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Sunday at Boston Calling: Black Beach Shreds the Locals Only Stage

If Lords of Dogtown is about a group of derelict skaters tearing up their suburban California stomping grounds, Black Beach were the veritable Lords of Boston Calling on Sunday, tearing up the small Verizon Stage on the outskirts of the festival. The stage, meant to showcase locals, felt more like an afterthought by the festival organizers. To add insult to injury, Verizon sponsored the stage, earning it the nickname “scab stage” by several disgruntled attendees in light of recent protests regarding the company’s outsourcing of labor.

Festival-goers milled around mirthlessly on the chilly Sunday afternoon. Even those who adorned themselves with flower crowns and other lame signifiers of festival culture seemed unenthused to be there. Despite the overall sense of under-attendance, the Verizon Stage drew a pretty steady crowd throughout the day—most likely because it was the only place where you could get away from the embarrassing performances on the main stages without getting arrested for leaving City Hall with a beer in hand.

Massachusetts trio Black Beach, whose music falls somewhere between punk and being too punk to actually call themselves punk—for all intents and purposes, let’s call them a fuzzy rock band—provided relief from some of the other more disappointing acts of the night. Noticeable cringe-highlights included HAIM asking a disinterested crowd to chant along with the chorus to one song. The Front Bottoms, an underwhelming rock band from Jersey, were surprisingly mediocre. One would think that due to the scale of Boston Calling, they’d be able to book bands that were tighter than a band used to playing in dingy Allston basements, but then one would be massively incorrect.

Black Beach just put out their self-released LP Shallow Creatures, recorded in just one eight-hour session with Converse Rubber Tracks. They started off their sludgy set on Sunday in front of an impressive stack of amps with “Self-Portrait”, the opener of the album, before diving headfirst into the fast and frenetic titular track “Shallow Creatures”. After speeding their way through their ear-splitting set, the band realized they had just shy of 15 minutes left to perform and closed everything out with “Youth is Out There”, one of their longer songs that boasts heady guitar riffs, delicious fuzz, and some truly psychedelic lulls. Overall, you could safely characterize Black Beach through their impressive guitar work, strong and pulsing bass lines, and some of the most energetic drumming you’ve seen, all topped off with raw, edgy vocals.

We were lucky enough to speak briefly with vocalist and guitarist Steven Instasi following Black Beach’s set.

How was playing on the Verizon Stage while another performance was happening on a main stage?
I couldn’t hear the other stage, actually. But it was annoying that they double-booked the local bands.                 

What were the logistics of playing such a large festival like?
Oh, Jesus. It took an hour to even get close to City Hall. Then it took about 20 minutes to find the entrance to get into City Hall. And then, once I was driving in City Hall, I got stopped about every 20 feet because everyone thought I was driving with a bomb. We did have really cute German Shepherds sniff our gear for bombs. I could talk about dogs all day.

Did you guys do any other interviews for the festival?
What were the worst questions they asked you? Uh. Yeah. We did two others and they didn’t really ask any bad questions, but they gave us a bunch of free beer so none of the interviews went over very well.

What Boston artists were you most excited to see?
Lady Pills, but they played the day before us. On Sunday, Michael Christmas. He’s a great performer, he almost made me cry.

What were some of your other favorite performances?
Vince Staples rules because he got a “Fuck the Police” chant going. Charles Bradley had the best set of the day, and he covered [Black] Sabbath. Elle King has that one catchy song.

Would you play Boston Calling again next year if they asked you to?
[Long sigh]. Maybe. I don’t know. Probably, yeah.

Way to not sell out, boys.

Photos By Madison McConkey


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