It’s that time of the year once again. Time to don your shades and shorts and head outdoors to listen to music and partake in libations with other sweaty concertgoers. In other parts of the country, summertime is festival season but Boston is late to the party. In fact, when I sign up for various e-mail and smart phone festival notifications, Boston doesn’t even make the drop- down list. Boston is awesome for so many reasons: amazing sports franchises (and passionate fans), incredible history, prestigious institutions of higher learning; the list goes on and on. But we can no longer hang our hats on Boston’s impressive history and stagnate while other cities create new, more compelling traditions.

But hey, do you know that in Boston, you can sit and have a drink in the same bar that Paul Revere once sat? That’s awesome, but is Paul Revere still there? Because Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, and Skrillex are going to be at Outside Lands in San Francisco August 10-12 so I think I’ll just have a drink while watching them perform. Enjoy your happy hour with the ghosts of Boston past.

In order to compete with cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, Boston needs to appeal to a younger demographic. The newly graduated young adults who emerge from Boston’s many colleges and universities with heads full of ideas and ambitions need a city that accommodates their creative energy; and what better way to release some energy than to congregate in the sunshine while taking in performances by the musical artists du jour. Furthermore, festivals and cities have a symbiotic relationship because the festivals, if done right, generate commerce and stimulate the local economy. For instance, the aforementioned festival in San Francisco, Outside Lands, not only brings in big name performers but showcases the bay area’s unique offerings such as samplings from local restaurants, wine tastings, and art/theatre exhibits, all while using alternative energy making it a sustainable/green event.

For argument’s sake, I’ve been claiming that Boston has no festivals, which is hyperbole, it does of course have some. However, Boston doesn’t boast any large-scale festivals that can put it on the music festival radar like Stage Coach and Coachella have done for Indio, CA (an otherwise pretty unremarkable desert town) or Lollapalooza and Pitchfork for Chicago.  Now, I know what you’re thinking. That’s great and all but what is your point? Festivals are awesome and Boston doesn’t have any notable ones, why are you haranguing me? Because from now on, I will be informing you of all the cool music/food/art/culture-related goings on in the great city of Boston so that you can patronize them. Because when the inhabitants of Boston start attending the events that are available to us, we will establish ourselves as a viable market and where there is a demand, a supply will materialize.

Too many econ vocab words in that sentence? Put simply, do things in Boston, and Boston will provide more things to do. If the big name artists and festivals know that they can sellout in Boston, then they will make the trip. So, following the same advice that Bill Murray was given by his therapist in 1991’s cinematic classic, What About Bob?, we’ll begin with baby steps. Here are some events to watch for in Boston:

Together Festival– The Together Festival is a multi-media experience for music/technology lovers. Together combines live music, film, panels and discussions, and workshops to create a truly unique, interactive experience. Together 2012 has passed but Together 2013 is already in the works; head to their website and join the mailing list to stay in the loop.

Anna’s Walqueria- This is not music related but burritos for charity always deserve a mention. Anna’s Taqueria throws an annual half marathon walk around Boston in which participants travel from one Anna’s location to the next (6 in total), consuming burritos as they go. The proceeds from this event are donated to The Home for the Little Wanderers, so go eat some burritos for a good cause. Check out @AnnasWalqueria on Twitter for details.

WUMB Music Fest, Sunday, June 5th, Noon, UMass Boston, Boston, MA. Tickets: $15 – $100. This waterfront music festival boasts a long list of talented top performers on three different stages. Featured artists include Amy Black, Anthony da Costa, Buskin & Batteau, Chris Pahud, and David Mallett.

Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival, Saturday, September 24, Noon, Columbus and Mass Ave, Boston, MA. Cost: Free (Visit website for tickets & pricing on club performances). The Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival features a full week of performances at various venues around Boston. The highlight of this festival is a free show with jazz, Latin, blues, and groove acts in front of tens of thousands of fans in Boston’s historic South End.

Early Music Festival, June 12-19, New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough Street, Boston, MA (Various other locations). The BEMF is the most respected early music festival in the world. The weeklong event includes a fully-staged Baroque opera masterpiece, concerts by the world’s leading soloists and ensembles, and nearly 100 performances from renowned artists. The BEMF also hosts a family day with lectures, demonstrations and performances.

– Liv, Future Boston Intern


About Future Boston Alliance

Future Boston Alliance is a non-profit organization seeking to revolutionize our city's creative economy. By advocating for new talent and businesses and holding educational events, we aim to make Boston a hub for collaboration, innovation, and culture.

7 responses »

  1. I think the Boston music scene IS thriving – which is why we are almost always included on artist’s touring stops (big or small – we have the right venue to fit any type of band). Dave Matthews and Sara Bareillis are coming to town for the Life is Good festival this summer (one you hadn’t mentioned). I get to see at least one amazing artist each month who chooses Boston as their New England tour stop… to the envy of my friends in CT, RI, NH, and ME. Whether Gotye, Santigold, Minaj, Usher, Bieber, or Madonna are your taste – they all hit up Beantown!

    • Gary B. says:

      Just saw the article on this organization.

      The FBC director is 35 years old.

      The CEO of Karmaloop is almost 40.

      If you’re living in greater Boston and you’re 35 to 40 years old, closing times are the last thing bugging you about being here.

      The overwhelming majority of people in that age range living in Boston literally can’t afford to be out clubbing at 2AM-3AM in the morning. But not because of anything that’s happening at City Hall.

      For most people, at 35 and 40 years old, life is about their careers, their kids, the hardships of paying the mortgage (especially now) or their rent or other adult concerns.

      I wonder if this is just about not wanting to grow up. And resenting those Bostonians who have.

      Grow up people. Grow up.

      • Don Pablo says:

        This is as much about the city not having cultural events like EVERY other major city in the country that appeal to people 20 and over, as it is people 35-40. LA, Chicago, Austin, NYC, SF, all, off the top of my head, have great festivals IN the city that appeal to a broad demographic. This is about a city and its administration that REFUSES to move with the times.

    • Alex says:

      Having better concerts than rural New England states isn’t the point, Steven. We need to have better events than the world cities that we’re competing against for talent.

      Liv, what makes me sad, is that we all know the demand is there. I just can’t imagine where in Boston the city would allow a large-scale festival. Neighbors, police, and the mayor would conspire to stop it.

      • Don Pablo says:

        “Neighbors, police, and the mayor would conspire to stop it.”

        Hammer, meet the nail. The mayor’s office would never allow it.

    • Don Pablo says:

      That’s not really an indication of a thriving scene; it’s a large college town. Bands will always stop there.

  2. Gary B. says:

    @ Don Pablo

    Not moving with the times?

    Dude, times aren’t all that great right now. Interestingly enough, this boring old city is one of the few that isn’t hanging on by a thread after the second-worse economic crisis in the history of the country.

    Simply saying “you’re not hip, Boston!” and expecting an avalanche of support given the times seems kinda childish. All things considered. Not enough concerts? Are you serious?

    I don’t know. Hate to be a spoil-sport. Just strikes me as odd that two people staring down the barrel of forty are calling for the city to turn into a giant, multi-cultural waterpark. I don’t like seeing those candles on the birthday cake either every year but … sure beats looking at a headstone from on my back if you know what I mean.

    I would be interested in knowing if members of the FBC leadership team have children. Are they parents? Married? That, and the condition of the Boston Public Schools, has a lot of sway with the 35 to 40 year olds.

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