A 3-year timeline of the festival’s challenges



Even amidst pandemic losses, festival postponements, and artist cancellations, Boston Calling 2022 persevered.

Boston Calling 2022 will be held from May 27-29 at the Harvard Athletic Complex. Craig F. Walker / The Boston Globe

Three years since its last edition, Boston Calling 2022 is set to take place at the Harvard Athletic Complex from May 27-29.

The time between Boston Calling 2019 and this year’s edition was an eventful one for the festival, which is owned by Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSGE). The COVID-19 pandemic scuttled any chance of holding an event in both 2020 and 2021, which led to approximately $10.6 million in lost revenue for the company in 2020 alone, according to earnings reports.

Even when live music did begin to pick up again, the festival faced the added difficulty of replacing all three of its original headliners, scrambling to find suitable replacements on a short timeline.

In spite of all of that, the festival returns this weekend, complete with 50-plus artists, new headliners, a robust food lineup, and plenty of local acts.

When contacted by Boston.com, a representative for Boston Calling declined to comment for this article.

Here is a look back at the timeline of events that led to Boston Calling 2022.

November 19, 2019: Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters announced as headliners for Boston Calling 2020

The festival, which typically waited until January to announce its lineup, broke with tradition by tapping rock legends Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers in November 2019.

Boston Calling co-founder Brian Appel said that the festival had long tried to book the two groups, which he counted among “some of the most important rock artists of all time.”

“We have worked for years to bring the Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers to the festival, and this year everything lined up perfectly,” Appel said. “We couldn’t be happier, and will complement them with an incredibly diverse lineup of artists throughout the festival weekend.”

January 28, 2020: Boston Calling announces full lineup, adds Rage Against the Machine as third headliner

In a perfect complement to its first two headliners, Boston Calling announced that Rage Against the Machine would be its third headliner, assembling three of the most impactful rock groups of the ’90s on one weekend.

Aside from the three headliners, the 2020 lineup features a number of other acts that did not ultimately carry over to the 2022 lineup. Rapper Jack Harlow, who is now one of the biggest names in hip-hop, was buried deep in the Sunday lineup, having only just released his first major single, “What’s Poppin,” a week earlier.

Other notable acts that didn’t make the move include roots rock singer-songwriter Jason Isbell and his band the 400 Unit, singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers, English rockers The 1975, and singer-songwriter Brittany Howard.

March 31, 2020: Boston Calling 2020 canceled

Less than a month into the COVID-19 pandemic, Boston Calling announced the cancellation of its 2020 festival.

“After several weeks of consultation with local and state authorities, we have made the difficult decision to cancel Boston Calling 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic,” the festival wrote. “We are heartbroken; however, the health and safety of our audience, artists, partners, vendors, first responders, and staff are of the utmost importance to us, and we felt that this was the only acceptable way forward.”

August 14, 2020: MSGE announces $10.6 million in lost revenue from Boston Calling 2020 cancellation

Shortly after the start of the pandemic, the Madison Square Garden Company separated its entertainment and sports business holdings into two separate companies, with Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSGE) announced as its own publicly traded company on April 20, 2020.

Its first official earnings reports as a standalone public company, released May 18, 2020 and August 14, 2020 reflected the dire nature of running a live events business during a pandemic.

In particular, the August 14 report stated that its entertainment sector revenues decreased by 94% compared to the same quarter in 2019. On its own, the cancellation of Boston Calling 2020 led to a $10.6 million revenue decrease, according to the report.

February 22, 2021: Boston Calling 2021 canceled

Even as the first COVID-19 vaccines began rolling out to Americans, festival organizers announced that Boston Calling 2021 was a no-go.

“After exploring all possible options for hosting Boston Calling this year, we have made the difficult decision in conjunction with local and state authorities to cancel the 2021 festival,” the organization announced on its website. “The health and safety of our entire community is always our top priority, and there was no appropriate scenario under which we could provide the Boston Calling experience you love and deserve.”

May 26, 2021: Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine announced as Boston Calling 2022 headliners

With vaccines widely available by May 2021, festival organizers announced the return of Foo Fighters and Rage Against the Machine exactly one year ahead of Boston Calling 2022.

The festival also stated that it would be announcing small portions of the lineup in the coming months, a change from its previous practice of releasing the full lineup at once. In July 2021, the festival added Run the Jewels and Black Pumas to its slate, followed by the announcement of HAIM, Sudan Archives, and Celisse in August 2021.

Notably, the festival did not announce Red Hot Chili Peppers would return to the festival. In December 2021, the band announced dates for its rescheduled tour, with the group playing at Fenway Park as its only Boston date on September 10, 2022, along with Thundercat and St. Vincent.

January 20, 2022: Rage Against the Machine will not perform at Boston Calling 2022

Less than 24 hours before the full Boston Calling 2022 lineup was set to be unveiled, Boston Calling announced that headliner Rage Against the Machine would not be playing the festival.

The news came the same day that Rage Against the Machine announced that it would shorten its North American tour, which is set to kick off July 9. Though no reason was stated for the truncated schedule — which also omitted the band’s planned headlining set at Coachella — RATM drummer Brad Wilk posted on Instagram in December 2021 that he had undergone knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

January 21, 2022: Foo Fighters, Metallica, The Strokes announced as headliners for Boston Calling 2022

Less than 24 hours after original headliner Rage Against the Machine bowed out, Boston Calling announced that Foo Fighters, The Strokes, and Metallica would headline the 2022 edition of the festival.

Along with the headliners, top-billed performers include electronica group Rüfüs Du Sol, alt-rockers Weezer, sibling rock trio HAIM, hip-hop duo Run The Jewels, indie rock group Glass Animals, Aussie prog rockers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, 2000s pop-punk icon Avril Lavigne, psychedelic soul band Black Pumas, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Cheap Trick, Connecticut jam band Goose, hip-hop duo EARTHGANG, and rock group Modest Mouse.

March 29, 2022: Foo Fighters will not play Boston Calling 2022 following death of Taylor Hawkins

Following the death of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins at age 50, the band announced that it would cancel all of its upcoming tour dates, including a planned headlining performance at Boston Calling 2022.

“It is with great sadness that Foo Fighters confirm the cancellation of all upcoming tour dates in light of the staggering loss of our brother Taylor Hawkins,” the band posted on social media. “We’re sorry for and share in the disappointment that we won’t be seeing one another as planned. Instead, let’s take this time to grieve, to heal, to pull our loved ones close, and to appreciate all the music and memories we’ve made together.”

Following the tragic news, the festival issued a statement saying that a third headliner would be announced “soon.”

“Following the loss of beloved drummer Taylor Hawkins, Foo Fighters have cancelled all upcoming shows, including headlining at Boston Calling,” the statement read. “We extend our deepest condolences to the band, Taylor Hawkins’ loved ones & fans around the world. We will announce a new headliner soon.”

April 6, 2022: Nine Inch Nails will headline first night of Boston Calling 2022

Less than two months before Boston Calling 2022, organizers finalized the lineup on April 6 with the announcement of Trent Reznor’s industrial rock outfit Nine Inch Nails as its third headliner.

The announcement culminated a nearly three-year saga of ups-and-downs, during which the festival was cancelled twice, had to replace three headliners, scrap its comedy stage, and reduce its artist count from 60+ to 50+.

Despite the tough road, festival organizers remained optimistic, thanking fans for sticking with them through the difficult times.

“We are so thrilled to bring Boston Calling back, and we cannot thank our loyal fans enough for supporting us as we navigated the pandemic,” Appel said in a press release. “This year’s lineup is particularly special for us. It not only signifies a return to the things we love, but it also celebrates some of the world’s most renowned acts, exciting up-and-comers, and Boston’s talented music scene.”


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