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A celebratory last blast brings Boston Calling to a close

Genesis Owusu performs at Boston Calling Sunday.Ben Stas for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

It doesn’t get much more Boston than peeing on the John Harvard statue.

At Boston Calling on Sunday evening, on the grounds of Harvard’s athletic complex, the Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser recalled a brief tale of band members once taking part in the bizarre Crimson ritual. True to its namesake, the last day of this year’s festival repped all of the Boston things, from sarcasm to loyalty, Sam to Dunks, provincialism to the Hub of the Universe.

Hamilton Leithauser (center) and the recently reunited Walkmen perform at Boston Calling.Ben Stas for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

The Linda Lindas, the punk grrrls from LA, were introduced by a fangirl named Michelle Wu, otherwise known as Boston’s mayor. The Red Bull concession stand replicated Harvard Square’s late, lamented Out of Town News kiosk. Artists from out of town worked the crowd with shout-outs to the Celtics and the Patriots, and Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff joked about the kind of Boston night out where “they punch you in the face.”


Bassist/vocalist Eloise Wong (left) and guitarist/vocalist Bela Salazar perform with the Linda Lindas. The Los Angeles band was introduced by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.Ben Stas for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

Above all, this year’s Boston Calling ended with a welcome vision of defiance and compassion, diversity and inclusivity. From the surgical festival rock of Queens of the Stone Age and the country chill of Maren Morris to the tenacity of top-billed Paramore (whose fearless leader, Hayley Williams, wore a T-shirt that read “Abort the Supreme Court”), the final-day lineup had, as usual, something for everybody.

Fans cheer for a set by Sorry Mom on the Orange Stage, where local artists were featured throughout the three-day festival.Ben Stas for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

That’s become par for the course at the athletic complex, where people-watching takes the form of trying to match the fans with the bands. New Jersey’s 070 Shake (“Guilty Conscience”) brought elaborate video production and a dark club vibe to her 4 p.m. set under a sweltering sun. A lotta dads seemed united for the reunited Walkmen, who were part of the New York City rock revival of the early 2000s. Frontman Leithauser, who went to Boston University, has a serrated voice that sliced through the din of the festival grounds.


Guitarist/vocalist Stu Mackenzie performs with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.Ben Stas for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

Later, as night fell over the festival’s iconic Ferris wheel, a technically audacious 90-minute set from Australia’s King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard had hardcore fans effusing over the band’s relentless leveling-up.

Boston-area musicians were typically well-represented. The day’s opening act, the funky pop band Juice, which formed at Boston College, implored the early arrivals to “Get vertical!” Hard-working soul-blues singer Ali McGuirk showcased a crisp band and her own songwriting talent. Also performing on the way-station Orange Stage, Martha’s Vineyard’s vibe-y Workman Song featured the potent vocals of Siren Mayhew. “That’s my wife, everyone,” beamed frontman Sean McMahon, jabbing a thumb in her direction.

Ali McGuirk performs at Boston Calling from the Orange Stage.Ben Stas for The Boston Globe/The Boston Globe

Newcomer Genesis Owusu, who has roots in both Ghana and Australia, made one of the more memorable entrances of the day, taking the stage stuffed into an oversized future-funk costume that looked like a black cloud. His new-wave-y song “Get Inspired” was a breakout track of last year, and he teased new music that seems designed for wider fame.

But the real star power belonged to Hayley Williams. Hours before her band emerged for their closing slot, 070 Shake told her audience that she was waiting for Hayley, too: “Just be with me real quick.”

Hayley Williams and Paramore perform the closing set at Boston Calling Sunday night.Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Paramore, which ended a long recording hiatus with its 2022 album “This Is Why,” has attracted a broad coalition of pop, rock, and R&B fans, both young and old(er). They took the stage to a voiceover that expressed Williams’s contradictions — “Stay home and also see the world.” “Distance and also closer than ever. “Acceptance and also rage.”


An hour and a half later, they wrapped this year’s Boston Calling with a fitting flurry — “Misery Business,” “Ain’t It Fun,” “Still Into You.” The finale, the title track to the band’s latest album, is a kick against the haters and the naysayers: “This is why I don’t leave the house.”

But the collective joy of the Boston Calling experience, smoothly humming along as its 12th edition came to its conclusion — these are the kind of things we’ll leave the house for.


At Harvard Athletic Complex, Sunday

James Sullivan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.