This Memorial Day weekend marks a milestone for the Boston Calling Music Festival. The fest debuted 10 years ago with two stages, truckloads of sound equipment and a lineup featuring 18 acts. Together with thousands of fans, that marriage of artistry, technology, people power and gobs of elbow grease transformed the swath of hard, red brick surrounding City Hall Plaza into a rollicking, outdoor music venue. “It goes back to Mayor [Thomas] Menino having the faith to allow us to do something like that in an unlikely space on City Hall Plaza,” festival co-founder Brian Appel said. “So we are forever indebted to him and his staff for allowing it to happen.” And boy, has Boston Calling evolved since that rainy, chilly first weekend in 2013. A total of seven editions drew fans to the city’s downtown before organizers relocated the whole shebang up the Charles River to Harvard University’s Athletics Complex. That was in 2017, and the move nearly tripled Boston Calling’s footprint while doubling the bill’s number of artists. Now the homegrown event is ginormous — on par with Lollapalooza, Outside Lands and Bonnaroo. Ahead of opening day on Friday, May 26, we thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane through photos that capture moments big and small from Boston Calling’s decade-long evolution. More than a decade ago, Brian Appel said he and his team at Crash Line Productions saw potential when they looked at City Hall Plaza. “We just thought there was a void in the market for a multi-genre music festival within the city of Boston,” he recalled, “so we went and built it.” He added there’s been a lot of learning along the way. Boston Calling was initially co-curated by guitarist Aaron Dessner of The National. His confessional rock band headlined that first year with the pop trio Fun. The festival’s premiere was also the first big, public event after the Boston Marathon bombing in April of 2013. Security was heightened, but the event provided some musical healing for the fans in the audience. (The photo above captures the mood.) “Tickets sold out really far in advance,” Appel said. “I just remember the audience being so excited, and the energy in downtown Boston that weekend was nothing like we’d ever felt.” Boston Calling director of marketing and talent Peter Boyd was onsite and recalled how the seeds for the music festival came up in conversation at a bar. Then, Boyd said, Appel and co-founder Mike Snow made it a reality. “I was so happy to see my friends go out on their own and make it a reality that first weekend in 2013. I went early because I was excited to see my friends in Bad Rabbits be the first band to take the stage. The weather was terrible… but everyone showed up because it was so exciting to have something like Boston Calling happening in the city. Boston never had anything like this before.” Initially, Boston Calling was held twice a year — on Memorial Day weekend and again over Labor Day weekend. The festival returned for its second installment in September of 2013 with headliners Vampire Weekend and Passion Pit. Other artists included Kendrick Lamar, Major Lazer, Solange and Deer Tick. In 2014, Boston Calling added a third day to the festival. The growing festival’s lineup of 22 artists included Jack Johnson, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, The Decemberists, Tegan and Sara, Built to Spill, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. (WBUR’s Amelia Mason pointed out the lack of female artists ahead of this third installment.) The National returned to Boston Calling in 2014 and joined artists Lorde, The Replacements, Nas x The Roots, Childish Gambino, Spoon, Lake Street Dive, Twenty One Pilots, Neutral Milk Hotel and 13 other acts. “Every year, you’ve got to balance the huge acts that are going to be tentpole bands are going to sell a lot of tickets and put on a great show,” Appel said of the team’s approach to curation. “And then you’ve got to take some chances, too, and hope that there’s some great things in there.” Some of the artists onstage in May 2015: Beck, Pixies, My Morning Jacket, Ben Harper, Tenacious D, Tame Impala, St. Vincent and Run the Jewels. The Avett Brothers, Alt-J, Alabama Shakes, Hozier, CHVRCHES, Father John Misty and Dirty Bangs took the stage at the second installment of the 2015 festival. On deck, “some of the trendiest pop and rock acts around,” according to WBUR’s Amelia Mason. In 2016, Boston Calling organizers announced big changes for the festival: it would happen one weekend a year rather than two, and in 2017, the party would be moving from City Hall’s hard, brick plaza to the more forgiving fields at Harvard’s athletic complex. This news came after the Madison Square Garden Company purchased controlling interest in the independent festival. Boston Calling’s last hurrah at City Hall Plaza featured Sia, Sufjan Stevens, Janelle Monáe, Haim, Courtney Barnett, Charles Bradley, Vince Staples, Lizzo and Palehound, among others. The mythic Danish brewery Mikkeller created a beer especially for the 2016 festival. In May of 2017, Boston Calling’s fleet of trucks rolled onto the cushy astroturf at Harvard to build out the festival’s new home. This much greener, less urban location — along with an increased operational budget — enabled Boston Calling to nearly triple its footprint from six acres to 16. The fields could accommodate three stages, up from two. Bonnaroo and Outside Lands “festival designer” Russ Bennett crafted a playful layout that featured a must-have Ferris wheel on the grounds. Precautions including metal detectors and bag checks were instituted after a bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. In 2017, the number of bands on Boston Calling’s bill doubled to 45, with Tool, Mumford & Sons and Chance the Rapper headlining. Other artists included Bon Iver, Weezer, Cage the Elephant, Run the Jewels, Brandi Carlile, Tegan and Sara, Migos, Car Seat Headrest, Deerhoof, Sylvan Esso, Sigur Rós, Buffalo Tom and Lucy Dacus. Comedians also joined the party, including Hannibal Buress, Tig Notaro and Phoebe Robinson. “We’ve had really phenomenal support from Harvard, the City of Boston and Cambridge,” Appel said of the festival, “and the music industry overall that sends all these bands our way every year.” (Read our reporters’ thoughts on the 2017 festival here.) The expanded festival found its feet in Allston this year. Eminem, The Killers and Jack White headlined. Also The National, St. Vincent, Paramore, Fleet Foxes, Portugal. The Man, Maggie Rogers, Julien Baker, Alvvays, Pussy Riot and Thee Oh Sees. Local artists included Belly, STL GLD and Cousin Stizz. A member of the hip-hop collective Brockhampton did not take the stage at Boston Calling after being accused of sexual misconduct. Actress Natalie Portman curated a film festival, Pod Save America appeared, along with comedians, including David Cross and Cameron Esposito.(WBUR’s Amelia Mason continued her trend of providing commentary analyzing the progress of the festival.) Tens of thousands of fans flocked to Boston Calling in 2019 to see Twenty One Pilots, Tame Impala, Travis Scott, Greta Van Fleet, CHVRCHES, Christine and the Queens, Tank and the Bangas, Odesza, Greta Van Fleet, Mitski, Clairo and Lil Nas X. “It’s curated every year in a fashion to kind of reflect what we think is interesting in live music,” Appel said, “and also who we try to predict is going to be ascendant by the time the lineup gets announced.” Comedians Fred Armisen, Jenny Slate and Michael Che performed, and the Boston Ballet made its Boston Calling debut. Local hip-hop artist Cliff Notez criticized Boston Calling for not supporting more local artists and created an alternative festival named Boston Answering. (This was also the year Boston Mayoral aides were found guilty of federal conspiracy charges in the Boston Calling extortion case. In 2020, a judge tossed those convictions.) “Two years of pandemic shutdowns was not easy on us, obviously, because we weren’t able to run what we do for a living,” Appel said. “But we were able to keep the team together and keep everyone working, thanks in no small part to Madison Square Garden and the leadership team over there. So we were able to get through it. And we know a lot of companies in live entertainment weren’t. We feel really fortunate about that.” Months before the festival returned from its two-year hiatus, organizers were thrilled to announce Foo Fighters would headline. But the band had to cancel after drummer Taylor Hawkins died of an overdose on tour. Nine Inch Nails, the Strokes and Metallica were later announced as the leading acts for each night of the fest. Boston Calling debuted the new Tivoli Audio Orange Stage to highlight local and regional artists including Oompa, Cliff Notez, The Chelsea Curve, Van Buren Records, and Miranda Rae. The festival’s director of marketing and talent, Peter Boyd, said this fourth stage allowed the festival to better champion the ton of talent in its backyard. “What we wanted to do is give these up-and-comers a real opportunity by showcasing them on a stage at the heart of the festival rather than an afterthought off in a corner,” he explained. “I managed a few bands years back. I know how hard it is to get your foot in the door when you don’t have proper management, label support and an agent fighting for you. The way we can give these bands a platform to such a wide audience in the beginning of their careers is so rewarding to us.” The fest’s comeback was celebratory, but also a bit bumpy. The Strokes canceled due to a COVID case within the band, but Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails stepped in to save the day with a second performance. A dramatic rain and lightning storm forced the festival to evacuate crowds on Saturday. Then the clouds broke and a brilliant rainbow stretched across a blue sky. That night Metallica drew an unprecedented number of fans to the fields. (WBUR contributor Karen Muller reviewed the three days of the festival.) “That drone shot, to us, was the accomplishment of booking a lineup and artists that clearly people were very anxious to see, and also building a site that could handle it and not be overrun,” Appel said with pride, “So there’s a lot of happiness looking back on last year’s festival.” This year, Foo Fighters are headlining, along with The Lumineers and Paramore. Alanis Morrisette is playing in Boston for the first time in 12 years. Young, breakout artists include the rising, New England singer-songwriter Noah Kahan. A locally-born, gender parity in music campaign called Book More Women lauded Boston Calling for increasing the lineup’s number of acts featuring at least one woman or non-binary performer. According to their tracking, it’s up from 35% in 2022 to more than 50% in 2023. A significant operational shift, according to Appel, is that the Madison Square Garden Company got out of the festival business. Now, Boston Calling is part of Live Nation’s festival division, C3 Presents, which also runs multiday music romps including Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits and Bonnaroo. “There’s areas of this site that we haven’t tapped into yet, and who knows if there’s additional events on the horizon,” Appel said. “But with Live Nation now as our partner, I think that the trajectory is growth.” Appel added he’s grateful Boston Calling has been embraced by so many people since the beginning. “We love this site. We think that Harvard is the best place in the city to host this event,” he said. “We hope we’re here for a long time into the future. We spend a lot of time out in the community with public safety, making sure that this event runs as well as it possibly can and impacts as little people outside of the festival as possible. So I do think — and hope — we’ll be here for a long time.”