By Ellie Jordan
This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to join the BU Central bloggers at Boston Calling and enjoy a fantastic three days of music. On Friday night, the festival opened with Future Islands, followed by Neutral Milk Hotel and The National. It was a great evening for outdoor music at City Hall Plaza, a venue that really cements that classic Boston community feeling, with the crowds and stages surrounded by city buildings.
Both Future Islands and Neutral Milk Hotel put on excellent shows, but for me The National was hands-down the winner of the night. Future Islands was a newer band for me, but their electric, indie pop style made for a good start to the festival. Their music was exciting, fun, and definitely danceable. The second band, Neutral Milk Hotel has a much more mellow, folky tune, and their set had a different vibe from the start. They requested no photographs or video be taken, which was a bit off-putting at first, but they went on to play a wonderful show. I was taken by them as soon as I noticed their eclectic instrumentation, which included a magnificent horn section of trumpet, trombones, and even a French horn, as well as banjo, violin, accordion, and various electric synthesizers. The set included full band pieces using a number of these instruments, as well as solo acoustic songs by the lead singer, Jeff Mangum.
The last band to play was The National, my favorite set of the night. I feel a special affinity with this band as singer Matt Berninger and bassist Scott Devendorf came together to form the original band in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. However, I can’t say I have been following them since their Cincinnati days, as I first heard them only a little more than a year ago, before I saw them perform at Bunbury Music Festival in CIncinnati. The first songs I heard were from their newest album Trouble Will Find Me, including “I Need My Girl” and “Pink Rabbits.” These songs are on the mellowest end of the band’s spectrum, and I was unsure of how they could pull off an exciting show with such soft songs. I was proven wrong as soon as the set began both that first time at Bunbury, and yet again this weekend at Boston Calling.
This band is into their music. They played with such contagious passion and intensity that it was impossible not to get excited as well. Despite being a slower song, “I Need My Girl” was actually one of my favorite pieces, along with “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” that one admittedly with the possibility of a small Ohio-girl bias. The National has an indie rock sound ranging from the slow tunes I first heard to heavier rock songs. They also performed several songs live in a much louder, harder style than their studio counterparts, which worked perfectly with the hype of a live show. Berninger sang nearly to the point of screaming at times, and even ventured out into the crowd at the end of the set. They had a great connection with the audience throughout the set, and their intensity and excitement never lapsed. I would have been content listening to them play on into the night, but they certainly served as a perfect ending to the first night of a fantastic Boston Calling 2014.