Alt-Nation: Boston Calling

bostoncallingBoston Calling takes over as the hub of the music world in the northeast every Memorial Day Weekend. At The Motif, we obviously specialize in covering events in Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts, but every now and then it is good to extend out of one’s comfort zone. Like the other day, I was ordering an iced coffee and got talked into trying a different flavor from normal regular coffee flavor. I didn’t like it, but at least now I know that for sure. In the same vein, I’ve always devoted past Memorial Day Weekends to the noblest of pursuits … like barbecue hopping and drinking beer. This year I’m going to make a sacrifice and spend a couple days roaming around Boston listening to rad music and drinking beer.  I know, I know … but please no need to thank me.  All sacrifices aside, let’s talk some Boston Calling! Here is some of the stuff I’m hopped up on goofballs (and some other stuff) to see!

Boston Calling kicks off on Friday the 25th with a heavy alterna-pop bill that features safe headliners like The Killers, The National, and Portugal. The Man, which is okay, I guess.  I don’t hate The Killers and get why they are popular, but for that type of music I’m more entertained by someone like the Electric Six. The National are a cool, modernized version of ’80s post-punk. The act I’m really excited to catch Friday are sugary indie-rockers, Charly Bliss! I caught them at the SXSW Festival in 2017 and they just blew me away! I highly recommend their latest release, Guppy, which reminds me of ’90s bands like Velocity Girl, That Dog, and Letters to Cleo. My PSA for those attending Boston Calling on Friday is to catch Charly Bliss on the Delta Blue stage at 2:45pm.   Other things going on is there is a daily workshop with actress Natalie Portman (for those who wonder what Natalie Portman does on a daily basis), one can’t go wrong with Big Thief, and Maggie Rogers is on right before The National. An added interest is Russian political activists/punks Pussy Riot. I can’t say I’ve heard anything that would suggest I’d enjoy Pussy Riot as strictly a band. Do I respect them? Sure! Admire them for standing up to Putin to the point that they spent significant time in prison? Absolutely! But does that make them a great band? Not necessarily, but I’ll keep an open mind and see what they bring. There probably isn’t anyone braver than Pussy Riot performing at this festival, so it should be interesting.

Saturday is really the heavy rock day at Boston Calling. Jack White headlines the festivities along with the supersonic alchemy of Queens of the Stone Age. I enjoyed both of their most recent albums, but my problem with much of Jack White’s post-White Stripes stuff is really the lack of a killer song. It is all good, but is any of it great? Not to me, but what I like about his most recent record, Boarding House Ranch, is it really is more adventurous as it goes all over the place style-wise. Queens of the Stone Age’s last record, Villains, was a bounce back after a couple of records that were sub-par compared to their earlier offerings. Being a rock dude, Saturday is by far my favorite day at the festival. Some of the bands that I’m most stoked to see are the two-piece thunder that is Royal Blood who, psych-garage rockers Oh Sees, and Belly. Belly just released their first album, Dove, in over 20 years. Sometimes when a band comes back from a long hiatus, the comeback album sounds more like an attempt to re-create the past instead of just being who they are. On Dove, Belly avoid the trap of trying to write “Feed the Tree” part two while still sounding like Belly, just the next phase of Belly.


Sunday show is headlined by Eminem, which I’m downright giddy for as a longtime fan. For a guy who comes across as a joyless miserable twat, Eminem is pretty hysterical. The undercard Sunday isn’t as stacked as the previous days. I guess if you really want to see Mike D (Beastie Boys, not the Westminster Yacht Club Mike D), there is that. For comedy, one can’t go wrong with David Cross at 6pm on the Arena Stage. My Sunday undercard pick is Weakened Friends. Weakened Friends are a female-fronted power pop machine that reminds me of Veruca Salt meets That Dog, which is kind of groundbreaking, just because I’m referencing That Dog twice in one column after probably not mentioning them in the previous 14 years. I caught Weakened Friends at SXSW last year on St. Patrick’s Day at a random Boston Music showcase I just kind of stumbled upon on 6th Street.  I guess sometimes you stumble upon nirvana. The weird part was after the fact, I saw that a friend had sent me a message to check out Weakened Friends. Anyways get to Boston Calling early on Sunday to catch Weakened Friends at 1:35pm on the Green Stage, stay late to catch Eminem at 9:10pm on the Green Stage, and of course don’t forget to check out what the hell Natalie Portman and friends are up to at 3pm on the Arena Stage.

Boston Calling will take place at the Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston, Mass from May 25 thru 27.

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