Entertainment » Music

’Boston Calling’ :: Indie Music Fest Comes This Weekend

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Monday May 20, 2013

Austin has South by Southwest. Chicago has Lollapalooza. Manchester has Bonnaroo.

Despite having a thriving and vibrant music scene, a proper music festival has never really materialized in Boston; that is until Brian Appel and Mike Snow came together to create the upcoming two-day rock event - Boston Calling.

Appel and Snow met while working at Boston's alternative radio station WFNX and the Boston Phoenix seven years ago. About 18 months ago, they realized there was a good opportunity to bring a ticketed music festival to downtown Boston. The duo quit their jobs to focus on Boston Calling fulltime, and have been going full throttle to bring Beantown its first legit festival experience.

Boston Calling boasts 18 acts over two days (May 25 and 26) and will be held in downtown's City Hall Plaza. The Grammy award winning band fun. will headline Saturday, May 25 and indie rock legends, the National, are slated to headline on Sunday, May 26. Other artists include, Marina and the Diamonds, the Shins, Matt & Kim, Dirty Projectors, Andrew Bird, the Walkmen, Youth Lagoon, Bad Rabbits and others.

In order to create a stellar lineup, the duo turned to Aaron Dessner of the National. Appeal told EDGE Dessner was one of the first partners he and Snow worked with when they started putting the festival together.

"Working with Aaron gave us a committed headliner, in the National, which we were all thrilled about," Appel said. "The National is the type of band that other bands hope to play with. So once Aaron started making callas and we let it be known the National were going to be involved, it became a little easier to get bands on the bill."

He added that they also teamed up with Bowery Presents and used their relationships in order to curate the line up.

This isn’t the first time Dessner curated a festival; Appel said he’s worked with All Tomorrows Parties, an alternative music festival and England, and another event in Brooklyn.

"He was quoted in the Boston Globe saying he loves playing in Boston and thinks the market here is just ripe for the music festival, so this was a really good fit for Aaron," Appel said. "He was excited getting involved early on."

Boston Calling, which Appel says will draw nearly 20,000 attendees each day, will be held in City Hall Plaza. Appel says they chose the location because "it provides a great feel and experience for the attendee" and because it is accessible by all major train and bus lines.

"A lot of people don’t know this but if you’re going to do an event at the Boston Common or Hatch Shell over on the Charles River, those are not city run locations," Appel added. "Those are run by the state, so you’re not allowed to do ticked paid events there. City Hall Plaza is the biggest spot in the city where you can do a ticketed event."

Even though City Hall Plaza is shaped like an amphitheater, it’s no secret the structure is bare and lacks pizzazz that perhaps other festivals offer. Appel and Snow are aware of this and plan on sprucing up the location.

"We’re working with a few diff design teams," Appel said. "Not to take away of the downtown urban feeling of the environment but to make it a little more inviting to come spend their entire holiday weekend down there." He went on to say that they are building a second stage on the top portion of the theater and that even though there will be two stages, there will be no overlapping sets.

The duo stressed that safety was their number one concern when putting together Boston Calling.

"When you build something like this, this city isn’t different from any other, where the city’s number one concern is public safety," Appel said. "Our mantra is the same as the city’s: if there is no public safety there’s no event or there’s no event number two."

If there is an "event number two", Appel and Mike seem to have big plans. When asked to compare Boston Calling to another music festival, Appel " a very, very small South By Southwest."

"We would like this to become more inclusive of the bars, restaurants and surrounding businesses as we grow," he continued. "We will never be Coachella or Bonnaroo nor is that our intention. We are focused on being a downtown Boston entity providing people with a lot of great things to do over the course of the weekend. Our hope is to become more than just this music festival."

Boston Calling Music Festival featuring fun., the National, Marina and the Diamonds, amongst other bands takes place on May 25-26, 2013 at City Hall Plaza in Downtown Boston. Only a limited amount of VIP tickets are currently available. For more information, visit bostoncalling.com.


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