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The National's Aaron Dessner on Playing and Curating the First Annual Boston Calling Music Festival

Other acts on the bill include fun., the Shins, Of Monsters and Men and more

May 24, 2013 11:00 AM ET
the national boston calling aaron Dessner
Aaron Dessner of the National.
Taylor Hill/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

The National celebrated the release of their sixth album, Trouble Will Find Me, with three intimate club shows in New York earlier this week. But for guitarist and producer Aaron Dessner, the band's headlining slot at the first ever Boston Calling music festival this Sunday will serve as the proper kick-off for their latest project.

"I think it's going to be really special to be able to launch a tour with our full production in front of 20,000 people," says Dessner. "We've had the opportunity to play these songs a good bit; we've been doing some secret shows and small shows. [But Boston Calling] will prepare us for what's to come, as it's the first time that we're going out in front of audience the size of what we'll be playing to all summer. We'll definitely be giving it everything we have."

The National Play Three Surprise Gigs in New York

Dessner has also been involved in helping curate the rest of the festival's two-day, 18-act lineup, which includes fun., the Walkmen, the Shins, Andrew Bird, Marina and the Diamonds and Of Monsters and Men. "It's a fantastic mix of people, and if there's a thread that runs through it, it's songcraft," Dessner says. "I think for me to be involved in a festival, there has to be a strong element of songwriting and musicianship. It can't just be all mainstream acts, or all indie acts – it should offer people a real mix of things, where you'll discover bands you haven't heard before alongside a Grammy-winning band like fun. It's a great mix of underground and very much not-so-underground music."

Dessner is particularly looking forward to catching fun. live:  "I've never seen them, and everything I've seen about them looks really exciting." Also on his must-see list are Dirty Projectors. "David Longstreth is one of the great guitar heroes of our generation," he says.

Dessner adds that he is especially psyched to perform at Boston's City Hall Plaza. "It's very exciting to have a festival in the heart of Boston," he says. "It's an amazing experience to be in a city and to be able to walk in and out of a festival. I think that's part of what's going to make Boston Calling really special."

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