Boston Calling 2019 ended with the biggest name on the lineup: Travis Scott, who attracted legions of fans—with seemingly thousands of Astroworld shirts, and a whole lot of glitter. Other shows included Rainbow Kitten Surprise, which put on a self-indulgent but still delightful vocal showcase, and Lamont Price, who had a hilarious bit about desperately wanting (and not receiving) a Nintendo when he was a kid.
Here are recaps of four other acts from Sunday:
Brandi Carlile, the folk-rock stalwart, had the best set of the day: fun, personal, in many ways moving—but also under-attended. The festival seemed to realize this, sending out an alert through its app that attendees should go see Carlile on the Delta Blue Stage. The low attendance can be attributed to Carlile’s placement on the other side of the festival from the other two stages (with only two ways to get there, both of which required several hundred yards of walking), and her performing at the same time as Logic, who was positioned right next to where Travis Scott performed immediately after. It was a frustrating result, given that Carlile was Boston Calling 2019’s highest-billed female performer (Janelle Monae dropped out a month ago) as well as its most visible LGBTQ+ performer.
Nevertheless, Carlile gushed about how grateful she was to those who did come, and she repaid with a performance to match it. She opened with a mini-jam session and played right into “Hold Out Your Hand,” “Wherever Is Your Heart,” and “Hard Way Home.” Each of these has similar themes (loneliness and love), but somehow. Carlile and her band made them distinct and, no matter how sad, sweet. She followed these up with “The Story,” her breakout 2007 hit, and “The Joke,” which Carlile performed this year at the Grammys, where she was nominated for six awards.
The show set an early tone: This little corner of Boston Calling was a reprieve at the end of a very hot day, between the madness of Sheck Wes and the fame-mongering of Travis Scott. She was open about her marriage, same-sex marriage more generally, motherhood, and talked about her kids—the basis of her song “The Mother.” Brandi Carlile—folksy, funny, down-to-earth—just likes music. For those who missed it: too bad. The festival should schedule her more thoughtfully next time.
Sheck Wes, a late-day feature on Sunday, was a case of an artist without a ton of material who was really only booked to play one song. Saturday featured Lil Nas X guesting at Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals’ show to perform “Old Town Road.” And Sheck Wes has “Mo Bamba.” These types of artists can be easily memed, their backstories glossed over (for his part, Lil Nas X seems to embrace this memeification), but Sheck Wes was deep, talking about having fasted all day for Ramadan, and about his background growing up in Harlem. As should be expected, he waited a bit to play his big hit and turned to early highlights “Sheck Jesus” and “Chippi Chippi.” This stuff is often very self-promoting, involves a hype man, and is extremely loud. But the (very young, mostly white) audience seemed to love it.
Two powerhouse female comics dominated the comedy lineup on Sunday, outshining even headliner Michael Che, the Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” co-host, whose funny yet disorganized set (he went on 50 minutes late—and why, at this extremely busy festival, was there a DJ up there filibustering?) was nearly derailed early on by a mysterious heckler named Amber. Lucky for Che, after waiting far past his billed time, the audience stuck with him. In contrast, Melissa Villasenor and Rosebud Baker were personal, versatile, and held their own in the face of a Harvard Arena (and, dare I say, a crowd) that wasn’t built for comedy.
Villasenor, also an SNL cast member, started off by referencing her voice, which she says is so off-putting that, if deployed properly, it can help her avoid getting kidnapped by Uber drivers. Well known for her wide array of impressions, Villasenor impersonated Sia, Florence of Florence and the Machine, Lady Gaga, and Gwen Stefani (specifically, what it would be like to get pulled over for driving while impersonating Gwen Stefani), not to mention her great-grandmother, whose lack of English makes it challenging to communicate. Other subjects included Villasenor’s “hot” cat, to which she’s assigned a “hot girl” voice, the pleasure she takes in watching couples break up, and dating at this point in her life (“just google me, bitch”).
Baker (who wasn’t on the schedule but was Che’s opener) talked about being straight despite having gone to Emerson College, being “can-I-talk-to-your-manager white,” and missing out on her chance to be in the “Illuminati”—her grandfather appears to be former Secretary of State and White House Chief of Staff James Baker—and instead becoming “a jester for alcoholics.” One of her best bits concerned hypocrisy in political extremism: Baker pointed out that David Duke, the former KKK grand wizard, might hate gay people, but is actually a hypocrite because “grand wizard” is a very gay job title. At the same time, her liberal sisters might decry conservative politics, but “Saudi oil money put us through college.”
Heights Senior Staff Connor Murphy contributed to this report.
Featured Image by Ty Johnson / Boston Calling