Boston Calling expands in size and attendance for 2017

Chance The Rapper will headline the Boston Calling festival this year. In this photo, he announces a gift of $1 million to the Chicago Public School Foundation during a news conference at the Westcott Elementary School, Monday, March 6, 2017, in Chicago. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Exchange)

Boston Calling’s eighth festival, taking place May 26-28, is seeing a lot of changes this year, including a new location, a film component and the largest lineup the festival has ever seen.

In the past, the festival was held biannually, in the spring and fall. This year will be the start of a yearly festival. Headliners include Chance the Rapper, Mumford and Sons and Tool.

2017 will mark the festival’s first year at a new location, the Harvard Athletic Complex, instead of the former location in the middle of the city at Boston’s City Hall Plaza.

Producer and cofounder of Boston Calling Brian Appel said the festival moved because organizers wanted a chance to make it bigger, both physically and in terms of the audience’s experience.

“We felt like we were limited in what we could book for music before, where we were only able to bring 22… or 23 bands,” Appel said. “Now, we were able to double that, so we can bring in 45 bands in one weekend here.”

Appel said the larger venue will give the festival more space, and ultimately will provide attendees with more variety than City Hall Plaza.

“We have space to do artistic installations here. We have indoor facilities for people to hang out and get out of the sun,” Appel said. “I do think it will be a more enjoyable experience for people.”

Appel said organizers are “very lucky and excited for” a new film component curated by Natalie Portman.

“When we roll out the film lineup, I think the audience will be excited and surprised by some of the films that Natalie has selected,” Appel said.

While Appel kept many details about the film portion under wraps, he believes festival-goers will welcome the addition of movies to the music.

“Even if you love all the bands, it’s sometimes nice to take a break and grab a seat and put your feet up for an hour or so and experience something else besides music,” Appel said.

More details about the film component will be released in the next few weeks.

The lineup of Boston Calling shows a lot of diversity. The festival refuses to stick to one genre. Bands for 2017 include indie and alternative bands like The 1975, Weezer, the xx and Bon Iver, rock bands including Tool, Cage the Elephant and the Hotelier, hip-hop artists like Chance the Rapper, Run the Jewels and Danny Brown, and many more.

“We’ve never tried to be branded as one particular genre of festival,” Appel said. “This isn’t the Boston Calling Rock Festival or the Boston Calling Folk Festival.”

Appel acknowledges the headliners are a big draw, but the supporting bands bring the line up together.

“We’re really happy with all three of the headliners, but it’s really the undercard, so to speak, that I think is just as compelling, if not more,” Appel said.

Chance the Rapper is arguably one of the biggest names on the lineup, after winning this year’s Grammy for Best New Artist and just this past week donating $1 million and advocating for better funding for Chicago’s public schools system.

Appel said organizers knew they wanted to book Chance for Boston Calling after seeing him perform last year at the Eaux Claires festival as a special guest with Francis and the Lights.

“Even in this once song that he came out and performed during, you could just tell he is electric and we sent an offer right away,” Appel said. “We know that his live show is incredible.”

Tool’s performance at Boston Calling will be the bands’ first in the Greater Boston area in five years. Fans of the progressive rock/metal hybrid band are waiting eagerly while Tool records their first album since 2006.

“They, more than any band we’ve ever booked in the history of this festival, have a massively loyal and dedicated following,” Appel said, commenting on the ethusaistic response of fans after the band was announced as a headliner for this year’s festival.

Appel said all the change is helping the festival move to an even bigger stage, as the audience, artists and space of Boston Calling just keep growing.

“I don’t think the vibe and the aesthetic and the culture changes dramatically,” Appel said. “I think it’s enhanced and I think it gets better, but we will not lose sight of what people originally liked about Boston Calling.”


Schae Beaudoin is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at schae.beaudoin@uconn.edu.