Last May I wrote a post in anticipation of the city’s inaugural music festival, Boston Calling. What an opportunity, I thought, for good ol’ Beantown to broaden its horizons, you know, to add a little spice to its clam chowder. I believed that given time, this event and its reputation could grow to rival the major festivals, from Bonnaroo and Coachella to Governor’s Ball and Lollapalooza. The lineup’s lack of diversity, however, was somewhat troubling and something I cautioned against for future festivals.
Read ‘em and weep. The lineup for this year’s spring concert (May 23–25) has been released. With headliners Jack Johnson, Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse, you can experience every color of the indie rock rainbow, from white and really happy, to white and really sad, to white and—okay, I actually kind of dig Modest Mouse. What’s more, three-day passes are only $150!* Barring the discovery of time travel, when else will you have the chance to see all three of your favorite bands from middle school? I’d like to think that somewhere out there exists a first generation iPod Nano, and on it can be found “Camp Memories,” a playlist that heavily features each of this year’s headliners.
In all seriousness, the current lineup confirms the very fears I expressed in my original post. Of the musical styles not represented in the schedule, the most shocking absence is that of hip hop and R&B. Not to discredit their music, but a majority of this year’s artists perform some variant of the same indie rock/alternative genre. Whereas I was hoping that Boston Calling would enliven the culture of Boston, this year’s lineup only solidifies my belief that Beantown is afraid to have fun. To exclude hip hop music is to deny an entire fan base and, as opposed to adding Sriracha sauce, only waters down an already watery clam chowder.
On that note, take another look at the lineup. Aside from the homogeneous makeup of their musical styles, the musicians themselves appear, for a lack of a better term, awfully Caucasian. It’s true that to a certain extent, music transcends race and ethnicity, but on the other hand, it is also defined by it. Browsing through the Boston Calling website, I’m having trouble finding anything other than white. Although the festival is only in its second year, if such a pattern persists it will undoubtedly prove problem-some.
I’m not forgetting that Boston Calling hosted somewhat of a surprise festival this September. A change of pace, the two-day lineup picked up the slack with rapper Kendrick Lamar and R&B artist Solange Knowles. In light of last September, this year’s festival appears to be taking a step in the wrong direction.
The name of one musical act has yet to be released to the public. In celebration of their 20th anniversary, hip hop duo OutKast announced a tour of over 40 music festivals. I would be neither surprised nor disappointed if André 3000 and Big Boi were revealed to be the mystery guests.
None of the above is to say that the festival won’t kick ass. However, if the headliners weren’t so nostalgic of my prepubescent years, and if the festival branched out musically and made more of an effort to include R&B, hip hop, jazz, metal, electronic and so on, I think more asses could definitely be kicked.
*Seeing as how each band peaked in the early- to mid-2000s, you should adjust for inflation accordingly.