By Shawn McFarland
Since its birth in 2013, the Boston Calling Music Festival called Boston City Hall Plaza its home. For three years, the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Beck, Childish Gambino and a host of other top-tier names flooded Government Center.
But come this spring, New England’s premier music festival will break in a new venue. Held May 26-28, this year’s edition of Boston Calling will be held at Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston.
“We knew we wanted to get bigger… artists, more stages, and we were fully maxed out at our old home. There’s certain things that when you want to book larger artists that they need to reach more people when they book this show in their market.” Couture said.“The new location is not only larger, but it offers a new experience for concert-goers.” Boston Calling’s Marketing Director Lindsey Couture explained.
Couture added that the grassy fields are a new feature for the festival, something many of its contemporaries have. In addition to that, renowned festival designer Russ Bennett was picked as the lead designer for this year’s festival to break in the new location.
“We’ve never really had the space to explore visually what we’re going to do this year,” Couture said. “We have the ability to take on a partnership with Russ Bennett. He is hopefully going to bring the look and the feel of this festival to a greater height than we’ve ever been at before. He’ll really make it a culture in itself that if you’re not listening to the music, there’s still so much to explore and take in.”
Boston Calling is unique in the sense that it’s in an urban location – and the festival takes advantage of that. It offers the ability to come in and out of the festival ground as the attendee pleases, allowing them to explore Harvard Square, and the surrounding area.
Be it the local culture, scenery or even food, Boston Calling allows its concert-goers to have more than just a musical experience.
“You don’t have to eat at our vendors, we’re not trying to take every penny you have,” Couture said. “We encourage you to go and stimulate the local businesses in the new area. We encourage you to take in the area around us, which you kind of can’t do with a camping or rural setting.”
This year’s festival features a comedy lineup as well, hosted by Hannibal Buress. The lineup will feature Pete Holmes, Sig Nataro and others. Like the musical lineup, the comedians will be broken up across three days of the festival.
As Couture said, the new location allowed the curation team to lure larger artists, including Chance the Rapper, Solange, Mumford & Sons, Cage the Elephant and other stars. But past the top-tier talent, Boston Calling’s “undercards” attract will draw fans as well.
“I feel like our undercards are pretty recognizable this year,” Couture said. “But there are a lot of people that say they come to our festival to discover new music. Their favorite part is getting there when the gates open and checking out the earlier acts on the day.”
Unlike most festivals which tend to draft a host of artists of similar genres, Boston Calling casts a wide net. Rap and hip-hop junkies will be kept busy with the likes of Danny Brown and Run the Jewels, while rock fans will find interest in Weezer and Tool.
“Our general goal when booking the festival is we’re trying to appeal to masses,” Couture said. “We try to hit a lot of the genres of music, and I think with this genre especially, we do a pretty good job of that. The big thing is reaching multiple age groups, which I think we do pretty well.” This gives music fans of all styles a reason to come to Allston in late-May.
The three-day festival is staggered well in the fact there really isn’t one day that supersedes another in importance. May 26, the opening day, features Chance the Rapper, Bon Iver and 11 other artists. The next day Mumford and Sons and The 1975, while the festival culminates on day three with headliners Tool, Major Lazer, Weezer and Cage the Elephant. The full lineup can be found at bostoncalling.com.
“We try to make it so that there’s not really one day that people are okay with missing,” Couture said.
Springfield sophomore Gage Nutter is attending the festival, and has his tickets already purchased. He’s excited for the broad range of music that he’ll get to experience.
“I’m most excited for Mac Demarco,” Nutter said, “I’m excited to be introduced to new musicians that I have never heard before. I’m eager to add some of the new stuff to my Spotify playlist.”
The process of curating a lineup can be difficult. For many artists, its pending on availability and if they’ll be on tour. This requires schedules to be made nearly a year before the next festival – and a lot can happen in 365 days. In some cases, artists fizzle out or lose popularity. But on the other end, some artists can gain traction, release an album, or even pick up some hardware as Chance the Rapper did at this year’s GRAMMY’s.
Landing a big star is crucial to the festival’s success, but highlighting up-and-coming artists has rewards of its own, as Couture said.
“We do like to look at is as, we’re lucky to have them, as well as they’re probably super pumped to be playing Boston Calling,” Couture said. “We feel that every artist on our lineup is creating a great product and it’s something that we want to share to our audience. Even the littler built brands help build our audience.”
Whether its big name stars, up-and-coming musicians, film, food or culture, Boston Calling has it. Single and three-day tickets can be purchased at bostoncalling.com