Boston Calling Through the Eyes of a Local

Featured Photo by Rob Loud from the Boston Calling Official Facebook Page of The Killers

Boston Calling is undoubtedly one of the most successful festivals in the country. Growing from twice a year at Boston City Hall Plaza to once a year at Harvard Athletic Complex – the festival is noticeably a staple in the Boston community. Of course with more success, the lineup only gets better and better each year. This year the headliners include Twenty One Pilots, Tame Impala, and Travis Scott to name a few.

Since this year will be my first year attending I wanted to get a close up perspective of the festival from an insider. I decided to interview a Boston native named Sam Barlette who has worked the festival for the past three years.

Festival Squad: Tell me about the festival and how it is different from other festivals you’ve been to?

Sam: It’s very well organized compared to some other festivals I’ve been too. But it’s also been relatively small which keeps a majority of local people showing up for it. The first year they were at Harvard; I know they had an issue with weather, and the fields were a mess after the first night. I worked the next morning essentially patching the fields, and you couldn’t even tell they were destroyed by the time gates reopened. They are very good about making sure everything is running smooth. I’ve been to some festivals where if the weather turns bad the staff doesn’t know what to do. 

Festival Squad:  What is the festival like inside? I know they include comedy which is really unique. Are there a lot of art pieces and activations for fans to engage with?

Sam: They do have comedy inside one of the arenas, I’ve never actually watched any of it though. That’s the only section where there is limited viewing and there’s always a huge line waiting so I’ve never bothered to try to check any of those acts out. There’s a ton of local vendors as well as some big-name beer vendors that have cool fan engagement things going on in their specific tents. Last year there was an IKEA installation where there was a DJ playing inside and it was essentially a mini club made entirely of IKEA furniture which was super interesting. Not much art installations though.

Festival Squad: That sounds cool! Would you say the festival brings a lot of tourists to Boston for that weekend? Would you say that it is one of the, if not the biggest event of the year?

Sam: Definitely one of the biggest events of the year, if not the biggest. It’s Memorial Day weekend so the city already feels more crowded with people visiting. So with Boston calling on top of that it definitely brings out a good amount of tourists.

Festival Squad: With the festival industry growing so quickly, so many festivals come and go because it’s extremely hard to retain loyal fans who contemplate hundreds of festivals annually. A festival has to really stand out from the rest to survive. Boston Calling will celebrate its 10th year this year! What do you think has made Boston Calling so continuously successful to the point where it hasn’t only sustained but actually grown?

Sam: I think that it’s just very well put together and professionally run. It seems like every year they one-upping themselves from the previous year. I think switching from twice a year at city hall to once a year at Harvard was the best decision they could have made. City hall is such a small and congested area, and Harvard has such an open space for the fest. It’s also very family friendly. I think I’ve seen more families and young kids at Boston calling than any other festival I’ve been to and I think that brings in a specific demographic that otherwise isn’t really going out to festivals.

Festival Squad: I LOVE THAT. What are your job responsibilities with the festival?

Sam: Last year I helped set up and take down the decking beneath the stages and vendors the week before and after the festival. The year before I worked “operations” over the weekend and essentially did a bunch of busy work that nobody else wanted to do. Technically considered a volunteer I think but I get paid and get a free weekend pass.

Festival Squad: Really cool. Last question, In your perspective as a local, what does Boston calling mean to the locals?

Sam: Depends who you ask. There’s always those people who can’t stand the extra traffic and noise that it brings but I think anyone who’s gone just appreciates the music that it brings in. Mass doesn’t really have any big festival other than that so it’s awesome to have one right in our backyard and then be able to still go home at the end of the day. It’s personally one of my favorite weekends of the year and I look forward to it each year.

Festival Squad: Amazing. Thanks so much for your time Sam and I’ll see you there this year!

There you have it. Not only is this festival successful, but it is extremely well run. Employees and locals alike talk highly of it and value it as an addition to their community and culture. I hope to see you all there this year!

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