Summer Arts Preview 2019

Five summer music festivals that span tastes and trends

Billie Eilish will perform at The Super Mega Ultra Giant Mad Decent Block Party at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
Billie Eilish will perform at The Super Mega Ultra Giant Mad Decent Block Party at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Over the past two decades, multiday, multiartist festivals have become a staple of the summer concert industry, allowing showgoers to replicate the curated-playlist experience in the flesh by offering them arrays of artists — sometimes grouped by genre, more often by “vibe” — that they can sample and either revel in or use as a backdrop for sampling new foodstuffs and enjoying branded, Instagram-ready attractions. Certain festivals, like the Allston-based Boston Calling, double as a useful way to get a bead on where popular music’s endlessly distractable energy lies right now; others, like Marshfield’s Levitate, dig into their musical ideal of choice with purpose.

This summer, Greater Boston has no shortage of festivals, from single-day celebrations such as the emo-heavy Sad Summer Festival (July 14, Worcester Palladium Outdoors) and the annual Country 102.5 Street Party (May 25, House of Blues) to multiday affairs like these five fests.


Boston Calling (May 24-26, Harvard Athletic Complex; www.bostoncalling.com) is celebrating its 10th go-round this year — it ran twice a year from its inaugural 2013 edition through 2015, if you’re confused about the math — and while the top line of its lineup is a bit run-of-the-mill for 2019 festivals, featuring Aussie psych-rockers Tame Impala, fantasia-creating MC Travis Scott, and disaffected duo Twenty One Pilots, there are plenty of pleasures to be had during the earlier hours. Chicago-based R&B vocalist Ravyn Lenae, fiery folkie Brandi Carlile, Allston basement heroes Pile, and producer-drummer-singer-dynamo Anderson .Paak are all on the three-day fest’s wide-ranging bill, as are the Boston Ballet and food offerings by the likes of Whole Heart Provisions, El Pelón Taqueria, and Sweet Cheeks Q.

Presented by the experimentally minded yet pop-rooted act Wilco, Solid Sound Festival (June 28- 30, Mass MoCA, North Adams; www.solidsoundfestival.com) is wide-ranging and family-minded, with a session featuring the kids-tales-made-flesh outfit Story Pirates, a screening of the 1962 dystopian film “La Jetée” accompanied by prog-fusionists Tortoise, and ax-throwing all on the bill. There’s music, too, of course: Wilco and Tortoise will each perform two sets over the course of the weekend, which will also include sets by jittery Jerseyites the Feelies, spindly Portlanders Lithics, noise-hip-hop outfit clipping., Tuareg guitar visionary Mdou Moctar, and New England-born punk bard Jonathan Richman.


Newport Folk Festival (July 26-28, Fort Adams State Park, Newport, R.I.; www.newportfolk.org) has been around since way before festival culture took hold of America’s summertime concert lineups; its first running was 60 years ago. In recent years, it’s broadened its idea of “folk” to include more types of quintessentially American music. While shimmery pop-country practitioner Kacey Musgraves, folk lifer Indigo Girl Amy Ray’s eponymous band, and Laurel Canyon spiritual dwellers Dawes (paying homage to their 2009 debut “North Hills”) are on the bill, they’re sharing it with the Chicago-based murmur-rapper Noname, the grungy hybridist Nilüfer Yanya, and New Orleans’s legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Levitate Music and Arts Festival (July 12-14, Marshfield Fair, Marshfield; www.levitatemusicfestival.com) has a vision of folk music that’s centered on the groove. Headlined by the ax-slinging Tedeschi Trucks Band, R&B revivalists Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, and reggae scion Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, its lineup revels in blissed-out beats and lengthy guitar solos. Southern-rock torch-bearers Blackberry Smoke, Dead revivalists Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, electro-jammers Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and poet-agitator Michael Franti (fronting his longtime band Spearhead) are all on the bill.


Since emerging from the sweaty clubs of Philadelphia in the 2000s, Diplo has become one of pop’s most prominent behind-the-boards presences, collaborating with other electro heavyweights in projects like Silk City and Jack Ü, producing singles for Beyoncé and Madonna, and helming the label/promotion company Mad Decent. The latter is presenting The Super Mega Ultra Giant Mad Decent Block Party (July 20-21, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough; www.mdbpfest.com), a larger-than-life version of the genre-bending parties he’s thrown around the globe. Led by teenpop-ideal-busting singer Billie Eilish, charisma-deficient MC G-Eazy, genre-agnostic smoothie Miguel, and Diplo’s own project Major Lazer, it’ll fill Gillette and its adjacent mall Patriot Place with a lot of next big things from hip-hop and electronic music, as well as activities including “the world’s largest bounce house.”

Maura Johnston can be reached at maura@maura.com.