One of the biggest concert events on the Massachusetts calendar happens Friday through Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, as the annual Boston Calling Music is hosted at a new venue — the Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston. In addition to over 40 bands, the festival will also feature over a dozen comedians and visual artists spread out over multiple stages.
The three-day event kicks off Friday at 2:35 p.m. with Boston rockers Vundabar and new-agey jazz band Xylouris White. Indie rockers Car Seat Headrest, Canadian singer-songwriter Mac Demarco, Solange Knowles, indie legends Bon Iver, Icelandic aesthetic band Sigur Rós, and Chance the Rapper headline Friday’s show. Sigur Rós will closeout the night on the Delta Blue Stage (845 to 10:15 p.m.) while Chance wraps up things on the Green Stage (9:20 to 10:50). Those these two sets overlap, it’s not like the acts share too many of the same fans.
Saturday is a huge day for the 25-and-under crowd, as Mumford and Sons, the 1975, The xx, Tegan and Sara, and Brandi Carlisle lead the bill. After some local and lesser-known bands fill the early slots, Carlisle kicks off the main portion of the show at 4:35. One glitch in scheduling happens later Saturday, as The xx’s set on the Xfinity Red Stage (7:35 to 8:40) overlaps with that of The 1975’s set on the Delta Blue Stage (8 to 9:15 p.m.), which overlaps with Mumford & Sons on the Green State (8:50 to 10:50). Since these bands share many of the same fans, some concert-goers are a bit flustered by the scheduling. Regardless, Saturday should be a fun day overall.
Sunday features more eclectic headliners, with Weezer, Tool, Cage the Elephant, and Boston’s Buffalo Tom and Piebald representing the rock scene, while Run the Jewels and Major Lazer showcasing the modern rap scene. Buffalo Tom hits the Delta Blue Stage stage early (3 p.m.) followed by Frightened Rabbit and Wolf Parade before Weezer caps the night with an 8 p.m. set. Meanwhile, Piebald rocks the Green Stage at 4:55,followed by Cage the Elephant at 6:55 and Tool at 9:20. Flatbush Zombies’s 4 p.m set on the Xfinity Red Stage leads into Run the Jewels at 5:50 and Major Lazer at 8.
After several years at Boston’s City Call Plaza, the event has moved down Storrow Drive to Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston. The new venue will allow for far more people to attend as well as for better access via public transportation. It’s also going to be much greener, as the majority of the facility is grass, which will allow for a more comfortable vibe than the concrete of City Hall Plaza.
In addition, more space also means more vendors, so expect a wider range of food and drink options. The food has always been outstanding at Boston Calling, and I would anticipate it being twice as good this year.
Five Must-See Acts
Some of the acts are obvious, like Tool, Mumford & Sons, Chance the Rapper and Weezer, so here are five other not-so-well known acts that you should try to see this weekend:
Buffalo Tom (Sunday, 3:05 p.m.)
A great rock act out of Massachusetts, Buffalo Tom shared the Boston spotlight in the 1990s with The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., The Lemonheads, Extreme, and Letters to Cleo. Fronted by the talented Bill Janovitz, Buffalo Tom has consistently put on great live shows despite only playing two or three a year. With a new album coming out soon and a tour on the horizon, expect to see a mixture of new tunes with classics like “Sodajerk”, “Tangerine”, “Taillights Fade”, and “Summer”.
Car Seat Headrest (Friday, 5:15 p.m.)
Like Nine Inch Nails, Car Seat Headrest is not necessarily a band — it’s one guy: Virginia native Will Toledo (Will Barnes) who has other musicians who play with him. on tour Car Seat Headrest released 12 albums via Bandcamp over five years before signing with Matador Records in 2015. Toledo has proven to be an innovator, and has developed a cult following in the indie rock world.
Danny Brown (Saturday, 4:40 p.m.)
I’m not a huge fan of modern hip hop, but everything I have heard from and about Danny Brown is impressive. The Detroit native has burst on to the hip hip scene is on the verge of becoming a major star. I’ve seen him described as punk rock hip hop, so I’m intrigued to see what he brings to the live stage.
Converge (Sunday, 3:10 pm.)
Again, punk metal isn’t really my style, but Converge is probably the most innovative metal band today. Formed in Massachusetts in the late 1990s, Converge has continued to play complex, ground-breaking music. The band has a new album coming out, and they will are part of a powerful Sunday Green Stage lineup, which also includes Hiss Golden Messenger, Piebald, Cage the Elephant, and Tool.
Strand of Oaks
A hard-to-describe act that combines folk and heavy metal, Strand of Oaks is the brainchild of Pennsylvania native Timothy Showalter. The band has an anthematic sound that is custom-made for live, outdoor venues. Expect a great show from Strand of Oaks and expect them to win thousands of new fans.