Boston Calling to utilize new venue, feature Chance the Rapper

by Madeline Killen | 5/11/17 12:00am

Students worried that the weekend after Green Key is sure to be disappointing may want to consider traveling down to Harvard University to get another outdoor music fix. Starting this year, the music festival Boston Calling will take place at the Harvard Athletic Complex, a move that is the result of increasing interest in the festival. The new location, though, is not the only change in this year’s Boston Calling, which has also expanded to include comedy acts, a film component and a visual art component.

“[This expansion] came naturally with the move to the new space,” Boston Calling marketing director Lindsey Couture said. “Our new site … is about four times the size of our previous festival grounds. They have indoor spaces and just way more areas that we can utilize and expand our programming.”

The festival, which began in 2013, is a three-day event that was previously held in Boston’s City Hall Plaza. While the extra space has the primary purpose of attracting bigger-name artists and accommodating the bigger crowds that come with them, Couture said, it has also given site designer Russ Bennett more flexibility to be creative with the festival’s visual components. For example, Bennett chose lyrics from each of the 45 artists set to perform at this year’s Boston Calling and incorporated them throughout the festival venue. Additionally, the festival commissioned a mural intended to celebrate the multiculturalism of the city of Boston.

“We know the arts are very big in this area, and we certainly appreciate it,” Couture said.

The combination of the visual art, comedy and performing artists spans a wide range of interests because Boston Calling considers itself a festival that appeals to everyone.

“Our goal is to reach everyone,” Couture said. “We try to form a whole musical culture so you come to our festival for the experience. We try to cater to families, we find child-friendly activities to do on site. We try to reach people who just want to go to a local show … as well as the people who are the die-hard fans of our headliners.”

With headliners including Chance the Rapper, Bon Iver, Mumford & Sons and Major Lazer, this year’s festival is likely to attract concert lovers in the New England area and fans of the big names. Dartmouth students are often both — Ryan Hyon ’17, who plans to attend the festival this year, said that he was initially attracted to Boston Calling both because The xx will be there and because it has been several years since he has attended a festival. Now that he has made plans to attend the concert with 10 to 15 friends, he has been listening to music from more of the artists in the lineup. Francis & the Lights, which recorded the song “Friends” with Bon Iver, is a particular new favorite act of Hyon’s.

Couture is also excited to see Francis & the Lights, calling it “up-and-coming.” Both Hyon and Couture are longtime fans of Bon Iver, as well, and hope that the two acts will perform “Friends” onstage together at Boston Calling.

“[Bon Iver and Francis & the Lights] are all friends with Chance, too, which is an added bonus,” Couture said.

Curating the lineup for a music festival is both an art and a science, Couture explained.

“The whole curating process begins about a year or so prior to the festival,” Couture said. “It is an unknown when you’re booking like a year in advance. There are those headliners that are always pumping out hits, but there are also those groups that you hope will continue to rise and grab people’s attention.”

While Couture explained that Boston Calling’s primary aim when selecting performers is to create a musically diverse lineup, the festival has had prior success in selecting acts on the verge of making it big, meaning that the acts will be quite popular by the time the festival actually occurs a year after the selection process. Couture said that Boston Calling booked Chance before the skyrocket success of his 2016 album “Coloring Book.” She added that the festival similarly “[got] lucky” when it booked fun. in 2012, just prior to the group’s increased popularity following the release of singles “Some Nights” and “We Are Young,” for the Boston Calling spring 2013 lineup.

“Most festivals seem to have a lot of pop and EDM,” Hyon said. “The lineup seems to be pretty mellow, good [vibes]-type of music. They’re curating a festival that was exactly what I was looking for when I bought the tickets.”

White River Junction resident Lucy Shelton, who attended Boston Calling two years ago and called it “an incredible experience,” also feels that the festival’s lineup is a standout among musical festivals.

“A lot of New England music festivals just have one day of really good groups and then two days of stuff nobody cares about,” Shelton said. “Boston Calling is consistently strong for the whole weekend.”

This spring’s festival will take place from May 26 to 28. Ticket prices start at $99.