Arts interview

Boston Calling co-founder talks to The Tech

Mike Snow on the start and future of the semiannual music festival

The fall installment of this year’s Boston Calling Music Festival will occur on Sept. 25-27, filling City Hall Plaza with live concert performances all through the weekend. Although Boston Calling has only been around since 2013, it has already gained an impressive following, received national acclaim, and has attracted prominent artists such as Bastille, Lorde, Tove Lo, and Marina and the Diamonds. The Tech recently interviewed Mike Snow, one of the co-founders of Boston Calling, to talk about the festival’s conception and successes.

“[My partner and I] worked for a radio station and media company here in Boston, so we had used public spaces to run some free and ticketed events. We ran a free concert on City Hall Plaza in the fall of 2009, and we had just thought it was such a great thing, because Boston has this musical heritage. We thought from the aspect of a large concert. Boston was really the right place for [a music festival], so we put together a financial plan and we built the idea from there.”

Boston Calling features an interesting mix of artists — some well-known and others not — from various genres. This year, the lineup consists of 23 different artists, including Alt-J, Hozier, Of Monsters and Men, and Walk the Moon. The variety is partially due to the complicated process that goes behind booking the artists for each show. “It’s who will have a record next year, it’s who’s touring, and it’s who you can afford. There’s a lot of things you have to factor in,” Snow said. But the eclectic lineup also comes with the benefits of attracting a diverse audience, helping new artists gain exposure, and enabling the audience to explore new types of music.

In addition to its impressive lineup, the creators also believe that the location is one of Boston Calling’s most defining factors. “Boston is such a transient city. There are so many people who have been here for school or for travel, therefore it really has that special meaning for a lot of people.” Snow also mentioned that the availability of public transportation, other quintessential Boston activities, and the option to simply buy a one day pass (instead of having to commit to all three days), gives the audience the freedom to create an experience that best suits their interests. “I just think that music festivals in general are such a commitment, but for Boston Calling, it’s like a choose-your-own- adventure book.”

The local focus extends to the city’s residents as well. When looking for workers to assist with things like lighting, sound, art installation, and other structures, Boston Calling always makes an effort to hire local people. “It does a lot for the community, and we certainly don’t take all the credit for the creative things we’ve been able to do on the site; we’ve hired a lot of great people.”

Unfortunately, Snow doesn’t get much of a chance to enjoy the festival as a spectator. “I’m truly lucky if I see an hour per day of music at the festival,” he revealed. Snow hopes to find time to see Father John Misty, and Fun’s lead singer Nate Ruess, both of whom he describes as great performers. “[Nate and I] had fun at the first Boston Calling that we ever did. I’m just really excited to see Nate again and to high five him and see him on the stage again.”

The festival’s organizers focus on creating a unique and enjoyable experience is truly paying off because performing artists (and inevitably, many members of the audience) decide to return to Boston Calling. “The artists and the attendees are our top two priorities when it comes to this festival and it’s humbling when you get a guy like Nate Ruess from Fun to say, in a very heartfelt way, that [his show at Boston Calling] was one of the greatest shows that [he] ever played. It’s awesome!”

Editor’s note: parts of this interview were edited for clarity.