The annual Boston Calling music festival offers the opportunity to not just see popular and beloved bands, but also discover up-and-coming musicians and new favorites. Here are two standouts from Day 1 of Boston Calling that delivered live shows good enough to inspire deep dives into their Spotify profiles.
Pom Pom Squad
A high-pitched scream rang out across the field at the Harvard Athletic Complex, and a heavy guitar line brought the speakers to life. Up-and-coming rock band Pom Pom Squad kicked off events on the blue stage with its set full of head-rocking beats and slower rock ballads.
The Brooklyn-based band delivers a strong rock sound paired with a popular Y2K-style persona. Lead singer Mia Berrin sported a matching white corset top and flared skirt adorned with a red heart, and she strutted across the stage in white platform boots.
The group introduced itself to a small crowd with its opening song “LUX.” The guitar and bass lines melded into a classic rock sound as Berrin sang and screamed into the microphone about the lures of a new love.
As more people filtered in, the band played its song “Drunk Voicemail,” garnering some screams of recognition from the crowd. In a gravelly tone, Berrin brought high energy as she played electric guitar.
The intricate riffs of guitarist Alex Mercuri come through on Pom Pom Squad’s recent album Death of a Cheerleader, but his electric stage presence also drew the eyes of the viewers. Mercuri danced and head-banged his way through the set as the growing audience bopped along.
The band’s performance crescendoed as Berrin set down her guitar and leapt across the stage to the group’s song “Cake.” The slower rock ballad featured soft crooning from Berrin as she swayed at the microphone and reached out to the crowd.
Berrin’s vocal chops are a main draw of the band as she seamlessly switches between more gentle lyrics and the scream-singing of a rock artist. Her vocal skills add variability to the group’s 2021 album, which features Berrin’s softer tones on “Head Cheerleader.” A few tracks later, she indulges in the sonically stretched whines and screams of a more punk sound on “Cake.”
In one harmonious moment, Berrin sang the emotional lyrics of “Cherry Blossom” while a reverberating guitar chord rang out and seamlessly layered over the simple bass line.
All dressed in shades of cream, R&B singer Miranda Rae’s band members lined Boston Calling’s orange stage to greet an intimate audience prior to her entrance. Rae debuted her EP Excuse My Baggage in 2019, and she released four singles this year.
She performed on Friday with the band MEGAZOYD and a trio of backup vocalists.
In her brief set, Rae showed off her relaxing and sultry lyrical talent. The beats of Rae’s music aroused many fans to dance along.
In “Mama Says,” the rhythmic percussion shined behind its narrative of finding a new love interest. With a pattern of key changes and modulations, Rae’s music reflects heavy soul influences.
Audience members sang along to her 2021 single “Sure,” which began with a whimsical string instrumental introduction. Her backup singers stood in for singer Najee Janey on the original track. The bassist solidified a soul sound in “Sure,” inciting the band to groove along to Rae’s vocals.
“Moonlight” highlighted Rae’s powerful voice, which she projected toward the crowd. Her passion became clear as she held notes for long periods of time, leading to cheers from the crowd.
“Why do I have to be / Defined by elements of society,” Rae sang on “Moonlight.”
During musical breaks, Rae encouraged the audience to dance along. She suggested that her fans mirror her dancing while noting that she was limited by a recent injury that left her foot in a boot. She asked the audience to show love for the band in between songs.
“Come on, I’m gonna need to hear more.” Rae said. “Give it up. Come on.”
Rae’s music shows the intersection between the soul and R&B genres, utilizing her wide vocal range and versatile band that left a distinct impression on the Boston Calling audience. Her music differed from the other Friday acts, forming an afternoon with a relaxed sound prior to headliner Nine Inch Nails’ heavy industrial rock.