Co-written by Jon Simmons

With round two of Boston Calling Music Festival just around the corner, we’re already getting hyped up for Boston’s big music weekend. Read up on the buzz surrounding these six acts, and keep an eye out for our upcoming local edition to find out which five performers have a special connection to our city.

Also check out our Boston Calling September mix for some pre-show listening!

1. Lorde

Saturday, September 6 – 8:15 PM – Red Stage

There is so much more to Lorde than “Royals.” You don’t have to take it from me — Sir Elton John called her song “Tennis Court” “one of the most touching, beautiful things on earth.” Whether or not you care about celebrity endorsements, Lorde will doubtlessly stun at this year’s Boston Calling. The New Zealand native’s debut studio album, Pure Heroine, came out in 2013 when Lorde was just 16. Although her lyrics can be decidedly teenage in their quest for originality, it’s easy to be entranced by her dark pop melodies and guttural vocals.


2. Neutral Milk Hotel

Friday, September 5 – 8:00 PM – Blue Stage

Neutral Milk Hotel is best known for their 1998 album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, widely considered by fans to be inspired by Anne Frank’s diary. Their lyrics are strange, visual, and evocative, softened by indie rock. Originally formed in 1989, Neutral Milk Hotel reunited in 2013 after a hiatus since 1999, and fans couldn’t be happier.


3. Lake Street Dive

Sunday, September 7 – 3:55 PM – Red Stage

Boston’s own Lake Street Dive got its start when a song written by bassist and vocalist Bridget Kearney won the jazz category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in 2005. Lake Street Dive recorded their debut album, In this episode, in 2006. The group continued to thrive locally, filming a live album at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge in 2010 and signing with Signature Sounds Recordings in 2011. Since 2013, Lake Street Dive has hit the international scene, playing more than 150 performances in 32 states and eight countries.


4. Nas x The Roots

Sunday, September 7 – 9:20 PM – Blue Stage

It’s been 20 years since 20-year-old Nasir Jones, aka Nas, dropped his seminal record Illmatic, widely considered one of the best hip-hop records ever made. Together with a Jimmy Fallon-seasoned Roots band, Nas and The Roots will headline Boston Calling on Sunday, pairing intelligent rhymes with tight, soulful rhythms.

Nas, who is kicking off a tour this fall to commemorate his legendary album, should give fans what they want — a heavy dose of Illmatic. The world is yours, Nas. We’re just happy to be part of it.


5. The War on Drugs

Sunday, September 7 – 3:05 PM – Blue Stage

Attention! Danger of being washed into the Boston Harbor by ambient guitars and synths. Attend at your own risk.

Coming off the critically acclaimed Lost in the Dream, Americana rockers The War on Drugs continue to rise into the mainstream, bringing their small-town sound to the city. Though you’ll be surrounded by skyscrapers, hordes of people, and city traffic, The War on Drugs’ songs will make you think of empty highways and truck stops in no time. Their music could fill the barest of valleys. City Hall Plaza should be no problem.


6. Future Islands

Friday, September 5 – 6:45 PM – Blue Stage

If Future Islands lead singer Samuel Herring performs “Seasons” anything like he did on Letterman this spring, Boston Calling attendees are in for a huge treat. It’s impossible to look away from Herring’s theatrical fist pumps and Elvis-esque expressions, especially when set in front Future Islands’ inert backing band. (Is the bass player actually just a statue they placed on stage?)

Though they risk becoming a one-hit wonder like Right Said Fred or Fountains of Wayne, synthpop four-piece Future Islands ought to ride “Seasons” right through the end of summer and into their fall international tour. We’ll be dancing with them.

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