Tucked away behind the hustle-and-bustle of downtown Boston, music rang from Harvard University late Friday afternoon. For once, the festival wasn’t bogged down by humid, sticky weather, but rather, offered a cool breeze – a perfect setting to kick-off the event.
Throughout the day, rock groups Turnstile and Bear Hands took the stage, followed by indie band Gang of Youths and the dreamy-rock group Christine and the Queens.
As the sun started to go down, Greta Van Fleet, also known as the “boyband version of Led Zeppelin,” started to perform, offering gritty, tangy vocals for hit tracks like “Highway Tune” and “Safari Song.” They also played a handful of tracks off their latest LP Anthem of the Peaceful Army like “When The Curtain Falls” and “Mountain of the Sun.”
Chvrches, hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, appeared next. The group announced they would be stepping in for Janelle Monae earlier this month after the R&B star had to back out due to a “scheduling conflict.” Vocalist Lauren Mayberry addressed the change to the crowd, noting that “We know we’re not half as good as Janelle Monae, but we’re gonna try out best.” Mayberry belted out tunes like new dream-pop singles “Here With Me” and “Out of My Head,” along with older hits “Bury It” and “Leave a Trace,” while adorning the stage in a princess pink dress.
Throughout the day, festivalgoers sprawled out across the grass, sharing food from local Boston vendors and dancing along to the indie-rock beats. Boston Calling is unlike other festivals – rather than moshing and crowd-surfing, the crowd is very laid back. That is, until Twenty One Pilots took the stage. Just as the sky turned dark, fans started to gather around the stage, dressed with caution tape covering their arms in support of the band’s recent LP Trench.
Twenty One Pilots always put on a wild show, and this time, they did not disappoint. The duo kicked-off their set with the hard-hitting single “Jumpsuit” while wearing masks and dancing around fire on the stage. The track transitioned right into “Levitate,” just like on the album, and continued with Suicide Squad’s smash-hit “Heathens.” Throughout their set, the duo made sure to play singles off of Trench like “Morph” and “My Blood,” as well as older tracks like Blurryface’s “Lane Boy,” “Stressed Out,” and “Ride.”
“We don’t necessarily deserve to headline your festival in your amazing city,” Tyler Joseph said to the crowd at one point, looking off into the sea of people, before continuing to say that if the crowd gives them a chance, they’ll show the audience what they could really offer.
Their set was unbelievably personable; Joseph and drummer Josh Dun spoke to the crowd many times in-between tracks, encouraging fans to participate in hands-on activities like holding onto the person next to them and dancing or having different parts of the crowd sing different verses of a song. At one point, Dun even passed his drum set through the crowd on a piece of wood and then jumped on it and began to play a drum solo.
Joseph made sure to come into the crowd as well, and ran to the back of the audience during the chorus of “Car Radio” – the exhilerating track off 2013’s Vessel. With the crowd in a full frenzy, Joseph and Dunn wrapped-up the show with another fan-favorite from Vessel, “Trees.” Confetti burst into the air as the crowd belted out “I want to see you / I want to know you / I want to say / hello.”
“We are Twenty One Pilots,” Joseph said to the crowd as Dun played the finals beats of “Trees,” and with a smile: “and so are you.”
The festival continues today, May 25, with Princess Nokia, Mitski, Hozier, Odessa and Tame Impala.