(Y)Our Guide to Boston Calling Music Festival, May 2016

Boston Calling May 2016

Twice a year, for three years now, music lovers and their friends have filtered into Boston’s City Hall Plaza for Boston Calling Music Festival. The weekend-long festival has catered to an eclectic assortment of tastes – indie, rock, electronic, pop, singer-songwriter – in its short, but impactful time serving the greater New England community. From fun. to Vampire Weekend, Lorde to Kendrick Lamar, and Jack Johnson to Alabama Shakes and CHVRCHES, the Boston Calling stages have seen their fair share of impressive, critically acclaimed, and diverse artists.

Boston Calling May 2016 Spring Schedule

Boston Calling May 2016 Schedule

And yet, as this Boston.com piece (entitled “Why don’t more women play Boston Calling?”) pointed out last May, Boston Calling has also had plenty of room to grow as it became a recurring staple of Boston music culture. While the festival’s September 2015 lineup was surely set by the time that headline was published, there’s no doubt that the critique lay heavily on Crash Line Productions’ Mike Snowe and Brian Appel’s minds as they developed this year’s lineups:

8/23 acts included female members in May 2015

5/23 acts included female members in September 2015

This year (May 2016), 10/23 main stage acts include female members. Moreover, three out of the festival’s six headliners are female artists/acts. It’s not only a nod to equality in the music/festival world, but also a testament to the fact that our voices can be heard and change is possible.

This year’s Boston Calling comes with some notable changes: As per a press release dated 5/27/2016, “May 2016 will be the final installment of the popular festival on Boston’s City Hall Plaza, and there will be no September edition in 2016, as the festival will now take place once a year on Memorial Day weekend.” As Boston’s City Hall Plaza is about to undergo renovation, Boston Calling “will move its location in May 2017 to Allston to the fields at Harvard University’s Athletics Complex.” The change will see additions and expansions to stages, artists, and presented content (hint: think film).

Back to May 2016 and the festival at hand. It would seem that ‘diversity of talent’ is becoming Boston Calling’s most stand-out characteristic: May 2016 is the festival’s most diverse lineup yet. A quick glance at the lineup may suggest an electronic-heavy lineup, with acts like Miike Snow, Odesza and Disclosure playing key evening spots – but as we were taught in grade school, looks can be deceiving. True to form, Boston Calling has something for everyone. Fresh faces like BØRNS and Elle King – no-names just a year and change ago – are mixed in with established acts including Sia, Disclosure, Haim and Sufjan Stevens. As per tradition, Atwood Magazine is here with (y)our guide to Beantown’s most musical weekend, a festival preview with everything you need to know to make the most of Boston Calling May 2016!

HIGHLIGHTS

This May’s lineup offers a selection of popular music from all walks of life. As usual, there’s an ‘up-and-coming’ focus throughout, but the organizers have stepped things up another notch this year. In addition to having Bostonian natives Palehound and Michael Christmas open Saturday and Sunday’s main stages (aptly sponsored (and colored) by jetBlue and Xfinity), Boston Calling is offering a third “local” stage for additional entertainment. A mix of comedy and music will be hosted by Dorchester native, comedian Lamont Price. Boston-area comics Ken Reid, Sean Sullivan, Orlando Baxter and Kelly McFarland will perform sets on both Saturday and Sunday, accompanied by sets from Boston bands Nemes and Lady Pills on Saturday and These Wild Plains and Black Beach on Sunday. These acts run concurrently with the main shows, ending before each night’s headliners. Make sure to spend a bit of time over there during the weekend: Strengthening Boston Calling’s tie to its home city, this third stage promises to be an exciting alternative venue, a welcome addition that will keep festivalgoers engaged.

That said, it will be hard to break away from Boston Calling’s lineup. Friday evening is an interesting mix: Lisa Hannigan and Sufjan Stevens will bring soothing singer-songwriter music to the stage, followed by the pop music of Sia. Granted, Sia is a singer-songwriter at heart – but one can only speculate how the Grammy-nominated artist will bring her latest songs to life. Friday has always been the festival warm-up to Saturday and Sunday – an excuse to get some music in before going out for the night.

The real deal happens during the actual weekend. Saturday and Sunday both start with local music (Palehound and Michael Christmas), and end with major electronic/dance music acts (Robyn and Disclosure). What occurs between the hours of 1pm and 9pm is truly incredible. On Saturday, hip-hop artist Lizzo is followed by experimental rock band Battles, followed by UK indie rockers The Vaccines – a truly must-see act that have yet to catch on in the States as they have overseas. BØRNS’ indie pop is another need-to-see-act, though the same could be said for singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett, who was nominated for 2016’s Best New Artist Grammy Award. The two are stylistically day and night, yet each creates a beautiful backdrop of music worthy of every festivalgoer’s ears.

A similar smorgasbord of artistry paints Sunday’s performances: French artist Christine & The Queens follows Boston native Michael Christmas, then Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s 2pm performance will brighten the sky: The band’s colorful music is sure to translate well to the festival setting. Vince Staples, a member of XXL Magazine’s 2015 Freshman Class (often a promising sign), should deliver a great performance. Hip-hop is often at its best in smaller, more intimate settings, but then again isn’t most music better that way? Following that will be funk/soul/R&B singer Charles Bradley, who will shake the crowd up in time for The Front Bottoms to melt their faces off with some in-your-face indie rock.

Boston Calling saves the biggest acts for last on both days: City and Colour and Miike Snow on Saturday, Elle King and Haim on Sunday. Saturday evening shapes up to be an electronic music bash, with Snowe, Odesza and Robyn closing off the evening – whereas Sunday will offer a more diverse set, with Janelle Monáe and Haim providing equally exciting sets full of picturesque moments, before Disclosure sends us off with an electronic kiss goodbye.

WRAP-UP

Festivals are one of the few instances that allow for, and perhaps even encourage extensive musical cross-pollination. Where else would you catch such different music styles all in the same 10-hour span? Boston Calling is a melting pot when it comes to music, and that’s just what festival-goers should expect: Bombardment by artists of all shapes and colors. This year is no exception: Offering an extraordinarily diverse lineup, May’s festival is one for the record books, with a different genre following nearly every act.

It’s difficult to lay bias to such a colorful lineup, so take this must-see list as one man’s opinion and nothing more: First off, make sure to catch Lamont Price’s comedy. He’s golden. For music, don’t miss The Vaccines, Courtney Barnett, and City and Colour on Saturday. On Sunday, pay special attention to These Wild Plains (fantastic folk/roots-influences rock), Vince Staples, Charles Bradley, Janelle Monáe and Haim. Again, that’s just one man’s opinion.

Keep an open mind at Boston Calling: Festivals are experiential settings, where one must go to discover new music and artists. With semi-big headliners this May, the lineup is certainly one full of up-and-comers and newer acts; this isn’t the “A-Team” by any stretch of the imagination, but the festival and its booking team have yet to fail us. Boston Calling has come to be a tradition for many in its now four-year run, and hopefully the mainstay will continue to bring in fresh and establish talent from around the world.

There’s no two ways about it: Boston Calling is the place to be this side of the Charles. See below for set times and music!

Boston Calling May 2016

BOSTON CALLING MUSIC FESTIVAL

MAY 2016

Main Stages (jetBlue and Xfinity Red)
FRIDAY, MAY 27
Schedule

Gates Open: 6pm

7:00 pm
Lisa Hannigan & Aaron Dessner

8:05 pm
Sufjan Stevens

9:45 pm
Sia

SATURDAY, MAY 28
Schedule

Gates Open: 12pm

12:55 pm
Palehound

1:30 pm
Lizzo

2:15 pm
Battles

3:00 pm
The Vaccines

3:55 pm
BØRNS

4:50 pm
Courtney Barnett

5:45 pm
City and Colour

6:50 pm
Miike Snow

7:55 pm
Odesza

9:20 pm
Robyn

SUNDAY, MAY 29
Schedule

Gates Open: 12pm

12:55 pm
Michael Christmas

1:30 pm
Christine & The Queens

2:15 pm
Unknown Mortal Orchestra

3:00 pm
Vince Staples

3:55 pm
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires

4:50 pm
The Front Bottoms

5:45 pm
Elle King

6:50 pm
Janelle Monáe

7:55 pm
HAIM

9:20 pm
Disclosure

Boston Calling map

Boston Calling map (stages indicated by “S”; main entrance located on Congress Street)

Comedy & Local Stage (Verizon)
SATURDAY, MAY 28
Schedule

1:25 pm
Lamont Price (comedy)

1:40 pm
Ken Reid (comedy)

2:00 pm
Kelly MacFarland (comedy)

3:00 pm
Nemes (music)

4:50 pm
Lamont Price

5:05 pm
Orlando Baxter (comedy)

5:25 pm
Sean Sullivan (comedy)

6:50 pm
Lady Pills (music)

SUNDAY, MAY 29
Schedule

1:25 pm
Lamont Price (comedy)

1:40 pm
Sean Sullivan (comedy)

2:00 pm
Orlando Baxter (comedy)

3:00 pm
These Wild Plains (music)

4:50 pm
Lamont Price

5:05 pm
Kelly MacFarland (comedy)

5:25 pm
Ken Reid (comedy)

6:50 pm
Black Beach (music)

Boston Calling May 2016 Lineup

What to Bring
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Earplugs
  • Non-professional film and digital cameras
  • (1) Factory-sealed bottle of water (non-glass container)
  • A small clear plastic bag (no backpacks are allowed inside the festival)
  • Valid Driver’s License for will-call and/or to drink alcohol
  • Comfortable footwear
  • Food
What NOT to Bring
  • Large bags/backpacks (bags can be no larger than 12” x 12”)
  • Weapons of any kind
  • Professional cameras & recording devices (no SLR/DSLR or cameras with detachable lenses)
  • Illegal substances
  • Squirt guns, misters, spray bottles, etc
  • Laser pens and similar focused-light devices
  • Chairs / Strollers
  • Cans, canteens, flasks (empty camelbacks and water bottles will be allowed)
  • Pets
  • Bicycles, scooters, personal motorized vehicles
  • Musical instruments
  • Sleeping bags (no overnight camping or sleepovers)
  • Umbrellas
  • Any container of liquid other than 1 factory sealed bottle of water
  • Totem poles or flag sticks
  • Candy
  • Walkie Talkies
  • Fake IDs – they will be confiscated and your wristband will be cut without refund.

Be Safe and Have Fun!

Boston Calling is one of the premier music festivals in the New England area. For a festival pump-up, check out Boston Calling’s September 2015 Recap Video:

  

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For more Boston Calling information, go to: bostoncalling.com

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Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com