Ranked among the top 10 music festivals in the United States by Consequence of Sound, Boston Calling Music Festival has been serving up unique and diverse lineups to New England music fans since 2013. 2018 is the second annual Boston Calling to take place at the Harvard Athletic Complex, as opposed to its original location in the heart of Boston at City Hall Plaza. The new venue now features three stages and plenty of room for vendors and sponsors, giving it a more traditional music festival feel than before.
Boston Calling’s lineups (co-curated by The National’s Aaron Dessner) have impressed fans and critics since their start, and 2018 was no exception. With headline sets from The Killers, Jack White, and Eminem, everyone was excited for another year of top-notch performances from Friday, May 25th to Sunday, May 27th. That said, without further ado, here are the seven main reasons we’re heading back in 2019!
Check out PureGrainAudio’s official “Boston Calling 2018” Spotify playlist.
01. Lineup Quality
– Music is obviously the number one reason why anybody would choose to go to a music festival, and it is one of Boston Calling’s strongest attributes. Over the course of six years and nine festivals, BC has consistently delivered quality lineups that included highly anticipated headliners and incredible undercard acts. 2018 was no different, with The Killers, Jack White, and Eminem headlining. The real magic in Boston Calling’s lineup though is in the tiny font. Acts like Charly Bliss, Perfume Genius, and Leikeli47 stole the show and gave festival-goers a reason to show up early.
Boston Calling thrives not only on their ability to pick quality acts to perform, but also acquiring acts from all genres. From face-melting rock ‘n roll from Royal Blood, Manchester Orchestra, and Queens of the Stone Age to beat-heavy hip-hop from Brockhampton and Tyler the Creator, top to bottom, the bill is as diverse as they come. This gives fans an opportunity to explore music outside of their comfort zone, while still having a backup plan if they decide that comfort zone is where they should stick.
The only place Boston Calling falters is in the dance/EDM category with only one DJ set from Mike D of the Beastie Boys (who performed as a fill in after Bryson Tiller cancelled). Although EDM fans would be disappointed by the lineup, the laidback and extremely chill atmosphere of Boston Calling doesn’t seem like the right fit for dance artists or their rave fans.
Photos of bands performing at Boston Calling shot by Patrick Moran over the weekend.
– While an impressive musical lineup will create excitement surrounding a festival, an outstanding food lineup will keep them happy. Boston Calling surely knows this, creating a food lineup as diverse in flavors as their musical bill. It’s difficult to think of another festival that offers shucked oysters next to high-end ramen next to traditional barbecue. And, while many expanded their palettes and ventured outside of the traditional festival offerings, Boston Calling still kept go-to options available like delicious burgers from Boston’s own Tasty Burger, grilled cheese, pizza, and chicken tenders. They even offered quality vegan and vegetarian options from Whole Heart Provisions, another Boston-based company. It offered an escape from a sea of fried and heavy foods with fresh, tasty, diet-friendly meals for anyone who was looking for it.
And, for those not looking for diet-friendly meals, Boston Calling was even serving up loads of dessert. Frozen yogurt and ice cream were abundant as the summer heat kicked in, and a waffle stand was serving up delicious Belgian-style waffles with decadent toppings from bananas and caramel to Oreos and strawberries. But the true winner of the festival food wars goes to the Cookie DŌ stand, serving up cups of [safe-to-eat] raw cookie dough and massive cookies. With a line stayed consistently long throughout the entire weekend, it was clear that they were a massive hit. And for good reason, who wouldn’t want to dive face first into a giant cup filled with cookie dough?
Check out an official recap of Boston Calling’s 2018 edition.
– With a lineup at the same caliber of Boston Calling, many major festivals find themselves with 5-7 different stages and a much larger lineup. With this setup usually comes overlaps and conflicts amongst the most sought after artist, luckily, with Boston Calling, this rarely happens. With only three stages, catching all of your favorite artists is a breeze. The Red and Green stages are conveniently located right next to each other and there is only one act on either stage at a time. You could send your entire day planted on the grass between the two stages and have live music in front of you all day with no breaks.
And, while the Delta Blue stage is off, out of site from the other stages, it’s only a short walk away. So, if there was a conflict between two bands, one could easily split their time between the main stages and the Blue stage and still catch half of each set. Many times, if you were to try this at a larger festival, you could find yourself spending a good chunk of the sets just walking to the other stage.
– Hand-in-hand with the size of the festival comes the venue. While the original location of Boston Calling in the heart of the city at City Hall Plaza was picturesque amongst the Boston skyline, it was small and didn’t allow for growth. And it was surely a nuisance for the citizens of the city having to navigate around it in a city that is already one of the hardest to get around. The new location at Harvard Athletic Complex offers plenty more room, and a distance from the city while still allowing for the Boston charm to flow in. The skyline is even still visible, making for a great photo op at the top of the Ferris wheel.
The athletic complex offers so much that many other festivals are unable to. There is no fear of dust, dirt, mud, or sand anywhere. The entire field is covered in artificial turf so there is no worry of dirtying yourself or dust attacking your eyes and lungs. And it’s super easy to pop a squat anywhere in the field to enjoy the music. There’s no need or bring any blankets or air-filled chairs that always appear to be more hassle than they’re worth. The venue also reinforces the overall feeling of Boston Calling. It was designed to be a quaint festival for the people of New England to enjoy, and it still is even with the growth. The new grounds still give off a small, charming vibe while boasting plenty of amenities and a comfortable amount of space to navigate the festival.
Check out an official recap of Boston Calling’s 2017 edition.
05. Quality Sponsors
– Boston Calling is committed to making every aspect of their festival enjoyable for their patrons, and this extends to their partners in putting on the festival. Often times you’ll find sponsors with over-the-top exuberant street teamers handling out free sunglasses and trying to get your email address for their mailing list, but not Boston Calling. From corn hole boards, viewing platforms, free samples, and even an additional stage, BC’s sponsors have stepped up their game to make the festival experience the best it can be.
Boston-based brewers Sam Adams not only provided the beer for the festival, but also set up corn hole games to keep guests entertained. Coke offered free samples of all their new fruity Diet Coke flavors. Other sponsors, including Barefoot Wine, gave festival-goers a unique vantage point with viewing platforms on top of their trucks to enjoy the action. And Swedish-based furniture company IKEA provided their Food and Music Lab, where they served up vegetarian and flavored frozen yogurt with a side of sick beats from various DJs. It was an incredible space for patrons to dance and have fun, or take a load off with some delicious bites and hangout out in rope hammocks and other comfy furniture.
06. Alternative Entertainment
– With many festivals, the entertainment starts and ends with music. There may be a couple of comedy acts or an art installation somewhere on the grounds, but all attention and focus is put on the music. Boston Calling once again strives to stay ahead by including a film festival, curated by Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman in the days leading up to the festival. During the festival, Portman invited artists into the festival’s Arena to live-score female-directed short films, following the theme of the film festival “the female gaze”. St. Vincent, Zola Jesus, The National, and Maggie Rogers were among some of the guest performers. Portman even performed in the Arena, reciting various poems as silent films were projected behind her. Some may not have understood the artistry or intent of many of the performances inside the Arena, but there is surely nowhere else you would be able to witness it.
Boston Calling 2019 early bird presale is now on!
07. Dedication to Boston
– Perhaps the most endearing and charming aspect of Boston Calling is its dedication to the city in which it was born. Festival organizers genuinely care about the city and their impact on it. Every year they invite local artists to perform. This year Weakened Friends, Cousin Stizz, and STL GLD took the stage, drawing in some of the largest early afternoon sets the weekend saw. Organizers also bring out local vendors. Tasty Burger has remained a staple in Boston Calling as it is a staple in the Boston community, as well as Sam Adams beer. Whole Heart Provisions is another local company that saw massive turnout for their product.
Organizers have the opportunity to choose cheaper or more standard vendors, but selecting local businesses to feature not only shows pride in their community, but also puts money back into Boston rather than a food conglomerate that other festivals opt for. There is so much business to be had inside the festival gates, so why not show off what Boston has to offer while also helping these local businesses? Newbury Comics was also offered a spot in the festival, where fans could purchase music from festival artists and even offered special times in which to get the music signed by the artist.
The dedication and pride the organizers of Boston Calling have in the city is something that makes the festival far more special than any other; that’s what gives it its charm. Boston is an incredible city and the festival does an outstanding job of highlighting all that it has to offer.