying Himself! Apart from the obvious indie-folk preferences, Mark was very happy to see some of the other bands he likes such as Dirty Projectors, St Vincent, Big Thief etc.
What I Learned At Boston Calling
1. This was the first festival where I was not the whitest person in attendance! These past years, all I’ve needed is to find festivals in locations where for a majority of the year you can’t expose your bare legs due to cold weather! I was positively tanned compared to some people. There was also a lot less side boob than at Australian festivals (again maybe the weather), though there were still a lot of girls wearing short shorts that shouldn’t have, and I don’t really know if anyone should wear shorts that are short enough to show bum cleavage…
2. I already knew that Americans are super polite, but discovered that this extended to music festival etiquette too. I have never heard so many apologies from people trying to get in/out of festival sets. There were no Aussie bogans pushing their way past, only courteous “excuse me” and “sorry” as people navigated through the crowds.
3. Older festival goers seem to think all-terrains (i.e. Tevas) are normal festival footwear. I actually don’t know many places (other than Karijini?!) where Tevas are acceptable footwear, but it was good to see such a range of punters at the festival. I was also impressed that one of the older guys had a Courtney Barnett T-shirt featuring the latest album, though my favourite ‘obscure’ band t-shirt was Violent Soho – Hell F*ck Yeah!
4. It’s not just me that enjoys bands with real musical instruments. My favourite banter was from Portugual. The Man who commented along the lines of “Kids all the instruments you can hear are real – no computers here”.
5. Enimen fans are dedicated and love their merch. Although it was much colder on Sunday, it wasn’t just the weather leading to a surge in purchases, as nearly every second person had some Enimem gear. The fans also camped out at the front of the red stage for most of the afternoon, which hadn’t happened for other bands. The number of phones at the start of Enimen’s set was amazing, we were standing near the back of the crowd and it was just a sea of light and then a wave of bouncing arms in the air.
Why I’d Go Back
1. Great range of music and a good sized festival. Obviously the line-up was the main reason we ended up travelling to the US for this festival, but it was also well organised and the three days had been nicely curated with similar bands or styles of music on each day. There were two main stages which played alternatively and one other stage, which meant there were minimal clashes. The only real clash we had was Dirty Projectors and Pond, and since one of these bands is from WA it was easy to chose which to see! We also enjoyed seeing some of the less well known bands early in the afternoon.
2. Good set lengths. Apart from the early slots, most bands played for about an hour with the headliners each night playing for at least 90 minutes so similar to seeing a full touring set.
3. Tasty Food Options. Previously there have been complaints about the long food lines at Boston calling, this was not a big problem this year and there was a wide variety of food available.
4. A Bar Between Stages. Drinks were also pretty easy to obtain, and having a bar between the two main stages was great. However, there was also a general absence of bogans who would have loved this set-up at an Aussie festival!