A Handy Survival Guide to Boston Calling 2024

What you need to know about the Memorial Day weekend festival is here.

Photo by Alive Coverage

| The Headliners | Local Talent | VIP + ticket benefits |
| Hacks and Tips | Where to Eat |
| The Festival: A Timeline |

Boston’s marquee music festival returns this weekend. Tickets are still available here.

The Superstars

Hozier / Courtesy photo


Sunday, May 26, 7:30, Red stage
Two-time festival veteran and folk mastermind Hozier will bring his poetic tales of love and loss to the Harvard Athletic Complex again this year. On the heels of his Billboard-topping third album, Unreal Unearth, and two sold-out shows at the Leader Bank Pavilion last fall, it’s likely that most festivalgoers will know more than Hozier’s megahit “Take Me to Church”—though it’s still blasting over radio airwaves a decade after its release.

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Renée Rapp

Friday, May 24, 5:55pm, Green Stage
Renée Rapp hates Boston. Well, sort of. The Mean Girls star (both on Broadway and the big screen) made news last year when she promoted her song “I Hate Boston”—a breakup ballad about a Beantown-based ex—on a North End billboard. When asked to explain, though, she told WBZ that she actually loves Boston; she just hates her ex. And to that, we say: no harm done. For Rapp’s fans, it’s her no-effs-given attitude and casual-cool stage presence that has made them love her.

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Tyler Childers

Saturday, May 25, 9pm, Green stage
Keeping with Boston’s new country-music kick, Tyler Childers will be the first country crooner ever to headline Boston Calling—though not with your typical tractor-and-cornfields tunes. Childers is one of the most successful country artists today, and his music pushes the bounds of the genre with songs that touch on everything from racial inequality to corporate greed to drug addiction.

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The Killers

Sunday, May 26, 9pm, Green stage
Back for a repeat of their 2018 headlining set with high-energy songs and frontman Brandon Flowers’s collection of showstopping jackets, the Killers will hit the Green Stage on Memorial Day eve to run through their most beloved songs. We’re hoping for a dose of nostalgia in the form of “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me,” and it seems the band is set to deliver, having released their second greatest-hits album, Rebel Diamonds, in December.

Photo by Alive Coverage

The Local Acts

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Zola Simone

Sunday, May 26, 5:15pm, Orange stage
Indie-pop talent Zola Simone is something of a wunderkind, having started her career at 13 with her first single right here in Boston. The Cambridge Rindge and Latin graduate now lives in New York, but she’s dreamed of taking the stage at her hometown festival since she started attending herself in 2018. The singer’s “androgynous pop,” as she describes it, is a mix of various genres, plus themes including relationships, social justice, self-expression, and personal identity.

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Bad Rabbits

Saturday, May 25, 3pm, Red stage
The three guys behind this Boston-based funk-rock band have a long history in the city: Not only have they played at almost every local venue (including the Sinclair, the Paradise, and the Middle East), but they were also the first performers ever to take the stage at the inaugural Boston Calling in 2013. Fresh off their return from a five-year hiatus, this time they’re performing on the Red Stage—which is usually reserved for the bigger acts.

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Billy Dean Thomas

Sunday, May 26, 4pm, Orange stage
Dubbed “The Queer B.I.G.,” Billy Dean Thomas serves up an expert mix of rap and melodic vocals that all but guarantee we’ll be watching them on the Orange Stage Sunday afternoon. Born in Harlem, the rapper has been a Hub resident since 2016 and has had a deep involvement in the city’s culture: See their role as City Hall Plaza engagement manager, status as a former Boston Artist Fellow, and four Boston Music Awards nominations as evidence.

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Senseless Optimism

Saturday, May 25, 1:45pm, Red stage
If we had to pick two words to describe Senseless Optimism—the stage name for Lowell artist Brittany Tsewole—it would be these: good vibes. Her music is energetic and fun (catch her Instagram Reels featuring trippy duplicates of the singer playing multiple instruments and dancing), and her Saturday afternoon set is sure to be just the same.

The VIP Treatment

General admission gets you in, but an upgrade can take your festival experience over the top. Wondering which ticket category to choose? Check out this comprehensive guide.

Hacks, Tricks, and Pro Tips to Boston Calling

Photo via Getty Images

Plan ahead.

On festival days, the vast Harvard Athletic Complex is a busy place: Acts are performing at the same time, and people are heading to the food, drinks, and merch stands in a constant stream. So plan who you want to see in advance and get moving before your favorite sets start, as bobbing and weaving through the crowds takes time. Our secret? If you’re heading to the Blue Stage, there’s a path to the back left of the Red Stage that’s far less busy.

Line up for food before you get hungry.

The lines for some of Boston’s best fast-casual spots can get extremely long, so anticipate getting hangry and get in line early.

Don’t rely on your phone.

Cell-phone service is basically nonexistent inside the complex, making trying to locate your friends in a sea of thousands a nearly impossible task. So go old-school: Pick a time and a peaceful corner (say, by your favorite lunch vendor) to meet up.

Photo via Getty Images

Bring a totem.

If you have to wade through the crowd to find your friends, bring a totem—something tall and distinctive, like a cardboard cutout on a stick—to help make finding your group easier. Totems are allowed if they’re lightweight and under 7 feet tall (think a balloon, pool noodle, giant sunflower, etc.). Just put them down once the music starts.

Download the Boston Calling app.

Stay up to date on set times, view interactive maps, and see where you can find special offers around the festival campus (last year, it told us when there were free Munchkins at the Dunkin’ booth!).

Photo via Getty Images

Bring a refillable water bottle.

Instead of buying can after can of Liquid Death, bring your own refillable bottle and fill up at the water stations—for free.

Chill out on the grass.

There’s both real grass and artificial turf scattered around the festival. If you’re looking for somewhere to sit and relax for a bit, opt for the grass over turf. It feels noticeably cooler.

Stay away from the Red Line.

Once the festival ends, there will be a slow-moving mass of just about every festivalgoer in attendance walking down JFK Street toward the Harvard T stop. Go the opposite direction into Allston and have someone on hand to pick you up, or call an Uber once you’re a safe distance away from the mayhem.

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Fuel Up!

Seven cravings, seven ways to get your grub on in between sets.

What you’re craving: Greek food.

Where you’re going: Greco.
Why: Launched right here in Boston by the group that also owns James Beard finalist Krasi, festivalgoers can’t get enough of the fast-casual chain’s elevated gyros and handcut fries sprinkled generously with feta and oregano.

What you’re craving: Chinese dumplings and buns.

Where you’re going: Dumpling Daughter.
Why: These top-notch apps are brought to you by the daughter of the owners of Boston’s famed Sally Ling’s, so you know they’re gonna be good.

What you’re craving: Fried chicken.

Where you’re going: Lily P’s.
Why: It’s crispy, juicy, and oh so satisfying after working up an appetite rocking out to your fave bands.

What you’re craving: Buttery, garlicky, spicy seafood.

Where you’re going: Shaking Crab.
Why: Indulge in a taste of summer at this festival newcomer, known for its New England–Cajun fusion. It is Memorial Day weekend, after all.

What you’re craving: Sushi.

Where you’re going: Love Art Sushi.
Why: This popular raw-fish spot will be serving up festival-exclusive dishes you won’t find anywhere else (last year, it was rainbow sushi nachos).

What you’re craving: Something sweet.

Where you’re going: Blackbird Doughnuts.
Why: You’ll need to keep your energy up throughout the day, and with confections that range from classic to inventive, Blackbird certainly has the goods.

What you’re craving: Vegetarian or vegan food.

Where you’re going: Riceburg or the Chubby Chickpea for vegan options; Jaju Pierogi for vegetarian.
Why: No need to go hungry—these three spots and many others offer bowls, pierogi, falafel, and more to keep plant-based
rockers going.

First published in the print edition of the May 2024 issue with the headline, “Don’t Miss a Beat.”