After an up and down 2022 edition, Boston Calling was back at the Harvard Athletic Complex with a stacked lineup and perfect (if not a little hot) forecast for Memorial Day 2023. Pancakes & Whiskey was there all weekend to capture the energy and excitement.
Our Favorite Part of The Lineup
The local acts! Not only is the Orange stage dedicated to local acts like the talented Coral Moons and Couch, but rising stars like Q-Tip Bandits, Alisa Amador and Mint Green each kicked off days on the bigger stages, highlighting just how deep Boston’s local scene is.
To top that off, Noah Kahan still counts as local (New England native, Watertown resident) and Dropkick Murphys filled in at the last minute for Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Boston Calling might not have the biggest footprint or the most stages, but it is the most hometown of major festivals.
King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard. Last year they had to bail last minute due to COVID, but they absolutely made up for it this year. They tore through their set with the crowd raging straight through. It may not have been as crowded as headliner Paramore, but those who stuck at the Blue Stage didn’t mind the extra room to rock out.
Mt Joy x Joy Oladokun. Fresh of their collaboration on “Friends” off her album Proof Of Life Oladokun brought Mt Joy lead man Matt Quinn out for the third song of her set to a huge reception. Mt Joy then returned the favor, inviting Oladokun out to close their set with “Astrovan.” The two work together so well and both have such positive, grateful energy in their performances that the collaboration just fits like a glove.
Local legend Noah Kahan could have been a headliner with the crowd he pulled. Aerial shots show just how crazy it is to pull 40,000 people for a midday set. Teenage girls cried in the front row, folk fans hung a little further back, but the entire crowd sang along to every word and the singer was visibly moved and blown away by the reception. It would be easy to forget he was headlining House Of Blues just over a year ago, and now is already at XFinity Center on his next stop in town.
Saturday was always going to be tough to match. The lineup felt super cohesive start to end with folk rock and folk adjacent bands. Joy Oladokun into Mt Joy into Noah Kahan and capping the night off with The Lumineers just makes sense. It was easy for fans of one to fall for the others and alternate back and forth between the Green Stage and the Red Stage.
Saturday and Sunday each boasted one impossible conflict each. Saturday made people choose between Mt Joy and Declan McKenna. While there might not seem like much in common, both put on a special set and leave it all on the stage. Mt Joy definitely pulled the larger crowd, which only makes it hurt more that fewer people discovered McKenna’s magical live performance.
Sunday made fans choose between Bleachers and Genesis Owusu. Wildly different in genre, both are engaging, high energy performers that get a crowd moving. Most of the crowd went to Bleachers, and we weren’t there so we can’t comment on that, what we can tell you about is our best set of the weekend.
Genesis Owsusu and frankly, it wasn’t even close. Somewhat of an outlier in genre and mass recognition for the festival, Owusu put on the best recent performance in memory. Awesome outfits, stunning choreography, great music, and a trip into the crowd make Owusus unmissable. One minute, he’s intense combining rap and punk rock, and the next he’s butter smooth R&B. The man can frankly do it all, and his live set can only be called art. He’s opening for Paramore’s tour right now, but if you don’t make it to that, he’s headlining his own tour this fall. Run, don’t walk, to get tickets.
A Bounce Back Year
After a rough go of it last year between rain and COVID, Boston Calling bounced back with a deep lineup and wonderful experience in 2023. A truly local festival that gets Boston (down to the 2 story Dunkin’ activation and Sausage Guy stand), Boston Calling might not have the scale or reputation of Bonnaroo, Lolla, or Outside Lands, but it still punches above its weight every year and feels slept on by the industry.
Article/Images: Brent Goldman