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Posted Jun 1st, 2015 (10:00 am) by Sarah Wilson
Boston Calling 5
Image by Sarah L Wilson Photography

Another round of Boston Calling Music Festival has come and gone. The fifth installment was marked by three days of diverse line up, good vibes, perfect weather and attention to detail that is rapidly pulling the little festival that could to the forefront.

A little history on the festival. The inaugural was back in May of 2013. It’s hard to believe how young the fest is, it’s that well run, managed and thought-out. The partnership of Crashline with The Bowery Presents and the PR expertise of 44-Communications is serendipitous; things work and work well and the hard work of the folks with those organizations really shows.

Festival Production 27/30
There's not much that isn't fantastic here. The stages are well spaced, working around the current construction in one corner of Boston's City Hall Plaza where the city is making improvements on their subway system. Large screens that call out who's up next or broadcast the current performer make it so that everyone can see the stage no matter where they are. If you're front row at the red stage, the blue stage is not so far away that it can't be seen-even without the big screens.

The crowd is big and the plaza is full from the start to the finish but the layout is such that getting from say one stage to the VIP area or over to merch is not difficult. And it was the crowd the festival was thinking of when they implemented some new things for BCV such as a bag check outside the gates and free sunscreen dispensers. In addition, it was clean. Super clean. Plenty of trash cans and the addition this time of a crew of cleaners who spent the day making sure it City Hall Plaza stayed clean really kept things in order.

Food is plentiful and has a ton of options from grilled cheese to pizza to Chipotle, it's all there. One complaint heard around the grounds this time was the lack of soft drinks. There wasn't a Coke or Pepsi to be found anywhere on the grounds.

To be honest, there isn't much that can be improved on with the overall production. The weakest point is the cost of lodging in Boston which is presumptively something has no control over. Since Boston is such an expensive city for out of town folks, it would be interesting to see them sponsor some truly affordable packages for those who'd like to travel in.

Presentation 18/20

The Boston Calling logo has become well known, at this point. The blue and red versions that mark the two different stages and help distinguish spring BC from the fall BC line ups. They have stepped up the branding by adding posters, a plethora of t-shirts and merch. Giant Jenga and Connect Four games with pieces branded with the BC logo. It's clean, simple and recognizable and let's face it...a Boston Terrier in a bowler is pretty darn cute too. And you can get a pennant or print bearing the pooch silk screened right at the festival too.

That being said, the announcement that came at the end of the festival also gave us a sneak preview of the logo with a few updates for fall!

Sustainability Practices 23/25

From the first festival BC has been sure to have recycling bins available. They've stepped that up since then. Aside from recycling bins there's the location itself that makes this an environmentally friendly event. Mass transit friendly, it's actually encouraged to join the party by foot or by train. Then there's the fact that the two stages power comes from, at least in large part, from bio-diesel. Pretty exciting step up for Boston Calling. The use of water trucks and encouraging people to reuse bottles by not taking away the lids (as some festivals do) is another plus. All and all, considering the use of mass transit, the alternative fuel and the recycling Boston Calling is definitely making efforts to off set their impact.

Non-Musical Entertainment 8/10

While Boston Calling certainly doesn't bill itself as anything but a music experience, they do make efforts to provide "something else" for concert goers to do. For instance, in the side of the plaza is a lawn of AstroTurf adorned with giant Jenga and Connect Four games. A ping pong table was pretty popular as were the lawn chairs set up to watch games on the big screen TVs. It was a place to get a little distance from the music or shelter on the steps in the shade for a bit. Overall, the area was wildly popular.

Additionally, the sponsors of the festival did not to just hand out their promo items and move on. There was Cornhole games and even a set up of old school board games like Hungry Hungry Hippos and Operation from various sponsors.

The Beer Garden was back again too with sponsors Sam Adams and Wicked Wines providing libations. Under the cool shade of trees by day and twinkling lights in them at night, the Beer Garden was again a crowd favorite.

Overall Festival Atmosphere 13/15

People go to music fests for different reasons. Some are in it for the fun of camping out and listening to their favorite bands play in a natural setting. Others might want a little more 'civilization' with their festival. Those are the folks that Boston Calling seems designed to entice through their gates. With a laid back, sophisticated air about it, Boston Calling is never pretentious and never, ever boring. Planned with the comfort, safety and enjoyment of the concert goers in mind, Boston Calling has shown that you don't have to play in a field to be a festival of note!

Anything wrong? Well not wrong...but the weaker side of the festival, I believe, lies with it's VIP program. The offerings for VIPs were markedly less VIP than previous years. Yes as a VIP one had exclusive access to the city hall building court yard (read as: shade and a bar and portlets that were exclusive for VIPs) and cushy booths, but the food provided to VIPs this time was cursory at best. The VIP viewing platform was useless for viewing the red stage due to it's placement to the side of the stage at an angle where you couldn't actually see the stage.

Other than that, the festival moved smoothly through the weekend. From act to act, day to day, the crowd was easily accommodated whether it was looking for food, drinks or just to kick back in the shade and hear their favorite band play.

Overall Rating 89/100

Boston Calling started out strong four years ago and has only improved over the years. It's a great experience to see so much music in such a short period of time in such a unique venue and have it all work so smoothly. September brings BC6 with another diverse line up and the promise to be at least as good as 5; which is saying quite a bit.

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