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Jack Johnson Mellows Out Boston Calling [Recap + Photos]

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Johnson, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Cass McCombs kicked off Boston’s music fest.

With the temperatures very cold for a Memorial Day Weekend (the high on Friday was 56, but by evening it was in the low 40s), Jack Johnson took the stage and had this to say to the people of Boston: "So this is how you guys do Summer here? I actually had to put shoes on!"

The chilly temperatures couldn't bring down the spirits of everyone gathered at City Hall Plaza for the start of the Boston Calling Music Festival. Cass McCombs, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Johnson kicked off the festival (now in its second year) on Friday evening, and despite the cool conditions, each group was able to warm things up.

After the initial light-hearted dig, Johnson played through nearly an hour and a half of songs that had everyone singing along. He played plenty of old material off of 2001's Brushfire Fairytales like "Flake," "Inaudible Melodies," "Bubble Toes" and "Mud Football." He played "Taylor" off of 2003's On and On. He played plenty of songs off of the hugely popular In Between Dreams as well as songs from his other albums Sleep Through the Static, To The Sea and his latest From Here To Now To You.

Johnson's carefree style made it easy to forget that we could all see our breath in late May, and he and his band were plenty engaging with the crowd. Before he sang the song "Do You Remember," he pointed out that the song is less of a love song than a "stalker song" and shouldn't really be emulated. "Really, don't lock your bike to another girl's bike." But, it worked out for him, because he ended up marrying this girl, and he adjusted the lyrics of the song to note just how long they have been together: 20 years, 247 days. While it didn't exactly fit rhythmically, it definitely tugged on all of our heartstrings, and all of the couples in the crowd got real close while he serenaded us.

Jack Johnson at Boston Calling

The best part of his set came last, when Johnson invited the entire ensemble of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros out to the stage. The super group played two songs together, including a fantastic cover of "Rocky Raccoon" by The Beatles. Even with his collection of mellow tunes, Johnson kept the energy high with all of his well-known songs and his contagious positivity.

Before him, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros got the crowd plenty worked up. Frontman Alex Ebert was one of the most entertaining performers I've ever seen. I had heard that he liked to get up close and personal with the crowd at his shows, but I wondered how he planned on doing that with the large space between the stage and the audience. He didn't waste any time though, marching off the stage during the first song ("40 Day Dream"). He hopped down and let one over-excited girl sing the chorus. It didn't matter that she was incredibly off-key, she gave all of us (and Ebert) great joy just by belting it out.

The very next song, Ebert looked down at the photographers snapping pictures of him and asked us how we were doing. He asked if we wanted to put the cameras down and started dancing. Before we knew it, he was right in the middle of the pit dosey doe-ing with some of the photographers. If there weren't a wall of people in front of me, I would have done exactly the same thing.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Boston Calling

During his final song, he hopped down and let someone from the crowd tell a quick story. A young man passionately told everyone about how he discovered music and how important it is to him. Ebert and the rest of the crowd gave him a round of applause, and then they wrapped up the set. It was an amazingly collaborative experience. I've never felt as much a part of a show as I did during Edward Sharpe's set.

And last but not least, Cass McCombs opened up the show with a set that just got down to business. McCombs wasn't big on talking to the crowd, and he just powered through his raw fun set. There really isn't a way to describe McCombs set that does it justice. The guy is a musical vagabond that sings about the human experience with zest and zeal. It definitely engages the listener, and he was an excellent choice to open up the show.

Boston Calling Announces September Lineup

Other notes and observations from Friday at Boston Calling:

  • Like I said, it was very cold in Boston on Friday. It felt like it was in the 30s, and not many of us were prepared for such temperatures. Some came with blankets, winter jackets, skull hats and gloves though, and they were certainly better for it.

Boston Calling Music Festival

  • The atmosphere was very warm and inviting around Boston City Hall Plaza. The food options were plentiful, including Tasty Burger, a Chipotle Tent and even a TGI Fridays Truck.
  • The VIP area gave people a nice birds' eye view of the grounds and both stages, if they could get a nice perch along the railing.
  • I hadn't seen the popular summer game cornhole at any other festival, but there was a cornhole booth sponsored by jewelry company Alex and Ani. There were always people playing whenever I walked by, so it seemed like a pretty big hit.
Check back here for more photos and thoughts from Boston Calling, including overall thoughts and our favorite photos later this week. Tickets for the September Edition of Boston Calling go on sale tomorrow morning, May 28, at 10 am EST. Head to www.bostoncalling.com for more information.

Want great tickets but hate paying fees? Check CHARGED.fm to find tickets for less and NO FEES!

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