Arts music festival preview

“Born in Boston”

Boston Calling music festival’s 2017 iteration boasts new venue and programming

Boston Calling Music Festival
May 26–28, 2017
Harvard Athletic Complex

Since its first festival in May 2013, Boston Calling is well on its way to becoming a regular fixture in the lives of Bostonian music fans. Brian Appel, the festival’s producer and cofounder, hopes the festival has been “a positive addition to the cultural scene.” And certainly it has been — with a lineup ranging from Chance the Rapper to Mumford and Suns and from international acts to local ones, the festival provides opportunities for attendees to discover new artists, and for new artists to discover a new stage.

This year, the festival seeks to expand with a new venue at the Harvard Athletic Complex. While fond of the festival’s previous City Hall Plaza location, Appel cites a desire for expansion and new programming as reasons for the move. After gaining enough experience with  managing the festival’s logistics, Appel and his colleagues decided to approach Harvard with their proposal: “We learned so much about how to operate the festival and work with the city — to do it the right way. Those years of all that work gave us the knowledge and the wherewithal to go to Harvard and say, ‘Hey, we think we’re a good fit to bring this over to your property.” Luckily for Boston Calling, Harvard proved to be “willing and accommodating."

To make full use of the facilities, Appel and the festival’s orchestrators initially intended to add a film-based component: “We always wanted to expand Boston Calling beyond music. Film felt like a great new addition to bring in to keep the programming of the event fresh, to give us opportunities to reach new audiences,” he notes. Though the film component has been postponed until a future festival, it has been replaced with a host of comedy acts.  

The 2017 Boston Calling will also boast the presence of custom art installments and murals. This artistic component will be curated by builder and designer Russ Bennett, who is well-known for his vibrant and whimsical installations. Bennett has worked on a plethora of music festivals and events, including Bonnaroo in Tennessee. The Boston Calling installations will only be unveiled upon the opening of the festival itself, and Appel hopes the art will help the festival “come to life even more so than it has in the past.”

Appel looks forward to the event in May: “We are working hard to make sure that this event looks and feels like completely different from anything anyone has seen in New England before.”

For Appel, the festival holds cultural significance: “We believe that this festival is born in Boston — we’re all Bostonians that run it.” Appel is particularly enthusiastic about the Boston representation in the lineup: Local artists Buffalo Tom, Piebald, and Converge will be playing at the event. Another artist Appel is excited about is Justin Vernon, Bon Iver’s founder, with whom he has collaborated before: “ I’m particularly excited to see Justin again, and see him perform. They’re a fantastic band, Bon Iver, so that’s always a highlight for me.” Other notable artists performing include Cage the Elephant, Oh Wonder, Tegan and Sara, Solange, The xx, Major Lazer, and Weezer. Further information about the festival is available at