BAMS Fest offers local artists a chance to shine

The Boston Art and Music Soul Festival returns to Playstead Field in Franklin Park later this month.
Photos courtesy BAMS

This year’s lineup includes singer and hometown fave Lisa Bello. Photos courtesy BAMS

The Boston Art and Music Soul Festival (BAMS) is set to return on June 29 and 30 at Playstead Field in Franklin Park. BAMS Fest started in June 2018 with 2,200 community members attending and quickly grew to a sprawling two-day, two-stage festival for approximately 11,000 community members to discover local artists and businesses.

This year’s lineup features headliners BJ The Chicago Kid and Rapsody and performances from Xavier Omär, Bryan-Michael Cox, Butcher Brown, DJ Mell Starr, Nay Speaks, Lisa Bello, Lee Wilson, Bia Javier, Albino Mbie, Karim, Where’s Nasty, DJ 411, Sound International, and Soca Cowboys. 

The artist application is open to anyone whether they’re a local or international artist. Catherine T. Morris, founder and executive artistic director of BAMS, says she looks at the content of an artist’s character when making her decisions. “We’re looking at the potentiality of the artists that we select who are working toward legacy and impact. Those are the kinds of artists that make it to our festival program,” she said. 

Morris is interested in selecting artists who will allow audience members to find “points of connection and belonging.” She has personally selected artists like Bia Javier, who brings her identity as a mother, artist and community member to her performances.

Morris believes that Javier is “open to sharing the knowledge and experiences of what it means to build a career in the arts, particularly here in Massachusetts,” and “paving the way for other Latinx artists.”

Each artist gets approximately 20 minutes to make an impact on the audience. With 20 minutes allowed for 5-6 songs, artists have to be intentional with their setlist choices. 

Javier wants to continue to incorporate her Dominican culture into her performances and pick her best original songs that will draw in a crowd. Even though BAMS is her first festival, it’s special for more reasons than one since she’s dedicating her performance to her young daughter. 

She wants to spread the message that “you can still do anything even after being a mom even if you feel lost.” She wants her audience to understand that they will find their way back to what they love after having children and show how prideful she is in her community. 

Lisa Bello, another artist on this year’s lineup, applied for the first time this year after attending the festival in the past and appreciating the community it fosters.

“When I received the email, I was like a little kid. I was super giddy about it. Growing up in Boston and really being from the city, it’s just dope to be part of a festival that’s actually about us artists in the city as well as uplifting national performers and beyond,” she said. 

Unlike other festivals she has performed at where she says local performers were treated as an afterthought, she has found that BAMS places an emphasis on highlighting local artists. Bello compared BAMS Fest to Boston Calling, one of Boston’s most popular music and mainstream festivals. “This is an event that is accessible to everybody by train or rideshare. It’s in a central place where people in the neighborhood can walk to, and it’s not just something that’s in a space that’s unattainable for community folks,” she said. 

Accessibility is an important element that Morris considers in every aspect of planning. BAMS Fest uses a solidarity ticket pricing model that allows people to choose between a $10 ticket, $15 ticket, $20 ticket, $50 ticket or a “Pay What You Wish” Ticket. This method is to ensure that community members can attend a festival that’s meant primarily for them. 

“Even if it’s as simple as $1, that investment goes a long way to continuing to build the infrastructure that has been formed by artists and the community about how this festival can look and feel and really, really be a part of the cultural fabric of our city,” said Morris. 

While the festival won’t turn anyone away if they can’t afford to pay an entrance fee, Morris acknowledges the financial demands of continuing to provide opportunities to local creatives. BAMS doesn’t only provide opportunities for artists as there’s opportunities for local businesses, food vendors, and visual artists to apply to be part of the festival. 

Tickets are available for BAMS Fest on the festival’s site,

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