Blisters in Boston
This last weekend I went out to Boston, Massachussettes for the Boston Calling music festival with one of my best friends. In advance of getting there, though, we had a long road trip ahead of us to get from Brooklyn to Boston. Before that, though, Dion, my roommate and I all went out for food. Dion flip-flops back and forth between being a vegetarian or not, and I have had a craving for a specific local spot called Sweetchick.
So we all got our different version of chicken & waffles to start the day (mind you, this was around like 1p on a Thursday) and as luck would have it, regular businesses are easy to get into without wait when you go while everyone else is at work and you’re on vacation!
Afterwards, we went into the city to do a wandering tour without any real plan. Catching the B train at 7th Avenue in Brooklyn, we rode up to 42nd Street / Bryant Park, as I rightly figured it’d be a good spot for people watching. We wandered the perimeter of the park and then the New York Public Library, taking in its current exhibit before then walking towards my most favorite building, The Flatiron Building, and then hitting the road.
With traffic and a pit-stop, we were looking at something like a 5-hour drive to where we were staying. We ate and drank cheaply at a bar along the way in Connecticut before continuing on, with an ETA of around 2:30a we were nervous that it’d be a major inconvenience to our hosts. Fortunately, it wasn’t.
We booked a couchsurfing stay after being unable to find an AirBnB or reasonably priced and nearby hotel. If you’re not familiar with couchsurfing, it’s a free-service where you literally stay on people’s couches (or, in some cases, in their spare room or on an air mattress). Just crashing overnight with strangers and making friends, a little weird but still totally kosher in the 21st century.
I hadn’t used the site in a few years, so this was going to be my first time using it in quite a while. I woke around 9 or so each day, tired, on my cot, while Dion claimed the burnt orange corduroy couch and was the last to wake every day. All of us slept especially late into the final day of the festival, starting around 11:30 until about 12:15 everyone slowly made their way out of bed for coffee or the daily run to Twin Donuts around the corner.
Each day, the festival started around 12p, with exception to Friday. That isn’t to say we got there for the opening of the gates, because the earliest we ever got there was probably 2p. We spent our time in the mornings hanging out, day-drinking and smoking with our hosts, wandering around Boston, and dicking around aimlessly on our phones until it was time to go. Each day, my pal Dion stubbornly brought his too-big backpack and “professional” camera through security and argued his way through (or straight up walked around) to use what he had brought.
The first artist we heard anything by was Citizen – but unfortunately we heard them from across the festival grounds and didn’t really get to catch anything – the first artist we did catch, though, was Maggie Rogers. Day one headliners included Paramore, the Killers, The National and Portugal. the Man. Each day was pretty well stacked with conflicting talent, too. I skipped The National in favor of Paramore, while Dion caught a little of both. We all watched the others — and we all collectively lost our shit to the visual acid-trip of gifs being played behind Portugal. as they played through their set.
While waiting for Paramore, one of that day’s two funny little things took place – a girl standing just behind me that visits Los Angeles frequently enough and loves a specific donut shop struck up conversation with me, over mySK Donuts t-shirt, something I got for free on one of those bullshit national “holidays”, when my office sent me out on #NationalDonutDay years back (which is ironically this week, people!). It was her favorite donut shop, and this was going to be her thirty-third time seeing Paramore.
The first of Friday’s funny little things took place before we made it to the festival, as Dion and I wandered the New Balance and Bruins campus. There were only a few other people at the Bruins practice facility, two on the ice, and then a couple of fifty-something parents who were talking about their daughter who lived in North Hollywood, and who after a bit of talking, we learned lived on the same block and no more than maybe 200-feet from my long-time apartment during my five years spent in LA.
The Killers closed the night, and midway through their set a kid named Nick was called to the stage to sit in on drums. He had a sign. I don’t know what it said, but it caught Brandon Flowers’ eye, and he called him up to play and probably fulfill any fanboy’s dream of sitting in with their favorite band. Nick was granted a mini drum solo, and got a selfie with the guys and in front of the crowd before he walked off the stage with more confidence than I’m sure he’d ever carried before.
We left and made it home a few minutes before our hosts, who were also attending the festival. As we did each night we were there, we stayed up talking about random shit until about 2a. On Day Two, we started with a run to the liquor store where they had some kind of a two-for-one special, or just a bad clerk running register as he only rang us up for one of our two selections, making our beer donation to the house a little bit cheaper.
Day Two’s big headliner was Jack White — and it was kind of funny how many people walked out during his set. Between the three days, he easily kept the smallest audience. Highlight performers, included Queens of the Stone Age, Tyler, The Creator, St. Vincent, Manchester Orchestra, Pod Save America and the Menzingers — who I got to walk and talk alongside with as they were ushered away on their golf cart at a blazing fast speed of probably 4mph, going behind and as fast as the foot traffic in front of them.
My favorite performers were Queens, Tyler and Manchester — but damn St. Vincent can rock an orange bodysuit. All of the guys were talking about that when we got back to the house. She was sporting a bright orange outfit with bright orange knee-high boots, and changed between various highlighter-bright guitars for most songs, too.
It was hot on days one and two, and cold and spitting on day three – a part of why and what led to all of us moving a little slower from the start. That, and having been on our feet longer than usual each of the prior two days. Fortunately, the weather sort of lent itself perfectly to the music for the day – most of which had an indie lean.
My two big highlights on the final day of the festival were Julien Baker and Eminem (with an honorable mention to Khalid and Fleet Foxes). Goddamn, Julien is great. Being there, I got to introduce Dion to her for the first time and he was in aw throughout her set, and also felt the weather perfectly set the mood for her performance.
We bailed after about 20-minutes of Em, unfortunately, as we had another long drive ahead of us to get back to NYC. During that short window, we heard a few songs we recognized, and both wished for a smaller and less-pushy crowd. I had a pretty solid spot before the show began, but as people pushed forward and in, I was stuck behind pretty much anyone who was taller than me.
I got some decent shots, but my camera captured more than I could see with my own eyes. I’d definitely like to catch an Eminem show sometime in the future in a regular setting (probably an arena) where I could comfortably watch from a level higher than the stage with some breathing room, versus being packed as one of forty-thousand-plus sardines.
Each downing a coffee or more, and picking up some snacks for the road, we made it home in good time (because not too many people are out and driving late on a Sunday night!).
All in all, I’d say that my trip to the Boston Calling Music Festival was a success.