With multiple music festivals under its belt since 2013, Boston Calling has established itself as being at its best under the night sky. As previous headliners like Lorde, Passion Pit, and Kendrick Lamar thumped and purred within the concrete confines of City Hall Plaza, the site’s brutalism architecture is hidden not under the darkness above, but by a constant glow of lights and shining spectacles. City Hall Plaza never looked so good — nor feels as comfortable — than during the late-edition, big-name performances during Boston Calling.
This weekend, that should remain on course, as the Avett Brothers, alt-J, and Alabama Shakes bring their A-games as headliners for tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday. But the true juice of any music fest worth its Vitamin Water is usually the undercard, and this Fall 2015 edition of Boston Calling is brimming with talent set to take the next step to headliner status in the second half of the 2010’s. Sure, they’ll be playing during the day, but they’ll be getting the parties started right.
Here are five kinda-sorta under the radar acts set to impress this weekend. Bring your sunglasses.
Great bands transcend the genres they play, and Grey Season are greater than just the latest addition to the bluegrass, folk, and Americana scene. The young Berklee-bred band performed to the largest crowd at our SXSW party back in March, the Brush Square Park tent brimming with industry folk and talent buyers from Boston to Los Angeles. Grey Season’s infectious, high energy set was reared on busking and street performances, yet their transition to bigger and bigger stages has been seamless. Why? Because their songwriting resonates, translates, and remains with you long after the last banjo string has been plucked. This is perhaps Boston’s next big breakout band.
Formerly known as Saint Pepsi before the soft drink company was all like “Heyyyy waaait a miiiinute”, Skylar Spence is the solo project of Long Island native and Boston College alum Ryan DeRobertis. His latest record Prom King, is adding a fresh take to new-disco and electronic pop. His sunny vibes should only be matched by the perfect weather expected, and while CHVRCHES and Chromeo will likely garner Boston Calling headlines this weekend in the electro-pop category, Skylar Spence’s deep-thump smart-pop should hod its own against the later acts. Put “Fiona Coyne” on in your earbuds while headed to Government Center and you’ll waltz out of the T Station like a smooth motherfucker with a bad case of the awesomes. “Can’t See You” will get you there in style, as well.
Last night at our Sound Of Our Town Party, Evan Kenney of Dirty Bangs jumped on stage with Mikey Holland’s American Denim and blasted out a fierce rendition of Barry & The Remains’ “Don’t Look Back.” It brought the tent down. This weekend, he and his Dirty Bangs crew, which reunites him with some of his old Red Yellow bandmates, bust out straight-fire originals, tucking in multiple genres (post-punk, psych-pop, classic rock) under the umbrella of good old fashioned rock and roll. Dirty Bangs kick off the Sunday slate, and should do enough to start making Boston Calling organizers question why the Boston bands always have to open these jim-jams. This won’t be some “Oh let the local band play first” kind of performance. This is sophisticatedly drunk rock raised on several decades of Boston music. And weirdo covers in the name of Suicide.
Bully’s 2015 record Feels Like is already one of the top releases of the year, led by power-charged single “Tryin'”, which is so great you pretty much ignore (or love!) the fact that singer/guitarist Alicia Bognanno’s impassioned screams fall somewhere between Kurt Cobain and Tommy Pickles. While Nashville churns out country-pop hit and after hit, the city’s suburb of Murfreesboro is suddenly home to one of the best young guitar-rock bands around, proving the town is more than just the home of Middle Tennessee State, Slick Pig BBQ, and way too many Dollar General stores. Expect a massive crowd for Bully’s Sunday afternoon set, and expect most up front to know all the words to each song. Read out interview with Bognanno here.
Perhaps the least “under the radar” band on this list (and that’s with Bully getting love from NPR), MisterWives are an indie-pop band from New York City that will put the hook in you with two wildly vibrant modern pop jams in “Reflections” and “Our Own House.” The soul and r&b underbelly of the former bounces along with ease, while the later turns up the funk-pop production to levels that could topple both blog radio and Top 40. MisterWives are poised to be one of those rare 2015 bands that maintain street cred while being enjoyed by your crazy Aunt out in sticks. City Hall should be a party when they steer Sunday to its grand finale.
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