scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Female-forward slate of stars in strongest Boston Calling festival yet

Janelle Monae is part of the most impressive Boston Calling lineup to date.Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AltaMed

Honestly, Boston Calling was impressive from the git-go, its initial splash in May 2013 planting fun., the National, Marina and the Diamonds, Dirty Projectors, and more on the mayor’s front doorstep. The fest has steadily grown bigger and more expansive, but this weekend’s event — a three-act prologue on Friday night, followed by all-day parties on Saturday and Sunday — is by leagues the most impressive Boston Calling to date. It’s not just a matter of hearty portions, though a new third stage showcasing comedy and local music ups the ante there. It’s not just a stylistic diversity that ranges from indie-pop troubadour Sufjan Stevens to EDM powerhouse Disclosure, though certainly that counts, too. No, what impresses us most about this latest Boston Calling is that in a season traditionally dominated by swirling testosterone, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more female-forward slate of stars — a condition that’s being treated not as an anomaly, but as business as usual. Given so much to see, here are five acts you don’t want to miss.



The hitmaking singer-songwriter with the inscrutable fashion sense arrives in the wake of “This Is Acting,” a supremely confident collection that includes songs other performers had sufficiently poor judgment to pass up. Her elemental yawp should sound especially imposing when amplified by this concrete canyon of a setting. Friday, 9:45 p.m.

Courtney Barnett.Ben Stas for The Boston Globe


She’s everywhere lately, this 28-year-old Aussie belter who’s made a huge splash with her gabby lyrics and gangly, hard-hitting songs, which sound fresh even when they kind of recall your favorite old classic-rock bangers. And given the boost a recent “Saturday Night Live” appearance provided, Barnett’s only going to keep accelerating. Saturday, 4:50 p.m.

Robyn.Kevin Winter/Getty Images


Don’t let the glossy synths and dancefloor beats fool you into thinking Robyn Carlsson’s just another pop tart; listen close to “Body Talk,” her last solo LP from 2010, and you quickly realize just how prescient her signature mix of slick sounds and raw sentiments was. We’ve heard her more recently with Röyksopp, but we’re pumped for her solo return. Saturday, 9:20 p.m.


Christine and the QueensEmma McIntyre/Getty Images for Coachella


Cognoscenti will tell you that the songs Héloïse Letissier recorded in her native French, before her march toward global stardom commenced, are better. They’re correct, but disregard them anyway; translation is a process slow to refine, but the musical impact and provocative presence of Christine and the Queens transcends linguistic barriers. Sunday, 1:30 p.m.

Janelle Monae.Michael Kovac/Getty Images


You don’t need us to remind you how extraordinary Monáe is, but we’ll do it anyway. We’ve heard nothing but breathless praise for the Prince tribute she mustered at the New Orleans Jazz Festival in April; we’re kind of hoping she reboots that gesture, then hangs in case the sisters Haim (who play after her) encore their own recent take on “I Would Die 4 U.” Sunday, 6:50 p.m.

Steve Smith can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nightafternight.