It’s safe to say that the “turn-up” was truly real at Boston City Plaza during the Sunday of Boston Calling. The crowd came rowdy and – for lack of a better phrase – ready to rumble. By rumble, I intend to describe the synchronized hum of thousands of feet bouncing up and down to the wickedly dirty bump of Flosstradamus and the cheering, sweaty side step of the crowd to Major Lazer’s reggae-dancehall party. While Saturday’s lineup was inclined towards softer crooners (a la Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend and Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes), Sunday’s line-up showcased the harder beats and rave-ready festival-goers. The two-day affair also brought forth a noticeable police presence.
Despite the air of caution, good vibes were felt all around as Floss and Diplo brought the groove to the gig. Duo Flosstradamus took the Blue Stage at 4:30, with J2K (Josh Young) alluding to their humble Chicago beginnings: “Welcome to our house party y’all!” And that’s exactly what it felt like – a thumping day-rager, chalk full of grimy trap music and interactive MC-ing by J2K while partner Autobot (Curt Cameruci) spun the sounds. The ultimate trifecta of brilliance occurred about midway through the set when they dropped “Masta Blasta (The Rebirth)” by up-and-coming producer Dillon Francis. That gave way to RL Grime’s remix of Benny Benassi’s “Satisfaction,” with killer drops slowing down the 145 BPM pace of the song, allowing a swath of young folks to get down with the bump n’ grind.
Just when the crowd’s levels of excitement seemed to be peaking, Floss brought Yeezus into the picture, playing “New Slaves” and sprinkling Kanye gold dust. With energy up, J2K called for a massive mosh from the entire crowd. Before people knew what was happening they were being aggressively coerced into huge pits of thrashing bodies and flailing arms. It was anarchy, but it was also gloriously communal and exciting. After the insanity died down, the crowd put up “warning signs” with their hands – symbolic not only of Flosstradamus’s Chicago drill, industrial sound, but indicative of a promise that they are out to thrash the ears of listeners (in only the best way possible).
The next Blue Stage artist, Major Lazer, went on at 6:30 to a large crowd of die-hard fans who had pushed their way to the front barrier after Flosstradamus ended, in anticipation of the notorious party that was to come. Major Lazer is known for being heavily crowd oriented—in fact, member and founder Diplo hired the other two DJ’s, The Jillionaire and Walshy Fire, specifically to help with the production of live shows.
Having seen Major Lazer earlier this year at Coachella, I got giddy knots in my stomach as I saw a giant, clear hamster ball being prepared. Yes, that’s right: musically cross-cultural, ingenious (and not to mention gorgeous) producer Diplo, crowd surfs nearly every live show in a GIANT HAMSTER BALL. Except this time I was not a peripheral observer from the corner of a hot desert tent as he waltzed across a sea of hands. No, this time I was one of the hands that he traveled upon. Being from Los Angeles, rarely am I starstruck, but when my hand touched the back of Diplo’s head post-tripping, even through the plastic, I felt that I had touched something magical.
Major Lazer always brings the Caribbean heat, playing songs heavily influenced by Jamaican reggae and layering them with drum and bass to create a unique fusion of sound, most notably on songs like “Jah No Partial” or “Watch Out for This (Bumaye).” That is truly the key to Diplo’s genius – as an artist he is willing to push the boundaries of popular Western-centric EDM. Of course, Major Lazer dropped the heavily-played Flosstradamus remix of “Original Don,” which got the crowd jumping on their feet. A personal favorite of mine is “Bubble Butt,” which always calls for the twerk-ready ladies to tout their talents.
Towards the end of their set, Major Lazer slowed down the pace, playing “Get Free,” a tune assisted by the lovely vocal talents of Amber Coffman, lead singer of the indie band Dirty Projectors. As Diplo stoically waved a rippling flag reading “Free The Universe,” the hauntingly beautiful voice of Coffman echoed in the background: “Look at me/ I just can’t believe/ What they’ve done to me/ We could never get free/ I just wanna be/ I just wanna dream.” During that pink, dusky sunset song, no one was losing their mind to dance, but rather, people were raising their fists into the air, swaying with the crowd and mouthing the words as if to proclaim their own feelings of confinement, and maybe as if to admit that they too are just dreamers – dreamers appreciating the closing of a weekend filled with music and memories.