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From Boston Calling 2018: Saturday Sound Bites

Starting off Saturday at Boston Calling with Leikeli47 was an excellent choice. The New York hip-hop artist wore a mask, as she always does, this one a large bandana with holes for her eyes and mouth. Accompanied by a DJ and three female backup dancers (and, at one point, an incredible male dancer in stunning long, black opera gloves), Leikeli47 won her early afternoon crowd over with her infectious positivity and uplifting banter. Her songs are short—only a few pass the three-minute mark, and not by much—and feature energetically repetitive lyrics, making them very friendly for newcomers to her music. Take, for instance, “Look,” a track off of “Wash & Set,” her most recent album. The chorus is solely comprised of the lyrics “It’s a look / Don’t you see it? / ‘Cause, baby, it’s a look,” and variations thereof. During the course of the song, Leikeli47 pointed out members of the audience in various types of whimsical garb, and told them “That’s a look!” The general joy and dance-ready beats continued unabated even as she told the crowd about a recent heartbreak. Leikeli47’s unapologetic fierceness ensured that even those who had never heard of her before Boston Calling will find it hard to forget her.

At 2:30 p.m., Natalie Portman ‘03 took to the Arena Stage to share a curated series of short, silent films directed by women. Each film was accompanied with music by St. Vincent and Leikeli47 or narration from the Academy Award-winning actress herself. The first film, “Verdict: Not Guilty,” written, produced, and co-directed by Eloyce and James Gist, followed the Devil’s attempts to prosecute a Christian woman who died after giving birth to a child out wedlock. St. Vincent scored the shakily-shot, 1933 silent film with a jagged, synth-heavy original composition. Afterwards, Natalie Portman returned to the stage to narrate another Gist film, “Hell-Bound Train.” Her spoken-word style accompaniment delighted some, but may have confused others, judging by the wave of audience members that filtered out of the arena while Portman’s back was turned. To close the film screenings, Leikeli47 took to the stage to score several films, including critically-acclaimed writer Zora Neale Hurston’s “Fieldwork,” with “Attitude” and other songs from “Wash & Set.”

Mount Kimbie, an electronic music duo from the U.K., brought a very different vibe to Boston Calling’s Delta Blue Stage after Leikeli47’s performance. Their hazy, dream-like post-dubstep sound made for a relaxing 50 minutes. Those familiar with their work may wonder how songs like “Blue Train Lines” were performed live, without frequent collaborator King Krule to contribute vocals. The pair were joined onstage by a female singer and another musician, but despite this addition, the vocals remained largely in the background. The first several songs they played were entirely instrumental, and even when lyrics were introduced, the focus remained on the distorted found sounds and gentle beats that make up their style. The effect of all this, live, was less conducive to dancing than to swaying in place, but in a three-day-long festival, gentleness has its place. Mount Kimbie seemed to recognize that, and spoke very little during their set. Instead, they let their music speak for them. Even though the artists Mount Kimbie work with couldn’t be there, the duo still put on a show that demonstrated that not all music needs to be the energetic, dance-ready fare commonly found at festivals.

Clichéed as it may be, the best way to describe Manchester Orchestra’s performance at Boston Calling is full of heart. Andy Hull, the singer-songwriter frontman of the Atlanta indie rock band was so invested in the music that he was sweating through his shirt and his beard by the end of the show. And Manchester Orchestra’s music deserves it—although aurally not wildly different from their contemporaries in the indie rock world, the spirit with which they played made their performance memorable. One of the highlights of the show was “The Gold,” one of the hits from “A Black Mile to the Surface,” released last year. The chorus is a capella, and its drawn out words make for the perfect concert moment: The entire audience singing in unison, “I believed you were crazy / You believed that you loved me.” Live music has an ineffable quality, some alchemy of massive crowds and sheer vicinity to the performers, that can distill into instances of unity. But it only works if the band can lend their raw emotionality to the audience. Hull and the rest of Manchester Orchestra certainly had that in spades, and their performance was passionate enough to bring both diehard fans and newcomers with them.

—Staff Writer Allison J. Scharmann can be reached at allison.scharmann@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Ethan B. Reichsman can be reached at ethan.reichsman@thecrimson.com.

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