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From Boston Calling 2019: Saturday Sound Bites

king princess boston calling
King Princess performing on the Delta Blue Stage at Boston Calling 2019.

While perhaps not the most obvious choice for a music festival lineup, company members from Boston Ballet put on a dreamy performance on the festival’s Green Stage. One of three total company performances scattered throughout the festival, Saturday’s piece, choreographed by company member Sage Humphries, zeroed in on rock and roll. Accompanied by electric guitar and vocals from Humphries’s brother Michael (stage name FutureSelf) four dancers strode on stage clad in all black and donning trench coats. They then proceeded to dance, in pairs and apart to FutureSelf’s renditions of songs from The Beatles’ “The Beatles” (better known as “The White Album”). The tribute endeared and delighted early arrivals to the fest — the cheering that accompanied particularly striking choreography and lifts made for a fun departure from typical ballet etiquette. Following the rock tribute, two new dancers took the stage to perform a Yury Yanowski choreographed duet to the song “Final” by Wilsen, accompanied by the band’s lead singer Tamsin Wilson. The pair weaved in and out of the negative space between them, deftly telling a story of love, tension, and grief through their movement to the melancholic tune. The short but sweet performance was the perfect kick-off for the relaxed Saturday afternoon crowd.

After Boston Ballet wrapped up their performance on the Green Stage, current Northeastern University student and Boston-based musician Sidney Gish took to the Red Stage to give one of the fest’s most entertaining early sets. Gish opened with her song “Mouth Log,” an excellent introduction to her witty songwriting. “And groups for memes, where everyone fights / And tries to make straight white boys cry,” she sang, provoking simultaneous laughing, cheering, and dancing along. The simplicity of her set — Gish performs alone with a loop pedal — made the quality even more impressive, needing only her guitar skills and voice to impress. This is of little surprise for those previously familiar with Gish’s work which, gauging from the shouted song requests and chanting along of many an audience member, were in abundance on Saturday. While the singer-songwriter still has one semester left before she graduates college, she finished off last summer opening for the musician and fellow Saturday performer Mitski on the New England leg of her Be The Cowboy Tour. Despite this exposure, Gish still seemed stunned and elated at the size and energy of her Boston Calling crowd — she couldn’t keep from breaking into a smile for the vast majority of the set and an occasional wince or eyebrow raise giving away her surprise at hitting the right notes. She played an impressive number of songs from her albums and EPs including “Imposter Syndrome,” “Sin Triangle,” and “Presumably Dead Arm,” but merited a longer set than half an hour. If her talent and industry-savvy is any indication she will, without a doubt, be back.

Lo-fi artist Clairo played a mellow set on the Green Stage for hundreds of colorfully dressed and high energy attendees in the warm afternoon sun. The up-and-coming artist’s relaxed beats and airy voice floated out from the stage, inviting dancing but not forcing it. She treaded the lines between apathy, coolness, and sincerity in her performance, swaying and brushing back her hair along to the infectious hooks of songs “Get with U” and “Flaming Hot Cheetos,” the latter of which has almost 51,000,000 plays on Spotify. Clairo played a mix of singles and tracks from her EP “diary 001” before launching in to a live performance of her new single “Bags,” released just a day before her festival performance. From her upcoming album, “Bags” trades in the bedroom-pop feel of her earlier music for more elaborate production and songwriting — the repeated hook “Walking out the door with your bags” floating over melodic synths and a particularly captivating snare beat. Issues with the sound mixing made it difficult to hear the singer’s slight voice over her band, but she persisted and ultimately impressed despite the hiccup. Clairo played two more unreleased songs before closing with “Pretty Girl,” the song whose accompanying video on YouTube propelled her to fame, and “4EVER.” The relaxed but dance-friendly set making an excellent lead in to the evening’s more high energy acts.

“What’s good!” said King Princess, rushing to the front of Boston Calling’s Delta Blue Stage for her Saturday set. “There’s a lotta gay youth here tonight,” she said, prompting shrieks of pride and agreement from the jumping, anticipatory crowd below her. Wasting no time, the 20-year-old musician dove into “Talia,” a single from her 2018 EP “Make My Bed,” repeating the catchy chorus an extra two or three times to lengthen the track. Her live band added an edgier feel to the mellow pop tune, capitalizing on its heavy base line and interjecting with extended bass and guitar solos to excellent effect. Her banter was sparse but amusing, a product of her laid-back, no worries persona and open-book mentality to speaking, performing, and posting on social media. While her attitude gives the initial impression of apathy, her performance revealed how deeply she cares about her music and its significance to the “gay youth” swaying and singing along with her. Like many of the fest’s newer acts, King Princess played unreleased songs from her upcoming album to fill out her 50-minute set. Unlike many of the fest’s greener acts, she was not lacking in name recognition or in fanfare. “I’m gonna give you the big pussy song,” she said, before launching into her anthemic single “Pussy Is God.” By the intoxicating song’s conclusion, the bras of overzealous fans littered the stage — the trademark of rock mythology taking the young artist by surprise. King Princess picked up her guitar and closed out the set with her smash hit “1950,” the crowd singing along faithfully to every word before she left the stage.

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

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