8 Acts to Watch at Boston Calling Festival Spring 2014

Patrick Lyons

by Patrick Lyons

Published April 28, 2014


This Memorial Day weekend (May 23-25, 2014), the second annual Boston Calling Festival will take place at City Hall Plaza. Not to be confused with the just-announced Fall incarnation of the festival, the one in May will feature Jack Johnson, Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse as its headliners. Zumic will be there to cover the full festival, but a month ahead of time, we'd like to introduce the eight acts we're most excited to see. Check out our full list, presented in alphabetical order, below.

Brand New

Brand New emerged as one of the leading bands of Long Island's early-2000s emo scene, releasing the celebrated album Your Favorite Weapon in 2001. The band's sound went on to evolve from the pop-punk format that dominated that album, with frontman Jesse Lacey's songwriting scope expanding to include topics outside of messy breakups, and the band adopting a more nuanced sound that incorporated elements of indie rock, post-rock and post-hardcore. The song "The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows" (above), taken from 2003's Deja Entendu, showcases Brand New's prediliction for harmonized vocals, varied song structures and rich guitar parts. Look for them to play a set that spans all four of their albums at Boston Calling.

Built To Spill

Of the five bands representing the Pacific Northwest at Boston Calling this year, Boise's Built To Spill are the oldest, and quite possibly the most influential. Members of Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie and Brand New cite them as a huge influence, and when considering frontman Doug Martsch's show-stopping guitar wizardry, it's no wonder many fellow musicians revere him and his band. Above is a video of Built To Spill performing frequent set-closer "Carry The Zero" from their 1999 album Keep it Like a Secret, the second half of which is dominated by dueling solos from band's three guitarists. If you're looking for a band to gape at in sheer awe of their technical skills, Built To Spill will have you covered come Memorial Day weekend.

Cass McCombs

Living the life of a nomadic poet, Cass McCombs makes music that is just as thrilling lyrically as it is musically. His folk-influenced stylings range from ragged and freewheeling to sweet and restrained, with the difference in tone hinging on whatever subject he's pouring his heart into. McCombs usually brings a full band along with him, as is the case in the above performance of "Angel Blood," but he's also been known to kick a solo acoustic set every now and then. Whatever type of show he brings, you can be sure that it will be heartfelt and moving.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls

The UK's Frank Turner got his start in the post-hardcore band Million Dead, but since their 2005 breakup, has shifted his focus to more acoustic-based music that nonetheless retains punk characteristics. His last album, 2013's Tape Deck Heart, received praise from a slew of publications for its effortless blend of folk and punk. Above, watch Turner and his backing band, the Sleeping Souls, play album opener "Recovery" at this year's Coachella Festival. You can expecting many a rousting jam like this at their upcoming Boston Calling performance.

Kurt Vile and the Violators

Onetime War on Drugs member Kurt Vile now helms a solo project backed by the Violators, and has five albums under his belt. Known for his thought-provoking sincerity and spacious jams, Vile released what might be his best work last year: the album Wakin on a Pretty Daze. Above, watch him and his band play the album's (sort of) title track "Wakin on a Pretty Day," which ends up seeming shorter than its 9+ minute length due to inventive guitar playing and psychedelic beauty. Vile may be soft-spoken and unassuming, but look for him to blow your mind with his low-key brilliance in a live setting.

Modest Mouse

One of Washington State's most celebrated indie rock bands, Modest Mouse have been rocking for a good 21 years, producing several classic albums along the way. These days, their live performances tend to be rather unpredictable, as the band has a wealth of varied material from which to assemble their setlists, so we could get the ragged, emo-tinged indie rock of their early days, the commercial alt-rock of the mid '00s, or their more recent folky sound. Whatever the case, you can be sure they'll play live staple "Dramamine," a live performance video of which is above, and it will blow the house down.

Tegan and Sara

Twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin have been making music together since 1995, and their chemistry, whether due to genetics or practice, is unbeatable. Working within the boundaries of indie rock for most of their careers, the Quin sisters gave their sound a poppy update on 2013's Heartthrob, ditching their guitars and debuting at number 3 on Billboard's Hot 100 Chart. Their energy and harmonies were not lost, with the album expanding their sound rather than erasing their past triumphs. Look for them to bring a fun set to Boston Calling this year.


Warpaint are an all-female four-piece who hail from L.A. and specialize in making alluringly psychedelic pop rock. Their self-titled 2014 album saw them stepping into their own, crafting a hazy sound that featured strong contributions from all members. Above, watch them perform lead single "Love is to Die," a haunting track that is highlighted by snaking guitar lines and fantastic drumming. They've been touring pretty relentlessly for the past six months, so expect Warpaint to bring a tight, well-rehearsed set to the stage.

See you on May 23rd for Boston Calling!

Brand New Built to Spill Cass McCombs Frank Turner Kurt Vile Modest Mouse Tegan and Sara Warpaint
Alt Rock American Pop Electronic-Rock Festivals Folk Folk Rock Indie Pop Indie-Rock New Wave Pop Pop Rock Psychedelic Punk Rock Synth-Pop
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