This spring marks some big changes for Boston Calling, which makes an inaugural move to a new venue—the Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston—and pares down its biannual format to a once-a-year event.When the lineup for Boston Calling 2017 was revealed in January, the internet went nuts, with major national outlets like Billboard calling it a “lineup festival dreams are made of,” and Consequence of Sound proclaiming “Boston Calling just made music festival lineups great again.” But the bill—running the gamut from headliners like alt-titans Tool, folk troubadours Mumford & Sons and indie-rap upstart/recent Grammy sweeper Chance the Rapper to a host of eclectic talent in indie rock, hip-hop, emo and folk—isn’t the only reason to get psyched about this May’s fest.
“We felt we were outgrowing City Hall Plaza, just on a square footage basis,” says Boston Calling co-founder Brian Appel. “We wanted to add more bands. We wanted to have more activations and activities… and the plaza was not getting any bigger. So we had been looking at new space for a while, and we were really fortunate that Harvard was open to having a conversation with us. … Our number one goal was to keep it within the city of Boston.”
The added square footage at Harvard’s athletic fields has afforded festival organizers the chance to expand booking capabilities. “We were able to get bands that we never would have been able to get before, like Tool,” Appel says. “And being able to book 45 bands instead of 23 allows you to be a lot more diverse and take some more risks. Trevor [Solomon], our booker, was able to go out and book a really good rock festival that has, like, 10 great rock bands on it—which is hard to find these days.”
The scope of the music isn’t the only thing generating buzz this spring—they’ve also added a film component, with Harvard alum Natalie Portman curating a film festival that will run concurrent with the music.
“It was just perfect timing because she went to Harvard and now we have an indoor venue; doing film outdoors is very problematic and tricky,” Appel explains. “She became very engaged and interested in working on this project, which we’re very humbled by because she’s in the middle of Academy Awards season, and pregnant.”
Lest festival-goers worry that this year’s star-studded additions herald a departure from the grassroots sensibility that marked the festival’s beginning, Appel says local bands (this year including the Hotelier and Vundabar) will continue to secure prime spots on the bill. “We got asked at an Allston community meeting if we were going to do a local stage, and our answer is that we don’t think locals should be annexed to a smaller stage,” he says. “We will put Boston bands on every Boston Calling festival, and they will always play the main stages.”
THE IMPROPER’S 2017 SPRING ARTS PREVIEW: COMEDY | THEATER | VISUAL ARTS | DANCE | FILM