Our favorite moments from Boston Calling 2023

By Chase Whitney

June 7, 2023

Photo: Alive Coverage / Boston Calling

In its early years, Boston Calling played host to scores of bands who laid the groundwork for what it has become today. This year, the festival’s lineup spanned multiple generations for three days of music in the warm, sunny New England summer weather, making for a memorable Memorial Day Weekend in Allston, Massachusetts.

The warm made for a memorable Memorial Day Weekend in Allston, Massachusetts for Boston Calling 2023. Photo: Alive Coverage / Boston Calling

In 2017, Boston Calling got a significant facelift when it moved to the Harvard University Athletic Complex about five miles from downtown Boston from City Hall Plaza, where it has taken place since its inception in 2013. Aaron Dessner, lead guitarist for Friday night’s headliner, The National, co-curates the lineup and Crash Line Productions produces the festival. 

Festival-goers walk freely across multiple fields lined with stages, food vendors, pop-up bars, and a ferris wheel. Crowds streamed through the entry point on North Harvard Street throughout the weekend, and the acts that graced the Boston Calling stages all brought their own flair with a dedicated core of fans for each set, but these five stood out.  

Noah Kahan

There were maybe two bands (Foo Fighters and Paramore) that drew a bigger crowd than Stafford, Vermont native Noah Kahan. Not a single line got the crowd to sing along louder and more passionately than “I’m mean because I grew up in New England” from the song “Homesick.” The setlist featured songs like “Northern Attitude,” “All My Love,” along with the title track from his latest album Stick Season, all of which seemed to resonate deeply with the audience. A few hours later, he came back out for a guest appearance, joining The Lumineers during their headlining set for a cover of Jason Isbel and the 400 Unit’s “If We Were Vampires.”

Indie pop-folk artist Noah Kahan performing on the Green Stage at Boston Calling 2023. Photo: Alive Coverage / Boston Calling

Foo Fighters

After backing out to the festival last year under tragic circumstances, Foo Fighters made a triumphant return to Beantown. On their first tour with new drummer Josh Freese since the death of Taylor Hawkins, the Foo Fighters ripped through a setlist filled with crowd-pleasers. Dave Grohl brought Hawkins’ son Shane Hawkins on stage to perform “I’ll Stick Around” on drums, in what was a memorable and emotional moment. The screaming fans fed energy back to Grohl onstage Friday night, with Hawkins’ death adding new meaning to songs like “My Hero” and “Monkeywrench.”

Foo Fighters made a triumphant return to Boston. Photo: Alive Coverage / Boston Calling

Dropkick Murphys

Very few Boston-based bands have a stronger connection to their home city than Dropkick Murphys. A late replacement for Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the local heroes took the Green Stage on Friday afternoon before Foo Fighters. Of course, they had to cap off their set with “Shipping Up to Boston,” a day after the Boston Celtics had forced game six in the Eastern Conference Finals. This was the first year that Dropkick Murphys have played Boston Calling, and even on short notice, plenty of fans were present donning the band’s T-shirts throughout the weekend.

Dropkick Murphy’s Ken Casey performing for the Boston Calling crowd filling for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the Green Stage Friday afternoon. Photo: Alive Coverage / Boston Calling

Queens of the Stone Age

Those who gathered in front on Sunday evening would never have been able to tell this was only Queens of the Stone Age’s second full set in five years. QOTSA made their resounding return to live shows ahead of a month-long European tour in support of the upcoming album, In Times New Roman. They performed “Negative Space” from the upcoming album live for the first time, and Josh Homme’s showmanship shined as he led the band through a setlist that hit nearly every album. After rounding it out with the hit “No One Knows” as the sun set in the background, Homme queued up a five-minute jam session to finish off the set.

Queens of the Stone Age played their second full set in five years at Boston Calling. Photo: Alive Coverage / Boston Calling



Paramore’s set featured dedicated fan favorites, along with colorful, warping visual effects and stage production. As is the band’s tradition, a fan was pulled from the crowd to sing “Misery Business.” Hayley Williams and Sammy Jo, a Nashville high school biology teacher, rocked out to the last part of the song, leaving the crowd chanting the fan’s name. Williams’ energy, carefree dance moves, and frequent crowd engagement give her an effervescent stage presence. Putting a bow on the 2023 iteration of Boston Calling, Paramore’s 19-song set ending with white streamers blasted across the stage was an ideal send off for the festival. 

Hayley Williams and Paramore closed out Boston Calling 2023 on Sunday night. Photo: Taylor Hill / Getty Images for Boston Calling

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