Caspian are one of two Massachusetts bands on the 18-band Boston Calling lineup
The inaugural lineup for May's BOSTON CALLING — the first major indie rock/pop festival set to grace Suffolk County pretty much ever — was announced this morning, and homegrown musicians, understandably, were pissed.
“A Boston festival with no local presence? Bullshit.”
“More locals! I want more locals!!!”
“WHERE ARE THE BOSTON BANDS?!”
Here’s the deal, everyone: the fact that this isn’t a Boston-centric bill is not a personal slight you should be wringing your hands over.
Boston Calling isn’t an evil festival that seeks to misrepresent your musical community and tell you what Boston music sounds like. Eighteen bands are playing over the course of two days at City Hall Plaza. This is hardly an event that’ll pull people away from your headlining shows at Great Scott, T.T. The Bear's Place, the Middle East, Radio, the ‘Dise, and what have you, given that the headliners — fun., the National, the Shins, Marina and the Diamonds, the Dirty Projectors — will be playing over the course of a day and potentially into the evening in a location you wouldn’t be caught dead in normally.
It’s not like Boston Calling is taking over the venues and pushing people out, or setting a local band up with a dueling bill-type situation one would potentially face if they were playing at T.T.’s and the Middle East was hosting Andrew Bird downstairs or something.
On top of that, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for most of Boston’s bands to play a festival of this nature anyway, given the bill presented. (Last time I checked there wasn’t a bidding war going for a gig to open for fun., but I could be wrong.) All of these bands have headlined — and sold out — the House of Blues, Royale, the Paradise, the Bank of America Pavilion or the Wang Theatre.
The two Boston bands included on the lineup — Bad Rabbits and Caspian — have built loyal, national fan bases, they’ve toured extensively and they’re pros at the festival circuit game. Not only can they hold their own musically onstage with these Grammy-winning, chart-topping zeitgeists, they can hold their own when it comes to the very real assets that festival bookers and promoters take into consideration when they’re trying to get a major music event off the ground for the first time, like draw, social media presence, who they’ve supported on tour and national press.
I’m not saying that Bad Rabbits and Caspian are better than the scores of talented musicians that keep this city sounding beautiful on a daily basis. I’m saying that they’re a better fit for a festival like this than most of the talented musicians that keep this city sounding beautiful on a daily basis.
Though yes, of course, it’d be incredible to see the lineup extended to include additional Boston bands (Mean Creek and Kingsley Flood come to mind, as do the Dropkick Murphys based on the criteria listed above), this is the first time at the rodeo for Boston Calling. This is the first time Bowery Presents has booked a juggernaut of a lineup for a multi-day event of this nature in town. Based on the fact that they’ve enlisted the help of Aaron Dessner of the National — who has not only toured extensively with his own band but produced some of the most talked about indie records of the past year, Sharon Van Etten’s Tramp and Local Natives’ Hummingbird — you know that they’re not messing around. They’re clearly looking to build a foundation for a recurring event and start off with a manageable lineup, and the fact that they’re doing so while including two excellent Boston bands is a good thing, because it could lead to bigger, broader and more inclusive Boston Callings in the coming years.
I’m of the mindset that City Hall Plaza is best suited for Chowderfest and pretty much nothing else, but I look forward to being proven wrong with Boston Calling. If this works — if these bands bring it, if the venue works out, if the crowds don’t riot and bro out at Government Center — this could lead to an event that shines a spotlight on Boston and, in turn, the music that keeps it going.
So while I’d love to see more Bostonian talent on the Boston Calling stage in 2013, I’m okay with the fact that there’s a good shot I’ll get to see more in the years to come.