Outside the Pit is a recurring installment for Mosh Pit Report that focuses on the music we at Mosh Pit Report listen to when we're not moshing. We encourage our readers to check out all the artists we cover and expand outside some of their typical musical comfort zones.
Memorial Day weekend in Boston means one thing for the city’s music scene: the return of Boston Calling Music Festival. Hours before gates opened, festival organizers made the massive announcement that this May’s festival would be the years only and the final one to take place at Boston’s City Hall Plaza. In 2017, the festival will pick up and move to the Lower Allston neighborhood of Boston, where it will expand to more stages and include a film festival.
As for 2016, Friday night’s lineup was a special one. With de facto co-headliners Sufjan Stevens and SIA getting near equal length sets, the nearly sold out crow was in for a night of live performance art that would prove to transcend genres.
The festival’s first set was a collaboration set between Irish singer Lisa Hannigan and festival curator/guitarist of The National, Aaron Dessner. Hannigan and Dessner have collaborated in the past, and are currently in the process of writing and recording an album together. Their set was a beautifully performed open to the festival weekend, as Hannigan’s traditional Irish vocals were effervescently complimented by Dessner’s guitar playing. Dessner even played his guitar with a violin bow at times, a la Jimmy Page. The indie folk sounds strongly resonated with the crowd as the sun set over the festival grounds.
Following Dessner and Hannigan was Sufjan Stevens, on the festival’s Red Stage. Stevens took the stage with an incredible, vibrant stage production that featured everything from dance routines and instruments being smashed to Stevens donning a pair of swan wings which he spread mid song during “Seven Swans.” Much of Steven’s set was pulled from his last two albums, “The Age of Adz” (2010), and “Carrie & Lowell” (2015). Stevens’ production and live show was very different from his music, usually characterized as more melancholy than the vibrant, colorful, psychedelic show that he delivered on Friday Night.
Stevens set the bar high with his performance, but it was the illustrious pop star SIA who put on a performance that will talked about for years to come. SIA took the focus off herself, and created a musical theater style performance with dancers acting out the songs through interpretive dance. SIA brought each of her songs to life, with an all encompassing act that captured the attention of every living soul on the festival grounds. The crowd, at times, looked astounded by what was taking place, as it was far more than a simple live music performance. SIA herself did not spend much time in the spotlight, but her vocals stood out as a soundtrack to the performance art taking place on her stage. Often with solo performers it is a challenge to create a memorable stage performance with just themselves onstage, many spend too much time putting the focus on themselves. But SIA’s performance was so unforgettably unique, she ended up creating more of a buzz by avoiding the spotlight.