Review: A Taste of Local At Boston Calling

A collage of three photographs taken of Paper Lady, JVK and Tysk Tysk Task at Boston Calling. Above the photos is an orange banner with white text that reads: "Review: A Taste of Local At Boston Calling"
Photographs by Aleiagh Hynds; Graphics by Nora Onanian

By Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator

Artists: JVK, Paper Lady, Tysk Tysk Task

Where: Boston Calling, Harvard Athletic Complex

When: Friday, May 24th - Sunday, May 26th



Early on in Boston Calling’s now 11-year history, it was clear that the musical festival’s organizers had their sights set on creating something big. In 2014, its second year running, Boston Magazine called it “the Boston version of Coachella” while unpacking the lineup. And in a different article, the magazine writes of Boston Calling’s transition from taking place over three days instead of two, and occurring on the grounds of Harvard Athletic Complex instead of Boston’s City Hall Plaza— the 2017 switch in location saw its footprint “more than [double], from 6 acres to 16,” journalist Camille Dodero writes. 

Over the years, Boston Calling has been able to have some of the most exciting and legendary names in music perform on its stage — from Metallica to Kendrick Lamar to Tame Impala. Many have pointed out that the curators don’t have to look across continents or even across the coast to find talent, though. There is a bustling and vibrant scene of musicians in the festival’s backyard just waiting to be discovered. 



In 2019, local hip hop artist Cliff Notez (who will be performing at our 617 Day live show at Boston’s City Hall Plaza this year as a part of our all-local lineup) was moved by his passion for uplifting local talent to create a competing live show the same weekend as Boston Calling; one where only local artists took center stage. Riffing off of the name “Boston Calling,” the Dorchester-based musician named his concert “Boston Answering.” With a feisty name and a knockout five-artist lineup, the concert ensured the voices of local creatives were heard loud and clear. Speaking about the message he aimed to spread, Cliff Notez told Boston Magazine, “It’s important for artists in the city to realize that we can create our own stages, and we have the opportunity to no longer be marginalized, because we can create our own platforms for ourselves.” He continued, “We can have our own show the same weekend [as Boston Calling] and have it still be packed.”

He went on to explain, “Boston Calling is, like, a small microcosm of a bigger problem in the city, which continues to overlook local acts… I just want to make sure people aren’t forgetting us, especially when we’re continuing to work our asses off.” Boston Calling curators invited Cliff Notez to be a part of their (later canceled) 2020 festival lineup. It was a clear sign of the splash Boston Answering made. 



Since, the festival curators have demonstrated an eager willingness to spotlight local talent. One of four stages set up on Harvard Athletic Complex grounds for Boston Calling, the orange stage, has become the epicenter of these acts. At Boston Calling 2024, it featured only New England talents for the second year in a row. This year’s festival featured a total of 21 local artists— in a feature article published ahead of the festival’s May 24th start, describes why all 21 are worth checking out and celebrating. 

When I attended Boston Calling last weekend, as much as I wanted to, it was difficult to bear the heat and other conditions to catch all of these local acts across the festival’s three days. But, I made sure to get at least a taste of the local talent this year’s lineup boasted, and visited the orange stage on multiple occasions.

Ultimately, the three local acts I saw — one from each day — stood out as some of the most memorable performances out of everything I saw at Boston Calling. The artists had a way of connecting with the audience that was largely unattempted or not as well-executed by many of the headlining acts. Read on for more of the memorable moments from the sets delivered by JVK, Paper Lady and Tysk Tysk Task

JVK performs at Boston Calling. Photography by Aleiagh Hynds


JVK performing on the first day of Boston Calling and at the stage farthest from the main entrance meant that I was lost and slightly muddied, desperately trying to catch the start of their set. But as I went down a surprisingly rural paved road, I heard a woman’s voice yell “Get up b**ch” into a microphone over a low guitar riff that begins JVK’s track “Freak,” and I knew I had finally found the orange stage. 

JVK’s frontwoman Jo Krieger filled the stage with her simultaneously angsty and warm presence. Donning leather shorts (black, to match the entire band’s attire), she lifted her guitar overhead, did plenty of hair flips, slid onto her knees, and at the end, torpedoed band tees into the crowd like only a true DIY-rocker would. 

The highlight of the set, for me, came when JVK performed “My Own Man” — the song that Krieger called “[her] baby.” She built anticipation and added meaning to it, prefacing: “If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this set it’s this message… It’s the [song] that encapsulates us the most.” The lyrics to “My Own Man,” then spoke loudly for themselves. Through them, Krieger declares her worth and self-determination. She won’t let a man who wants to “play god” get in the way of her ambitions, she sings. A little girl next to me who had to be no older than six, hopped on one leg, dancing, eyes-closed. I couldn’t help but consider how influential it is to hear messages like these growing up in early adolescence, but also in life stages after that. ‘If this song doesn’t rock you to your core, you’re not listening hard enough,’ I thought to myself. 

The five member hard rock outlet went on to sing an energetic rendition of their original song “Bleach and Chlorine” and a cover of “What’s Going On,” before a satirical-tinged but powerful nonetheless wrap-up. “I’m JVK,” Jo Krieger said. Then, gesturing to her bandmates, “They’re JVK.” And finally, as Krieger gestured to the crowd and started the final phrasing “We’re all—”, audience members, on cue, echoed the band’s titular three letters — “J. V. K.”

Paper Lady perform at Boston Calling. Photography by Aleiagh Hynds


To kick off their set, six piece indie-rock band Paper Lady fittingly played “Absentee,” the song that they debuted onto the scene with in 2019. “Is it worth it, am I worthy?” lead singer Alli Raina questions, the sonic landscape of the song increasingly lush and ethereal. From there, the band took a moment to acknowledge the crowd— “What’s up Boston, we’re Paper Lady, we’re so happy to be playing for you.” It was one of several moments of clear gratitude and disbelief that they were playing an event so big.

The second and third songs on their setlist had some longer stretches of instrumentation. A particular point of interest was when the ladder track, “EVE,” closed with a glissando of slide guitar notes. Evocative of nature and melancholy, the sound fit the lyrics— Raina sings of wandering through the brush to the apple tree, and then closes: “I will take the blame, for it’s what I was, born to do.” 

Later on, a new song saw the band’s energy reach new heights. Explosive drums and deep bass begun the unreleased track. With four guitars, drums and a bass forming the instrumentation, the backing was a bit denser than some of the more ethereal and airy earlier tracks. Alli Raina’s often sweet vocals turned into a defiant yell. “You’re in the clear” she sang, echoing “the clear” for a second time but as a scream. When the song concluded, Raina said what many of us were thinking— “Woah,” then let out a giggle. An ironic paradox but also a reminder— even the gentlest souls can have an inner ferocity. 

The band then performed a cover of “Where is Alice” by Jefferson Airplane, which Raina dedicated to her dad, one of many family members of the band that were in the crowd and visibly beaming with pride. 

Some of the last couple of songs, including “Silk,” the band introduced as coming off of their upcoming debut full length album, set to release later this year. They contained buildups, more screams and Raina’s signature show-stopping move: playing the electric guitar with her teeth, Jimi Hendrix style. 

Tysk Tysk Task perform at Boston Calling. Photography by Aleiagh Hynds


Never did I expect to witness a mosh pit break out on a tennis court, but that’s exactly what happened as Tysk Tysk Task reached the end of their passion-filled set at Boston Calling. 

“Thank you so much for coming out, let’s do this” exclaimed Samantha Hartsel, the lead of the Lowell, Mass. based indie grunge band, before jumping into the group’s first song. 

From Tysk Tysk Task’s stage setup to their outfits, they graced the orange stage with a visual appeal that other artists didn’t come close to. Along the front edge of the stage were thick vines of fake greenery. They wrapped and flowered around the front and center microphone. Hartsel started the set in a pink, tulle, ruffled dress-like cloak. But eventually she shed the outer layer, revealing an all-white ensemble— tights, a bodysuit, a sheer cape and a ruffled blouse. Her guitar is covered in stickers, a measure of her years of making music and the people she’s inevitably met along the way. 

Where Paper Lady’s Alli Raina had a still-polished edge to her screaming, Samantha Hartsel’s voice let loose in an abrasive way during the third song of Tysk Tysk Task’s set. Though not as pleasant to the ears, it carried emotional weight similar to the distorted instrumentation that backed most of their tracks. 

Towards the culmination of the band’s song “Colors,” as the drumming grew more intense, the electric lead guitar let out an even louder and sharper sound. It was unclear if intention or technical difficulties were to blame, but the band on stage and the crowd below were having fun nonetheless. 

Hartsel’s voice and general badassery could have her join the ranks of PJ Harvey or Corrine Tucker, I thought to myself during the last song. She yelled “one, two, ready, go!,” during a breakdown, dramatic pause of the song. She then poured water on her head and finished the last minute of the song to many cheers. 



Next to the stage, blocking access to the backstage entrance, a fence covered in a banner announced this year’s orange stage performers. Another wall of the tennis court, perpendicular to this banner, depicted the names and faces of local performers in past years of Boston Calling— Miranda Rae, chrysalis, Coral Moons, just to name a few.

It seems hopeful that festival curator’s will continue to build up this legacy of local artists. And with the crowds this year’s orange stage sets drew in (over 700 people per set, JVK shared with their Instagram followers while recapping the career accomplishment) as well as the rocking talent of JVK, Paper Lady, Tysk Tysk Task and all 18 other local acts that I was misfortunate to miss, it would clearly be a mistake not to. 


Want to check out Boston's local music scene for yourself? Here's your next chance: WERS is partnering up with the City of Boston to deliver an unforgettable day of \all-local live music at City Hall Plaza on Monday, June 17th, 2024. Learn more here!

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