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Day 1 recap: Boston Calling brings fans of music, food to City Hall Plaza

Posted by Emily Wright  September 8, 2013 01:13 PM

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Variety of music? Check. Portable bathrooms? Check. Food and beer? Check. Crowd? Definite check.

The two-day Boston Calling music festival took over Boston's City Hall Plaza on Saturday, and drew thousands to the fenced in area at Government Center. The folks at Boston Calling expected that 30,000 people would have attended by the time the festival wrapped on Sunday night. They'll have a more concrete number later this week.


Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe staff

Vampire Weekend played the final set on Saturday night.

Gates opened at noon on Saturday and fans began slowly trickling in to watch groups like Boston-based Viva Viva and Cambridge's own You Won't in the early afternoon. By the time The Airborne Toxic Event took the main (blue) stage at 4:30 p.m., there was a solid swarm (see above), but nothing compared to the group gathered for headliners Vampire Weekend, which kicked off its day-ending set just after 9 p.m.

RadioBDC's Paul Driscoll sat down with Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig on the group's tour bus before the show. Check out the interview in the video above.

So show stuff aside, what was frustrating about the event? Not much. Some fans did have qualms about the beer garden restrictions, though, which regulated drinkers to keep their adult beverages in the beer garden only. A yellow wristband was necessary for entering the beer garden and could be picked up at a tent just inside the Congress Street main entrance.

Attendee James Madsen of Allston was disappointed that he was restricted to the beer garden.

"I think there should not be a beer garden, because I think I should be able to drink close to the stage," Madsen said. "It's not a huge deal, but most festivals that I go to, I can get my beer and I can go where I want to."

Fans were restricted to the beer garden in the regular attendee area, and the VIP area when consuming alcoholic beverages. Boston Calling festival founder Mike Snow said that the restrictions on the beer garden had to do with city regulations.

"Due to city regulations we restrict access to alcohol with bracelets and fenced areas," he said via e-mail. "Balancing great viewing for all attendees and easy access to adult beverages creates a few challenges with the site. We feel that these locations provide both easy access and comfortable amenities for those of age."

Another issue: Food waits. Tasty Burger and Roxy's Grilled Cheese had lines running pretty deep around dinner time. It seemed the festival could have used more food vendors.

Also present: Kickass Cupcakes, The Chicken & Rice Guys, The Sausage Guy (the only food for sale in the main beer garden area), and a slew of non-alcoholic cold beverage stations that featured fresh squeezed lemonade, water, and soda.

For those who spent the extra moola on the VIP ticket, there was free food to be had, including chili with all the fix-ins, soba noodles with edamame and fresh veggies, cheese and crackers, fresh vegetable cups with dip, and chips galore -- a surprisingly chic spread.

The VIP section took over what we're calling the City Hall quad, a raised area with partial roof cover. It had it's own beer garden, with prices ranging $4-$7, and included selections like Crispin's Hard Apple Cider, the perfect sip to cut the heat on the plaza. Red Bull was also for sale ($4) for those seeking an energy boost.

There was fun to be had in VIP, but the real action was down on the battered brick pavers, where crowds moved in waves back and forth between the parallel stages. When bands weren't capturing the crowd's attention, concert-goers were scattered between the ample amount of portable bathrooms, the few shaded areas (mostly inside the beer garden), and the merchandise tent.

Souvenirs were aplenty, including original Boston Calling T-shirts and tank tops. Everything could be purchased with credit cards on iPads. If fans were more comfortable with cash in their pockets, there was a row of ATMs that seemed like it was a block long, just to the right of the red stage.

And catch up with a recap of day 2 of the festival in case you missed that.

Did you go to Boston Calling? Let us know your thoughts in the comments here.

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About Sound Effects

The latest news, commentary, and reviews on music in Boston and beyond.


Sarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

James Reed is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.

Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.

Julian Benbow is a staff writer at the Boston Globe, covering sports and music.

Katie McLeod is's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at