With five months to go before Boston Calling Music Festival expands and relocates to the Harvard Athletic Complex, organizers continued their dialogue with neighborhood residents and officials this evening (January 4) at a special meeting of the Allston Civic Association.
Much of the discussion in the 90-minute public session at the Josephine Fiorentino Community Center centered on festival ground logistics, potential traffic impact, and a 17-page powerpoint presentation by Crashline Productions co-founder Brian Appel. The meeting was the second in an ongoing series, following an October forum at the Honan-Allston branch of the Boston Public Library that served more as an introduction between Crashline and the people of Allston.
This meeting, with the May 26 to 28 festival coming up on the calendar and its lineup set to be announced next week, delved deeper into the impact Boston Calling will have on the area of Allston along Soldiers Field Road and the Charles River (see map below) and what Crashline is proposing to mitigate it.
“We plan to see you as often as we can between now and May and again [after the festival] in June or July,” Appel told the assembled crowd of roughly 50 people, composed of residents, ACA board members, reps from Harvard University, and the Boston Police Department. “While [City Hall Plaza, Boston Calling’s previous home since 2013] was an awesome location that had benefits… it had its challenges. We felt there must be a better place to host a festival and we knew we could find a better home. Harvard happened to have a beautiful piece of land, and they saved the day. We were outgrowing our space. We also wanted to expand our programming. Music festivals are getting bigger across the country; it’s not just about live bands anymore — it’s about comedy, visual arts. [City Hall] just did not have the square footage that allows Boston to have one of the most prestigious festivals not only in the country, but in the world.”
Appel said the festival footprint at the Harvard Athletic Complex would be roughly 17 acres, a massive upgrade from City Hall Plaza’s six acre space. And with the larger space, he admitted, will be a larger crowd. Though Appel did not give a specific number about potential attendance, he likened it to a Harvard-Yale football game, which recently drew 33,000 people. That’s about a 13,000-person jump, per day, from previous festivals at City Hall. “This is larger, but we’re not going to a number that we don’t think we can accommodate,” Appel said.
The additional space also means an increased programming, including art installations, comedy (a recent addition to last spring’s edition), and a film festival curated by Harvard alum and actress Natalie Portman. Appel revealed that the film fest would center specifically on “women in film and prominence of women in the film industry,” and be located within the nearby Bright-Landry Hockey Center.
State Rep. and Brighton resident Michael Moran was the most outspoken opponent of Boston Calling’s relocation to Allston, describing it as a “three-day keg party” and placing the blame for its approval on the shoulders of Harvard University. “I’m very concerned about this on several fronts,” Moran told the audience. “This question becomes, ‘Is this what we want for our neighborhood?’ Why not go to established venues? Why [is Harvard] entering into discussion with Boston Calling to bring concerts into our community? Why they think this is a good idea is beyond me. I don’t see it as a positive, I really don’t.”
Resident Kevin Cleary argued in the festival’s favor, stating that it’s far less wild than any Bruins-Canadiens or Red Sox-Yankees game. “It’s a good event,” he said, “it’s a quality event.” And Chris Parisi of Brighton Main Streets argued that the festival in Allston has “great potential” for the neighborhood, long nicknamed Allston Rock City.
Harry Mattison had concerns about parking and potential tailgating, and asked Boston Calling to create a community page on its website so issues could be addressed and information about traffic routes and crowd control measures could be readily available (Appel countered that one already exists). “There’s just way too much to hand out in a powerpoint,” Mattison said, asking for more specifics about the festival. Another resident said she wished the festival well, but with 100,000 possible attendees over the course of the three-day holiday weekend, its success could attract several other big-ticket events to the area, increasing traffic and creating other neighborhood issues.
Appel assuaged the crowd that Crashline are looking at their new location with a long-term vision, and that his company takes neighborhood impact seriously. “This is not a first time operation by a first time company,” he said, citing Crashline’s six full-time employees and large number of on-site workers. “We’re from here and we care.” Later, he added: “This is not a ‘three-day keg party’. This is our livelihood.”
A representative from Tasty Burger, which has sponsored and set up a food stand at multiple Boston Callings, cited the fest as “a very well-run event” and praised the fact that he never saw a physical confrontation between patrons. District 14 Police Capt. Paul Russell said he has worked with Crashline in the past, and had no issues with things like underage drinking or disorderly conduct in recent Boston Calling editions.
Capt. Russell said he and officials from Cambridge Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police will set up a command post and oversee security and safety at Boston Calling, similar to how they operate for Harvard football games. Cooperation from Cambridge police will be essential, as Appel said Crashline will direct most of its attendees to use public transportation, utilizing the MBTA and commuter rail to its closest stop, the Red Line’s Harvard Square. From there, festival attendees will walk along John F. Kennedy Street, across Memorial Drive and Soldiers Field Road, and up North Harvard Street to the festival grounds. The areas will be marked for Boston Calling festival goers, and Crashline will foot the cost of providing that security and detail along the corridor.
With parking around Boston Calling limited to what was described as “200 to 300” spots, Appel said there will be a heavy focus on public transportation campaigns, with those from out-of-town recommended to use a Park & Ride lot outside the city and traveling via commuter rail. Appel said 90 percent of previous festival attendees took public transportation to City Hall Plaza, and sees the Harvard location as no different. He also stated early on that roughly 20 percent of the crowds at previous Boston Callings were from the Allston and Brighton areas, so there will be plenty of attendees walking to the Harvard grounds or taking a short Uber ride. Crashline has connected with the ride-hailing company to determine specific pick-up and drop-off zones.
“We’re making sure traffic impact on this is extremely limited,” Appel said. “The goal is to leave the community cleaner than we found it.”
Boston Calling’s Spring 2017 lineup is set to be announced next week. For more information on the fest, including ticketing, click here. Additional resident questions and inquieries are asked to be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Below is the anticipated sound direction and impact zones for all three stages. Images courtesy of Boston Calling.