Boston Calling’s Growing Pains: Long Lines, Overflowing Garbage, And Overlapping Sets

By Rami Abou-Sabe

Boston Calling, the local music, food, and arts fest wrapped Sunday night (May 28). With headliners like Chance the Rapper (Friday), Mumford & Sons (Saturday), and Tool (Sunday), the three-day jaunt brought fans from every corner of the musical landscape.

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Located at Boston’s City Hall Plaza in the past, Boston Calling’s 2017 move to the Harvard Athletic Complex was marked with a number of growing pains. From long lines to overflowing trash bins and poorly-planned set times, we’re pretty sure the organizers have learned a few hard lessons about throwing a festival of this size.

A cold, rainy afternoon put a damper on Friday’s activities, but the promise of hip-hop heavyweight Chance the Rapper kept spirits high throughout the night. As the post-work crowd flooded the muddy festival grounds, one thing became apparent: the layout left much to be desired.

With many of the dining options, bathrooms, and other facilities located near the central entranceway, lines became unbearable. While adventurous festival-goers found empty port-a-potties and fully-stocked food stands at the far reaches of the 16-acre lot, poor signage and unclear pre-festival messaging left many people standing in line for upwards of an hour just to get a bite to eat. “The line for food is five times as long as the one for beer! It’s like they want us to get fucked up,” one attendee noted. Others took to Twitter to voice their frustration, one even comparing the festival to the Fyre Festival disaster.


By Saturday, the sunshine and Mumford & Sons brought a bigger crowd, which led to even longer lines (and the trash problem pictured above). While empty beer cans and live music go hand in hand, we’ve never seen a festival not be able to handle the sheer amount of overflowing garbage quite like Boston Calling. By mid-afternoon, there was nowhere to dispose of trash properly, so perplexed attendees simply left their fallen soldiers in the mud. At night’s end, the shuffle of feet had coalesced all the wayward cans into mini rivers of Miller Lite filling the divots in the rain-soaked ground.

As Sunday rolled around, organizers seemed to have the trash problem under control, but there was no fixing the biggest blunder of the weekend; two of the most popular acts slated to perform, alt-rock classics Weezer, and dance impresarios Major Lazer, were scheduled at the SAME TIME. Overlapped sets are par for the course at festivals, but typically major acts are staggered to give fans a chance to catch a bit of both. Not the case with Boston Calling. Perhaps the organizers thought there wouldn’t be much crossover between the different genres? Without any behind-the-scenes knowledge, we can’t speculate too much on what led to the baffling decision, but we’re hopeful Boston Calling won’t make the same mistake next year.

All in all, 2017 was a valiant effort to bring a legitimate, full-fledged festival to our fine city, albeit with a handful of First World growing pains. Even the organizers made note of the problems in hopes of improving next year, and we wish them the best. Boston deserves a festival like what Calling could have been.


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