Music lovers rejoiced as the Boston Calling Music Festival made its return to City Hall Plaza from Friday September 25th through Sunday September 27th. The lineup featured bands such as Walk The Moon, alt-J, Of Monsters and Men, the Avett Brothers, Twin Shadow, Chromeo, and Hozier.
As always, two different types of tickets were for sale: General Admission, and the VIP Experience. Which one to choose? Well, depends on your preferences. One is rougher, but more community oriented. The other is flashier, but more isolated. Pre-sale three-day tickets to the festival sold at $110 for General Admission and $250 for VIP.
Is that $140 price difference really worth it? Probably not. I was fortunate enough to be given a free VIP ticket from a good friend and got to photograph and write from the event. There are many pros to having the VIP bracelet wrapped around your wrist, but I can’t say that if I had to purchase the ticket myself I’d be wearing that arm candy.
PRO: NO WAIT, NO HASSLE
Running over from work, I arrived at Boston Calling later than I would have liked. As I approached City Hall Plaza, I could hear the dreamy crooning of opener Gregory Alan Isakov. I was eager to get into the festival grounds, but when I finally reached the entrance, my eyes just about bugged out of their sockets. The entry lines were massive, and moving at an extremely slow pace. I’d be lucky if I got in in time to see the headliner. Alas, there it was – my beacon of light in the dark – the VIP entrance tent. In celebrity style, I gracefully passed by the seemingly never-ending masses of attendees, and parked myself right up front at the entry tent. There were only four other people there getting their bags checked. Within moments, I had my bracelet strapped on, and I was in.
It took me a few minutes to be able to find the VIP area. After following arrows and confirming with a security worker, I was checked in and headed up the steps of City Hall. I was very confused by the location of VIP. It was just about as far away as you could get from the main stage. It did face toward the stage and had an aerial view of the crowds below, but you had to squint to even attempt to see the figures on the stage. The man standing next to me had brought a telescope. I’m not joking. A telescope. I couldn’t help but compare this to past experiences. When I was VIP at Governor’s Ball Music Festival, it meant being right up close and personal to the artists as they performed, standing in a side area where the general masses couldn’t enter. You were essentially paying to be closer to the band without the aggressive pushing and sweatiness of other fans. There was certainly no pushing or sweatiness in Boston Calling’s VIP, but there was no connection to the musicians either. A huge part of live music events for me is being able to bond with the crowd and feel a common passion for the music being played with others. BC’s VIP felt like it was more about sipping your drink from high above and gazing down at the peasants below.
PRO: TREATMENT (AND FOOD. ALWAYS FOOD)
The VIP title does get you the VIP treatment. The platform around City Hall was converted into a lounge, with plenty of tables, comfy couches, and chairs to sit with friends and wait for the next act or to have some down time to eat. Speaking of eating – hello free food! Guests had the choice between pulled pork sandwiches, or the vegan option of a tofu Vietnamese sandwich. For dessert, there were chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet cupcakes. Fridges held bottles of different flavored seltzers up for the taking, and there was a bar for the 21+ crowd. Trendy pink and blue lights illuminated the area, adding to the lounge feel. It was fun to walk around and explore the different levels. There was even a mini art popup exhibit and two big screen televisions (although I have no clue why you would want to watch TV at a concert). Staff was very friendly, and there were several viewpoints to watch the band on stage – you were never confined to one area and always had the freedom to move around.
There have been many occasions where I show up to a music festival with a group of friends, but then part ways with them at some point because there’s a band I want to see that none of them are interested in. I guess that technically makes me “alone,” but I never feel alone. The crowd becomes like a second family. It doesn’t matter if you don’t personally know the people next to you – you’re all sharing the joys of music together. Heck, I’ve even made a few dancing partners and new Facebook friends while vibing in the GA crowd. Unfortunately, Boston Calling’s VIP experience was nothing like that. Going solo would probably have felt very awkward if it were not for the fact that I’m super independent and enjoy doing things on my own. People mostly clung together in groups and didn’t interact with anyone else. I only spoke with dude-with-telescope, and a girl who bitterly asked “Um, do you just want me to take it…?” when I was attempting to take an awesome selfie with the stage and crowd below. There were other photographers and music journalists who had also come alone, but none of them seemed too excited. I still very much enjoyed the music, but there were times I would look down below and imagine myself dancing in the crowd.
So, when is VIP a good decision? For one, it’s an extremely cute date idea. You’re able to eat together, jam out together, and still be able to talk and get to know each other without the roaring of a crowd drowning out your voices. As I said before, there are plenty of couches and lounge chairs to chill out on, and later when you go to watch the live music, you can have some privacy to share the experience together. VIP is also prime for people who like their music, but without all the fuss of the crowd. This usually pertains to adults. I’ve met some 55 year olds at concerts of “young and hip” bands, and honestly, good for them! (It’s very likely that’ll be me some day) But the reality is, I can’t imagine my mom being in the middle of a crowd at a music festival. Nope. Not even for a second. So for the more mature that prefer not to be swarmed by college-age kids, VIP is a nice option. It’s also good if you just want a peaceful night, no hassles, and sweet accommodations.
Who is VIP not good for? Anyone who loves the traditional concert / music festival feel of being surrounded by people, lost in the music, and up close and personal to your favorite bands. Also, if you’re like me and enjoy singing along to every word of every song, that’s probably not going to fly in VIP. But in the general admission crowd? You’ll be one of the many screaming the words. As a photographer, I would recommend VIP for other music festivals where it can get you close, but certainly not for Boston Calling. There was no way for me to capture close-up shots of the musicians or the expressions of people jamming in the crowd. Not even with a zoom lens. If you’re looking for a social time and a feeling of community, this probably isn’t the place for you.
It all boils down to the type of person you are, the type of experience you’re seeking, and whether you’re okay with getting your shirt ruffled (hint: was able to rock my leather jacket the whole time in VIP. This would have been a disaster in GA). If you’re looking for a calm evening gazing out at some amazing bands from the comfort of your roped-off lounge, click “purchase “on that VIP ticket. But if you need me next time, I’ll be rocking out in the crowd: my feet sore from dancing, my voice hoarse from singing, and a gigantic smile on my face.