This year’s festival was plagued with misfortune—from Taylor Hawkins’ recent passing to The Strokes and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard dropping out due to positive COVID cases, Boston Calling 2022 had its fair share of challenges. To make matters worse, a sudden thunderstorm rolled through on Saturday, canceling an array of highly anticipated acts, such as Frances Forever and Coral Moons.
Despite its many setbacks, concertgoers braced the sizzling heat for the first two days of the festival.
Actual Ray of Sunshine: Miranda Rae (Orange Stage, 4:10 PM)
The sun blazed through the cerulean sky as festivalgoers swarmed Tivoli Audio‘s Orange Stage, anxiously awaiting R&B singer-songwriter Miranda Rae‘s set. The ambitious, good-natured Cambridge native strolled on stage in a sleek green and white cut-out dress, punctuated with delicately intricate white makeup and a boot cast. All smiles, as usual, Rae confidently took to the microphone, charmingly introducing herself as Miranda and her backup singers as her “Raes,” earning applause and laughs from the crowd.
After modestly thanking her audience for joining her, Rae began her set, performing a wide range of her work, from well-known tracks to unreleased ones. The harmonic musician’s playful set was soulful and infused with R&B, funk, and blues. Her smooth, powerful vocals were fervent and hypnotic, backed by smooth instrumentation and three melodic backup singers.
Despite sporting a boot, Rae danced and vibed with the crowd, encouraging them to do the same. With her stunning vocals and luminous stage presence, Rae certainly proved herself to be a major highlight of Friday’s lineup, and worthy of a bigger venue.
Most Likely to Have the Raddest Guitar Collection Ever: Cheap Trick (Red Stage, 5:00 PM)
Classic rockers Cheap Trick crashed into Boston Calling with a rebellious attitude and contagious energy—even having an automated voice introduce them as “the greatest fucking rock band to ever live.” Lead singer and rhythm guitarist Robin Zander—clad in a Day of the Dead tee and white police hat—skillfully riled up the Red Stage’s audience while lead guitarist Rick Nielsen cranked out raw, vicious riffs that electrified the air.
Nielsen also showcased his jaw-dropping custom guitar collection to the crowd, including a double-neck Hamer in the shape of a man, an electric yellow box guitar, and a Beatles guitar, featuring a photo of all four band members from the Sgt. Peppers era.
The Illinois natives attracted a large crowd with their badass attitudes and infectious chord progressions, solidifying themselves as one of Friday’s most exciting acts.
Your Cool, Eccentric Cousin at the Family Reunion: Oliver Tree (Blue Stage, 5:50 PM)
Californian Oliver Tree was an unexpected, brilliant force of nature that took charge of the Blue Stage as the day slowly eased into the night. The ever-eccentric Tree—sporting his iconic blonde mullet, a color-blocked quarter-snap fleece, and ultra-wide leg JNCO jeans—proved himself a comedic genius and amazing performer in his mere hour-long set, in which he played popular tracks like “Cowboys Don’t Cry,” “Hurt,” and “Alien Boy.”
His banter with the audience was a major highlight of the night. Tree constantly threatened to leave the stage in a whiney, childish tone, warning that every song was his last one. When finished with a song, he’d ask, “Do you guys wanna hear one more song,” a clever tactic that served him well in the end, in which his audience chanted, “One more song,” back to him when he left the stage.
Tree’s absurd dancing, peculiar style, wrestling matches with his amiable guitarist (in which he tearfully claimed his “cumula nimbus” bone was broken), fake crying, Razor scooter tricks, strange stories about his songs’ origins, and threats to leave the stage were a delightful concoction of comedy and entertainment gold.
Despite Tree’s relentless satire on the way famous musicians act, something to note is that he is incredibly talented. When Tree finishes his shtick, he effortlessly delves into his performance with strong vocals and emotion, creating a performance so intriguing that you start looking up when he’s playing in Boston next.
Most Likely to Give You Whiplash from Headbanging So Hard: Born Without Bones (Orange Stage, 6:55 PM)
As the first hints of dusk crept upon Harvard Stadium, Milford natives Born Without Bones stormed the Orange Stage. The crowd was completely swamped as the alt-punk rockers took on the festival, exploding into their set, playing notable tracks such as “Rough Terrain,” “Baby” and “Muscle“.
Born Without Bones holds a brilliantly loud presence—they’re big, they’re riotous, and they know how to have fun. The crowd headbanged and sang along with each track, emitting a 90s vibe sonically reminiscent of Alice In Chains, featuring grunge-tinged vocals and clever, slick guitar hooks.
The Lackluster Queen of Your Childhood Nostalgia: Avril Lavigne (Blue Stage, 7:40 PM)
The burning light of golden hour rippled across the horizon and slowly disappeared into the dark blue hues of dusk as masses of millennials crowded the Blue Stage. Black and orange balloons adorned each side of the stage while spurts of neon electrified the backdrop, teasing Avril Lavigne’s upcoming set.
Throngs of eager concertgoers erupted in applause when Lavigne took the stage, clad in a black mesh one-piece, a studded high-waisted leather skirt, and knee-high boots. The singer’s long, dip-dyed blonde locks blew in the wind as the night began to cool down. The Canadian native started her set off with “Bite Me,” one of her latest singles off of her new record, Love Sux. Millennial classics like “What the Hell,” “Complicated,” and “My Happy Ending” followed. Lavigne introduced MOD SUN onto the stage, and together they performed their collaborative single, “Flames.” MOD SUN brought the electric, contagious energy Lavigne was missing.
Throughout her set, Lavigne’s fervent fans sang her words back to her with adoration and ease, but her aura and attitude left much to be desired. The singer appeared distracted and annoyed, fidgeting with her clothes, looking offstage, missing occasional lyrics, and showing disinterest.
Nevertheless, her audience continued to support her—even when Lavigne cut her set thirty minutes early and six songs short. She left her loyal fans with “I’m With You,” a renowned track off of her 2002 debut record, Let Go, and an aloof goodbye.
While Lavigne’s attitude and presence were disappointing, it was exciting to hear nostalgia-evoking tracks—even if it was just for a little while.
Most Likely to Play at an Underground Club in a Post-apocalyptic World: Nine Inch Nails (Green Stage, 9:00 PM)
Industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails honorably stepped in for the Foo Fighters on Friday night and closed out the first night of Boston Calling with vicious rhythms. The set was an explosion of lights and lasers, accompanied by heavy guitar hooks and lead singer Trent Reznor’s haunting, enigmatic vocals.
Opening with “Somewhat Damaged,” Nine Inch Nails’ set began with slick, raw energy and powerful instrumentation. The gritty rock riffs and guitar solos of tracks “Closer,” “The Hand That Feeds,” and a cover of David Bowie’s “I Am Afraid of Americans” got the crowd headbanging and jumping, eventually closing out with “Hurt.”
Reznor’s fervency and originality (paired with his kindness in stepping in for not only The Foo Fighters but also The Strokes on Saturday night) allowed for a strong set and reminded festivalgoers that rock isn’t dead.
The Coolest People You Will Ever Meet: Dutch Tulips
(Orange Stage, 2:55 PM)
Electric indie-pop group Dutch Tulips played the Orange Stage as bruised clouds bubbled across the gray sky on Saturday afternoon. In spite of the looming thunderstorm, the Bostonian band brought the sunshine with their relentless positivity, humble energy, and sunny aesthetic—so much so that it was easy to forget there was even a storm coming at all.
Listening to Dutch Tulips is like finally taking a dip in a cool, refreshing pool on a scorching summer day—the perfect act to listen to at a Memorial Day weekend music festival or on a beach trip. With songs like “Frozen Orange,” “EMDR,” and “Sick Middle,” it was near impossible to stay still. The crowd danced and jammed along with the excited, genial rockers, who added a noticeably personal touch to their stage presence and a wholesome connection with their audience. Justin Mantell—the band’s lead on synth, as well as backing vocals and guitar—was a major highlight of the band’s set, sporting a vibrant strawberry-patterned button-up, gold-and-silver spiked loafers, and a contagious passion for the music he makes.
As the set came to a close, lead singer and guitarist Jack Holland thanked the crowd for coming. The rocker’s voice then shook when he admitted to Tulips’ adoring crowd, “I’ve been waiting thirty-three years for this.”
Dutch Tulips proved to be the most refreshing act on Saturday’s lineup, and a ray of sun on an otherwise stormy afternoon.