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A New Perspective on Boston Calling 2023

Commentary on the representation of women and gender-expansive artists at this year's Boston Calling festival

It may not be Coachella, it may not be Burning Man, but Boston Calling is still a music festival New England can flex, especially with this year’s line up: The Foo Fighters, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Lumineers, Alanis Morisette, Paramore, and Queens of the Stone Age, as the headliners, along with many other favorites performing in this three-day event. From May 26th to

May 28th at Harvard University’s Athletic Complex, audience members will get the chance to listen to some of my personal favorite acts, like The Q-Tip Bandits, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, The Beaches, Fletcher, amongst others. Local acts like Brandie Blaze and Mint Green will also take the Boston Calling stage, both of whom will be performing at BBG Fest – Beats by Girlz’s very own festival in Boston on July 8th.

Few music festivals are ever female and gender-expansive forward because the music industry has been incredibly male-dominated for so many years. According to Book More Women, 57% of this year’s lineup features at least one woman or non-binary permanent member. These statistics are exciting and high in comparison to many other festivals! However, having just one permanent member who is non-male seems like a small percentage. Overall, the majority of performers on the Boston Calling stage are still male.

I came up with an approximate tally of male vs. female/gender-expansive musicians performing at the end of May. As the count stands, the ratio seems to be about 2:1. For every 2 male performers, there is 1 female/gender-expansive performer. From my count, there were approximately 93 male performers and 42 female/gender-expansive performers. Keep in mind, though, that this tally is not exact, since finding information on band members for some of the more obscure bands proved to be a difficult task.

As far as headlining acts go, 18 male artists hold the headliner title, all of them as part of a larger group (The Foo Fighters is all-male; Yeah Yeah Yeahs is predominantly male, with a female lead vocalist; The Lumineers is predominantly male; Paramore is predominantly male, with a female lead vocalist; and Queens of the Stone Age is also all-male), contrasted by the 4 female headliners (Karen O, Yeah Yeah Yeahs; Lauren Jacobson, The Lumineers; Alanis Morisette; and Hayley Williams, Paramore).

But the discrepancy between male and female/gender-expansive performers may not be just on Boston Calling. I think it’s a sign of our entire music industry. Sure, times have changed, things have improved: there is generally more diverse representation and equality in the music industry now than ever. But I still wouldn’t go as far as to say that things have changed enough, that there is no more work to be done. To further the point, at Boston Calling, with the exception of those four unaccounted bands, there will be eleven all-male bands and only four all-female/gender-expansive ones (not accounting for solo acts). Is it that there aren’t enough all women or GNC groups? Doubtfully. It’s more likely that there are still large chunks of the glass ceiling that need to be shattered in the music industry, especially in the rock and indie scenes.

At Beats by Girlz, we are working to shed light on these discrepancies, and create spaces where women and gender-expansive musicians can thrive. BBG Boston is hosting BBG Fest on July 8th, where some incredible acts will be taking the stage, such as Bad Snacks, Brandie Blaze, dollt!ck, and more! You can follow @beatsbygirlz and @beatsbygirlzboston to stay updated on this music festival, which is open to the public.

Here is the unofficial list of all-female/gender-expansive groups performing at Boston Calling this year for you to support!

•The Beaches

•Razor Braids

•The Aces

•The Linda Lindas

Written by Sabrina Gamboa

Edited by Nan Macmillan

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