The third and final day of Boston Calling featured a mix of rock, metal, rap and EDM. Progressive rock band Tool made their return to Boston for the first time in five years. Major Lazer injected some hype into the crowd. Run the Jewels encouraged unity.
Tool makes Boston headbang
Progressive rock band Tool is a mystery. No one is really sure when they’re going to release their next album (though the band keeps teasing it). They tour sporadically and rarely hit all areas of the U.S. in one shot. Anti-frontman Maynard James Keenan even stays at the back of the stage, out of the spotlight for the entire show. Perhaps the mystery is what keeps things interesting though. Tool t-shirts were seen all over the festival on Sunday, easily more than any other artists’ merch. Brian Appel, Boston Calling producer and cofounder, previously spoke about the enthusiastic response of fans when the band was announced as a headliner.
The band’s visual element has been essential to their live shows. Guitarist Adam Jones has a hand in designing the video projected onto the giant board behind the band. Sometimes the video is slightly disturbing, featuring animated mutated figures and human anatomy. Other times, the video is psychedelic, colors running into one another like water. A giant seven-point star hung behind the band, lighting up and changing colors throughout the show. Lasers pointed out toward the crowd, sometimes changing direction and color rapidly. Lights flashed on beat with the pounding drums.
Visual elements aside, Tool’s musicianship is the other essential part of their live show. Justin Chancellor’s bass dripped thick and heavy from the first song. His bass intros on songs like “Schism” and “Forty Six & 2” are enough to make any musician’s head spin. Danny Carey hit the drums like John Bonham during “Schism” so loud fans felt it in their chest, lights flashing with every crack, boom or crash. Carey and Chancellor lock into a groove effortlessly. Jones can go from a chugging riff to a talk-box solo, exemplified during “Jambi.”
Keenan can sing low. He can whisper. He can belt. He can scream. His voice is just as dynamic as the rest of the band’s instruments. While he’s only seen in silhouette and doesn’t say much between songs, he makes it count when he does. “Divided we fall. Don’t believe the hype dum-dum’s. We’re all in this together,” Keenan said early in the show. At other times, he’s a simpler man. “I smell marijuana,” he said near the show’s start, receiving cheers from fans.
Tool’s intro to “Third Eye,” while not Keenan himself speaking, gives another look inside his brain. “To think for yourself, you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness,” the spoken-word intro goes. It’s a quote from Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary, who studied the effects of psychedelic drugs on the human mind.
Fans with long hair headbanged. Others hooted and hollered in between songs. Some threw up their index finger and pinky: rock’s “devil horns.” One thing was clear. Everyone was passionate about seeing Tool.
Major Lazer light it up
EDM group Major Lazer started their show with a bang. Female dancers ran onstage in neon pink sweatshirts, some wearing black bikini bottoms, other in track pants. Confetti shot out. Smoke blew up from the ground. The trio kept that energy for the whole show.
Major Lazer performed their own hits like “Cold Water” and “Light it Up.” Future’s “Mask Off” and Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” were among the current hits the crew remixed. They also threw it back, remixing the Spice Girl’s “Wannabe” and reggae classic “54-46 (That’s My Number)” by Toots and the Maytals. During the latter, the slogan “Peace is the mission” flashed on the video board. The bass dropped countless times. Horns blared. Confetti cannons were shot throughout the show.
“You guys are rocking to the number one stage show in the world!” member Walshy Fire said. DJ Diplo crowd surfed in an inflatable hamster ball. During the remix of DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win,” a sea of hands raised up and fell down with the song. The group threw t-shirts and whistles out to fans and told them to dance, hug, mosh, do jumping jacks and crouch low throughout the show.
Cage the Elephant brings garage rock out of the garage
In true garage rock fashion, Cage the Elephant came onstage, played a few chords, hit the drums a few times and kicked right into the Beatles-influenced “Cry Baby.” Guitarist Brad Shultz jumped offstage and played in the crowd.
The Shultz brothers (the other being vocalist Matthew) have a tendency to blur the lines between performer and audience. Matthew Shultz ran to different parts of the crowd and stood on the barrier, singing and headbanging with fans during surf-rocker “Mess Around.”
When he’s onstage, Matthew Shultz is just as engaging. He danced - not walked or ran, but danced - onstage to open the show. He dropped to his knees and jumped in the air while singing “Spiderhead.” At one point, a shirtless Shultz tucked the microphone into his pants to free up his hands and clap with the audience. “In a world full of hate, let’s celebrate love. How ‘bout that?” he said, in his slight Kentucky accent.
Touring guitarist Nick Bockrath nailed the fuzz guitar solo during “Cold, Cold, Cold” and the slide solo for “Too Late to Say Goodbye.” Matthan Minster added in some welcome soul on “In One Ear,” sliding up and down his keyboard.
It was clear Cage the Elephant fans showed up to see the band. They sang clear as day to “Cigarette Daydreams” and “Come a Little Closer.” Hopefully, some got a chance to sing and dance with the band later on. After their set, the band’s official Twitter tweeted out “Yoooooo BOSTON we're looking to haaaaaaaaagout. Bars? House parties? Wuzzzz up?”
Run the Jewels: “Plot, plan, mobilize, strategize every day.”
Bass boomed loud as hip-hop duo Run the Jewels took the stage in the afternoon. Hands could be seen up in the air to the very back of the crowd. Member El-P acknowledged the following the group has in Boston, saying 5,000 people showed up to a Boston club where Run the Jewels was performing.
It should be noted El-P and Killer Mike don’t use a hype man or a backing track to catch their breath. Their flow is on point, never missing a beat, whether it’s during “Lie, Cheat, Steal,” “Down” or “Close Your Eyes.”
Throughout their set, the two pushed messages of unity and understanding. “I’d like to thank everyone for keeping us sane while shit crumbles around us,” said El-P, adding the diversity he sees in the crowd keeps his spirits high. Killer Mike told the audience to “plot, plan, mobilize, strategize every day” and “stay in touch with people who are not like you… not of your religious background… not of your sexual orientation.”
For all their seriousness, Run the Jewels can crack a joke every once in a while too. After all, this is the same group that released a remix of their second album where all the beats are composed of cats meowing. When El-P joked he was leaving the group to pursue spoken word poetry, Killer Mike devastatingly yelled out “No! You are not breaking up with me!” A fan brought roses for the group and Killer Mike noticed. “Security, hand me those roses. This is such a sweet gesture. They’re kinda dead but it’s still cool,” he said.
Frightened Rabbit connects with fans
Frightened Rabbit gave fans a laid back dose of indie rock during their afternoon set. Vocalist/guitarist Scott Hutchison frequently interacted with fans. As he introduced “I Wish I Was Sober,” he joked, “though it’s probably too late for some of you, I hope.” Drums pounded as Hutchison sang “Forgive me if I can’t speak straight.”
Hutshison introduced “The Oil Slick” as a song “about having hope in terrible times. It’s as if it was written about 2017.”
For all their moody, sometimes dark songs, the band still keeps a sense of humor and celebration. When Hutchison asked the crowd to do a quick cheers, beer cans and cups were held high across the audience.
Schae Beaudoin is the life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.