A three-day celebration of indie rock, pop and hip-hop from prominent headliners like The National, Lorde, Childish Gambino and Spoon, Boston Calling Music Festival has quickly established itself as a must-attend event for music enthusiasts.
Saturday’s performances in particular, although challenged by the weather, did not disappoint fans. Festival-goers slowly trickled into City Hall Plaza throughout the day to hear smaller opening acts like St. Nothing, Clifflight, S. Carey, Sky Ferreira and Bleachers.
After indie-rock band The Hold Steady finished their set around 6 p.m., fans anxiously awaited a rare performance from Volcano Choir, a mellow mixture of indie folk and electronic musicians led, most notably, by Justin Vernon, the front man of Bon Iver. The excitement quickly disappeared, however, when the festival organizer announced that, due to an impending lightning storm, all patrons were mandated to leave the concert for safety reasons until the storm passed.
Fans were rightfully disheartened — spouting fears of cancellation, asking frantic questions about refunds and voicing concerns about where to take shelter — but the Boston Calling staff handled the unforeseen conflict surprisingly well and faithfully updated their official Twitter account with the latest news. Crowds of people flooded across the street into Quincy Market and a nearby parking garage to wait out the storm for the next two hours until the gates were reopened around 8 p.m. Due to the delay, performances by both Volcano Choir and hip-hop mashup sensation Girl Talk were unfortunately canceled. But headliners (by far the most popular artists of the night) Lorde and Childish Gambino were still able to perform.
“You guys are officially my favorite crowd in America right now!” Lorde told the audience. At only 17, the New Zealand native is already a highly accomplished artist, with numerous awards and much acclaim from both the mainstream and indie spheres. Tracks like “Royals” and “Team” have topped charts and earned her fame as a pop star. Yet, on Saturday, Lorde proved she had much more to offer than just a few catchy pop songs.
From the second that Lorde stepped on the stage, she exuded a confident and undeniable stage presence that noticeably set her apart from many of her peers. After a strong opening with one of her lesser-known songs, “Glory and Gore,” she demonstrated her maturity by thanking the audience for their patience in the face of uncertain postponement. She also apologized to the few bands that couldn’t go on due to the weather, before singing her way through her debut album, “Pure Heroine,” released in September 2013. At times, her band and backup singers drowned out her voice, but overall her sound was strong and true to her album.
Lorde also prefaced her song “Ribs” with a surprisingly personal address about her insecurities growing up, which resonated with the audience of teenagers and twenty-somethings. Lorde’s musical talent coupled with her stage presence and grace made for a memorable performance that left fans eager to see the rest of her promising career unfold.
Lorde’s polished performance and genuine demeanor differed dramatically from Childish Gambino’s lackluster rap set. Childish Gambino, the rapper alter ego of actor, writer and comedian Donald Glover, provided a less than spectacular ending to the night. Opening with “Crawl,” he primarily played songs from his most popular and recent album, “Because the Internet,” released last winter. His vocals were decent, yet he oozed overconfidence as he moved around the stage with no sense of direction, his shirt casually half open. Unlike Lorde, he made no effort to interact with the audience. Generally, non-fans of Childish Gambino likely would not have found his Boston Calling performance mind-blowing or even particularly entertaining, though the act was likely sufficient to keep die-hard followers content.
Despite unpredictable weather delays, fans enjoyed nearly a full day of spectacular performances. With Lorde’s performance the highlight of the evening, Boston Calling’s Saturday program was well worth the wait. It’s clear that Boston Calling will continue to grow and thrive as one of the city’s best music events of the year.