This Saturday afternoon, porches will transform into concert venues as musicians jam from the comfort of their own yards during Somerville’s 3rd annual PorchFest.Rachel Strutt, the program manager for the Somerville Arts Council, said PorchFest has become an awesome opportunity for Somerville musicians to get their music into the community. With three different time slots determined by location—noon to 2 p.m. for East Somerville; 2 to 4 p.m. for Central Somerville; and 4 to 6 p.m. for West Somerville—the entire city will become the stage for a lineup of over 100 bands.
“I think [PorchFest] makes sense for Somerville because there’s such an incredibly rich and large music community here,” Strutt said. “It’s hard for some bands to get gigs around town, because it’s super competitive. But for PorchFest, all you need is a porch.”
Gregory Jenkins, the executive director of the Somerville Arts Council, said he’s not surprised the event has grown from including about 50 bands in its first year to now exceeding 100 musical acts. Jenkins said that by developing a website that enables musicians to self-register, the Somerville Arts Council has merely become the facilitator in putting together this great event.
“We’re building the site, location and idea, but [musicians are] taking off with it,” Jenkins said. “People have just responded to it. It’s not meant to be all about big bands, or high-end bands. It’s about playing music for the community.”
Strutt said that within Somerville’s music community lies a diverse mix of genres. She said that of the bands who have signed up to play, the genres range from cosmic Americana, gypsy punk and blue grass to acid folk, British invasion and Afro beat.
“You will be able to get a sampling of the incredible range of music being produced in Somerville,” Strutt said. “You can never go out in a single night and catch a lineup that includes this many bands.”
Jon Bernhardt, a Somerville musician, said he is excited to participate in PorchFest and share his passion for his instrument, the theremin. The theremin was the first electronic instrument, which was invented by a Russian scientist in the 1920s. Bernhardt said the theremin is most known for its recognizable “wooo-ooo” sound in Sci-Fi music. He said he is fascinated with the theremin—which requires no physical contact while playing the instrument—and enjoys seeing the audience’s reactions.
“There’s two different types of people: One that says, ‘What in the world is going on here,’ and the other people who explain to those people what it is. It’s inevitable that I’ll see two people talking to each other, while one is waving their hands around and the other nodding,” Bernhardt said.
Bernhardt believes that PorchFest is a good opportunity for people to experience different types of music, including his own unique instrument.
“What I do is definitely different from what anyone else is doing at PorchFest, and a lot of people can say the same thing,” Bernhardt said. “You might find something you really like, music you’ve never heard before and make some new friends.”
Janine Fay, another Somerville musician, is part of a band called SheBoom, a post-menopausal Brazilian percussion and vocal ensemble. She said that her group and their instructor, Marcus Santos, will only be playing for an hour so they have time to enjoy the other bands in their quadrant. She believes events like PorchFest are vital to keeping Somerville connected.
“Positive community events are important to make us feel secure and happy,” Fay said. “It’s fun for kids, fun for grown ups, fun for everyone. It’s good for the soul.”
Elizabeth Hoey of the Somerville Ukulele Club said this will be the club’s debut performance. She hopes that people will not only walk by and enjoy their music, but that their performance will also reach out to other ukulele players in the city.
“[PorchFest] is just a good excuse for us to get going, because we’ve been meaning to do it for awhile,” Hoey said. “We’ll get started, see how it goes, and if people walk by and want to get involved that will be an added bonus.”
Hoey, who grew up in Somerville, said PorchFest has become a great way for the community to get to know each other. She said that as Somerville has grown, it’s been more difficult to know the people around her. PorchFest helps change that and opens doors—and porches—to community-centric life once again.
“It’s interesting because living here when I was a kid, I felt like we knew who the neighbors were a lot more, and now you never know,” Hoey said. “It’s interesting to see people come out of the woodwork who you didn’t even know were in a band.”
Somerville’s 3rd annual PorchFest will take place on Saturday, May 18 from noon to 6 p.m. The citywide event allows the community to wander through the city as musicians play mini-concerts on their porches.
The city is divided into three time slots, determined by location:
East Somerville: 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Central Somerville: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
West Somerville: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
For a map of participating porches, musician biographies or any other information, visit the Somerville Arts Council’s PorchFest webpage.