Boston Calling 2022 Recap: Overcoming a Curse of Storms and Cancellations

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The post Boston Calling 2022 Recap: Overcoming a Curse of Storms and Cancellations appeared first on Consequence.

Editor’s Note: Check out our complete coverage of Nine Inch Nails’ Friday night headlining set here, and see a photo gallery from all three days of Boston Calling 2022 here.

Is the 2022 festival season cursed? With many events coming back for the first time in three years, there’s a rash of bad luck running through the landscape. From bad weather to artist cancellations to simply mediocre lineups, few events have been immune to misfortune in the early days of summer.

Boston Calling was perhaps hit harder than most — by no fault of its own, mind you. If there’s one thing the annual Memorial Day Weekend event could have done to avoid being caught in this whirlwind of crappy luck it would be not announcing headliners a year in advance. Even without a pandemic, situations change, something festival organizers surely learned when they tapped Foo Fighters (who pulled out following the death of drummer Taylor Hawkins) and Rage Against the Machine (who once again rescheduled their reunion tour) way back in May 2021.

But replacements happen; at least Boston Calling’s bookers had an okay lead time to find fill-ins. Nine Inch Nails were brought on to take over for Foos — and then ended up having to play a double-header when The Strokes cancelled at the last minute due to a positive COVID test. That means by the time all was said and done, three of the festival’s original headliners never actually performed, leaving the top of the bill at NIN, NIN, and Metallica.

On top of that, severe weather caused an evacuation and delay during Saturday, forcing a number of undercard acts to skip their sets. When gates finally reopened after about two hours, it came with more bad news, as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard were also forced to cancel because they too had a member test positive for COVID.

It wasn’t easy, and fans were understandably upset — although directing that anger at the festival itself isn’t exactly fair. If anything, be mad at the unfortunate placement of the VIP entrances at the two mains stages that caused constant logs jams in the crowd, or the lack of a second water filling station. Those are gripes worth having, but moaning over lighting storms, tragedies, and a pandemic virus? What a waste of rage.

boston calling 2022 photos
boston calling 2022 photos

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Boston Calling 2022 Photo Gallery: Metallica, Avril Lavigne, Nine Inch Nails, & More


The fact is, Boston Calling dealt with all those set backs and still put on a strong event. This is the first summer festival season in three years; we should be absolutely relishing in the fact that we got powerhouse performances from HAIM, the ridiculously high-energy showmanship of Run the Jewels, nostalgia hits like Avril Lavigne and Cheap Trick, and — yes — two incredible shows from legends like NIN.

Things aren’t perfect out here in festival land right now, though that’s not exactly any different from the world at large. The glory comes in getting through these rough spots and appreciating what we’re actually receiving; in the case of Boston Calling 2022, they delivered what is arguably one of the season’s best lineups (cancellations be damned) and put on an incredible showcase of talent.

Every blessing ignored becomes a curse, so let’s not wallow in the low points of the festival season, and instead celebrate the highlights of Boston Calling 2022.

Women in Music Pt. IV

Festivals are putting in more and more of a concerted effort to diversify their lineups. Despite having a “white guys who rock” list of headliners, Boston Calling did an admirable job bringing non-male identifying artists onto the stage. Japanese Breakfast continued to be a highlight, as they have been all through the Jubilee cycle. All five of the Saturday opening acts — including Hinds, Celisse, and Frances Forever — were either female or nonbinary (though some of their sets were chopped by the rain delay).

HAIM Boston Calling 2022 photos
HAIM Boston Calling 2022 photos

HAIM, photo by Ben Kaye

The big winner of the weekend, however, was HAIM, who put on easily a top three performance. After a somewhat shaky sophomore sprint, the sister trio have really come into their own as artists and performers. There is an undeniable, undefinable energy to their show these days, as they clearly have settled into the reality that they get to do what they love for a living. Even the rote elements like the call Este “receives” before “3 AM” (which led to her signing to the crowd from the pit and promising, “I don’t have a gag reflex”) remain fun despite their rehearsed nature. With a set heavy on Women in Music Pt. III cuts, HAIM proved their at a new high-water mark in their exciting career.

Run the Hip-Hop

In a somewhat atypical situation for Boston Calling’s history, there wasn’t a lot of noteworthy hip-hop on this year’s bill. Paris Texas and EarthGang’s Blue Stage sets barely pulled in a crowd worthy of rivaling local collective Van Buren Records over on the Orange Stage. (Paris still brought the fire, though.) If you look at headliners as the main draw for a festival, perhaps that makes sense — but you can always count on Run the Jewels to buck a trend. El-P and Killer Mike drew the biggest non-headliner crowd of the weekend, delivering on three years of pent-up performance with a knockout set. Joking and talking with the crowd — particularly with the young Fiona up front at her first RTJ show — the duo were clearly thrilled to be back on stage. And the audience was thrilled the welcome them.

Run the Jewels at Boston Calling 2022 photos
Run the Jewels at Boston Calling 2022 photos

Run the Jewels, photo by Ben Kaye

Riding the Lightning

Maybe it was the fact that Nine Inch Nails headlined both Friday and Saturday, or it probably had something to do with the weather evacuation on Day 2, but Sunday was far and away the most crowded day of the entire weekend. Why the other days weren’t as packed is up for discussion; why the final day was the fullest is obvious: Metallica.

41 years into their legendary career, Metallica are one of the easiest sure-things in music. Book these guys as a bill topper, and you’re ensured not only a sold out crowd, but a hell of a show. Obviously, heavy metal isn’t everyone’s taste, and not everyone whose taste it is makes for the best co-crowd member; work around the bad apples and find a way to appreciate what James Hetfield and the boys are actually bringing to the table, however, and you’ll see why they’re some of the greatest headliners around.

Metallica at Boston Calling 2022 photos
Metallica at Boston Calling 2022 photos

Metallica, photo by Ben Kaye

No one in rock eats the stage like Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, and Robert Trujillo. There are mics set up in three places just so Hetfield can wander to wherever he wants at any given song. He also uses those mics to espouse genuine love and appreciate for his fans, highlighting the truly communal core of heavy rock. Even Hammett stumbling on the intro to “Nothing Else Matters” couldn’t slow down Metallica from closing out the festival in blistering, energetic fashion.

The Different Types of Nostalgia

It struck me that there were three “nostalgia” acts on the bill that represented truly different definitions of what the designation means, and how each definition led to a different kind of show.

First there was Cheap Trick, an oddly “legacy” booking on the lineup. Watching a 73-year-old Rick Nielsen eat up the crowd, tossing out fistfuls of guitar picks, and mugging it up throughout the classic rock set was unabashedly joyful. The sound on the Red Stage left something to be desired, but you could tell these guys still have it — especially when they brought out Paris Jackson for “Surrender.” (Jackson, incidentally, also came out with The Struts earlier in the day to sing “Low Key in Love.”)

Avril Lavigne boston calling 2022 photos
Avril Lavigne boston calling 2022 photos

Avril Lavigne, photo by Ben Kaye

Then there was Avril Lavigne, an ’00s nostalgia artist who’s having a second-act renaissance. While it’s clear Lavigne is game to be back in the spotlight, it’s hard to say she’s doing a wonderful job enjoying it while she’s up on stage. Who knows what’s going on with her personally, but the show felt halfhearted, with Lavigne leaving the stage multiple times for extended periods (and no, there were no drastic costume changes). Not even bringing out Mod Sun — her fiancé and collaborator — for “Flames” felt like it elevated things. A nine-song set that ended a solid 10 minutes early doesn’t scream “nostalgic joy.”

On the other side of that coin is Weezer, an act that’s been doing what they do for so long that it’s all pretty rudimentary at this point. No rockstar looks more bored fronting a hit maker than Rivers Cuomo — but at least he still delivers. It’s hard not to when you have a list of bangers as long as Weezer. Let’s face it, no one’s going to a Weezer festival set expecting to hear a bunch of Van Weezer tracks (though we did get OK Human cut “All My Favorite Songs”), but hearing the crowd waiting for Metallica start singing along to the “Buddy Holly” hook is a perfect experience.

Weezer at Boston Calling 2022
Weezer at Boston Calling 2022

Weezer, photo by Ben Kaye

Nostalgia is always nice to be around, and all its levels have their value. How much mileage you get out of each one might vary, however.

Eighteen Inch Nails

We already gave you a complete recap of Nine Inch Nails’ Friday night headlining set and the setlist for their Saturday night follow-up, but it’s worth mentioning them again because they really were just that incredible.

Pulling a festival double-header like this is pretty rare for any band note named Phish. During the second night, when Trent Reznor alerted the crowd that, “We are not The Strokes, if you haven’t figured that out yet,” the frontman expressed his own surprise that NIN could even pull it off.

Nine Inch Nails at Boston Calling 2022 photos
Nine Inch Nails at Boston Calling 2022 photos

Nine Inch Nails, photo by Ben Kaye

“We’re like the guest that wasn’t invited here in the first place and now you can’t fucking get rid of us,” he joked before continuing:

“I was thinking, somehow it’s been, let’s see, 32, 33 years ago somehow, I came to Boston for the first time and recorded a bunch of songs in a real recording studio for the first time: Syncro Sound on Newbury Street… If you had told me then that anyone would even have heard those songs or that if anybody would even give a shit about them years and years later, I wouldn’t have believe you. So I’m grateful to be here.

If you would have told me at any point that we were the reliable band that could be called in a crisis, I would’ve told you you’re out of your fucking mind. but here we are. So if anybody has a birthday party or a bar mitzvah or need someone to look after your plants while you’re on vacation, hit us up. We’re here for you.”

Turning in one hit-filled set and one set of incredible deep cuts (and a new cover of David Bowie’s “Fashion”) with just a handful of necessary repeats (“Wish,” “Head Like a Hole,” “Hurt”) should go down as one of the greatest headlining performances by a band in music festival history. So, yeah, they’ve earned that reliable label.

Nine Inch Nails at Boston Calling 2022 photos
Nine Inch Nails at Boston Calling 2022 photos

Nine Inch Nails, photo by Ben Kaye

Boston Calling 2022 Recap: Overcoming a Curse of Storms and Cancellations
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