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Everything about the eighth edition of Boston Calling screams “big.” The number of musical acts has doubled. The setup on the 16-acre Harvard Athletic Complex dwarfs the festival’s old home at City Hall. There’s more food options, more music stages, three full days of comedy, a VIP sky deck, and even a towering ferris wheel.
To help you make sense of the festival’s big changes, we put together this guide that breaks down everything you need to know, including what to eat, what to see, and how exactly you should get there.
Getting to and from the festival
Two words: public transportation. Festival organizers released a YouTube video that strongly encourages festivalgoers to use the Red Line stop in Harvard Square and then walk down JFK Street across the Charles River to the athletic complex entrance on North Harvard Street. If walking the half mile from Harvard Square to Harvard Stadium is too much, the 66 and 86 bus lines pick up and drop off outside the stadium.
VIP Platinum guests will have access to parking, but for anyone else who really, really wants to drive, the festival recommends reserving a spot in the 41 Church St. or 1350 Massachusetts Ave. parking lots via Propark (a festival co-sponsor). For those who want to take a cab or use ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, there will be a designated cab stand and ride share pickup located at 114 Western Ave.
Starting at 10 p.m. each night of the festival, North Harvard Street will close from Western Avenue over the bridge and up JFK Street into Harvard Square, with the exits off of Soldiers Field Road closing sometime before that. This should ensure that the hordes of people leaving after the last set concludes at 11 p.m. don’t have to dodge traffic on their way back to the train.
Getting around the festival
Navigating previous editions of Boston Calling at City Hall was relatively simple. With two stages and a relatively small space, the only way you could get lost was amongst the rows of porta-potties near Congress Street. This year, the number of stages has doubled, and the festival area has increased significantly.
Luckily, Boston Calling released a map Tuesday that provides a relatively comprehensive look at the grounds. The comedy arena and Delta Blue Stage are to the immediate left once you walk inside the gates. A more gradual left turn will take you toward the food area, while walking straight to the end of the complex takes you to the Xfinity Red Stage and the Boston Calling Green Stage. The complex is surrounded by high fences, so unless you’re a Platinum VIP, there’s only one entrance and exit to the festival.
Security and banned items
In the wake of Monday’s deadly attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, Boston Police Department Lt. Mike McCarthy told Boston.com in an emailed statement that access to areas around the stadium will have additional security.
“The BPD will have either blocking vehicles or barriers in place to keep vehicular traffic away from certain pedestrian heavy areas,” McCarthy said. “The public should expect to see an increased police presence in and around the event and are encouraged to please leave bags and other large items at home.”
Attendees should plan to go through metal detectors on their way into the grounds and to be subject to search by security. Bags that are larger than 12 inches by 12 inches are prohibited, unless they’re transparent. If you do show up with a large bag, lockers just outside the festival entrance will cost $10 to rent. Other banned items include large cameras, strollers, canteens, and flasks (though empty water bottles are allowed), chairs, and picnic blankets.
Don’t expect to be able to pull out your lighter and put it in the air when a band plays your favorite song, either. Because Boston Calling is a “no smoking festival,” cigarettes, cigars, lighters, and tobacco of any kind are prohibited. Vapes, however, are allowed.
Who to see
With double the number of musical acts at this year’s festival compared to 2016, some set times will overlap, and picking and choosing which acts to prioritize will be harder than ever. Headliners Chance the Rapper, Mumford and Sons, and Tool will have no problem drawing big crowds when they close out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday’s lineups, respectively. Same with Weezer, whose frontman Rivers Cuomo dropped out of Harvard to record the band’s classic album, Pinkerton, before re-enrolling twice and finally graduating in 2008. Run the Jewels, the bombastic hip-hop duo of El-P and Killer Mike, will make their second appearance at the festival, as will British rockers The 1975 and the high-energy DJs in Major Lazer. Plenty of local acts will be there, as well, including rapper Cousin Stizz (Dorchester), rock group Vundabar (Scituate), and alt-rockers Piebald (Andover).
Over in the comedy tent, local talent will be well represented. Minus host Hannibal Buress, Friday night’s lineup will feature only comedians with local ties. Pete Holmes and Eugene Mirman, the top-billed comics of the night, are both natives of Lexington, while Lamont Price and Kelly McFarland are comics primarily based in the Boston area. Bethany van Delft and Nick Chambers, who will perform Saturday and Sunday at 5:15 p.m., respectively, are also local comics. Other highlights will include a headlining set on Saturday from Buress, who’s been pumping out standup specials on Netflix; comic Phoebe Robinson, whose 2 Dope Queens podcast with former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams is a consistent delight; and Tig Notaro, whose routine about being diagnosed with cancer is considered a modern comedy classic.
What to eat and drink
With more than 25 restaurants participating in Boston Calling, you’ll have ample choices when it comes to nourishment. One of the most notable menu items will be the BBQ Bomb from Kendall Square barbecue joint The Smoke Shop. It will feature a choice of meat (pulled pork, chopped brisket, or smoked chicken), queso mac and cheese, barbecue beans, and jalapeños—all served inside a waffle cone.
You’ll also be able to get burritos from El Pelón Taqueria, pizza by the slice from Flatbread Pizza, and a sugar Belgian waffle with your choice of toppings from Zinneken’s for dessert.
In the VIP and Platinum areas, attendees will have access to special menus from chefs like Will Gilson (Puritan & Company), Brendan Pelley (Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar), Nookie Postal (Commonwealth), and Michael Scelfo (Alden & Harlow).
In term of beverages, the highlight will definitely be the presence of Danish brewer Mikkeller, which will be serving eight of its beers at the festival. Also on hand will be beers from Sam Adams and Miller, hard cider from Angry Orchard, and Henry’s Hard Orange Soda.
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