Thursday, 5 June 2014

Boston post #2: Boston Calling Music Festival

A few months ago we were looking into dates to go and visit our friends Phil and Char, who are living and working in Boston, Massachusetts. We stumbled across a fairly new music festival taking place around the same time we wanted to visit, so booked our flights based around the date of the festival. The festival is called Boston Calling, taking place twice a year in Boston City Hall Plaza. For a festival that had only been on a couple of times before, it had a really strong line up and loads of artists we were really keen to see.

Boston Calling took place over three days on 23rd, 24th and 25th May. Memorial Day on the Monday provided an excellent rest day after lots of partying at the festival! The music programming started at 6pm on the Friday and ran all through the day and evenings on the Saturday and Sunday. We headed down to City Hall Plaza early afternoon on the Friday to check it out and found the site still being built. We were able to wonder around at this time without the need for a ticket or wristband and it was cool to see the site taking shape, with a few hours left until the doors opened. 

The calm before the storm: The red stage before doors opened

We headed back later in the evening after doors opened and collected our tickets from the box office. It was super busy, but we didn't need to queue for too long to get in. There was a no re-entry policy on the Friday and no wristband required, which I think was to try and minimise queuing time, when so many people would be arriving after work, at the same sort of time. This was a good idea, however everyone needed to queue for a small tent to show their ID to get an ID wristband, to prove you are aged 21 or over at the bar. This queue was long and slow, with no barriers or queuing system in place. The large queue also blocked the entrance area. This seemed to be very badly thought out. 


We deliberately arrived after the first act, Cass McCombs, to give ourselves a bit longer to get ready after our friends finished work and because we hadn't heard of this artist. The second band of the night was Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, who we are big fans of and were really excited to see live. I've watched loads of their YouTube videos and their performances always look really lively. They were great performers and the lead singer especially had a brilliant stage presence and generally created a good feeling in the crowd. You may recognise their biggest hit Home, which you can check out on YouTube below.


Next up and headlining the Friday night was Jack Johnson. I am familiar with some of his songs, as he has been around for years, but I've never been that into his music. Although he played flawlessly, I didn't find all of his performance all that exciting and he didn't interact with the crowd. It got livelier towards the end though and it was a brilliant finale when he got Edward Sharpe et al back on stage for a big jam at the end. 

Towards the end of Jack Johnson's set, a chap who had been standing right in front of us got down on one knee and proposed to his partner. We all cheered and clapped, as did lots of people around us and it was a really lovely thing to see at the start of the festival weekend. They were both delighted and emotional, but that didn't stop them dancing enthusiastically to the rest of Jack Johnson's set!

Marriage proposal right in front of us!

We headed back to the festival early in the afternoon on the Saturday to see Maximo Park. They've been around in the UK for a long time and we were surprised to discover, when announced by the lead signer at the end of the set, that Boston Calling was their first US festival show. There was a good sized crowd for that time of day and the show was fun, with very well choreographed dancing by the charismatic and well-dressed frontman.

Walk Off The Earth followed, a band who shot to fame when a video of five of the band playing one guitar, covering Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know went viral. We saw them do it live and it was very impressive. Check it out below.


Whilst back at the apartment having a few drinks before heading back for the evening performances,  I made a sign to hold up for Frank Turner. I've seen Frank Turner several times and decided that I'd hold up a snazzy sign, which I had never done before. It's definitely a bit sad, but I was hoping the sign might get me noticed and I'd get asked to join him on stage. Sadly we were quite far back and another guy with a sign was pulled up on stage to play harmonica with Frank

Cool or sad? You decide!

Accompanied by his brilliant band, Frank Turner was outstanding as ever, with an enthusiastic and charming set of his newer and older songs. Frank always looks like he is genuinely and completely enjoying himself when he performs and this rubs off onto the crowd. I knew Frank Turner had a good stateside following, but was still very impressed by the huge crowd that has flocked to see his early evening set. 


We were looking forward to seeing Death Cab For Cutie later in the evening, who are one of Emily's favourite bands. Sadly it started raining heavily early in evening, so we ended up heading back to our friends apartment in a taxi. We stuck it out for a bit under a bit of shelter at the festival, but very quickly got very wet, with still a long time to wait before Death Cab were due on stage. We saw online the following day that many people who did stick it out said the show was amazing, but I think we would have been rather miserable and very cold by the time they took the stage. We met a guy outside the merchandise tent who had found himself a big cardboard box to shelter from the rain. It's a shame where weren't more boxes to go around! Char and Phil have been living in Boston since November and said they haven't seen rain like it in all that time. Typical it would chuck it down at the wrong time!

Someone taking shelter from the rain!

We were particularly excited about seeing Bastille on the Sunday, who drew a huge crowd. It's brilliant to see British acts doing so well in America, especially as Bastille haven't been around for all that long. I follow them on Instagram and noticed that they were only in America a week before, but just the day before the Boston Calling show, they were performing at Radio 1's Big Weekend in Glasgow, UK. This must have been a late addition, as it seems crazy to schedule their tour like that deliberately. Bastille frontman Dan's vocals were a little hoarse to begin with, and I definitely think his mic was at a lower volume than it should have been in light of this. His voice did however improve throughout the show and they put on a great performance, which went down really well with a very lively crowd. Dan walked out into the crowd at one point, and got absolutely mobbed! I'm looking forward to seeing Bastille again at Boardmasters Festival in Newquay, UK in August.


Boston Calling Music Festival was all-round very fun and great value for money, costing less than £100 for a three day ticket, which is very competitive compared to many UK festivals and shows. There wasn't a huge amount there other than the two stages, bars and a few food vendors, but space is limited due to the festival location in City Hall Plaza. The bar and toilet queues were really very long at times, which could do with being looked at, but these are just a few teething problems, for a generally very well run festival, which has only been running for a couple of years.

One big thing that worked really well at the festival, was having two stages side by side, alternating the bands that were on. This meant that there was only a 5-minute gap between each band throughout the day, with the other stage being set up for the following band each time. I have heard about this format at other festivals and it was great seeing it work so well at Boston Calling

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