By Mayeesha Galiba, news correspondent
Boston Calling returned to the city this weekend, drawing thousands of music lovers and a diverse lineup of artists. Since its inception in 2013, the festival has continued to grow and expand, accommodating more people and vendors this year than ever before.
Musical acts like Alt-J, Alabama Shakes and The Avett Brothers headlined the nights, but the music didn’t stop there, as the likes of Hozier, Of Monsters and Men and CHVRCHES helped push Boston Calling’s lineup over the edge. The festival ran all weekend at City Hall Plaza next to the newly renovated Government Center.
“This Boston Calling. the lineup is pretty diverse – a lot of the artists are from all around the world,” Victoria Barnaby, interactive marketing manager at ’47 Brand, which had a booth at Boston Calling, said. “Every single year, more and more bands have a presence here and do more than just throw a t-shirt. They’re becoming more interactive.”
Last seen at Boston Calling in 2013, Iceland natives Of Monsters and Men returned to the festival as the main fixture of Friday night’s lineup. The band walked onto rolling clouds of fog, the band members’ likenesses displayed on 50-foot-long screens on the sides of the stage and shadows cast onto the back wall. The set was instrumentally-focused, but the high energy indie-folk pop and haunting vocals from Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir left the crowd energized.
Saturday was the first full day of the festival, and attendees arrived early to snag prime spots in front of each stage, hoping to hold their position until their favorite artist performed.
“We’ve been here many times,” Jack Banagis, a recent graduate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said. “It’s easy for me to pick [a stage] I want because then I can go and stand at the front before anyone gets there and then I’m ready for the band to come on.”
As “The Circle of Life” from “The Lion King” blasted, indie-pop band Walk the Moon ran onto the stage at 6 p.m. on Saturday, the first majorly-billed band of the day on the Red Stage. Face paint was smeared across lead singer Nicholas Petricca’s face. The band’s set was upbeat from the start, and the whole crowd was dancing. There were two arrows on stage, changing colors throughout the set, a nod to the song “Different Colors” from new album “Talking Is Hard.” Up front, many fans also had on tribal face paint to match that of the lead singer.
Scottish band CHVRCHES was arguably the highlight of Saturday’s performances. Lead singer Lauren Mayberry’s voice cut through the production with electronic beats playing in the background. She pumped her fist to the beat of the songs and whipped the microphone cord through the air. Mayberry said she was a little under the weather, but that didn’t hinder her performance and it only led to funny on-stage banter as she had to occasionally stop to blow her nose.
Sunday brought indie-pop band MisterWives, Hozier and Alabama Shakes.
Lead singer of MisterWives Mandy Lee danced and ran across the stage relentlessly. The band’s mash-up cover of “I Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd and “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” by Michael Jackson sent the crowd into an elated frenzy of recognition. At one point, Lee dropped to the ground and started to do pushups while simultaneously giving a speech blasting societal standards for the sexes.
Hozier and Alabama Shakes closed off the night with performances under the light of the blood-red moon.
“The lunar eclipse was awesome,” Charlie Doherty, a Northeastern sophomore business major, said. “It was the perfect ending to my Boston Calling.”
While music was the main focus of the weekend, there was also plenty of fun and food for festival-goers. Luden’s, a cough drop company, sponsored a mouth-themed bounce house, complete with hanging bags as uvulas. Giant games of Jenga and Connect Four were available for people to play when they were not watching a set. Food options varied, from Pan-Asian styled Wagamama to the American grill Tasty Burger.
With the completion of Government Center, the festival grounds brought attendees to a musical oasis within the urban jungle of Boston.
“I have to say that the new design [of City Hall Plaza] is really doing it for me,” Tyler Smith, a MassArt third year graphic design major, said. “The old design kind of looked too basic and mainstream, and I think they’re taking a new step with the new design because Boston is changing and modernizing.”
Photos by Scotty Schenck