Memorial Day weekend has become synonymous with one of the biggest festivals on the east coast. With three prefect weather days, this year was no exception. Having the pleasure of attending the massive lineup that was Boston Calling, here are some of the most unique things I saw and ate during the three days.

The Music

It all starts with the music. The artists that took over the Harvard sports complex in 2023 covered a lot of ground. Literally, with five stages, but also in terms of genres. Almost every one represented. Though the Foo Fighters and Lumineers gave the ocean of people everything they could’ve wanted and more, there was a back-to-back on Saturday’s Red Stage that rings loudest for me. Mt. Joy hit just a golden hour was descending upon us. Their 14-song set matched the lighting and mood perfectly, combing hits like “Lemon Tree” and sing-a-long covers.

Next on the Red Stage, was Alanis Morissette. She hadn’t played Boston proper in roughly ten years. Morissette brought a rocking mix of ’90s nostalgia and emotion to her 17-song set.

The Food

Boston Calling makes a solid effort to showcase local cuisines. This includes small business, food trucks, and homegrown chefs. If New England seafood is not your thing at a concert, you had plenty of other choices. In fact, it’s hard to think of a cuisine type that was not present on the festival grounds.

Furthermore, many beverage distributors made their festival presence an experience. Watching a set from the Truly top deck allowed you to really take in the crowd. The same held true for the Jack Daniels tavern that rested alongside the VIP area stage right of the Green Stage.

The X Factors

Over the course of three days, and roughly 30 hours, there was rarely a time where the primary merch tent was not packed with people. I note this to emphasize how good a job Boston Calling does in creating their own merch line. It offers custom gear each year that is specific to that lineup. They have an attractive bulldog logo mixed with color schemes that make both the hoodie and poster desirable.

Lastly, the little things are big differentiators. For example, the Tivoli Audio Orange stage offered artist interviews and the ability to catch some of the best up-and-coming local bands. Local brands like Hey Dude footwear had great products on display that you can try on, learn about and purchase.

The home page of Boston Calling now reads, See You Next Year. As we eagerly await a new lineup announcement in a few months, let’s take a further look at the most unique things I saw at Boston Calling 2023.

  • "The BBQ Cone" The Smoke Shop BBQ

    Here is the best thing I ate. The Smoke Shop BBQ is a Boston-based establishment that has five local restaurants. They were onsite all weekend by the Green Stage and served “The Cone.” It had a mac and cheese base, topped with coleslaw, BBQ burnt ends, and jalapeño peppers. Yes, that’s a waffle ice cream cone that it is all stuffed in.

    BBQ Cone by the Smoke Shop at Boston Calling

  • Water Stations

    It was hot and there was nowhere to hide. Therefore, it’s essential to have free refillable water stations. There were plenty of them on the festival grounds, making it very practical and easy to stay hydrated and cool. Little comfortable nuances can go a long way.

    Water stations at Boston Calling

  • Local Art

    Artist creating murals over the weekend has become a popular touch at New England festivals the past few years. Leveraging artistic platforms to showcase other creative endeavors in the market is always a good thing. This city scape painting was started on Friday and complete by Sunday.

    Artist painting a city scape mural at Boston Calling.

  • The Dunkin Hut

    Dunkin Donuts had a full cabana working all weekend. It was colorful, with an engaging swing out front. With the iced coffee samples and munchkins inside, you felt like you could just camp out in there all weekend.

     

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  • Blackbird Doughnuts

    Artisanal Blackbird Doughnuts certainly belong at artistic music festival. This local dessert specialty shop has seven locations in Boston. Although they almost always have lines, perhaps none were as large as the ones they experienced at Boston Calling. Fresh trays of glazed goodness were ready at all times.

    Tray of Blackbird doughnuts at Boston Calling

  • The Crowd

    Saturday’s lineup resulted in the highest number of single day Boston Calling tickets sold in the festival’s history. The unique pairing of artists like Alanis Morissette with The Lumineers and Flaming Lips made it a day not to be missed. Morever, Noah Kahan’s name was mentioned everywhere I went. If there was a tally for an artist most people wanted to see, Kahan’s name would top the list. The sea of people along a beautiful city and Charles River backdrop, creating some stunning visuals.

     

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  • The Sausage Guy & a Hometown Throwdown

    Back to food. The Sausage Guy seems to be part of every memorable Boston event. They have been there since the beginning and will close out this list due to the fact that they always represent consistency, and Boston pride.

    Sausage and peppers sandwich with a soft pretzel on a table. Made by the Sausage Guy

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