Twenty One Pilots Set Harvard Ablaze, Lil Nas X Rides & More Highlights From Boston Calling Festival

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Mike Diskin
Twenty One Pilots

Boston Calling celebrated its 10th edition this year (while it was established only six years ago, in 2013, the festival was initially bi-annual), and by some miracle, it didn’t rain once.

While the festival -- which falls over Memorial Day Weekend -- was cloudy and windy on the first day, the rest was all sunshine. Festivalgoers soaked it all up at the Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston, enjoying music, comedy and even performances from the Boston Ballet.

The tenth Boston Calling (May 24-26, 2019) was headlined by Twenty One Pilots, Tame Impala and Travis Scott.

Check out Billboard’s top highlights of the weekend:   

Day 1: Comedy, Chris, Chvrches

Friday was blustery, with signs and other assorted festival paraphernalia blowing over in the wind, but by the time Mura Masa appeared on the Green Stage, the daytime crowd was ready to dance. Charli XCX was absent for their collab "1 Night," but vocalist Bonzai held her own throughout the set.

Over in the indoor Arena, Fred Armisen absolutely killed it with his unique brand of musical comedy. In line with his Grammy-nominated Netflix special, Standup for Drummers, Armisen played guitar and drums as the bit or sketch called for it, plus showed off his talent for impressions and accents. One standout moment came when the Portlandia star parodied an extremely quiet “NPR Tiny Desk drummer.”

Back on the Green Stage, Chris(tine and the Queens) brought pyro, impressive choreography and powerhouse vocals. “You can be whoever you want. You can even dissolve if you don’t want to exist, it’s fine!” the multi-hyphenate Frenchwoman told the crowd at one point. “There’s just no judgment here, there’s only love,” she added. At one point, an enormous blue smoke bomb turned up the drama -- but effects aside, Chris commanded the stage all on her own during hits like "Comme Si," Girlfriend" and "Tilted."

Chvrches drew a sizable crowd for their Delta Blue Stage set, proving that they were perfectly capable of standing in for Janelle Monae, who dropped out due to a scheduling conflict. Frontwoman Lauren Mayberry, who wore a vibrant neon pink dress, couldn’t help but reference the switch. “We are supposed to be Janelle Monae...we’re not as half as fucking cool as Janelle Monae and we know that,” she joked. “We’re just gonna try our best.” The Scottish trio played a mix of new and old favorites, with "Get Out," "Miracle," "Recover" and "The Mother We Share" all in the rotation.

Twenty One Pilots closed out the evening, beginning their set with a flaming car. The duo (Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun) brought some of their usual acrobatics, and much of the set was one big singalong. “Night number’s windy, kind of cold,” Joseph commented at one point, “But I know you guys still have energy.” Cue Dun backflipping off the piano.

Day 2: Lil Nas X Rides to One Of the USA’s Oldest Towns

On the Red Stage, U.K. indie pop collective Superorganism had the crowd bopping even as they squinted at the sun in their eyes. The group's 19-year-old frontwoman Orono Noguchi was full of charisma, and she led her colorfully-dressed band members through beloved tracks like "Everybody Wants to Be Famous" and Something for Your M.I.N.D."

Parks and Recreation star Jenny Slate took to the Arena stage in a canary-yellow dress, shouting out her hometown of Boston before launching into a story-focused comedy set that involved plenty of weed humor.

King Princess (aka Mikaela Straus) opened with “Talia” on the Delta Blue Stage, strutting out in a white crop top, black baseball cap and Thor Motocross pants. “There’s a lot of gay youth here tonight,” she observed. Not to worry, as Straus later promised: “I’m gonna give you the big pussy song.” Enter “Pussy Is God,” which had everyone roaring in approval from the opening chords.

As the sun began to disappear, fans sprinted from KP’s set to Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals on the Green Stage. .Paak’s band and backup singers looked dapper in matching blue outfits, and the singer-rapper earned thunderous applause as his drum set rose up out of the stage. One of the most epic moments came when Lil Nas X, who had been teased as a special guest for the fest all month, made an appearance to perform his seven-time Hot 100 No. 1 “Old Town Road.”



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Day 3: Beating the Heat

Temps climbed to around 90 degrees on Day 3, and by the time Melissa VillaseƱor’s set in the Arena took place, many festivalgoers smartly sought refuge in the air-conditioned space. The Saturday Night Live cast member performed a stand-up set mingled with impressions, including an uncanny Nicki Minaj one.

SOB X RBE brought major heat to the Green Stage, with the crowd vibing to hits like “Different” and “Anti.” One fan was even caught crowd-surfing.

Meanwhile, Marina’s crowd was waiting patiently on the Red Stage, with the first few rows becoming packed an hour ahead of set time. At last, 6:10 PM rolled around, and the Welsh singer-songwriter appeared in a lime green outfit alongside backup singer-dancers, though she did perform “I Am Not a Robot” solo. “I’ve always had a good time in Boston. That’s a fact,” Marina told the audience at one point. She later announced that she’d be back for another Boston tour date in the fall. Other songs in the mix: “To Be Human,” “Savages” and “Karma.”



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Logic, who took to the Red Stage sporting a Boston Red Sox cap, was nearly outdone by the spectacular sunset happening behind him. Still, he captured everyone’s attention with his rapid-fire verses on tracks like “44 More” and “Homicide.” Bobby Tarantino also had instructions for his devotees: “I want you to participate. If I tell you to scream, you scream...if I tell you to jump, you fucking jump. No too-cool-for-school-fuckbois at this show, goddammit.”

Festivals 2019