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At Boston Calling, a showcase for local artists returns

Avenue performs on the Tivoli Audio Orange Stage at Boston Calling in 2022.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

Last year Boston hip-hop artist Najee Janey happened to be walking by the Harvard Athletic Complex a few hours after Boston Calling had ended. A thought came to his mind: What if he was on one of its stages the next time?

Flash-forward a year and Janey is one of a dozen local artists this weekend who will be on the Tivoli Audio Orange Stage, which is returning after making a strong first impression last year.

“We weren’t sure what would happen,” admits Peter Boyd, Boston Calling’s director of marketing and talent, of the Orange Stage’s 2022 debut. “We were hoping people would migrate over there. And we made sure to counter-program, so the music would be going on when people were walking by this stage when going between the Blue Stage and the main field.”

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While some festivals struggle to attract audiences to their smallest stages, Boston Calling organizers were delighted to have the opposite problem. “The area was overloaded with people pouring into the roadway,” says Boyd, who said that large crowds would get even larger when other attendees saw the size of the Orange Stage audience and realized there were acts worth catching. “The response was great. The bands were thrilled to have a full house.”

This year the festival is considering a slightly different configuration for the Orange Stage that would create more room.

Najee JaneyChris Carter

Local musicians have always had a presence at the festival, and Boston’s Neemz, Alisa Amador, GA-20, the Q-Tip Bandits, and recent Watertown transplant Noah Kahan will all be on the larger Red, Green, and Blue stages. But the Orange Stage allows the festival to showcase local artists who range from the nationally-touring (Couch, Ali McGuirk) to the buzz-worthy underground (Brandie Blaze, Summer Cult).

“It’s about who piques our interest, and who is making some noise in the city, whether they’re very established and haven’t played the festival yet, or maybe they’re someone who when you look at their Spotify followers, they’re not as well known [but] deserve a shot,” says Boyd.

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“We also wanted to speak to all of Boston,” Boyd adds. “We don’t want it to just be indie or punk rock. We wanted to have a little bit of everything, because Boston for young people is a bit of a melting pot where everyone is coming here for college and figuring themselves out and starting bands.” Boyd is especially pleased that McGuirk and Coral Moons could be rebooked after their sets were rained out last year.

One artist who’ll be taking the stage this year was spotted while busking solo outside Faneuil Hall. “It was just a matter of being at the right place at the right time,” says Indigo Ansin, the Lincoln native and Berklee student who performs as chrysalis. “Someone from the festival said, ‘I like your sound’ and handed me a card.” Chrysalis has never set foot at a festival, never mind performed at one.

Much of chrysalis’s music is enchantingly intimate — they will also appear at Club Passim’s campfire. festival on May 29 — but they won’t be tackling a Boston Calling set by themselves. “On my recordings it’s often just me and a guitar, but the music I have coming out soon is evolving when it comes to instrumentation,” they say. “Since this is the biggest opportunity I’ve had so far in my career, I decided to bring some friends, so it will be me and nine other people!”

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It’s also a big moment for Janey, who says he’s been preparing for months with rehearsals, cardio workouts, and a fruit-heavy diet for his performance Saturday. (Janey and his wife own vegan caterer Earf Life.) That’s typical of the work ethic that the vibrant Roxbury artist has shown since he started rapping 15 years ago at the age of 12.

“It’s really a confirmation for me that if you put your mind and heart to something, you’ll get the best result,” he says. That theme is reflected in Janey’s most recent EP, a four-song concept called “Four Agreements.” He explains that the songs are connected by “my self-affirmation and visualization of where I see my future and where I want it to be.”

It’s an approach that runs in the family: Janey’s aunt Kim was a city councilor and acting mayor, and cousins Milkshaw Benedict and $ean Wire are also accomplished hip-hop artists and fellow members of the Most High Kingdom collective, Roxbury artists who have toured the country. Janey’s songwriting contributions to the music of Boston-raised R&B phenom Sebastian Mikael can be heard on two recent Billboard-charting tracks.

Janey also presents workshops he calls Village of Hip-Hop at community events and schools. “The goal is to teach the fundamentals of songwriting, rapping, poetry, and creative expression to youth,” he says.

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Don’t be surprised if you see one of his students at a future Boston Calling.

Noah Schaffer can be reached at noahschaffer@yahoo.com.