Friday, December 1, 2023

Little bands take on the big city

Arts and CultureLittle bands take on the big city

Co-Managing News Editor

Co-Managing News Editor

For the first time in its 10 years of existence, Boston Calling Music Festival featured a stage solely for local, underground bands. While headliners such as The Lumineers, Foo Fighters and Niall Horan rocked the three main stages at the Harvard University Athletics Complex, lesser-known artists like Coral Moons, Blue Light Bandits and Actor Observer filled the fourth stage with fancy fits and funky jams.

For many of these up-and-coming artists, it was their first time playing for an audience of this size, as Boston Calling was almost sold out the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Festival grounds were bustling with attendees who traveled from all over the country.

While some musicians came far distances to play that weekend, such as United Kingdom’s Declan McKenna, artists on the fourth stage were Boston natives. 

“It’s like home court advantage because all of our friends who are close by who have been seeing us forever now get to come see us at the biggest festival in the area,” Dan DeCristofaro, vocalist and pianist of Blue Light Bandits said.

Blue Light Bandits are a four-piece rock band that experiment with elements from various genres such as R&B, jazz and hip-hop.

Though the band was in this year’s lineup of performing artists, vocalist and bassist Ethan Bates explained that he and DeCristofaro have attended Boston Calling in previous years as concert goers. To now have the roles reversed – being on stage instead of in the crowd – is something that he described as a major milestone in the band’s career.

Besides being able to represent the local music scene of the area, performing at Boston Calling helps these artists gain more exposure, according to vocalist Carly Kraft, from indie rock band Coral Moons.

“It’s a perfect time for us to showcase our talent and ourselves,” Kraft said. “I feel like every day we get a little better, every show you get a little better.”

Coral Moons is a Boston-based four-person band, with their number one song, “Winnebago,” having over 96,000 streams on Spotify. Led by Kraft, the group made their musical debut in 2019 and just two years later gathered national attention as an up-and-coming indie band to keep an eye on.

Actor Observer, another rising band seen on the fourth stage, commented on their appreciation that the festival included lesser-known musicians, alongside more well-known ones.

“It’s no joke when I say it’s basically right in our backyard, so it feels really cool,” Actor Observer’s lead vocalist, Greg Marquis, said. “What’s funny is how familiar it is. Like, I take the same path to go to work everyday. … It feels both surreal and oddly familiar”

Actor Observer’s founding members began making music in 2009 and debuted their first album as a five-piece band in 2018. Since then, they have expanded to a consistent 3,447 monthly listeners on Spotify and are still growing. Boston Calling was the largest concert they have played to date. 

Nick Grieco, a guitarist from Actor Observer, explained that he came to Boston Calling not just to gain publicity, but also out of a passion for making music. 

“I’m an artist,” Grieco said. “I came here to create and make something meaningful.”

Though all three groups are still working to grow their sphere of musical influence and industry knowledge, each had advice to share with the younger artists who aim to be on future lineups at Boston Calling or other large festivals.

Actor Observer’s bassist Jake Satow encouraged simple goals: drink water, take adequate vitamins and respect your sound guy and every professional you interact with. However, Marquis dove deeper, describing the music industry as “thankless” and “non-forgiving.” He believes that artists must look for the positive aspects of every experience they are given.

On a separate note, Jay Faires, Blue Light Bandits’ guitarist, emphasized the importance of every band member carving time into their schedule to practice multiple times a week.

“The greatest compliment is when people tell us, ‘You sound like you’ve been playing together forever,’” Faires said. “I’m always like, ‘Thank you, we’ve worked very hard on that.’” 

Aside from words of wisdom about the details of running a band, Kraft provided a reminder for the emerging artists in the industry to stay true to their passion and the very reason they decided to enter the industry.

“Just keep working, and if you are authentic to what you’re saying, people will feel that,” Kraft said, reflecting on the dedication she has for Coral Moons. “Then people will recognize it and want to support you.”




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