Campus Life the first year

Escape the dome: pset stalling and Boston Calling

A much-needed musical awakening

There are times when I can forgive myself for unleashing my inner music fangirl. Even rarer are the occasions when I can allow myself to release her in public. During Boston Calling, two days before my first hell week, was one such occasion. In that period of pre-hell week, I saw armies of deadlines and tests march toward my slapdash barricade — namely, the weekend — but it was too early for a call to action. All I could do was sit quietly in a corner and hope that if I ate enough chocolate, I would survive the trials to come.

During this recent pre-hell week, I had taken my first real exam of the year — I’m looking at you, 8.01 — and I wasn’t surprised to find that I had received the lowest test score ever earned in my life. Though the free merchandise at career fair provided some consolation the day after, I was silently dreading the week to come — my schedule was dotted with more tests and more pset due dates. It got to the point where opening Google Calendar became a near-death experience; my life flashed before my eyes in neatly scheduled boxes.

Now, enter inner fangirl, stage left. Yes, I had a hell week to look forward to, but before then, I had a ticket to Boston Calling. I’d never been to a music concert before, and Boston Calling would be my first. I could still swat at all-encompassing despair with a rolled-up copy of the festival lineup.

By chance, I had discovered that my friend Jake and I were going on the same day. We’d met in Concourse and bonded over our shared love of patterned pants and memorable career fair experiences (we were vultures, scavenging for free things). We agreed to meet before the festival, and we looked a pair of certified hipsters as we stepped into City Hall plaza.

Passing through the gates was like entering some paradise of perfect weather and well-dressed indie enthusiasts. Not one minute after we’d arrived, we were assailed with free sunglasses, Kind bars, and cough drops. As we bounced between the two stages in a happy daze, I could almost forget the work I had yet to do. However, like an itch I couldn’t reach, I thought about my 5.111 test as I discovered the magic of live music; I mulled over my 18.01A pset as I bobbed along to the beat.

Fast forward to nightfall. Before I even knew what had happened, the square suddenly flooded with people. Lights threaded through the darkness; artists I could actually recognize began to dominate the stages. At that point, Jake and I came to the unfortunate conclusion that we should fight our way to the front of Alt-J’s performance. We plunged into the crowd, and before we could realize our mistake, it was too late. We were swallowed.

We experienced firsthand what is meant by a “crush” of people. It was chaos. I barely had space to breathe and no room to think about work. My main priority was survival. Halfway to the stage, the stream of people trying to escape and the stream of people going deeper into the audience were using the same travel routes. A human clog ensued. At one point, people were so packed on all sides that I could not move.

“At least it’s warm now,” someone quipped by my ear.

By the time we turned back and escaped, the music had started. From the back of the crowd, we had a full view of the stage and the mass of people. In the darkness, dizzy with Alt-J’s swirling melodies, the taste of air, and the freedom to move my limbs, I felt for the first time that night that I could lose myself in the best way possible. The huge crowd made me feel anonymous — I melted away into the collective buzz of excitement, into the synchronized swivel of chilled bodies rocking back and forth to the bass.

Looking around, I felt elated. I realized that every single person at that festival had their own issues; every single person juggled with their own demons. Yet, the night was charged with happy whoops as we stomped our emotional baggage into the ground. We had problems, yes, but in the moment, all we had was love for music and awkward dance moves.

From my reference frame, I am the center of my universe. My problems are oh-so-difficult, and my life is oh-so-hard. It took an inner fan girl and a music festival to remind me there is more to life than psets — more to the world than the bubble MIT provides. I may have tests, but I also have music and family and friends and free food. That weekend, Boston called, and it told me to enjoy life.

Chloe Yang is a member of the Class of 2019.