Boston Calling VII: The Festival in Review

For those unaware, blue and red are mainstage and green is the new comedy/local act stage.

This past weekend was Boston Calling VII; for those unaware, it’s the newest, greatest summer music festival in New England. Since 2013 this diverse event has taken up residence in City Hall Plaza in Boston during Memorial Day Weekend and then again on a varying weekend in September.With a music lineup curated by Aaron Dessner of the National, there is rarely an act who disappoints. Beyond the performances at the festival, there’s always a variety of sponsors touting games, raffles,and free swag. And who could forget the amazing food and drink vendors they bring in. Regular offerings include Arancini Bros from Brooklyn, NY (love you guys!), Tasty Burger, Sam Adams, and Wicked Wines; there’s also a rotating roster of excellent local and national vendors including Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, Bon Me, Chicken and Rice Guys, and Wagamama. You will NOT go hungry at this festival.  And planet/animal conscious fans, don’t worry. There are always vegetarian and vegan offerings!

I had already stuffed my face with the buccatini fritti arancino before I could snap a photo. Look at these delicious balls of joy.

If you’re willing to splurge for VIP 3-day passes (my mom and I did for the second time), you’ll be in for some excellent perks. This year’s meals were catered by Citizen’s Public House (a more upscale offering from the folks who brought you Tasty Burger) There were both meat and vegetarian options at each meal, and one meal was more delicious than the next. I enjoyed avocado cucumber sushi, panko breaded mac and cheese, barbecue pork belly, and a mini meatball sub. They also had three kinds of cupcakes! Other offerings up there included free sodas and seltzers from festival sponsor Polar (a local company whom I’ve been in a love affair with for YEARS), samples of some savory KIND bars, Terra chips from Jet Blue, and Dunkin Donuts coffee. This is a far cry from the first time I bought VIP tickets and all we got were some chips and salsa catered by Hard Rock Cafe. Other VIP perks include a nice shaded area within City Hall Plaza, a platform between the two stages for a better view (this is also for ADA access!),chairs and couches, a bar for VIPS only (cash bar, but still) and private port-a-potties. If you can get these tickets at early bird prices, it’s easily worth the extra splurge, especially if the bands are lackluster or the weather is bad. I don’t know how these perks will vary or improve at the new venue (more on that shortly), but I hope it remains comparable.

This May’s affair is flipping the script by being the last Boston Calling held in City Hall Plaza, and the first to not be followed up by a September event. The BC team will be focusing their energy on planning next year’s festival at the Harvard Athletic Quad in Allston rather than coming back in September as expected. This is part of a plan to expand the festival to include more comedic offerings as well as a film festival component curated by Natalie Portman (WHAT?!) and art installations. As a four-time attendee of the event, and someone who greatly looked forward to being able to attend another September festival now that I am permanently home from college, this cancellation has been a huge blow. I’m sure that next May will not disappoint, but I can’t help but that the attempts to expand and further diversify the event will diminish what made it so special in the first place. While it will still be taking place in the city, it won’t be in the heart of things. It won’t be all about the music and the experience. I know plenty of people will think I’m just being salty, but I don’t see the appeal of comedians and films at a MUSIC festival. For me, it’s a weekend that’s all about music, food, and fun. I don’t know that the expansion will lend itself to that.

My classy festival style from Saturday

Now on to the actual event review. This year’s festival was…of a very mixed quality.
Friday night was easily the best lineup of the three days. Lisa Hannigan and Aaron Dessner started out the fest with some mellow rocking vibes, the perfect tunes for dinner time. Sufjan Stevens brought what could only be described as a psychedelic art-rock performance (and wacky wavy inflatable arm flailing tube men). I had not listened to Stevens before I saw him, but it did nothing to dampen his contagious energy and electric performance. He was followed up by vocal powerhouse Sia and her outstanding crew of dancers. I know my mom wasn’t as enamored with this performance as I was, but I walked into it knowing the dancers would be doing the real crowd engagement for Sia; if you’re unfamiliar, she obscures her face, typically with a large wig or costume piece, and more or less stands there and sings for her whole set. It may not be your cup of tea, but I enjoyed it. The crowd definitely ate it up too!

Day two was easily the weakest of the three lineups, in my opinion. Maybe it was the heat draining the energy from both the crowd and the performers, but I have never felt less hyped up at a show before. The bands (for the most part) barely engaged with the crowd. It’s one thing if you know a band well and they don’t say anything for their whole set, but if it’s a festival where you might know half of the bands, it’s boring when they don’t even say,”hey” (I’m looking at you, Miike Snow. You guys sucked). Headliner Robyn put on a bizzare, experimental performance that I didn’t bother staying for the entirety of. From what I’ve heard, neither did she; she left the stage twenty minutes early even after the crowd clamored for an encore. I don’t know what she was expecting as the headliner of a music festival on the hottest day of the year thus far; you can’t come up on stage and try something completely out of left field and expect the crowd to know how to engage with it. Some highlights of the day were the Vaccines, BORNS, and Odezsa. Honestly, I think they should have made Odezsa the Saturday headliner since they were much more engaging and overall fun.

Day three was INCREDIBLE. Despite the cold weather, the acts were red hot. Even artists like Vince Staples, whom I would probably never listen to on my own, were highly fun to watch. Some of my personal favorites of the day were the Front Bottoms, Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, Janelle Monae, Haim, and Elle King. That’s most of the main stage lineup, if you’re keeping track. And that’s both wonderful and sucky; the beginning and end of the festival were excellent, but the middle was pretty lackluster. Maybe this is just because I didn’t know many of the artists on Saturday, or maybe it’s a general mistake in the creation of the lineup. I have faith that Aaron Dessner will do better next May; he has a pretty excellent track record for putting together good festivals.

I’m looking forward to next year, and I hope I run into some of you there!

All my love,
Katherine Wheel.


Riot Games at PAX East: A Riftwalk review

Let me preface this by saying I am the n00biest n00b to ever play League of Legends. I’ve been trying not to get into it for years, partly because people I greatly dislike play the game, and partly out of laziness. I have a bit of an addictive personality, so once I find a game I enjoy I will play that game incessantly. I can tell right now that League is going to be no exception. If you care to add me, my summoner name is KatMaestrale. Once I get a better handle on things, lets play together! I currently main as Lux.

This weekend I attended PAX East, and one of the first things that caught my eye was the League of Legends Riftwalk. The line was enormous, even before 10 am on the first day of the convention, so naturally I had to see what it was for myself. On Saturday morning, I got in line as soon as the horror in media panel with Chris Straub was over and made a beeline for the Riot Games section of the convention center. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in for a two hour wait for the experience. Luckily, Riot Games planned ahead and created the Minimap app, an app that allowed you to complete a “quest” while in line for a chance to win some swag, as well something to sync with the wristband needed to experience the Riftwalk. I did not end up winning any swag from the app, but I did make a few new friends to play League with, and I met some wonderful people in line. If there’s one impression this left on me this weekend, it’s that gamers can often be some of the nicest people out there. I think we as a culture get too hung up on trolls and forget there’s dozens of really kind and cool people out there.

After my two hour wait, I finally got into the Riftwalk. It was a beautiful and atmospheric interactive art exhibit showcasing the growth of LoL over the years, including some really cool artwork you could “take home” with the aid of your wristband. There were also a few photo ops which were super cool and really fun to do. It explains why the wait for Riftwalk is so long as well. For the first photo, you had the chance to choose between a few different weapons. I chose Fishbones and held that heavy son-of-a-gun with pride. Unfortunately for me, this picture, the one I wanted the most, didn’t show up on my Minimap app, nor in my email as promised. Naturally, I took to the twittersphere to complain, and I was greeted warmly by Rioter Janelle Jiminez. She pointed me in the direction of the Riot info desk, who graciously allowed me to have a second shot at getting my coveted picture without having to wait in another 2 hour line. Unfortunately, the pictures STILL didn’t make it my way, but I did get another chance to walk around the Riftwalk. It was a different experience since the giant Thresh puppet wasn’t there at the time I was readmitted, but still a really good time. I felt really lucky to get to have another go at the fun photo ops.  Thank you again to the Rioters for being so accommodating and pleasant.

And for those of you Pinny Arcade collectors out there, I got an exclusive Teemo pin for my troubles. It’s adorable, and easily my favorite pin because I earned it, goddamn it! And now, for your nerdy pleasure, here are some pictures of my journey through the Riftwalk!

Thresh came for my soul that day.

All my love,

Katherine Wheel

Updates and the like

Sorry for my blogging hiatus; it was unexpected and entirely unpleasant, and that’s all I care to share about it.Good things seem to be on the horizon though! I’m finally getting trained to work the service desk at my job, which I’m told will be less stressful than supervising checkout. I’m a little worried because I am terrible at dealing with high stress customers, but I’m hoping that with a few days of training I’ll be good to go. I just need to learn how to do Moneygram and lottery sales, which is not anything overly strenuous. And I’m being trained by this really sweet old lady who works the desk every morning and is an expert at it, so bonus!

But I’ve gotta tell you, being an adult is really exhausting. I’ve decided to stop being a lazy fuck and actually come in early when I’m needed. It’s not like when I was just a regular cashier and they could call any number of kids anymore; I keep the front end operational when a manager can’t be there. Even if I feel overworked sometimes, the bottom line is I’m not typically working more than 25 hours a week. That’s chump change compared to what my brother works, and what any full-timer works. My shifts aren’t even usually longer than six and a half hours, which is pretty fair. It’s six and a half hours of running across the checkout, helping my cashiers with difficult customers and day to day mishaps. As irritating as it can be, and as sore as my feet are after a shift, I’m glad I work where I do. I figure now that I’m getting experience as a higher-up, I have more opportunities for better jobs further along the line. All I know is that I’m glad this is my stepping stone job and not some hellhole like Market Basket.

In other life updates, I’m planning on being a defiant child and finally getting my first tattoo.  The plan is to get the words, “In Venere Veritas”in a very clean, classic font on my left forearm, right below my elbow crease. If I can handle getting something that small, I’m planning on getting a few more tattoos that are more visually intricate. I’d need to collaborate with a really skilled artist for that though, and that will be EXPENSIVE. I hate thinking about money, and how in a few months when I don’t return to grad school I’m going to have to pay my student loans. I would prefer to do ANYTHING but pay my student loan right now. I can barely maintain living at my parents house with the money I currently make; I can’t imagine giving Uncle Sam a couple hundred dollars a month on top of that.
Does anyone else look at their bank statements and weep?

All my love,
Katherine Wheel

REVIEW:Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Today I’m going to debut a new segment to the blog: reviews! I’m going to be tagging these posts as “Kat Thoughts” for your convenience (and so you can skip them if you’re not into reviews). Be forewarned that there will be some spoilers below the cut. -KW

Continue reading “REVIEW:Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

The art of the mix CD

Not to brag, but I am an expert at crafting mixes for my friends and loved ones. If you ask me to make you a playlist or burn you a CD, I will dedicate an entire afternoon to painstakingly selecting the tracks and assigning them an order. If I’m burning a CD, I also make sure to decorate the jewel case with a track listing and sometimes even album art if I have lots of time on my hands.

If that sounds excessive to you, you have a few things to learn about making mixes. Let me fill you in on my tried and true technique to make a playlist your friend will love!

The first thing to consider when you’re making a mix for someone is their taste in music. It might be tempting to put together a mix with all of your favorite songs on it, but it’s a bit of a waste if you’re more into indie folk music and your friend prefers synth pop. To be safe, I usually ask my friends what vibe they have in mind for the playlist. For example, I introduced my boyfriend to the Cure and Depeche Mode, and he was looking for a mix with more of their style music. So what did I start the playlist off with? Depeche Mode and the Cure (duh).

Once you have a solid foundation for the playlist, it’s time to branch out into things you think your friend will also enjoy. This is usually the part where I swim in a sea of panic. What if you pick that one song they associate with their sleazy ex, Brad? What if your choice is just entirely off base? I waste a lot of time worrying about these things when I’m picking out tracks. But at the end of the day, it’s just a collection of songs you put together for someone you care about. Even if it isn’t 100 percent what they had in mind, it’s something you’ve crafted with love and dedication. If they don’t appreciate it, take your mad mix-making skills elsewhere!

Here comes the most important part: ordering the tracks! I don’t think there’s really a wrong way to go about this, but I have a few tips for making the playlist flow as smoothly as possible. I like to sandwich the songs I know my friend will like around the ones I’m taking a guess on. From there, I try and fit my selections after songs that have similar lyrical content or sounds. For instance, let’s say I had put “Leave a Trace” by CHVRCHES as my first track. I would follow that up with something else with a wintry synth sound, maybe “Love My Way” by the Psychedelic Furs or “Not In Love” by Crystal Castles. Again, this is just my way of going about things, and I don’t know if it really makes sense written out.
At any rate, now you have all my tips, tricks, and suggestions for crafting a playlist your friends and loved ones are guaranteed to enjoy! I have a 100 percent success rate after all ;).

As an added treat, here’s a playlist of some of my favorite tracks. Enjoy!

All my love,

Katherine Wheel

Bumbling through body image

ATTENTION READERS: This post includes references to disordered eating (binge and starvation). Continue at your discretion- KW.

I still remember the first time I looked at myself, pinched my belly, and proclaimed, “I want to get rid of my fat”. How I came to this conclusion, I’m not quite sure. Maybe it’s because I don’t remember a time when my stomach was completely flat, or maybe it’s because I knew women were supposed to be unhappy with their bodies. But the bottom line was, I felt fat. I was six years old.

A photograph of me around that time.

“It’s just baby fat, honey. It will go away when you get older,” said the YMCA staffer I had shared my discovery with. Her heart was in the right place, but it didn’t get to the heart of the problem: I was afraid of being “fat”. At an age where everyone was telling me I had infinite potential and could be anything I set my mind upon, the strongest message I got was that I never, ever wanted to be fat. I hated the way my thighs splayed out like pancakes when I sat on the edge of a pool, and the way my stomach rolled together like a torpedo roll. I wanted to be thinner and prettier and fit into that perfect package deal of a girl that I never could quite figure out.

Fast forward to my freshman year of high school. I was one of the unfortunate students who was scheduled for the last lunch period, meaning I was making it through almost three-fourths of the school day without having a chance to eat. I was voraciously hungry by the time lunch rolled around and I  hated the gnawing feeling in my gut. That’s when I started taking the time to have “breakfast”. I would drink a chocolate meal-replacement shake on my way to school so that I wouldn’t be dying of hunger during my math class. There were some not-so-nice side effects to the shake, namely intense nausea and cramping for roughly twenty minutes in the middle of the day, but once I powered through that I was no longer hungry. After a few weeks of this, I stopped buying lunch. My stomach shrank and soon I was unable to finish my dinner because I was so full. But that godforsaken chubby stomach didn’t go away. Add onto this the development of wider hips that comes with puberty and I felt huge. Even though I was barely bigger than a size seven in juniors, I felt massive. I purchased a pair of size eleven pants because they “fit”.

An elusive full-body shot of me at fourteen.

I didn’t realize anything was wrong until people started expressing concern. I felt fine; I wasn’t hungry, and I sure wasn’t a skeleton. I thought you had to look emaciated to others and gigantic in the mirror to experience disordered eating. Maybe it’s that way for some people, but my experience was far more insidious. Nothing seemed wrong on the surface unless you were there to watch me (not) eat. Truth be told, I probably would have kept it up indefinitely if not for my school chorus’ trip to Disney World. I needed to be well-nourished and hydrated to be out and about in the parks all day; the issue was that we were handed some money and told to spend it on our lunch each day.  Naturally, a fourteen year old at a theme park isn’t going to want to waste perfectly good money on food, especially if she doesn’t feel hungry. So I let myself get fatigued and irritable until finally I ran into my mom (a chaperone on the trip and a fellow Disney addict) and she got me a frozen chocolate dipped banana to eat. All it took was one banana and suddenly I realized how hungry I had really been for months. I was eating full meals again.

I had some issues with binging for a a few months after that trip, but there was not a tremendous amount of weight gain to go along with it so I don’t think anyone ever knew there was a problem. A package of twelve breakfast sandwiches would disappear in one sitting and as guilty as it made me feel, I didn’t stop. The food was warm and it left me feeling pleasantly full. I started to get things more under control after the initial shock to my body of actually eating had subsided. I substituted tea for excessive snacks because it gave me the same feeling without being an unhealthy choice. And that was more or less the end of my disordered eating.

Summer of my freshman year of college.


Fall of my senior year of college.

In college, I experienced a lot of weight fluctuation, but with it came a lot of acceptance about the body type that I was born with. I started out with terrible eating habits and a very inactive lifestyle and pushed myself towards more balanced meal choices and regular exercise. What happened surprised me: I started seeing how beautiful my body has always been. No matter how active or inactive I’ve been, I have had my soft, round tummy and my chunky cellulite thighs. I’ve also had a slender waist this whole time, and a really cute nose, thanks for noticing. Everyone’s body is different. Everyone’s version of healthy is different. I know these words don’t mean much coming from someone who has never been actively berated for her size, but I truly believe that all bodies are beautiful just as God made them. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

All my love,
Katherine Wheel

The writer is blocked.

Anyone who says writers have an easy job has clearly never tried to write something substantial or of quality. Writing is sitting in the same spot for three or four or five hours, only pausing for bathroom breaks. Writing is typing out sentence after sentence only to delete them all and start over again. Writing is a jousting match with that little voice in your head that says, “You’re terrible at this. Give up already!”. But don’t get me wrong, writing is 100 percent worth the struggle. On a good day with a clear mind, it’s the truest form of expression there is.

Full disclosure: when I decided to major in writing, I thought it would be easy. I was accepted to my dream school but not my dream major, so I had to settle on something else. Writing was the natural choice; I’ve been writing for as long as I could hold a pencil. Dreaming up new worlds and bringing them to life on the page was my favorite pastime. For this reason, I loved when we had opportunities to write fiction in English class throughout the years. I even took a creative writing course in high school where I explored poetry as a serious medium for the first time. With all of this in mind, I had never seriously committed myself to the craft. I was a stronger writer than many of my fellow classmates, so it never seemed necessary.

And then my first collegiate writer’s block came.  With assignments due every two to four weeks piling up, I was running out of ideas and running out of steam. Panic set in and it felt like I would never be able to get things done. I talked to anyone who would listen, searching for writing prompts, ideas to explore, and characters to play with. I delved into my craft, taking older ideas and reworking them using new techniques. I fought through those creative blockages because there was no other option. “I had writer’s block” isn’t going to get you an extension on a ten page story.

So why does writer’s block feel like such an insurmountable challenge now? It’s true that there are no serious consequences to me throwing in the towel and quitting this website before it’s really begun. I’m debating installing one of those writing apps that blocks all other programs on your computer as a way to force myself to focus. Barring that, I might just have to go back to basics and write things out by hand. I’ve always focused better that way. Regardless, I’m not giving up on this.

All my love,

Katherine Wheel