How to enjoy a summer rock fest with a 6 and 9-year old... who are yours

This is the 5th year of Boston Calling which has quickly become New England’s premiere rock fest. It’s also the first year my wife and I decided to attend. In general, we had sworn off festivals after years of being spoiled by free VIP passes to Pitchfork Music fest in Chicago. The other catch was that we have two girls, 9 and 6 years old, and child care can be a real pain and expensive for three days of music + ticket cost etc. Wait, what did you say? Kids can come for free? Well then…… we bring them and see how it goes? The obvious answer was….. Hell yes!  

Friday May 26th was literally a wash. It was freezing and raining and we are old with kids….. Lame? Yes. Do I care? No. I’d highly recommend the Consequence of Sound and Brooklyn Vegan reviews on the entire weekend.

Day Two, May 27th: Okay the sun is shining, spirits are high, and we are off. Two early acts we were very excited to see were Kevin Morby and Strand of Oaks. We had bought VIP passes and right away we were happy with the decision to grossly overspend. We had our own viewing section that was actually very good and not overly crowded, our own VIP bathroom trailers, food and beer tents and general shit you need tent (more to come on that). We walked in to Kevin Morby rocking the main Green Stage with “I Have Been to the Mountain” with a loose but solid quartet. Immediately we are no….Oh and the kids all have protective earplugs or headphones on…..oops. For the 9-year-old, noise was not an issue, but the 6-year old was not quite used to the chest thumping bass lines of live music……..umm time to check the “general shit you need” tent……..nice! Thank you.  

As Morby closed his set with a lively rip roaring cover of Velvet Underground’s “Rock n’ Roll” we made our way over to the Red Stage to see Strand of Oaks.  We had to wait for about ten minutes (set times were tight and on schedule for most of the weekend) and the kids were already fading “can we get ice cream, can we go on the Ferris wheel”…….NO! Timothy Showalter, the man behind Strand of Oaks, strolled out looking like an extra from Dazed and Confused with a shit-eating grin and launched into “Radio Kids,” the fist-pumping nostalgia anthem off of the latest release Hard Love…..highlights were “Shut In” which was dedicated to Chris Cornell (weirdly I received a text at that moment about Greg Allman’s passing) and the crowd pleaser “Goshen 97”.   

Okay. Ice cream and Ferris Wheel time. While Moses Sumney’s set kicked off, the wife and kids hit the ice cream vendor FoMu. I hit the beer tent and we met up at the Ferris wheel while the lines were still reasonable. Sugar and amusement park rides do wonders for kids’ spirits and both girls caught a second wind just as the Seattle based folk/rock singer songwriter Brandi Carlisle started up.  

Carlisle’s stage presence and obvious road savvy brought immediate life to the fest and all cross sections of music fans were drawn to her performance on the Green Stage. Her band was Nashville tight and her voice brought a stadium band feel to songs like “Wherever is Your Heart” and her hit “The Story.” Carlisle’s charming stage presence was infectious and gave the crowd a sense of civic pride (no pun intended) when she declared she had been married in the great state of Massachusetts……reminding thousands of Massholes…. “Oh yeah. We were the first state to legalize gay marriage….. Fuck you, California.” The other highlight of her set was looking over and seeing my daughters dance awkwardly to her bluesy folk…..the day was turning.  

Next up was dinner from one of the many great local food vendors from which there was ample choice for the foodie-minded rock fan (vegan fare to burgers, they had it all). We ate during Tegan and Sara’s electric pop set, which had the crowd moving and the good vibes continuing.  

Next up Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats.  All festival promoters would be wise to add these guys to the bill. Whether you enjoy the blue-eyed soul revival stylings or not, they know how to put on a great live party. Rateliff and his uber tight band opened with the soulful Sam and Dave styled song “I Need Never Get Old” which immediately had the crowd jumping all the way through the closer “S.O.B.”  After another kid-approved set, we made our way over to the Red Stage to see what would be our last band of the night: The xx.   

While waiting for The xx to set up (a much more elaborate stage than most acts that day) we secured a decent view and hoped the kiddo’s could make it through one last act, as it was now past their bedtime and getting close to ours. Side Note: While waiting, I had forgotten about the beach ball action at music fests and my kids became obsessed with participating in this timeless tradition….. Finally, one landed in our proximity and the very nice couple next to us handed it to the nine-year old. “Okay you gotta hit it up in the air now”………BOOM she nailed it two feet behind us into a young man’s face. Luckily, he was forgiving and it gave us all nice laugh.  

The xx hit the stage soon after in what looked like coordinated Death Star lieutenant costumes and Jamie xx immediately hit the boards and launched into the spectacular “Say Something Loving.” The crowd went nuts……I can’t say enough about how confident and good they sounded. The group has become very comfortable on stage backed by Jamie xx’s louder and more dance-forward grooves. Romy and Oliver seemed to be totally in sync and landed every note. Song’s such as “VCR,” “I Dare You,” and “Angels” were larger sounding and hit a new level of groove live. My daughters know most of these songs via our car and being background music at home but they were still mesmerized by the sounds, lights, cheering and dancing.  After doubting our decision to bring them to the fest for much of the day we were touched to be witnessing the only thing you ever want as a music lover…..seeing someone you care about having a musical experience they will never forget. It seemed the band was feeling the collective love as they put on a great show hitting all the right notes.  Ending the set with Jamie XX’s excellent “Loud Places” which judging by the amount of people singing it word-for-word around us has become bona fide hit. After leaving the stage briefly Jamie xx returned to get the crowd moving with a short DJ set that launched into “On Hold” and ended with “Intro”. On that note we called it a night and as we were walking out I asked my daughter “Did you like that?” Her reply said it all: “It was amazing.”

My wife and I returned for Day Three which was enjoyable and we saw some great performances……Very different vibe as Tool seemed to have brought in what can only be described as a lot of drunk aggressive young men…...(think Rush fans that like amphetamines and fighting). I will  again refer to the aforementioned reviews for Day Three (Consequence of Sound and Brooklyn Vegan) as they did a great job summarizing each day. Highlights for us were Buffalo Tom, Frightened Rabbit, Run the Jewels, and Wolf Parade. All in all Boston calling did a nice job in its first year trying to be on par with the big boys…..well done.

Demian Kendall