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Boston Calling festival invigorates City Hall Plaza

The inaugural Boston Calling music festival last weekend was a success on its own terms; organizers put together a compelling two-day lineup of top-notch indie bands, and ticket sales were robust enough that a second Boston Calling has already been announced for September. Yet the most surprising performance came from City Hall Plaza, a red-brick expanse known more as the site of bitter demonstrations during the desegregation era than as the inviting civic gathering place its designers meant it to be. The addition of two music stages, a beer garden, and food trucks achieved what a ’60s-era utopian urban planning scheme could not: It brought in crowds of people. The plaza, paradoxically, seemed far bigger and more momentous when filled with people. Saturday’s cold, rainy weather couldn’t be helped, but as a windy Sunday afternoon gave way to a crisp spring evening, music and light filled a normally empty public space.

The changed circumstances elevated even Boston’s brutalist City Hall, which was illuminated by colored lights as the skies darkened. “That building over there gets a bad rap,” a guitarist for headliner The National said, as he looked toward the much-maligned structure from the stage where his band was performing. “But from here, it looks beautiful.”