Another week, another music festival announcement in the Neat Beet area, as Boston Calling starts off its fourth year of existence with the release of their May 2016 festival lineup. A semi-annual occurrence in downtown Boston, Boston Calling is a two-stage, three-day event that hasn’t expanded much since its inception in the spring of 2013, due to the tight quarters of City Hall Plaza, though they have added a Friday schedule and a few more acts to each lineup, bringing their current total up to 23.
After reviewing last Thursday’s announcement, Boston Calling has clearly done a wonderful job putting together a very strong, eclectic festival this upcoming spring, bringing in some large acts making the festival rounds this year, and giving them a fairly loaded lineup despite the smaller quantity of acts and restrictions on space. Tickets are now on sale at their website for $185 for the full festival experience, and if you haven’t yet seen it, their lineup announcement video is pretty cool.
Similar to what we did for the Governors Ball announcement last week, I’ll be highlighting eight artists/bands (one from each tier of the announced list) to watch out for May 27th through the 29th.
Sia – I have long gone on record saying that if Australian singer-songwriter Sia ever announced a show in my area, I would drop what I’m doing and see it. Having listened to her music since her collaborations with the British electronica duo Zero 7 in the early 2000’s, I was equal parts surprised and ecstatic that she was announced as the main headliner for the festival. Sia’s seventh album, This Is Acting, will also be released at the end of January, so festival-goers will assuredly have more fantastic material to listen to during her highly-anticipated appearance at Boston Calling.
Miike Snow – Another band releasing an album prior to the festival is Swedish indie electro-pop trio Miike Snow, whose third album, appropriately titled iii, will drop in early March. Already slated to appear at Coachella and Governors Ball this year, Miike Snow is using the festival circuit as a springboard to put their music out to the masses, and those attending Boston Calling will certainly be pleased with their catchy hooks and dance beats. Make sure to check out their music video for their new single “Genghis Khan,” (linked above) which has a spoof take on James Bond villains circa the 1960s.
Courtney Barnett – One of the albums that just missed my end of year list for 2015 was Courtney Barnett’s full-length debut, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. The Australian indie rocker made an impression in a big way, making it on many critics’ “Best Of 2015” lists, and earning herself a multitude of award nominations (and several wins) along with a “Best New Artist” nod for this year’s upcoming Grammy Awards. Her music has a 90’s throwback style and a melodically spoken delivery to her lyrics, and will most likely pull a large crowd for her set this May, so don’t miss out.
Elle King – The fourth tier of Boston Calling’s spring lineup is loaded with talent, but Californian singer-songwriter Elle King is the one who stands out as someone people might know the least about. The 26-year-old has a very unique sound, combining a multitude of genres (folk, blues, rock, and pop are major themes) with a voice that can hold its own with all of them, making her set at the festival a highly intriguing option. King’s debut album, Love Stuff, dropped last February, including her hit single “Ex’s & Oh’s” which garnered two Grammy Award nominations for “Best Rock Performance” and “Best Rock Song.”
The Vaccines – Continuing the eclectic collection of musicians at the festival are the British quartet of post-punkers, The Vaccines. Coming off the release of their third album, English Graffiti, which dropped the day after last May’s Boston Calling, the band only has two scheduled stops in the United States so far, with their upcoming set in downtown Boston being one of them. I’m personally a fan of post-punk, garage rock, and so The Vaccines will definitely be a band I’m looking forward to hearing live this May.
Vince Staples – Boston Calling apparently believes in the mantra that “variety is the spice of life,” because the inclusion of Vince Staples in their lineup adds yet another facet to an already diverse collection of musicians. A former gang member who didn’t really want to be a rapper starting out, Staples began guest appearing on albums by members of Odd Future and collaborating with Mac Miller before ultimately releasing his debut album, Summertime ‘06, at the end of June last year. He is hitting nearly all of the major festivals this year, but if you can’t get out to California, Washington, or even NYC, make sure to catch him when he stops through Boston in May.
Christine and the Queens – French singer-songwriter Héloïse Letissier–better known as Christine and the Queens–recently re-released her self-titled debut album in the U.S. in October (it came out internationally in 2014 as Chaleur Humaine). The French-English bilingual album is a collection of catchy, entertaining synthpop, which you don’t need to understand either language to enjoy. Her only American stops so far this year are festival appearances, so Boston Calling might be one of your only chances in the foreseeable future to catch Christine and the Queens’ engaging act.
Palehound – Last up on this list is the hometown indie rock band Palehound, who recently won “Best New Artist” at the Boston Music Awards this past December. Their debut album, Dry Food, came out last August, and it garnered critical acclaim by a multitude of music blogs, earning inclusion in several “Best of 2015” lists. The Ellen Kempner-led trio pairs easygoing indie music with occasionally intricate guitar work, and the result is infinitely listenable. You can catch a preview of their Boston Calling set this week as they open for Torres at Bowery Ballroom on Thursday and the Allston, MA venue Great Scott on Friday, but if you miss those shows, make sure to carve out some time to see them at the festival in May.