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Inside New England’s Premier Festival

All of the best moments from this weekend’s Boston Calling festival

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Since its inception in 2013, Boston Calling has evolved from a biannual festival (May and September) at City Hall Plaza to a once-a-year festival held at Harvard Athletic Complex featuring some of the biggest names in music, comedy and art. This Memorial Day weekend, the three-day multi-stage festival came to life with a new film component, a larger venue and headliners such as Chance the Rapper, Mumford & Sons and Tool. 

The reasoning behind moving the venue was based on audience’s experiences in the past and the rate the festival has been growing in popularity. Producer and co-founder of Boston Calling, Brian Appel, explained that the organizers felt that by changing locations, the festival was able to bring in 45 bands as opposed to 22 or 23 and that’s what the fans want–more music. It worked–the festival attracted over 40,000 attendees this year.

With an extensive food lineup including local burger icon Tasty Burger, Miller High Life Bar, Dark Horse Wines’ Cabernet and Rosé and a Mikkeller Craft Beer Bar; festival goers would not go hungry or thirsty in Boston over Memorial Day weekend (as long as you got on the lines early).  

One of the most unique aspects of Boston Calling 2017 was the Comedy Experience, hosted by Hannibal Buress, best known for his role on Comedy Central’s Broad City. Other notable comedians who made appearances were Pete Holmes, creator and star of HBO’s Crashing and Eugene Mirman, voice of Gene on the Emmy Award-winning Bob’s Burgers.

With a slew of east coast festivals popping up, Boston Calling pulled out all the stops for their fifth year. Their 2017 lineup was referred to by Billboard as “a lineup that festival dreams are made of,” which included The 1975, Cage the Elephant, Frances and The Lights, Major Lazer and Weezer. New bands on the scene included Oh Wonder, PUP and Kevin Morby. Plus, a ton of guest performers made the weekend even more unforgettable.

Take a look below for some of the highlights from the weekend-long festival experience. 


Day one’s lineup included everything from hip-hop to indie folk music. Unfortunately, Solange dropped out of the lineup early in the day and was replaced by Migos. Crowds lined up to see Francis and the Lights, also known as Francis Farewell Starlite, who is celebrated for his distinct dance moves. After he made his way through the crowd, dancing, he surprised the massive crowd by bringing Grammy-winner and festival headliner Chance the Rapper out to help perform the choreography for “May I Have This Dance.” 

Francis and the Lights

Later, Bon Iver proved that he has come a long way since his ambient “Skinny Love” track. Vocalist Justin Vernon perfectly complimented his falsetto voice with a breathtaking light show and finished his set with a captivating rendition of “Skinny Love” in the rain.

When it was Chance the Rapper’s turn to perform on the Green Stage, he chose to arrive on a mini motorcycle and perform his entire Coloring Book album including “Same Drugs” from a small stage set up behind the sound booth, which made for an intimate set. 


The day started out relaxing, with groups of people sitting out on the lawn of the Harvard Athletic Stadium, nursing their bottles of Samuel Adams and savoring a Tasty Burger. During Oh Wonder’s afternoon set, the electric duo seemed to be fully enjoying themselves on the Red Stage. Within a few songs, the whole crowd was on their feet singing along and spinning in circles. The XX jumped onto the Red Stage a little while later and somehow brought an even higher energy. This dynamic trio played all their hits including their beloved instrumental, “Intro.” 

Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons

The day was destined for greatness and when headliner Mumford & Sons exploded on the Green Stage, they did not disappoint. From fire explosions to kicked over drum sets, the band pulled out all the stops. After belting out “Little Lion Man,” “I Will Wait,” and “Ditmas,” the foursome comprised of Marcus Mumford, Winston Marshall, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane announced that they would be bringing some friends on stage to join them. Brandi Carlisle, Nathaniel Rateliff and Kevin Morby, all performers at Boston Calling, joined arguably one of the most popular bands in the world at the moment, on stage for a rousing rendition of The Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends.” 

Brandi Carlisle

Along with these billed performers, Mumford brought out legendary songwriter, producer and lead singer of The National, Aaron Dessner. 


As the gates for Boston Calling opened, the skies turned grey and the crowds prepared for an overcast day. What wasn’t overcast was the performances throughout the third day. From punk rock group PUP on the Blue Stage crowd-surfing to Run the Jewels bringing the hip-hop to the Red Stage, the clouds were forgotten in no time. The highlight was Grammy’s Best Rock Album winners Cage the Elephant, who put on one of their most electric performances to date. Lead vocalist Matt Shultz did not fail as he ended the show shirtless and shoeless. He danced on the crowd with his iconic moves that can only be compared to the legendary Mick Jagger. At one point, with his microphone in his belt and challenged the audience to “Let’s celebrate life, how about that?” 

Cage the Elephant

Immediately after the spectacular show by Cage, the electronic music trio Major Lazer, made up of Diplo, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire, took to the stage. Diplo wound up crowd-surfing in an inflatable hamster ball as confetti burst through the air and projections on the screen read “Peace is the Mission.” At the same time across the festival, class 90’s rockers Weezer belted out their hits like, “Beverly Hills” and “Buddy Holly.”

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer

The final headline to perform was Tool, the American rock band from the early 90’s. The band paid tribute to Memorial Day which seemed fitting as the frontman Maynard James Keenan is a veteran on the United States Army. At the end of his tribute he declares, “Divided we fall. Don’t believe the hype dumb-dumbs, we’re all in this together.” 

Take a look through the gallery above for a peak at some of the performances from the weekend.

Main image credit: Ty Johnson