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Boston Calling organizers are ready for the fans and the festival's return

Aerial view of Boston Calling in 2017. (Courtesy Boston Calling)
Aerial view of Boston Calling in 2017. (Courtesy Boston Calling)

It's been more than 1,000 days since Boston Calling organizers have been able to transform Harvard University's athletic complex into their mammoth music festival. Now, gear-laden trucks, portable toilets and a Ferris wheel are again rolling onto the grassy fields in Allston. Let's just say co-founder and CEO Brian Appel is elated.

“I'm excited to get the doors open and for the fans to start to arrive,” he said a few days before go-time. “This one feels like it has literally been three years in the making. So to finally bring it to fruition, and be able to put the bands on the stages and let the fans come in, is the moment we're all excited about.”

This summer, major festivals around the country are returning to sate music lovers who've felt bereft without these immersive, communal experiences. Boston Calling's double postponement has also been a roller coaster for Boston Calling's staff. Appel said they kept the production team intact to ensure they'd be ready for this weekend.

"This one feels like it has literally been three years in the making."

Brian Appel

“For us, this is our life's work,” he explained. “There's a full-time team that lives and breathes this event. So everything that you see out on the site has been debated, and thought through, and worked towards — and then ultimately built and executed.”

COVID-19 safety has been a priority during planning. Appel said they're closely following state and city guidelines. While masks will not be required at the outdoor event, there will be plenty of hand sanitizing stations scattered throughout the grounds. As for other changes, the hockey arena that in the past had been a home for films and comedy performances will not be open to the public.

“That's just not a part of the footprint this year, just out of an abundance of precautions for COVID,” he said.

A standout new feature for 2022 is the Tivoli Audio Orange Stage that's dedicated to showcasing local and regional artists. The festival launched on City Hall Plaza in 2013 and expanded to Allston after Madison Square Garden Company purchased controlling interest in 2016. While it's always included a handful of Boston-area acts, Appel said, “primarily, we've been a national and international music festival.” The pandemic devastated tours and live venues, so he added creating this fourth stage felt more necessary than ever.

“We've obviously seen the struggle for local artists and musicians,” Appel said. "And as this industry comes back to life, anything that we can do to create more opportunity is where we're putting our efforts.”

Twelve of the 20 acts with local and regional ties will play on the Orange Stage. There are 51 performances in total this year. As organizers rode the coronavirus surges they lost two headliners — Rage Against the Machine canceled in January, then Foo Fighters in March after drummer Taylor Hawkins died unexpectedly on tour. “But we feel that we're presenting the best lineup that we possibly can,” Appel said.

Now, the night-closing headliners are Nine Inch Nails, the Strokes and Metallica.

"Make sure that you give the regional and local bands the attention that they've earned and that they deserve."

Brian Appel

While Appel looks forward to watching the cheering crowds as he works throughout the weekend, he said there's always something special about the moment the last band — which will be Metallica Sunday night — starts their set.

“The radios go quiet, and there's really nothing left to do except prepare for load out,” he said. “We can take a couple of minutes and just enjoy what's gone on over the last few days.”

Appel had a few words of advice for festival-goers this weekend. He highly recommends arriving early and added, “Make sure that you give the regional and local bands the attention that they've earned and that they deserve. Don't just show up for a headliner or two bands — make sure you're really spending the day with us if you can. And don't drive over here. Make sure you're taking public transportation, please.”

Related:

Andrea Shea Twitter Senior Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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