With Super Bowl rings and World Series trophies flooding into the city, there is often cause for celebration in Boston. In the past couple years, the Patriots and Red Sox have given Bostonians more than a few reasons to ditch their State Street offices, disrupt traffic, and come together to celebrate athletic excellence. Bostonians love glorifying their sports teams as much as New Yorkers love bragging about their superior pizza, street grid, or whatever else gives them peace of mind about shelling out thousands for a windowless closet in Manhattan.
While New York has cultivated a strong support of the arts among its residents, Boston has often struggled to elicit a fervent response from New Englanders off the field. Boston Calling, however, is able to take hold of the brash Bostonian energy and concentrate it in one central area for a vibrant three-day festival that brings the biggest names in the music industry to the city. Again causing a weekend-long mass exodus to the Harvard Athletic Complex, Boston Calling will return to its new locale—the festival moved from City Hall Plaza to Harvard in 2017—for a third time on May 24, 25, and 26.
This year’s festival marks the 10th edition of the once small-but-mighty music festival, and the 2019 lineup is mightier than those of years past. A far cry from 2013’s inaugural two-day Boston Calling festival that featured fun. and The National, Boston Calling has grabbed radio residents Twenty One Pilots, Tame Impala, and Travis Scott to headline the 2019 festival.
The festival catches both Tame Impala and Travis Scott at pivotal, albeit different, moments in their respective careers. Tame Impala recently debuted two deliciously disco singles—“Patience” and “Borderline”—from its upcoming album on Saturday Night Live. Already towering over the indie genre with its acclaimed Currents (2015) and 12 years of experience under its belt, Tame Impala is staging a high-profile return to the music scene after a four-year hiatus. Meanwhile, Travis Scott is still riding the high from his wildly successful and critically coveted 2018 album Astroworld—which includes summer smash hit “Sicko Mode”—after launching his rap career four years ago with Rodeo. Tame Impala will also return to the Boston Calling stage this year, after performing at the festival in spring of 2015, in addition to Twenty One Pilots, who performed at the fall festival in 2014.
“You put your ideal lineup on the whiteboard and you start making your phone calls and the chips fall where they may,” Mike Snow, a festival producer for Boston Calling, said in reference to the lineup design process.
Festival goers lucked out with a stacked lineup for the festival’s 10th edition—the talent goes far beyond the first line of the lineup poster. Friday, May 24 will see the Grammy-winning neo-classic rock band Greta Van Fleet bring its Led Zeppelin-like licks to the Boston Calling stage, while indie bands CHVRCHES and Lord Huron will cool the crowds with their seamless sounds. Saturday and Sunday will welcome a diverse set of acts, including Hozier, ODESZA, Anderson .Paak, Logic, Brandi Carlile, and Sheck Wes, to the three stages. Lesser-known acts, such as Snail Mail and Mitski, should not be discounted by fans, however. Boston Calling has a history of featuring acts—including Portugal. The Man, which played at Boston Calling in 2018 and 2013, and Courtney Barnett (2016)—before their careers catapulted them to star status.
Music is just one aspect of the current Boston Calling experience: Since the festival moved into the Harvard Athletic Complex, it opened up a series of arena performances that run throughout the three days. This year, comedians Fred Armisen and Jenny Slate of Big Mouth acclaim will take the arena stage on Friday and Saturday respectively, and Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che will take over on Sunday. Boston Calling will also feature performances by the Boston Ballet on Saturday and Sunday, a welcome expansion into other art media for the festival.
“We’ve always looked for different experiences to have at the event,” Snow said. “It was one of those things of ‘Wouldn’t it just be fun and wouldn’t it just be amazing if you could take something as pristine as ballet and put it on the same stage as someone like Chromeo?’”
Although many of the performers that will take the Boston Calling stages have a global reach, Boston Calling looks no further than its own backyard for its food lineup. Opting out of national festival vendors, such as the cult classic Spicy Pie, Boston Calling features a number of local favorites in its outdoor food court that is conveniently located between the two stage areas. Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, Zinneken’s Belgian Waffles, The Chubby Chickpea, and FoMu are just a few of the vendors that will be there to sate any appetite fans work up while running from performance to performance.
Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Senior Staff