So-another Memorial Day weekend, another edition of the Boston Calling music festival. And unless you’ve been living in some subterranean abode that’s shielded from all known modes of media, you’re likely aware that it’s undergone some interesting developments. Gone is the dusty, hot, echo-prone brick and concrete canyon of City Hall Plaza, as the festival site moves westward to the comparatively lush environs of the Harvard Athletic Complex that hugs the bend of the Charles River. I won’t miss those random loose ankle-turning bricks; here’s to green grass and no slapback!
The other major evolution is the relative size of the festival. Instead of two main stages, the fest has sprouted a third, as well as adding a comedy stage. Effectively doubling their total capacity, they also bumped up the number of acts by two-fold as well. Giving a wide-ranging and deep lineup is mostly a blessing, but there has been some squawking about overlapping, competing sets from past festival attendees who were accustomed to the previous model where the Red and the Blue stages never conflicted. That said, the organizers did some minor tweaks to Friday’s schedule, allowing co-headliners Chance The Rapper and Sigur Ros to have a bit of separation. Regardless, ditch that FOMO and enjoy the moment–there’s no pleasing everyone.
Anyone who’s checked the lineup knows about the headliners, but there’s a pretty strong element of local bands representing our fair city as well. From the very first event four years ago and onward, there’s always been a small handful of local bands on the roster, and a couple of years ago Boston Calling added a small side-plaza stage that included additional locals, both bands and comedians. This year is no different, and DigBoston solicited the opinions of a few of them about the festival. Via email, the same questions were asked:
1 – What’s your assessment of the local scene, and do you think that the Boston bands playing Boston Calling is a good cross-sectional representation? Is there anyone who you think is overlooked and you’d like to see play the next edition?
2 – How different is it playing to a festival crowd, rather than your audience as if it was a regular gig? Do you make any conscious changes to your set list?
3 – What are the must-see gigs of the weekend for you? Are there any performers who you don’t know that well that you want to check out?
Cousin Stizz is an up-and-coming rapper who is determined to throw some national hip-hop spotlight over this way. His effortless rhymes and sub-sonic beats should translate sold-out hometown shows at places like The Paradise and The Middle East into more widespread recognition. Here’s what he had to say:
1 – First off, OG Swaggerdick is who I want to see play the next Boston Calling, he’s an overlooked treasure. It’s great that Boston bands are doing their thing, I’m happy that they’re on there, that’s hella tight. I think the Boston scene is growing very fast and it’s dope as shit.
2 – It’s pretty similar. Festivals are hella fun, it’s not that different from a regular gig, just more people. I don’t really make a conscious change to my set – I just try to give people a good time out there.
3 – Mac Demarco, Solange, Majid Jordan, Danny Brown’s set is gonna be tight, and Chance obviously.
Buffalo Tom are well-known veterans who rode the turbulent waves of the post-Nevermind major label feeding frenzy and put out some lasting records in the process. These days the trio of Bill Janovitz, Chris Colbourn and Tom Maginnis are still actively playing and recording (a new record is currently in the works, and they are playing dates overseas in support of Let Me Come Over‘s 25th anniversary), but at their own pace and direction. Bill Janovitz supplied these answers:
1 – I don’t think Buffalo Tom, as guys in our 50s, have an adequate assessment of the local scene, or even know if there is one as such. But I am very happy that the festival has invited us and other locally-based bands. However, to call us and others who have an international following “local bands” is a bit of a misnomer. There is something curious about Boston when it comes to such categorization. I have found that in polls and awards-type events, the organizers of those things want to include any artist from New England as a “local” and “Boston” artist. I gather that the Boston-based bands on the festival have all been out on the road with followings elsewhere.
2 – Yes, but it depends on the time allotted for our set and where we are on the bill. This is a fairly typical 45-minutes, middle-of-the-pack set for us, so we will keep it pretty basic, playing a fairly representative set of songs we ostensibly know well. There will likely be less stretching out and few or no new numbers.
3 – It is a truly amazing bill. The bookers did a tremendous job with this year’s lineup. I wish I were going to be around for the first two nights, as there are so many artists I want to see. I am a fan of Sigur Ros and have seen them, but would love to again. We have played with Frightened Rabbit before, but looking forward to seeing them again, as well as other groups on our day like Hiss Golden Messenger, Tool (who I have never seen), Weezer (never seen ’em either), Cage the Elephant. But I would love to see the XX, Solange, Chance the Rapper, Bon Iver, Tegan & Sara, and I am looking forward to seeing pretty much every artist. I have kids who are 18 and 12, so I know a lot of stuff I might not ordinarily be exposed to. I am also a fan of Tig Nataro, so I look forward to seeing her and other comics as well.
Piebald has energy, energy in their songs and in their lyrics, which directly translates to their crowd. If you dig the sort of melodic crunch that bands like Descendents helped create, you know what I’m talking about. I caught up with Travis Shettel, who provided these thoughts:
1 – Tough for me to give my assessment of the local scene these days because I was living in LA the past 11 years and recently moved to New Orleans. But from the mid ’90s through mid ’00s, Boston was a great musical place with lots of different types of bands playing shows together. Band friendships. Not competitiveness. I think this year’s BC is a pretty solid cross section.
2 – Yes, shorter set. Just play the bangers. We like to get in there and punch the audience in the face for 30-45 minutes at a festival. Regular shows have more waves.
3 – Converge is a must see for me. I would like to see Weezer as well. Chance the Rapper would be my don’t-know-that-well, but want to check out.
Converge is a band with a lot of oars in the water. There’s the Deathwish label that Jacob Bannon co-founded, God City Studios where Kurt Ballou helps countless bands in search of a stellar sounding record, and various offshoot bands such as Doomriders, Mutoid Man, and Wear Your Wounds among others. I caught up with bass player Nate Newton as well as vocalist Jacob Bannon, and here are their takes:
1 – I think the local music scene in Boston is as strong as ever. There are constantly new bands popping up who seem to be making waves not just here but internationally as well. It’s tough to choose a band for something like this. I’d love to see someone like Marissa Nadler get more attention.
2 – It’s pretty different. There is usually more distance between the audience and the band at a festival which effects the dynamic. A big open air stage isn’t necessarily conducive to fast technical music. There are so many variables that can effect the way it sounds as opposed to an enclosed room so sometimes it’s helpful to work more midpaced and slower material into our set.
3 – The day we play seems to have a pretty strong line up from beginning to end. I’m excited to see Run The Jewels finally. There are actually quite a few bands who I’m not familiar with so I look forward to getting turned on to something new hopefully.
1 – It’s more of a national level festival than anything, and I think that is a very important thing for Boston to have. The city is home to a wealth of colleges and universities and has needed something at this level for years. As for its inclusion of New England rooted bands for sure. There are a ton of bands and sub genres not represented, but that’s ok. You have to start somewhere, and looking at the growth and current trajectory of their vision, they seem to be into something.
2 – It’s quite different but we are used to it. Our band has been fortunate to be in the position of playing cross genre festivals for a long time, especially in Europe. It’s a different vibe and challenge for sure, but we welcome it.
3 – To be honest I’m not sure who is playing our specific day. I really do enjoy Strand of Oaks, and that would be a high point for me. Bon Iver and Sigur Ros are also incredible artists to me.
Lamont Price continues this city’s legacy of producing some of the best comedy out there, a truly funny man with a fresh take on the many facets of life. He hosts the comedy stage on Friday and performs on Saturday; do some time management and check out some of the comedians this weekend.
1 – Boston’s local art scene has always thrived as long as I’ve been around. Sometimes it may get overlooked as an impactful breeding ground for growing artists, both comedically and musically, but it has always been strong. I hosted the Boston Music Awards (in December) and joked about how all the awards weren’t going to Aerosmith and Dropkick Murphys this year because I’ve arrived to change things. No slight to those great bands but this city has a much wider identity than that and it often goes unnoticed. I know he’s played Boston Calling before but I’d love to see Moe Pope there again. Strong representative of the Boston Hip Hop Scene. My buddy Vincent King would also be a great addition to the fest in the future.
As for comedy everyone knows that Boston has always had one of the dopest local comedy scenes for years. All Boston does is create future stars in the world of comedy. If I named all the local comedians who could perform at Boston Calling I’d be here all day. I think comedy will be a big part of this festival for years to come. So much talent
2 – Much different. Performing last year at Boston Calling it was an adjustment playing outdoors to such a large, rotating crowd. I don’t change anything in my act but I did have to get used to people stopping by, checking things out for a few minutes and then moving on to another stage. I was a little thrown by it at first but then realized I had to treat it like one giant, awesome block party
3 – Definitely looking forward to Chance and Solange on Friday. Run the Jewels on Sunday is gonna be sick as well. I’m pissed that my Saturday set runs smack in the middle of Danny Brown’s set. It’d be really cool to see Weezer. They’re one of the greatest bands ever. Got to see The Hotelier at the BMA’s and they were great. I’ve also heard great things about The 1975. I’m basically gonna be bouncing all over the fest when I’m not performing. Just look for the intimidating guy with the afro and all the swag
BOSTON CALLING MUSIC FESTIVAL FRI 5.26 2:30PM – SUN 5.28. HARVARD ATHLETIC GROUNDS, BOSTON. BOSTONCALLING.COM
Primarily based in Boston, Massachusetts, Tim Bugbee is no stranger to traveling throughout the country or overseas to capture the best live music photos.