Cathy: Do a Porches music fest Glens Falls

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Sunny day, friendly walkable City neighborhoods, pretty stoops and street-facing architecture, open parks, a community rich in musicians and equally abundant in music-lovers who are happy to show up for a celebration.

Music in the streets, pictured here and above right — All ages and types wander the streets catching live music on porches, driveways, in back yards. Chronicle photos/Cathy DeDe
Somerville, Massachusetts, where one of my daughters lives, has parlayed this set of elements into a festive day of music sharing called Porchfest. Just bands hanging out mostly on porches but also in front yards and sometimes driveways, playing short sets of their own music, mostly originals. Rock and roll, bar bands, hard edgy stuff, easy jazz, Dixieland, kid stuff, World-style jams, acoustics, blues, a little classical.

It’s a full day of wandering around town, free music everywhere, outdoors, at people’s houses. Lemonade stands abound. Restaurants do well.

It’s not without its dangers, but wow, what a great way to spend an afternoon.

Sometimes friends get together just to jam for the day. More often, it’s accomplished bands who come, even with an established set of followers.

Maybe a friend invites them.

Maybe the bands get matched with a porch-owning resident who wants to host. Somerville’s local arts organization coordinates the matches, and the extensive interactive online map.

There’s a goal to keep the music going, but also avoid competing porch-to-porch.

More than 400 bands participated in Somerville this year. It’s a big enough town, they broke it into three neighborhoods of music, rolling northwest to southeast in approximate two hour stretches, beginning at noon.

Couldn’t you see Glens Falls pulling something like this off, brilliantly, on our smaller scale?

We’ve got the regional cross-genre musicians, the engaged audience, good porches and front yards, a ready appreciation for any event that breathes community pride.

Somerville does it through its arts council. It’s free to attend. The musicians bring their own set-ups. They get paid in tips — and, I’d observe, they seriously love doing this unusual kind of show.

Folks wander — some with purpose, but many just pointed themselves in the general direction of music and followed.

We caught one jammy-acoustic trio playing on a side street, three young brothers in the next-door driveway kicking a ball, soccer moms congregating in the quiet road, another coming out of the house in an apron to fuss over the kids, just a sweet afternoon tableau.

A walking music festival, it made me think of the Glens Falls Kiwanis Club’s Taste of the North Country, when it seems everyone was there, as much a neighborhood get-together as a festival.

We’d do that even better than Somerville.

Somerville is a bigger town, next to Boston with its large college crowd and public transportation. A couple bands we saw drew crowds that filled the street and jammed traffic.

This year, indie alt band Guster, former Tufts students, popped up on their old Somerville street for a not-so-secret surprise show that could have broken Porchfest. We just avoided the area, so I couldn’t say. I wouldn’t want to be a part of that.

Also: No obvious drunken behavior, but some young groups wander with 12-packs. We wouldn’t stand for that.

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