The hot weather and sun we’d had on the first two days felt like a distant memory by Sunday afternoon. The temperature dropped 20 degrees overnight, and the cold wind made the light rain feel a million times worse than it was. The weather inspired me to check out The Arena stage, held in a hockey center, the only part of the festival that was indoors.
The event vaguely titled Natalie Portman and Friends was first. The fact there was no information about what this was on the schedule meant that a whole lot of people showed up to a huge hockey arena, waited 20 minutes for Natalie Portman to show up, and then walked out when they realised it was her reading poetry over female-directed, silent short films.
The idea of this is great but it didn’t work in practice because of the large space, tiny screen, and poor sound system. Her voice was barely audible in the back of the arena, and was overshadowed by Boston accents expressing their disdain and doors opening and closing. I could even hear someone opening their drink a few rows away from me.
Zola Jesus came on stage next, and played haunting music over the next film. While I appreciated the films and her music, and Natalie Portman reading poetry over the first film, the whole event could have been better organized. We didn’t see Portman again, and Zola Jesus walked off stage immediately after the film had ended.
I made a regrettable decision to leave The Arena, and when I tried to re-enter I spent 25 minutes in line, in the rain, while they told all of us it was full. Imagine my surprise when I walked in and saw free seats and more than enough room to stand at the back at the end of comedian Cameron Esposito’s comedy set. She suggested that Lyft offer therapy sessions for their drivers to make extra money, and told a story about a party planning committee she had been on. She had suggested that they set up a Whack a Mole game, but someone else on the committee told her she was pronouncing “guacamole” wrong.
David Cross, aka Tobias Funke from Arrested Development, was up next and spent his set telling new Dad jokes (his daughter is about 52 weeks old), making fun of people from Santa Monica, and making it clear that he hates Trump. I was surprised to find out that he is married to Amber Tamblyn, a major player in the Times Up movement, an irony he acknowledged in his set.
I made the executive decision to leave the festival to buy some warmer clothes, and when I got back in it was like all the worst people had decided to show themselves to see Khalid, followed by headliner Eminem. It was all happening, people yelling about their cigarettes being taken off them as they walked in, one woman screaming at someone on the phone for not knowing how to find her, and another crying hysterically to her friend. I am incredibly privileged to have been granted access to a media tent, where I could still hear and see Eminem’s set on a comfortable couch, out of the rain.
The rain and cold did not deter others though, and the area in front of the Green stage was just as full as it had been before he started when I ventured out at the end of the show. The setlist contained hits from every stage of his career including – ”the ones from the times we used to get fucked up!” – “My Name Is”, “The Real Slim Shady” and “Without Me” which took me right back to high school and made my 15 year old self scream.
Skylar Grey provided vocals for “Stan”, “Walk on Water” and “Love the Way You Lie”, and all of them sounded just as good as the originals with Dido, Beyonce, and Rihanna,respectively.
Speaking of women associated with Eminem, rapper Nicki Minaj recently spread rumours that she was dating him, and he took it even further by saying, “Baby I’ll be home tonight, we gonna figure this shit out,” and had everyone in the crowd yell if they wanted him to try to date her. When the crowd gave the question a resounding “Yes”, he followed it with, “Yeah I want to date her too…” suggesting the rumorus she’s spread are just that. It’s up to Minaj to confirm or deny now, so please, Nicki, tell us what’s good.
I made my way out into the crowd as “Lose Yourself” started, taking the part about only having one shot or one opportunity very seriously as I dodged groups of drunk people who’d clearly been preparing for this moment for years. I passed women in their 50s, dads and their kids battling it out during the verses, and groups of guys yelling the words in each other’s faces.
Rap is not usually my soundtrack of choice, but I have to hand it to Eminem. Those around me praised his sound, pointing out he sounded exactly the way he does on record despite him saying he was losing his voice, and getting every single person there to scream, “SUCCESS IS MY ONLY MOTHERFUCKING OPTION, FAILURE’S NOT!” at the same time was quite an achievement.
The screens on either side of the stage showed close ups of him rapping as he moved around, while the middle screen behind the stage showed an image of a boxing ring.
As he finished the set and praised Boston for sticking it out in the bad weather, fireworks exploded above the stage, putting an end to the festival for another year.
The reviewer attended this event on May 27th.
Photo of Eminem: Jeremy Deputat for Boston Calling.