A musical medley at Boston Calling

Electronic dance group ODESZA hypnotized the writer and the audience with their set that enthralled the crowd for over an hour.

Electronic dance group ODESZA hypnotized the writer and the audience with their set that enthralled the crowd for over an hour.

First time festival-goer

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Attending Boston Calling was truly a trial for a first-time festival goer, especially one that doesn’t even clear five feet, such as myself. However, the 10th edition of the music festival, which was held at the Harvard Athletic Complex over Memorial Day Weekend, hosted more than enough talented performers to make it a worthwhile way to ring in the summer season. With sunny skies and temperatures that barely broke 70 degrees, even the weather cooperated to make the festival memorable. Read on to hear more about the artists that performed this past weekend and how I tackled the crowds of attendees, or check out our accompanying article on the food, fashion and attractions of the festival.

Some local flavor

Some local artists had shifted to perform at Boston Answering in Dorchester, promoted as a “cultural response manifested into a show,” according to Hipstory, an arts group located in the city. However, Boston Calling still hosted a slew of local talent, including singer-songwriter Sidney Garish, who opened the event on Saturday, followed by the indie band Pile, Berklee alumni Betty Who, pop singer Clairo and alternative rock band Gusto. Betty Who, who I was previously a fan of, was one of my personal favorites of the afternoon group, bringing some grungy yet bright energy to the stage with blue rocker hair to match.

Moreover, the music

Friday’s line-up offered an impressive bunch of artists, including the alternative synth-pop group CHRVCHES, rock band Greta Van Fleet, indie folk band Lord Huron and of course, the headliner for the night, alternative rock band Twenty One Pilots. Opening their set with a burning car and performing with their usual acrobatics, the duo brought the right energy to close out the night.

Saturday offered a more rap-based line-up to bring up the heat to match the rising temperatures, including Travis Scott, Sheck Wes and Logic, the latter instructing the crowd to be hearty participants in the show. However, Marina, previously known as Marina and the Diamonds, and Rainbow Kitten Surprise brought some alternative sounds to the mix.

My personal favorite day was Saturday, bringing a good mix of diverse performers. Besides Betty Who, I got to witness some more strong female performances from Mitski and King Princess, as well as an energetic show from English indie band Superorganism and some for the best visual effects for an equally fantastic set from the electronic band ODESZA.

Moving to Mitski

Japanese-American singer-songwriter Mitski brought the temple up or slowed it down in her set.

Japanese-American singer-songwriter Mitski brought the temple up or slowed it down in her set.

With just a table, chair and an outfit of a plain white shirt and black shorts to match the simplicity of her set pieces, the Japanese-American singer-songwriter nevertheless managed to deliver a high caliber performance. Her lilting, haunting voice never wavered during her 55-minute set, even as she contorted her body on-stage, twisting on her back and side on the table and pushing the chair every which way.

Mitski’s set was refreshing, showcasing her raw talent and ringing loud across the field. Her clear voice enunciated every one of her lyrics and effortlessly brought the tempo up or slowed it down at a moment’s notice. After singing her arguably most popular song, “Nobody,” she brought some laughs to the crowd by saying, “Alright everybody, I’ve sang the hit. If you need to go see another set, I don’t mind.”

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Normally used to more low key performances, Mitski remarked on the sheer size of the festival. “I’m not sure how I feel about this whole set-up,” she said. “You’re all so far from me. But I really appreciate you all coming to see me perform.”

Crowning King Princess

The crowd was a little denser to see Brooklyn-born and raised King Princess. My struggles with my height began there, but thankfully, a kind man offered to let me step in front of him when he saw how much maneuvering I had to do for a small window of the stage.

The 20-year-old was as cool and on-trend as her songs make her out to be, rocking Air Jordans and a custom guitar strap sporting her artist title.  

“I see a lot of gay youth out here tonight,” she opened with, eliciting cheers from the crowd. “I think I like this whole festival vibe. Everyone’s either drunk or stoned. You get it guys!”

Following up from Mitski’s flawless performance, King Princess carried on the talent torch without missing a beat. Yes, it’s true, she really is even better live, if that’s possible. She blessed us by singing one of her new singles to come out next week, which she revealed probably to the chagrin of her PR team. We appreciate it all the same.

King Princess, otherwise known as Mikaela Straus, opened with “Talia,” and then later in the set promised “I’m gonna give you the p**** song,” launching into “P**** is God” for the rousing crowd. My personal favorites were “1950” and “Holy,” stripping down to instrumentals to showcase her versatile vocals.

The artist paid homage to her equally talented and young band, letting the crowd cheer for her bassist, pianist, drummer and guitarist alike.

In awe of ODESZA

My friends and I arrived to the red stage an hour early to a packed crowd, eager to listen to the electronic dance group ODESZA. Their trademark hexagon was hanging from the stage, as if in equal anticipation of the performance. Unfortunately, Hozier performed at the same time, but I’m sure his set was just as entertaining.

In the meantime, we were lucky to jam to Anderson .Paak from the neighboring stage. Lil Nas X made an appearance to perform his hit “Old Town Road,” and we took advantage of the ensuing chaos to try to muscle a little closer to the front, where I was lucky enough to be sandwiched between not one, but two tall men for the performance.

But it was worth it! A hypnotizingly synchronized drumline opened up the performed along to some eerie beats as the group gathered on stage. We were treated to more than an hour of striking visuals of lasers, lights, fire and confetti to accompany the energizing beats of the duo.

Not having the height to see over crowds did not take away from the musical experience that ODESZA created.

Not having the height to see over crowds did not take away from the musical experience that ODESZA created.

“You never realize how bad it is being short until a tall person is stuck right in front of you in a packed crowd at a concert,” Celia Chacko, third-semester mechanical engineering major, said. “Nevertheless, ODESZA was an absolutely amazing experience!”

The group brought Naomi Watts to sing the vocals to one of their songs, “Higher Ground,” which was a fan favorite. “Line of Sight” and “Falls” also elicited cheers from the crowd. The group kept the energy up by continuously addressing the crowd, and led the stage with a message on their screen in support of pro-choice for women. It was truly an electric performance.

My sister and I were tuckered out by the time Tame Impala’s performance rolled around, which was five minutes after ODESZA’s ended, so we opted to grab some food and jam along on the field as opposed to squeezing into the crowd. Nevertheless, “The Less I Know the Better” wasn’t any less fun to dance to on the field alongside the lasers.

Boston Calling was definitely a great music festival to introduce me to the summer music scene. Tiring, exciting and altogether an exhilarating experience, I was grateful to be able to experience all that talent in one weekend.

All images by Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus.


Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at hollianne.lao@uconn.edu.