Temperatures rose and the sun beamed down on the steaming turf fields of Harvard Stadium at Boston Calling on Sunday. However, that didn’t stop festival-goers as they crowded around to hear the sets of British indie rockers Glass Animals, exciting local acts like Oompa and Paper Tigers, and highly anticipated performances by Weezer and Metallica.
Most Badass: Oompa (Red Stage, 1:45 PM)
Roxbury-born rapper and poet Oompa started off Sunday’s sets at the Red Stage with a bang. Joined by an array of highly talented backup dancers, it was evident from Oompa’s first song that her set was going to be memorable. Performing in front of bright scenes that alternated her music videos and the album artwork of her latest record, UNBOTHERED, Oompa immediately got her crowd going. Oompa’s contagious energy permeated through her entire set, from “Amen” to “It Ain’t Safe.” More of the rapper’s backup dancers, clad in black lingerie, danced around her and playfully twirled down her microphone. In her sleek track “LEBRON,” Oompa ingratiated herself with her fellow Bostonians by pulling on a green Celtics jersey.
Oompa’s electric stage presence, clever lyrics, and smooth, slick vocals created a refreshing opening act for the last day of the festival.
Most Likely to Steal Your Crown: Cliff Notez (Blue Stage, 2:15 PM)
Boston-based Cliff Notez ruled the Blue Stage with a prepossessing and rebellious attitude. His backdrop was an explosion of vibrant, psychedelic colors and lights. Starting out his set while sitting on a magenta throne, the hip-hop artist began with “Masochists” off of his 2019 record, Why the Wild Things Are. Throughout the opening track, Cliff Notez encouraged his sizable, enthusiastic audience to sing back to him. He followed with popular tracks like “Good Riddance,” “Get Free I,” and “Venus Incarnate.”
Cliff Notez’s set was strong, engaging, and oozing with charisma and originality, living up to that of a high-profile act.
Most Likely to Stick It to the Man: Paper Tigers (Orange Stage, 2:50 PM)
Indie alt-rock Bostonian band Paper Tigers rocked the Orange Stage as heat sizzled off the packed tennis court. The band brought feverish energy that had their impassioned audience jamming and headbanging along as they played “Goldmine,” “Ursa Minor,” and tracks off their latest EP, I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me This Sooner.
The group powerfully charged through every song like it was their last with gusto and fervidity. With their dedication and enticing sound, they were deserving of a larger venue.
The Kings of Summer: Glass Animals (Green Stage, 6:05 PM)
Excitement hummed in the air, bubbles drifted through the heat, and pineapples were aplenty as the crowd waited for British indie rockers Glass Animals. Clad in his iconic red-lined cord sweater vest and round spectacles, Massachusetts-born lead singer Dave Bayley took the stage with a zany, bouncy ambiance that immediately got the audience going.
Glass Animals had a modest but electric backdrop, with a neon-lit basketball hoop punctuated with an array of neon signs that offered a summery aesthetic with words like moon, pool, and hotel. Animals’ background matched their energy and sonic aesthetics perfectly—the humble band is vibrant, loaded with energy and wit.
The Brits were inarguably a major highlight of Sunday’s lineup, opening their set with clever, snappy “Life Itself,” and going on to perform much-loved tracks like “Tangerine,” “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” and “Tokyo Drifting.” The rockers’ set—accented with smooth drumming and alternative-influenced instrumentation—had everyone in the crowd dancing, jumping, and shouting the lyrics back to them.
Bayley’s ability to connect with his audience with ease is highly admirable and one of the greatest parts of seeing Glass Animals live. He looks to the audience with sheer gratitude and awe—as if he’s shocked that he’s made it to this point. With the neon signs alternating in pastels behind him, Bayley spoke to the crowd, shouting to the masses of concert-goers before him: “This is something like a hometown show for me, despite my silly accent. Can you guess?” He smiled and revealed that he was from Worcester, earning him hollers of approval.
As the sun sunk into golden hour, Glass Animals closed out their set with the summer-drenched track “Heat Waves.” Their audience enthusiastically sang the sizzling tune back to them, creating a brilliant and exciting transition into some of the bigger acts of the night.
World’s Coolest Rock Dads: Weezer (Red Stage, 7:15 PM)
Golden hour burned across the horizon and slowly disappeared into dark pink skies. Weezer—led by the ever-modest Rivers Cuomo—eliminated the distance between himself and the sea of fans who faithfully stood before him, opening his set on the Red Stage with iconic tracks “Hash Pipe” and “Beverly Hills,” followed by “Island in the Sun” and a cover of Toto’s “Africa.” After performing “Pork and Beans,” Cuomo surprised the audience with a skillful, smooth cover of Nirvana‘s “Lithium,” earning him uproarious praise and applause.
For most of the hour and fifteen-minute set, the entire field sang back to Cuomo—both his audience at the Red Stage and the eagerly-waiting Metallica crowd at the Green—especially with Weezer’s closing track, “Buddy Holly.” With a highly anticipated setlist brimming with Weezer’s classics, the rockers didn’t disappoint.
Despite having a brilliantly energetic nineteen-track setlist—punctuated with stunning, vibrant backdrops—it was clear among the audience that the 90s rockers would have been better suited as a leading act rather than as a supporting one. Not only did Weezer deserve a headlining spot (possibly having stepped in for The Strokes), they deserved more respect.
Something to note about this year’s Boston Calling was the lack of organization. Having Weezer on the stage beside Metallica’s—with their sets 10 minutes apart—was an embarrassingly poor choice. Not only did Metallica’s soundcheck cut into Cuomo’s vocals (which appeared unprofessional) but it provided uncomfortable watching due to the sheer size of the audience.
Boston Calling organizers clearly did not account for the number of people who would come to see Metallica play, and did not consider how it would affect Weezer’s performance.
Your Nice-But-Gruff Metalhead Uncles Who Know More About Music Than You Ever Will: Metallica (Green Stage, 8:40 PM)
Just after blaring ACDC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N Roll),” Ennio Morricone‘s “The Ecstacy of Gold” rang through sprawling fields of Harvard Stadium under a sea of stars. A scene from Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly played on the towering screens of the Green Stage as throngs of dedicated Metallica fans cheered.
By far the most popular act to ever play Boston Calling, Metallica attracted around 60,000 fans to their performance. While it was brutally crowded (less shoulder-to-shoulder, and more foot-on-foot), and the notorious metal band was certainly better suited for a Gillette Stadium show, Metallica’s set was so impressive that the discomfort was easily forgiven.
Lead singer and rhythm guitarist James Hetfield ignited Metallica’s much-anticipated set with “Whiplash,” following the ever-disturbing and iconic “Ride the Lightning.” The latter was littered with masterfully chord progressions and thrilling guitar hooks, performed by impassioned bassist Robert Trujillo and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. Classics like “Seek & Destroy,” “Whiskey in a Jar,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Fade to Black,” and “Master of Puppets” followed.
Hetfield took to addressing his ardent audience with wholesome energy that is a stark contrast to the intense music he creates. With a grateful, radiant smile on his aging face, the musician gushed about how grateful he was for Boston’s love and support. “After doing this for forty-one years,” Hetfield said, “it’s just amazing to see this. Music is my life, and I’m grateful to share it with all of you.”
His positivity was contagious, with smiles also being shared by ever-energetic drummer Lars Ulrich, who nodded in agreement with his bandmate. Hetfield went on to tell the crowd a story about a woman who gave birth at a recent show in Brazil. “Anyone ready to give birth head over to the medics,” Hetflied joked, stifling a laugh and pointing to the Boston EMS tent to his right. “Though anybody looking to make babies, you can do that over to the left.”
Metallica closed out their fiery set with famous track and crowd favorite “Enter Sandman.”
Though Boston Calling 2022 had an array of struggles, challenges, and frustrations, Metallica was a saving grace, ending the festival with an unforgettable performance.