Even as New England music and comedy festival Boston Calling enters its tenth iteration, It’s always nice to know that even the most seasoned performers can see things that blow them away. For award-winning Boston comic Lamont Price, it was seeing 68 year old soul singer Charles Bradley perform live on what turned out to be his last tour. “I don’t know if I would have seen him otherwise,” Price shared ahead of his weekend as emcee for the fest’s comedy arena. “These [are the] types of acts that I’ve never seen or wouldn’t have heard of that early, and you kind of get to see them and go ‘Wow, this is awesome.’”
Price has been a foundational piece of the festival puzzle, coming on in 2015 to help event organizers add a comedy component to what had previously been solely dedicated to music. He curated a lineup of nationally known comedians with Boston roots including Kelly MacFarland, Orlando Baxter (Conan), Sean Sullivan (Live at Gotham), Kelly MacFarland (Aspen Rooftop Festival), and Ken Reid (TV Guidance Counselor Podcast). Whereas festival organizers were unsure of how the inaugural year would go, Price had no doubts: “I knew it was going to work.”
Well, maybe he had one doubt: “I just had to make sure I didn’t suck.”
Of course, Price doesn’t suck. Not in the slightest. He’s performed at Just for Laughs, the New York Comedy Festival, and was named Best Comedian in Boston in 2018 by Boston Magazine. He’s expanded his repertoire to include contributing to the magazine, and hosting a series on NBC10 Boston. In that regard, he’s become a keen observer of culture in the Boston area. I asked him how he feels having the festival grow so quickly, and what it’s done for Boston as a city to host such an event.
“I think it’s great for any city to have a festival that brings in a number of acts that you wouldn’t see,” Price replied, noting that festivals can bring acts who can’t otherwise appear in the market. Sometimes the burden of bringing a crowd is too great, or they can’t afford venues in the area. But as part of a festival, they get a chance to grow a fanbase that could support a solo show in later years.
On the comedy front, the lineup is full of headliners that would have no trouble selling well: the arena will see the likes of Michael Che, Marina Franklin, Fred Armisen, and Melissa Villaseñor, as well as Jenny Slate and Sam Jay, both making triumphant hometown returns. While Price hasn’t had a hand in crafting the comedy lineup in a few years (“That’s above my pay grade,” he remarked), he’s pleased with how it’s come together. He calls Marina Franklin “one of the funniest people alive,” while also praising Che and Jay (who he knows from their time on the scene in the area). And, true to form, there are still surprises for him in the lineup: he’s never seen Armisen perform before.
I couldn’t let the interview pass without asking Lamont how he felt about being a “last comic standing” of sorts: while he helped the festival build its comedy presence with local acts, he’s now the last wholly local performer on the docket. That component, for me, was sorely missing from last year’s edition, so I brought it up during our chat. His take: he hopes to see them get reintroduced over time. “I think it’ll evolve,” he shared diplomatically. “As it grows, I think there should be more room for local standup. I think they got to see, if they didn’t know already, Boston’s comedy scene is one of the best ones out there. Eventually, there’ll be more.”
But in the meantime, Price is taking advantage of the opportunity to create new memories as part of this landmark event. I asked if he had favorite moments from the last few years of the festival, and he listed fewer performances and more personal moments – not unlike the ones you create at camp when you’re younger. “You perform a lot, and sometimes performances can be a blur. With anything like this, I always sort of remember the hang. That’s what keeps me going.”
If you’re looking to make a hang at Boston Calling part of your holiday weekend, tickets (as well as an event schedule and more event details) are still available at the Boston Calling Website.