Best of Boston Calling: 15 Acts We Loved at the Spring Festival

Tessa Roy ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Editor
Photography by David Weiner ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
This weekend’s Boston Calling had music fans turning out in droves to check out the spring’s diverse lineup. Pop queens, fresh faces, hip-hoppers, and classic alt-rock veterans alike took the stages at City Hall and showed festivalgoers a remarkable time. Here are the 15 acts we thought gave the most killer performances.

15. Halsey

Halsey is a newcomer, but the Boston Calling crowd knew her pretty well by the time she finished her set. She complained about the “fucking hot” weather, begged her crew for a cigarette, and told stories about her experiences with a shady record label. When she wasn’t swearing a blue streak or talking about her Power Rangers underwear, Halsey sang with all the power of a seasoned pop pro. She crooned out her singles “Ghost” and “Hurricane,” delighting the small group of fans in the front row. That group is bound to expand in the coming months after she releases her debut album. Halsey’s candid nature and taste for dark, electronic tunes is sure to have music lovers pining for more.

14. Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels had an daytime set but brought all the filth and foulness of a late-night club banger. The rappers had their crowd bumping and grinding to “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck),” and “Blockbuster Night Part 1.” Their party went on with more vigilance with “Lie, Cheat, Steal” despite the raised eyebrows from security and older festivalgoers. They cared nothing about those who didn’t like what they were about; they were going to do it anyway.

13. Gerard Way

Gerard Way

The solo career suits Gerard Way quite well. He delivered a loud, smashing set that echoed in every corner of City Hall, belting it out behind his killer sunglasses and jet black hair. His sweet personality was also highly notable. Way took the time to voice his support for transgender individuals and then to briefly address his own battle with mental health. “There’s still such a stigma around mental illness,” he said. “You’re not crazy… Just find someone to talk to. No big deal!” Old and new fans alike cheered and held their hands over their hearts, loving him for both his talent and his kindness.

12. MØ


It’s hard for early performers to be memorable. There are loads of others later that will potentially overshadow them. had no such issue. She gleefully threw herself around the stage, dancing strangely and sporadically to “Pilgrim” and “Walk This Way.” Her pigtails were unable to withstand the force of her movements and fell from their tightly wound positions. But MØ wasn’t bothered. She carried on with her little independent dance party and later surfed the crowd. Her antics were fun and entertaining, easily securing her a spot as one of the festival’s best artists.

11. Tove Lo

Tove Lo
“Did you just say ‘fuck me?’ Okay, I’ll be right down,” Tove Lo joked to a shouter in the front row. This little exchange set the tone for much of her performance. The Swedish songstress swiveled her hips and flashed the crowd during “Talking Body,” exhibiting the free sexual nature present in her music. She wasn’t only about the raunch, though. Tove Lo had no problem expressing her emotional side, singing passionately through the heartbroken “Habits (Stay High)” and desperate “Not on Drugs.” Such raw honesty made her one of the crowd’s (and one of our) favorites.

10. The Lone Bellow


As soon as The Lone Bellow began singing, people who had been ready to skip their set could be seen moving back to the jetBlue stage. They soon realized what a mistake it would have been to miss this group of country rock powerhouses. The three singers belted through “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” and “Then Came the Morning,” exhibiting expansive ranges and a knack for stunning harmonies. They mentioned being excited to play the festival, stating how they had developed a soft spot for Boston after playing in the city around the time of the marathon bombing. This plus the incredibly warm reception they received makes it safe to say they will be coming back. If they do, don’t make that mistake of missing them.

9. Tame Impala


There was nothing tame about Tame Impala. The Australian indie rock band offered up an energetic set accompanied by some psychedelic graphics on the big screen behind them. Their stage lights beat in time to each song they played which created a dazzling spectacle that lit up the night. The crowd moved in time too, jamming to “Elephant” and swaying to “‘Cause I’m a Man.” Few other artists utilized visuals the way Tame Impala did, which made them easily memorable.

8. Vance Joy

Vance Joy
Vance Joy‘s sweet smile and gentle voice rendered him instantly endearing. His acoustic based set was a nice break from the louder, harder ones who had come before him. The crowd chilled out as he played “Riptide” and “Mess is Mine.” They interacted with him often. They laughed with him as he momentarily forgot the lyrics in the middle of a verse and listened intently as he told stories about writing his music. Joy had a genuine connection with his audience that warmed every heart in the vicinity by the time he had finished.

7. Lucius


Chet Faker was unable to perform at this spring’s festival, so Lucius was brought in as a replacement. Whoever chose them made the right decision. The leading ladies of Lucius did everything: drummed, sang, and otherwise played all while rocking out to their cool indie beats. They harmonized gorgeously through “Wildewoman” and “Go Home” as the breeze ruffled their ombre hair and black, billowy tunics. Boston will be blessed by their presence again on August 14th when they play at the ICA.

6. St. Vincent

St. Vincent
I fell on my face booking it across City Hall to catch St. Vincent‘s set. She was worth the bruises. Everything from her all-black ensemble to her ability to shred her guitar like nobody’s business said “badass.” This woman is simply incredible to see live. As soon as she took the stage, it was evident she had forgotten whatever she had been doing five minutes beforehand; she was in a completely different element. Her face alternated between a state of closed-eyed, focused bliss and fierce determination as she blasted through “Birth in Reverse,” “Rattlesnake,” “Huey Newton,” and “Cheerleader.” All hell broke loose, though, when St. Vincent ended with “Your Lips are Red.” She briefly surfed the crowd  – guitar still in hand – and wound up on the shoulders of a very baffled security guard for quite a while before returning to the stage for a final bow. The entire experience was mesmerizing. She left said guard massively confused and the crowd massively entertained.

5. TV On The Radio

TV On The Radio
There are few bands as interesting as TV On The Radio. This group combines electro-rock with big band instruments. And it works. The crowd, who had already been buzzing about them earlier in the day, didn’t stop moving as the guys hammered away at their instruments. Frontman Tunde Adebimpe was electric, moving across the stage as if the music had taken over his body. His persona contributed to TV On The Radio’s deliverance of one of the liveliest sets of the festival.

4. Tenacious D

Tenacious D
Tenacious D‘s performance was by far the most audience-engaged of all. Jack Black and Kyle Gass were in a nonstop banter with the crowd, exhibiting prime funnymen abilities. Black received lots of laughs and encouragement both times he decided to do an onstage shirt change. But more importantly, the two have excellent camaraderie and musicianship, something to be admired in accordance with their senses of humor.

3. Marina and the Diamonds

Marina and the Diamonds
Boston Calling gave Marina Diamandis a chance to reaffirm her status as an indie pop queen. Not that she needed to; the crowd absolutely fawned over her, constantly screaming her name and belting along to her lyrics. Their relentless love fueled her already high animation. She happily bounced through her upbeat hits “Froot,” “How to Be a Heartbreaker,” and “Primadonna,” her radiant smile rarely leaving her face. There’s no question that Diamandis is utterly adorable, and there’s also no question that she can sing with incredible strength. “Happy” had her singing with passion and feeling and “Savages” positioned her as almost operatic. An unknowing onlooker may have taken a gander at her planet-themed backdrop and giant inflatable fruit on her stage and assumed she’s just another silly pop star. In reality, though, Diamandis is anything but.

2. Beck

Don’t worry, Kanye. Beck definitely respects artistry. The recent Album of the Year winner gave it his all as the festival’s first headliner, perhaps still high off his big victory. Bright lights and designs on the big screen danced behind him as he sang, played, and bobbed his hat-covered head to the likes of “Devil’s Haircut” and “Where It’s At.” The massive crowd sang and bobbed with him, helping to establish his continued standing of a bonafide rocker still loved by the music world. This guy is definitely no “Loser.”

1. Pixies


If Boston Calling meant to save the best for last, they surely succeeded. Pixies ended the festival with a blisteringly loud set that got people dancing like complete fools (yeah, myself included). Heads banged and hair flew to amplified versions of “Where is My Mind,” “Here Comes Your Man,” “Bone Machine,” and “Nimrod’s Son.” Lights blared off their shiny paneled backdrop in tune with the brashness of Black Francis’s screaming vocals. As it was with Beck, Pixies proved time didn’t dim their spark. They’ve held tight to their influence over the years and showed they still have enough pluck to put on the best set at a modern-day music festival.

Honorable Mentions: The Ballroom Thieves, Jason Isbell.

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Check out Boston Calling’s recently announced fall lineup here

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