Boston Calling’s Saturday lineup featured the most star power of the weekend. In the 8 p.m. slot, Hozier and ODESZA battled it out for crowds with two very different shows on opposite sides of the Harvard Athletic Complex, all while a huge crowd built up in front of the Green Stage for Tame Impala later in the night. King Princess thrilled with songs like “Upper West Side,” while Marina Franklin brought down the house in the Arena with a hilarious stand-up set.
Here are recaps of five other acts from Saturday:
Fresh off the release of new singles “Patience” and “Borderline,” Tame Impala’s highly anticipated Saturday night set didn’t disappoint, with beautiful, trippy visuals that accentuated the Australian band’s psychedelic sound. The show, significantly more packed than Twenty One Pilots’ Friday night headline set, opened with “Let It Happen,” the lengthy first song on their 2015 album Currents, and followed with “Patience” and “The Moment.”
Most interesting was the contrast between the high-minded music and the casual presentation of lead singer Kevin Parker, who said practically nothing the whole show except “thank you so much, Boston” or “thank you so much, guys.” (He did, toward the end, mention that he was a bit out of it after taking painkillers for an unspecified injury sustained recently from falling off a roof.) The near 90-minute set was an exercise in letting the music do the talking, which Tame Impala did, breaking out fan favorites like “Elephant” and “The Less I Know the Better” relatively early in the show, as well as “Love/Paranoia,” probably the best song on Currents behind “’Cause I’m a Man” (which, maddeningly, went unplayed) and the highlight of Saturday’s show.
Tame Impala’s encore was a somewhat lazy bit of stagecraft—a “thank you, goodnight,” followed by a lights show that never really stopped and a swift re-entry for the night’s final two songs, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” Palmer actually introduced “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” which was a wholly unnecessary explanation for a song with 135 million Spotify streams that only added to the sense that maybe these guys really are as nice as they seem.
Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals (feat. Lil Nas X)
The day’s biggest draw was Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals—unfortunately, not because of their superior talent (which Anderson and his band displayed in spades), but because minutes before the show began, Boston Calling alerted attendees that none other than Lil Nas X would be joining Anderson on stage.
As a horde of (mostly white) teens scrambled to get to the Green Stage on time, 20-year-old Lil Nas X, whose mega-hit is of course “Old Town Road,” the country-rap masterpiece with a remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, suddenly drove by on a golf cart with his entourage, eliciting the festival’s loudest screams so far. In a way, the organizers’ announcement (one of few all weekend) was a boon to Anderson, whose fantastic set enjoyed the biggest non-headliner crowd of the day in exchange for what amounted to about 75 seconds of stage time for Lil Nas X. On the other hand, though, Lil Nas X seemed to distract a bit from the music, adding a touch of spectacle and fervent anticipation to the afternoon’s proceedings for a pretty limited payoff.
Saturday’s comedy headliner was Jenny Slate, the one-time Saturday Night Live featured player who has since had a string of TV and film roles, including her portrayal of Mona-Lisa Saperstein on Parks and Recreation. After walking out to Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” and admitting that she’d forgotten to put on deodorant, Slate persevered admirably in the face of a strangely rude and talkative crowd in the Arena, most of whom had trickled in just to see her set.
Between Jew jokes galore and hilarious takes on barre classes (“They want you to, like, sculpt your clit into an ancient arrowhead or something”), Slate’s best bit (which she’s been doing for years) was probably her extended riff on smoking weed, which she said she’s done so much that her brain has melted “like a rotted pumpkin” and is “flat like a crepe,” not a nice crepe but “a big stupid pancake from an airport.” A result of smoking so much is that Slate needs to be high to fly on planes, which means, long story short, that she’s seen Space Jam numerous times and thinks the movie is about Michael Jordan’s penis.
Big Red Machine
Big Red Machine had the best show of the day, with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Aaron Dessner of The National taking a bit of a lineup demotion from their normal top billing: Bon Iver headlined Boston Calling two years ago, and The National opened for The Killers at Boston Calling and headlined Austin City Limits last year. But it didn’t really seem like they cared. Big Red Machine, the duo’s jam-session vehicle, released its first album last year after about a decade of collaboration between Vernon and Dessner. That jam-session vibe extended to the stage, where they didn’t do much talking and instead tinkered, adjusting settings on amps, hunched over laptops between songs. “Easy to Sabotage” and the band’s best song, “Gratitude,” hypnotized the crowd during the set.
Saturday started with Mitski, whose 2018 album Be the Cowboy was a critical darling. Mitski’s show was built around a white table/desk and a white chair, which she alternately sat at, lay on, stood on, and so on. Wearing athletic knee braces, she did a lot of strange leg movements, and a lot of the vibe consisted of Mitski intently staring off into space during instrumentals. Her onstage presentation was thus kind of odd, as if she was trying to be invisible while being the center of attention. She addressed this oddity early in the show, saying “It’s so good to be here. I don’t know you but I am so full of love for you … I just wanted to break the fourth wall a little bit and say hi, and now I’m going back.”
Heights Senior Staff Connor Murphy contributed to this report.
Featured Image by Steven Everett / Heights Editor
An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Tame Impala’s lead vocalist. His name is Kevin Parker, not Kevin Palmer.