Somerville is known for many things: the hipsters, the sweet, sticky marshmallow fluff, the three deckers. But it’s also known for its porches. This Saturday, more than 130 bands will take center stage on the porches of Somerville as the fifth annual Porchfest rolls into town.
In 2011, the city held its first self-described “decentralized” music festival under the tutelage of Mayor Joseph Curtatone and the Somerville Arts Council. The idea is to showcase the local musicians it had become reputed for nurturing by giving them venues to play free concerts: their porches.
Mayor Curtatone said of this year’s festival: “Somerville has an unbelievable amount of artists and musicians that make our city great, and we have some of the most fun, funky, and innovative events that celebrate the arts in a variety of ways. Porchfest has grown into one of our biggest and most successful events and has received acclaim from communities across the country.”
Gregory Jenkins, Executive Director of the Somerville Arts Council and organizer of Porchfest, said he expects about 20,000 people to attend the shows. Jenkins also noted the incredible diversity of the lineup this year, noting that only hardcore hip-hop seemed to be missing.
One those artists is Somerville native and acoustic soul/jazz artist Ali McGuirk, who is returning to Porchfest for the second time this year and will be playing at local favorite coffee shop Bloc 11. “Porchfest is amazing for a lot of reasons,” said McGuirk. “You lose the middle man and it is just a bunch of dedicated musicians playing in the homes of their fans and friends. Venues can be fickle because they have to make their ends meet, just like the musicians do, but Porchfest takes the “transaction” out of the equation and is just music for music’s sake.”
Julie Rhodes, a rapidly rising soul and blues musician who just released her first album this year, will be playing on Josephine Avenue with Whistle Jacket. Rhodes echoed McGuirk’s sentiment saying, “One thing I love about Porchfest is that you’re almost guaranteed to stumble upon a great new artist that you’ve never heard of before.” Rhodes added, “It’s an experience unique to Somerville that really brings the community together. In an area where venues seem to be closing left and right, it is great to know that we don’t need a stage to keep the spirit of the Somerville music community alive.”
Laurence Scudder, a Somerville resident and musician known for hosting renowned Porchfest performances, returns for his fifth year, this time with his band Spotted Tiger in the Central District. Scudder offers some simple tips for maximizing the Porchfest experience: “Bring a chair, plan your day, and no open containers.”
Porchfest 2016 will take place on Saturday, May 21 from noon to 6 p.m. (Rain date Sunday, May 22.) For set times and a map of participating porches and musician biographies visit the Somerville Arts Council site. Concerts are divided into three time slots, determined by street location:
East of Central Street – 12-2 p.m.
Central St. to Willow Street 2-4 p.m.
West of Willow Street 4-6 p.m.
Listen to the Porchfest 2016 playlist below for a taste of what’s to come: