Festival Turns Front Porches Into Performance Stages

The third annual Somerville PorchFest features more than 100 musical acts.

For six hours on Saturday, people will be able to navigate the streets of Somerville and listen to bands of their choice play instruments, sing, and put on a performance, as they sit perched on the front porches of their homes.

The third annual Somerville Porchfest, which features more than 100 musical acts, begins at noon on May 18, and Gregory Jenkins, executive director of the Somerville Arts Council, the board that puts the massive festival together, says there is no way attendees will be able to hit every show being put on—but they can try. “With 100 bands, I have tried to get around, but there is no way you can go listen to all of it. It’s like there are multiple block parties going on all throughout the city,” he says.

Before heading out to see the varying acts, which range from hip hop performances, to blues groups, country bands, and classical musicians plucking at strings, attendees can access a map created by the Arts Council and filter the exact locations of bands based on genre or zone. There are three zones during PorchFest, with acts in East Somerville performing from noon to 2 p.m., acts in central Somerville performing from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and bands in West Somerville playing from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

There’s even Porch-ioke where passersby can step up and belt out a tune with a band backing them up, according to the event’s website.

Jenkins says what is great about the day-long musical offering is the fact that it is controlled by the bands, and not necessarily the city. “The really neat thing is…it’s decentralized. With 100 bands, and all six hours on one day, that to me seems to be the beauty of it. We have created this forum by which people are responding, and they are responding very well. It creates a level of civic spirit that the city has—it’s just another way in which they can demonstrate their own civic pride,” he says.

To participate, all bands have to do is sign up on the city’s website, and then Jenkins assigns them a designated time based on their zone. “We are not controlling this, we are just setting a stage for them to do this. But they are coming together to make it happen.”

PorchFest originated in Ithaca four years ago, according to the event organizers, and was brought to Somerville in 2011, where it immediately grabbed the attention of more than 75 bands, and has grown each year since.

Jenkins says while it’s a great event, they have had minor problems over the last three years, including noise complaints, and some crowd control issues, but nothing that deterred the performances. He says if bands participating get in touch with neighbors ahead of time, and let them know about the music, it helps stear clear of any real issues. “If [bands] us common sense and are respectful, it’s an amazing event,” says Jenkins.

Below is a snapshot of just some of the bands signed up to perform.