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    From Boston Calling’s undercard, 15 artists who could make headlines

    The band Chvrches, which is playing at the Boston Calling festival.
    Boston Calling Festival
    The band Chvrches, which is playing at the Boston Calling festival.

    Pop music’s festival boom over the last two decades has been a boon for up-and-coming artists — or those who have been kicking around for a while — looking for converts: One well-played set can command a crowd’s attention, helping word of mouth spread and, one hopes, setting the table for higher placement on future bills. Boston Calling, which kicks off Friday afternoon and runs through Sunday night at the Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston, has embraced that ideal with this year’s undercard, which is packed with excellent acts from all over music’s spectrum — from plucky rock bands to the man behind 2019’s biggest hit. Here are 15 artists below the top line worth checking out.


    Adia Victoria. The festival’s opening act summons ghosts on her stunning 2019 album, “Silences,” which combines wind-swept atmospherics with a vision of modern blues that includes synth flourishes, programmed drums, and her quivering soprano. Delta Blue Stage, 2:45 p.m.


    Christine and the Queens. “Kinetic” is the best word to describe Héloïse Letissier, who created one of last year’s most sublime dance-pop records, “Chris,” and whose theater background makes her live show an always-on invitation to move along with her. Green Stage, 6:40 p.m.

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    Greta Van Fleet. One sign of rock’s precarious present might be the fact that its biggest controversy of the last few years was provided by this Michigan foursome, a band that infuriates observers because of its warmed-over Zeppelinisms and Sunset Strip-appropriate “rock star” swagger. What better way to get your own perspective on the debate than to take in a song or two while walking to one of the festival’s food stands? Red Stage, 7:50 p.m.

    Chvrches. Raise your hand if you expected to see this Scottish synthpop trio — who lit up the festival in 2015 — atop the charts of the kiddie-music outlet Radio Disney. But it happened, thanks to their collaboration with bucket-wearing hitmaker Marshmello. (Their song, the simple yet affecting — thanks to Lauren Mayberry’s winsome soprano — “Here With Me,” hit it big on radio geared toward grown-ups, too.) Their solid 2018 album, “Love Is Dead,” continues their trend of giving New Wave a festival-size makeover. Delta Blue Stage, 8:20 p.m.

    Yaeji. This New York producer-DJ pairs her lyrical explorations of identity with cavernous, spine-rattling beats that can make the loneliness of the dancefloor hit home. Arena, 9:20 p.m.



    Pile. The onetime heroes of Boston’s DIY scene — now largely based in Nashville — celebrate their incredible seventh album, the crushing, genre-agnostic, obliquely pointed “Green and Gray.” Green Stage, 1:15 p.m.

    Betty Who. The Australia-born, Berklee-trained pop visionary sings “I’m feelin’ like the old me” on the opening track of “Betty,” her 2019 album that toasts her liberation from major-label doldrums with upbeat, left-turn-stuffed bangers that showcase her fizzy vocals and dauntless spirit. Red Stage, 2:05 p.m.

    Mitski. While the textures surrounding Mitski Miyawaki’s bell-clear bellow on last year’s “Be the Cowboy” are far more plush than those on her scruffier mid-2010s albums, the intensity at each song’s center is no less red-hot. Green Stage, 4:40 p.m.

    Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals. A California king of funk, soul, hip-hop, and the concept of doing it all, this singer-producer-rapper-drummer is also an expert bandleader, and his show at the Orpheum this past February was a thrill ride until the last note finished ringing out. His latest album, last month’s “Ventura,” luxuriates in mellow grooves. Green Stage, 6:45 p.m.

    Lil Nas X. The Wild West fever dream “Old Town Road,” now in its seventh week at No. 1 on the Hot 100, is definitely music’s most 2019 phenomenon, riding YouTube’s beat marketplace, the social network TikTok, the video game “Red Dead Redemption,” and controversy over country radio’s gatekeeping to enough cultural ubiquity that Billy Ray Cyrus felt compelled to get his horses in the back — and Lil Nas X’s charisma and appeal, as well as the song’s insistent hook, will no doubt get the crowd going as well. Green Stage, time TBD



    Skegss. Shake off your Saturday night with some bedheaded surf-punk from Byron Bay, Australia. Red Stage, 1 p.m.

    Ravyn Lenae. This Chicago-based soul singer balanced hitting the books with heading out on tour as a teen, and her 2018 EP “Crush” showcases her supple voice and fine appreciation for funk. Green Stage, 3:20 p.m.

    Marina. Marina Diamandis is now operating apart from the “and the Diamonds” that accompanied her stage name when she appeared at Boston Calling in 2013 and 2015, but her just-released fourth album, “Love + Fear,” shows that her ambition to make experimentally minded, ambitious pop records has only grown. Red Stage, 6:10 p.m.

    Brandi Carlile. A troubadour whose pen is so storied, her songs have been covered by Dolly and Adele — and that was before 2018’s “By the Way, I Forgive You” picked up six Grammy nominations. Delta Blue Stage, 8 p.m.

    Kilo Kish. “Mothe,” last year’s EP from this rapper-singer-songwriter, packs a lot of experimentation and playfulness into its six songs; “Elegance” entwines massive electronic wobbles with a longing chorus, while “San Pedro” lets Kish’s plainspoken lyrics pivot off a spindly guitar line. Arena, 8:15 p.m.At Harvard Athletic Complex, Allston, May 24-26. Single-day tickets $119 and up; three-day passes $289 and up.

    Boston Calling

    Maura Johnston can be reached at