As the lines took shape in front of the Harvard Athletic Complex on Friday, the phones of festival-goers buzzed at exactly 1 p.m.
“Three years later … Doors are OFFICIALLY open for Boston Calling 2022,” a notification from the Boston Calling app read.
After a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Boston Calling welcomed music fans in full force to hear a rich lineup of artists—from big name headliners like Nine Inch Nails and The Strokes to groups on the rise, including The Backseat Lovers and Pom Pom Squad.
The three-day affair spans across the tennis courts and turf fields of the Harvard Athletic Complex. Four stages—labeled red, green, blue, and orange—attract crowds that can wander between each spot on the paved walkways. Rows of food and beverage vendors line the outside of the field. The crowd, at times, moves in sync as people hop from the red stage to the adjacent green.
The 2022 festival marked the return of an iconic event that has been a staple of the Boston music scene since its beginning in 2013. Fans of all ages—from current college students to fans who had followed the band since Nine Inch Nails first rose to fame—swarmed the turf once again on the first day of the weekend’s events.
Nine Inch Nails Astounds Crowd With Theatrical Show
Trent Reznor and his fellow members of Nine Inch Nails know how to create another world on their stage. The band created an alternate reality that mourned the disappointments of the real world through somber lyrics and layers of sound pumping through the speakers.
White lights pulsed at the crowd as Reznor leaned into the microphone stand with the command of a seasoned performer. The band’s drummer and keyboardist flanked Reznor with empty metal racks looming in the back of the stage.
The legendary rock group came to the rescue when the Foo Fighters announced they would no longer play the festival in the wake of the death of drummer Taylor Hawkins. Not only did Nine Inch Nails sign on as a headliner with short notice, but the band also performed its headlining set on Saturday after The Strokes announced that they could no longer appear due to a COVID-19 case among their members.
The building drums and electronic beat of Nine Inch Nails’ opening song “Somewhat Damaged” shook the audience as people shuffled toward the stage. During its nearly two-hour set, the band played almost nonstop. The feedback from the electric guitars rang out across the stadium before the musicians jumped right into their next track.
People lingering at the back of the crowd used the open space to jump around and rock to the rapid, dance-like beat of “Wish” as smoke blew across the stage aglow with blue and purple light.
More than halfway through the set, Reznor offered a heartfelt message to the Foo Fighters after the death of Hawkins.
Before starting on the haunting song “Even Deeper,” Reznor confessed that he wrote the track when he was in a dark place, but music kept him going.
“Let’s all get depressed and hear this song,” Reznor said.
The end of the set was a full lineup of Nine Inch Nails hits, including “Head Like A Hole.” The band brought such energy to each song that every track felt like it had the grandiosity fit for the finale.
The mournful ballad “Hurt” finally brought the set to a close as the raw drum beat reached all the way to the other end of the field and Reznor slowly backed away from the microphone.
Haim Delivers Show for Range of Festival-Goers
The largest crowd of the day shuffled toward the green stage as a voice came through the speakers and called out to each of the three sisters of the band Haim, asking if they were ready for the show. Stopping in Boston off of the world tour of their album Women in Music Pt. III, the Haim sisters assembled onstage as the heavy bass line of “Now I’m In It” reverberated through the crowd.
Performing for a wide range of festival goers—many decked out in their Nine Inch Nails shirts—the Haim sisters commanded the crowd with their expressive movements as they took advantage of the natural dynamics among the trio.
In the band’s opening number, Alana Haim ran across the stage to energize the crowd. The sisters took their places behind drum sets as they seamlessly handed off the beat to each other. For a group that represents the opposite end of the rock spectrum from Nine Inch Nails’ metal territory, Haim captivated the Boston Calling crowd.
But the group temporarily lost the attention of the crowd when the ringtone of Este Haim’s phone rang out through the crowd and the sisters dove into a skit that introduced their track “3 AM.”
Recovering from the failed theatrics, Haim played its hit “My Song 5,” and the large screen behind the trio pulsed with a red hue. At one point, Alana Haim addressed the field of festival-goers and praised Boston crowds for reliably bringing high energy to the band’s shows.
“You go harder than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Alana Haim said. “So Boston Calling, don’t let me down.”
The large screens framing the stage played in the group’s favor as the cameras captured each of the Haim sisters’ focused faces and Danielle impressively ran between her guitar at the front of the stage and the drumset.
The sisters closed their set on the informal first weekend of the summer with their song “Summer Girl.” As an orange sun glowed on the large screen, Haim’s jazzy tune laden with saxophone swings left the crowd with an easygoing vibe to carry them into the night.
The Backseat Lovers Assert Strong Stage Presence
Opening with a marching beat that built tension and anticipation among the audience, The Backseat Lovers made their entrance at 2022 Boston Calling. Sets of white lights strobed while lead singer Joshua Harmon set up his electric guitar.
After several minutes of buildup, Harmon mumbled into the microphone the first lines of “Just a Boy,” nearly unintelligible due to the quiet, gentle vocals.
A sketched image depicting a charcoal figure running in front of a grainy background consumed the back wall of the stage. Live close-up footage of The Backseat Lovers filled the stage’s two side screens. Guitarists Harmon and Jonas Swanson and bassist KJ Ward all sported long, flowing hairstyles, adding to the indie image that defines the band.
Harmon sported a wide grin while introducing the band before immediately launching into “Pool House.” Harmon showcased his quiet and mellow voice throughout his interactions with the audience during the set.
The band members often increased their volume gradually and employed catchy staccato rhythms in their music. Drummer Juice Welch shined through the entire set, dictating the tone of each song with a dominant percussive presence.
The band’s most popular track, “Kilby Girl,” aroused loud cheering from fans who sang along throughout the song. The Backseat Lovers seemingly played this crowd favorite with ease as the performers jumped along with the crowd.
Many attendees arrived halfway through the set, presumably from other festival acts, to see The Backseat Lovers serenade their fans with a defined indie-rock tone.