Boston.com – Back in March, Boston Calling Musical Festival announced that hip-hop duo Black Star was no longer able to perform at the festival due to “unforeseen circumstances.”……“It’s simple. Black Star asks for 50% deposit in order to guarantee a show,” Kweli tweeted. “Boston Calling refused to pay that. So we had to cancel. They replaced us with Lil Nas X. Enjoy!” That prompted the festival’s official Twitter account to call Kweli’s tweet “factually incorrect,” though it did not specify which part of Kweli’s multi-sentence tweet was inaccurate……Boston Calling has had to replace several artists on its three-day lineup since announcing the festival slate back in January. Along with Black Star, previously announced acts Janelle Monae, Sasha Sloan, and Young Fathers will no longer be performing.
I believe it was Harvey Dent in “The Dark Knight” but could have just as possibly been Alfafa in “Little Rascals” who said “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” In the case of music festivals and the general cynicism of the Boston public, Boston Calling may need quite the hail mary to not become the villain. More to the point, my admittedly limited but still cursory knowledge of promotion/events tells me that absolute disasters like this one could financially spell the end to the once promising endeavor.
Which would suck.
Boston Calling is one of those things we didn’t realize we needed until we had it. It makes too much sense. Boston is a major, albeit small, city. It has a booming sports fanbase, a noted nightlife and, most of all for these purposes, historically it has been revered for its music scene. Yet until a few years ago we didn’t have our own festival. Way back in the day we had River Rave for alt-rock, where some of the more mainstreams bands could bleed into. There’s still Summer Jam for hip hop (see: soundcloud rap) and Kiss Concert for top 40. But there really hasn’t been an all-in-one celebration of the best music has to offer the way New Orleans has Voodoo Fest or New York has Governor’s Ball. Then Boston Calling came out of nowhere and we were like, o ya, this is actually kind of sick. It took a little bit to get used to the prices and ya the crowds were insane to us small city folk who had never experienced Manhattan at rush hour, but over the last few years I think it has stuck the landing well.
Then this year happened. I just cannot fathom what went through the promoters of Boston Calling’s heads. In 2017 the festival was headlined by BLOWING UP rapper and actual cultural spearhead and phenomenon Chance The Rapper. Last year, one of the most revered and successful artists of the past three decades as well as one of the most famous people period on earth, Eminem, made his first trip to Boston in 20 years with Boston Calling as his conduit.
This year? This year will be headlined by Twenty One Pilots.
Look I know I am one to have the occasional haterade cocktail but I don’t hate Twenty One Pilots. I actually don’t really have an opinion of them either way. If there’s nothing else on the radio I might listen to them or I might throw in a CD or something. Fair enough? (Blogger’s Note: Twenty One Pilots indeed cucked Papa G out of stardom but that is a different story for a different time and I’m not holding it against them). But I don’t think it is a burning hot take to say going from Chance and Marshall Goddam Mathers in consecutive years to rolling out Twenty One Pilots as if they are what’s hot in the streets is kind of nuts, possibly bordering on batshit. I’ll admit this could be another example of the “Logic Fallacy,” where I as someone who casually enjoys Logic but did not think he had built up a gigantic fanbase, went to his show to find 15,000 screaming kids. However, given the amount of emails and tweets I’ve seen from festival promoters that have begun imply “please God please come to this” I don’t think that’s that case.
And much like promoting a fight card or even a backyard barbecue, if the main event doesn’t feature the pound for pound elites that people want to see, you better play some money ball and aggregate that fanfare somewhere else. No title fight? Have a slew of fun stand up brawls and famous names to make your money up. No brats with stadium sauce? Make sure those dogs are the best Kayems money can buy? No actual headliner because Twenty One Pilots was the best you could come up with? Ok, but make sure fanbases like hardcore hip hop heads are appeased by having acts like Black Star actually show up and play. To do that though, you indeed may have to pay them.
So now Boston Calling has a headlining act that I can’t be sure people give a shit about. They have genre-centric acts such as Black Star and Janelle Monae cancelling because of things like, uh, not getting paid. The promoters’ heads are falling off. Just an overall disaster which again, to be completely pessimistic, could lead to the downfall of what has become a cool feather in the cap of Boston in the summer. There’s a thousand things that go into promoting and booking an event of this magnitude and I’m sure my basic brain just doesn’t get it, but a lot of this looks clumsy, foolhardy. Or maybe they just asked the wrong cross section of BU students living in Allston who they should have play the show.
I just hope this isn’t it. As my friends and I have one by one crossed the threshold of our third decade, I could see myself getting to maybe one or two more Boston Callings depending on the acts. But the accounting and the booking is not my responsibility. Showing up, getting hammered and resisting paying for a $300.00 Lyft home because of surge, is. So get it together, promoter people. Our city has come to depend on you.