Selected Sounds: Boston Calling 2024

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Check out our staff’s suggestions for who to catch at Boston Calling this year, from big names like Leon Bridges to local favorites like Senseless Optimism.


The Wolff Sisters at 2:50 PM on the Orange Stage Selected by Sally Pigeon 

The Wolff Sisters are storytellers–they use their skills musically and lyrically to weave theatrical tales of adventure. “Dark River” could score a Western; imagine a dusty gunslinger kicking in saloon doors on the first drum beat and guitar riff. The pirate-inspired stomp-and-clap of their most recent single, “Hurricane,” is a surefire crowd-pleaser waiting to happen. It’s hard to pick a true standout among their discography; every track has its place, intricately laid amongst a stellar lineup. The Wolff Sisters are sure to deliver a performance rich with vivid scenes and a folk soundscape that stick around long after the final chord has finished echoing.

Leon Bridges at 7:05 PM on the Red Stage – Selected by Jared Steinberg

A smokey jazz lounge haze settles over the city skyline on a warm first night of Boston Calling when vintage soul singer Leon Bridges takes the stage. A walking soul revival, the descendant of Motown Records, Bridges is all 5 members of The Temptations in one. He transports listeners back to the 1960s soul sound with crisp precision. From swaying summer love sounds like “Beyond” to afternoon windows-down-cruise tracks like “Smooth Sailin’,” Leon Bridges is a once-in-a-generation artist carrying on some of the best traditions of American music history, an experience not to be missed.


Senseless Optimism at 1:45 PM on the Red Stage Selected by Eric Gonnam 

The last time Sound of Boston had the opportunity to premiere one of Senseless Optimism’s songs, “Why,” she was still establishing herself in the local scene. A lot has changed since then: Brittany Tsewole has quickly proven to be an absolute powerhouse of a musician and one of the hardest-working artists from the local scene. From Instagram reels that have garnered thousands of views to a shoutout from YouTuber and “the busiest music nerd” Anthony Fantano, as well as a recent performance on CBS Boston, it’s easy to see how Senseless Optimism found herself in the ranks of the Boston Calling lineup. For those not savvy, Brittany has been releasing her unique blend of jazzy bedroom pop since 2020. From her debut EP “Dreamland Demos” to her newest single “ITS YOU”, Senseless Optimism remains contagiously catchy and continuously innovative. 

Paper Lady at 5:30 PM on the Orange Stage Selected by Noor Abdulla

Paper Lady, hailing from Boston, is a band that has the unique ability to harness the power of all four seasons through their music. Their witchy theme captures the misty essence of autumn and the lead singer, Alli Raina, makes flowers bloom in spring with her stunning voice. Paper Lady’s use of catchy percussion rhythms resemble the snowfall and hail of winter, their lyrics a cup of hot chocolate. Their upbeat, fast-paced songs, as well as their slower tracks, are able to cater to any summer day, from the sunniest to the cloudiest. Songs like “EVE” can provide a break from the chaos, giving a chance to sway instead of mosh. “Five of Swords,” however, brings back the ecstatic energy of this event that is needed in order to keep the audience engaged. Paper Lady’s music can take listeners through every season, every emotion, and their performance is surely a one-of-a-kind experience to see live.

SUNDAY, MAY 26      

Billy Dean Thomas at 4:00 PM on the Orange Stage Selected by Eben Cook

“Fell off, who’s asking? / Make that shit make sense,” Billy Dean Thomas unflinchingly concludes their newest single release, “Pardon My Space”—an ode to self-care that sees them at their most introspective and at peace. The Boston-based spitter’s initials have been carved into the local hip-hop tree for almost a decade, forming and solidifying their status by consistently baring their soul on wax. Thomas masterfully toes the line between contemplative and confident, with tracks like “Trust No Mo” layering justified braggadocio and a playful array of flows atop weighty themes of self-reliance and wariness on the come-up. Whether itching for a display of thrilling rhyme schemes that induce the most reflexive of head-nods, or searching for purpose and meaning amidst the chaos of a festival backdrop, Billy Dean Thomas will strike a chord.

Fleshwater at 7:10 PM on the Orange Stage Selected by Jaliana Colon

Boston-based rock band Fleshwater brings the feeling of 90’s grunge rock to your modern day mosh pit. With songs like “Closet” and “Woohoo” from their 2022 album We’re Not Here To Be Loved, it’s hard to not let yourself feel like you’re in a 90s vampiric psychological thriller. But if Paramore and Linkin Park with a little bit of screamo mixed in isn’t quite your vibe, that’s okay—Fleshwater gives you a range of vibes to choose from. With their newest album Sounds Of Grieving, get a slower, more sentimental experience with remixed and remastered songs from We’re Not Here To Be Loved. From start to finish, this album takes already entrancing songs and gives them that rolling ending credit energy we all secretly romanticize. Their stage presence is anything but boring, guaranteed to make you wanna mosh, cry, and dance (all at the same time, of course). They are currently on a completely sold out tour, so if you get a chance to check out any of the local bands at Boston Calling this year, adding Fleshwater to your list is a must.

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