Boston Calling 2023: Sunday

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Rounding out Boston Calling was another set of stellar performances, both from big names like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and from rising stars like Ali McGuirk. This year’s festival was studded with stunners beginning to end, and we are already looking forward to 2024!


Your New Favorite Local Indie Act: Mint Green

Mint Green have been around since 2017 but played their first Boston Calling, opening the last day of the festival’s Blue Stage with their high-energy emo/indie rock. The core of their group is singer/songwriter Ronnica and drummer Daniel Huang. What stuck out most, however, was the work done by new guitarist Rachel Moon and original bassist Brandon Geeslin. Ronnica writes songs with big choruses that need lots of energy to sustain them. That energy was provided in spades by Geeslin and Huang. Above that, Moon provided interesting lead lines, and when given a few chances to solo she absolutely ripped. The standout moment, perhaps, occurred when Ronnica introduced one of her songs by noting that she was a queer woman and that Pride Month is almost upon us. Her song was about her journey to discover what it means to stay true to herself, and that was a message that resonated with and was greatly appreciated by the crowd.

Making a Crowd Dance on a Sunny, 85-Degree Day: Genesis Owusu

Wow. Genesis Owusu put on the most impressive act of the festival. Even his first entrance was mysterious and epic, as he appeared to glide in six feet above the stage perched atop some mysterious blob. As it turned out, that blob was comprised of his three backup dancers/hype men covered in a massive cape. Owusu knew how to vary his set, coaxing the crowd to dance with uptempo hip-hip dance tracks and giving them a chance to rest and sway with smooth soul and funk tracks. For an example of the former, check out “Get Inspired,” and for the latter, “A Song About Fishing.”

Whatever he does, though, Owusu knows how to perform. With no band, Owusu mostly had the stage to himself, and worked it with his energetic singing and dancing. At multiple points he had the crowd singing his hooks, such as during “GTFO.” The driving synth bass had everyone dancing, no small feat on a scorching day. This goes double for his dancers, who wore matching masks for the first 30 minutes of the set! At one point, he even sampled “Crank That” by Soulja Boy, tapping into Millennial nostalgia and getting the audience moving again. Owusu had the crowd chanting his name throughout his set, and promised to return to Boston at some point in the fall. That show will be a can’t miss, for sure!

Ali McGuirk is what an incredible voice she has. She writes powerful, soulful songs, but it’s the way she deploys her voice that elevates her performance to something truly special. She’s a local act, and had more than a few people in the crowd wearing her merch. By the end of her performance at the orange stage, it wouldn’t surprise me if she’d won over a good deal more fans!

On top of her songwriting and voice, McGuirk was backed by an outstanding band. Her bassist Cilla Bonnie and drummer Brandon Mayes held down the fort, while lead guitarist Sebastian Falvo’s ability might have equaled her vocal talents (think Freddie Mercury and Brian May, and I don’t make that comparison lightly!). He absolutely killed his solos, which were not only technically impressive but extremely melodic; I could have listened to him play all day. The band’s arranging was also stellar, as it never sounded like anyone was being drowned out and all parts were able to be heard. An additional highlight occurred when she brought up a dance troupe for her finishing number. She’s definitely one to check out if you get the chance!

Descending Into the Gizzverse: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard finally made their return to Boston, their last show being in 2018. They’ve released 10 albums since then, with their 24th set to be released in June (titled PetroDragonic Apocalypse; Or, Dawn Of Eternal Night: An Annihilation Of Planet Earth And The Beginning Of Merciless Damnation). Further adding to the anticipation was Gizzard’s canceled appearance at last year’s Boston Calling due to a COVID case in the band. Needless to say, King Gizzard had a lot of time to make up for, and they delivered.

This set was divided into three parts, each representing one of the subgenres Gizzard has explored. The first segment included some of their more recent extended psychedelic jams. They opened with an epic version of “The Dripping Tap,” followed by “Ice V,” “Evil Death Roll” (the only pre-2018 song in their set), and “Iron Lung.” For the second section, the band swapped in their microtonal guitars to play “Pleura” and “K.G.L.W,” which both lean toward the heavy metal portion of their catalog. For the last section, they went even more metal, picking up their drop-tuned guitars to play “Self Immolate” (featuring a killer drum solo from Michael Cavanaugh), the debut performance of “Converge” (a song from their new album), and a mashup of “Gaia” and “Gila Monster” (their latest single).

Overall, the set was heavier and jammier than other parts of their catalog, and featured a number of songs in additive meter or unusual time signatures. Although that might have displeased some fans, the band’s range and ability to excel performing a ton of styles is why they are beloved by their base. The crowd was loving it too, with plenty of headbanging, dancing, and moshing. In addition, I preferred the blue stage to the green and red (where the bigger headliners played). The latter were side-by-side and teeming with huge crowds, while it was much easier to get closer to the blue stage for better sound and views. And while King Gizzard crowds have sometimes developed a reputation for being too rowdy, I found this crowd to be extremely friendly and accommodating. With great apologies to fans of Queens of the Stone Age and Paramore, there was no way I was going to miss a second of King Gizzard.

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