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Since its debut in 2013, Boston Calling has been the undisputed king of Massachusetts music festivals, bringing top artists like Eminem, Metallica, and Lizzo to the city over the past decade. The lineup for Boston Calling 2023 promises more of the same, with Foo Fighters, The Lumineers, and Paramore headlining. That said, there are plenty of other Massachusetts music festivals for listeners to consider checking out as well, attracting top-of-the-line talent in the worlds of hip-hop, country, and roots rock to venues across the Bay State.
Here are six Massachusetts music festivals to check out this spring.
The “grass” in the title of this Western Mass. festival is the smokable type, with the two-day concert organized by a group of cannabis entrepreneurs currently running a competition to highlight “the best dispensary grass in the recreational market.” Weed isn’t the only focus of the fest, however, thanks to a music lineup of hip-hop heavy hitters including Action Bronson, Wyclef Jean, Styles P, and DJ Jazzy Jeff. Held at the Young Men Club of Hadley, the festival will also have carnival rides, an auto show, local food vendors, a pro wrestling showcase, and more. (April 21-22; Young Men’s Club, Hadley; $48-177; thegrassisgreengathering.com)
The Lowell Folk Festival isn’t the only major musical event in the city of Lowell each year. This April, the city’s downtown is inundated with musical performances during the Town and City Festival. Named for beat poet (and Lowell native) Jack Kerouac’s 1950 novel, the festival brings artists from near and far to spaces like Mill No. 5, Zorba Music Hall and other cafes, bars, and galleries. Topping the bill this year are Ted Leo, Buffalo Tom, Dalton & The Sheriffs, John Doe Folk Trio, and Rhett Miller — though there are plenty of additional exciting artists to be found on the lower lines of the 50-strong lineup poster. For a full schedule of shows, visit the festival’s website. (April 28-29; Downtown Lowell; $7-58; thetownandthecityfestival.com)
This spring marks the ten-year anniversary of the first Boston Calling, which brought artists like The National, Fun., Marina and the Diamonds, and Young the Giant to Boston City Hall in May 2013. The National will be back for Boston Calling 2023, but almost everything else about the festival has changed from a decade ago. Having long since moved on to greener pastures at the Harvard Athletic Complex in Lower Allston, Boston Calling 2023 has also nearly tripled the lineup size from 2013 to include 50+ artists. This year’s festival will be headlined by Foo Fighters, The Lumineers, and Paramore, with additional millennial catnip scattered throughout the lineup including Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Alanis Morrissette, and Queens of the Stone Age. On the food and drink front, Boston Calling has a history of assembling some of the best local restaurants for its food lineups, and audiences can expect returning favorites like The Smoke Shop, GRECO, and FoMu Ice Cream, among others, to make an appearance in 2023. (May 26-28; Harvard Athletic Complex, Allston; $160-2100; bostoncalling.com)
Nelly tore up the pop and hip-hop charts in the early 2000s, bursting onto the scene through the strength of his debut album (and lead single of the same name) “Country Grammar.” It was somewhat surprising, however, when the rapper’s career took a country detour thanks to songs with Tim McGraw, Florida Georgia Line, Kane Brown, and Brett Kissel. At this point, Nelly’s country bonafides are strong enough that he can headline Country Carnivál, a two-day festival in Worcester also featuring Dustin Lynch, Uncle Kracker, 49 Winchester, and more. (May 27-28; Palladium Outdoors, Worcester; $70-269; thepalladium.net)
Steve Lacy, LCD Soundsystem, and boygenius will be the first three artists to play shows at The Stage at Suffolk Downs, a new seasonal outdoor music venue opening later this year at the former racetrack in East Boston. The three shows are part of the Re:SET concert series, and will feature a series of artists curated by each night’s headliner. For his June 16 show, Lacy will bring three acts who fit his alternative R&B vibe: Toro y Moi, James Blake, and Foushee. For LCD Soundsystem’s June 17 show, James Murphy and co. will be supported by Jamie xx, Idles, and L’Rain, among others. Wrapping up the weekend on June 18, supergroup boygenius (a trio featuring Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus) will share the bill with Dijon, Bartees Strange, and Clairo, who rose to stardom as a teenager living in Carlisle. (June 16-18; The Stage at Suffolk Downs, Boston; $100-650; boston.resetconcertseries.com)
The Green River Festival is an elder statesman among Massachusetts music festivals, debuting back in 1986, with a focus on hot air ballooning, of all things. That focus shifted starting in 1990 when organizers brought Dr. John to Greenfield, drawing a large audience that continued to come back year after year. The festival has expanded its musical footprint on a yearly basis, welcoming artists like Father John Misty, Arlo Guthrie, Emmylou Harris, The Avett Brothers, and other nationally recognized acts. This year’s festival will be held at Green River’s new permanent home at the Franklin County Fairgrounds, and features 25+ acts, including Little Feat ft. Wood Brothers, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Cory Wong, and more. (June 23-25; Franklin County Fairgrounds, Greenfield; $50-325; greenriverfestival.com)
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