Free live music will rock South Shore porches

Free live music will be performed across the South Shore this weekend, courtesy image

THE BOSTON GLOBE – Following a year of silence because of the COVID shutdown, the community-based musical event called Porchfest is returning to the South Shore region.

Porchfest, a summer music festival intended to highlight local music options and build community, presents an array of free musical performances from local porches, lawns, garages, or outside of small businesses or churches — all on the same day.

The concept originated in Ithaca, N.Y., in 2007, and first appeared in Massachusetts in Somerville, before jumping to Boston neighborhoods and South Shore communities including Quincy, Hull, Milton, Plymouth, and others.

In previous years, porchfests took place in June or July. This year’s ongoing pandemic concerns caused organizers to wait until late August or September.

Everyone is invited, and all the music is free.

Plymouth Bay Cultural District’s “ArtFest”, a celebration of local artists, performers, talented writers and makers, spans the August 26-29 weekend with three signature events. Local Poetry Showcase and Rain Poetry reveal is held on Friday, August 27, 6 pm in Brewster Garden, followed by the return of PorchFest, on Saturday, August 28, 12-5 pm where musicians, vocalists and theater groups perform throughout downtown and the waterfront adjacent to the Plymouth Waterfront Festival. On Sunday, August 29, 11-5 pm, ChalkArt engages at Town Square, as local artists embrace the sidewalks as their creative canvas. Learn more at plymouthbayculture.org.

The idea is simple. “For one afternoon,” Milton’s Porchfest planners state on their website, “porches throughout the community become makeshift stages, yards become venues, and people from within and beyond wander the streets, chatting, taking in music, and basically reacquainting themselves with what it means to be neighbors.”

Milton’s Porchfest will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sept. 18 in the town’s Columbine neighborhood, described as “the Eliot Street, Brook Road, Central Avenue triangle.” Planners posted a site for performers and hosts to sign up at www.miltonporchfest.com.

PorchFest Quincy founders have a similar view. “PorchFest music festivals began as a means for neighbors and local community members to highlight their music on front porches and build community,” the city’s organizers state on their website. The range of musical styles at the city’s fest includes “country, pop, classical, reggae, blues, rock, jazz, Latino, R&B,” and other styles.

Porchfest Quincy began five years ago, founded by residents Wally Hubley, Ian Cain, and other volunteers. According to organizers, two years ago the event featured 130 bands, 80 locations, and drew thousands of attendees.

This year’s event is scheduled to take place from 3 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 25 in three of the city’s neighborhoods: Merrymount, Squantum, and Wollaston Hill.

To register to perform or to host performers, and for other information, visit the Porchfest Quincy site at porchfestquincy.org.

Plymouth Porchfest planners are incorporating their performances into the town’s Waterfront Festival, with musical offerings to be held downtown on Saturday, Aug. 28, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. One participant, the a cappella vocal ensemble Friends in Song, will present a program of uplifting music to celebrate community renewal in the wake of a pandemic-clouded year. Their program will take place in the courtyard of the Plymouth Center for the Arts at 11 North St. from 1 to 3 p.m.

A cappella group Friends in Song performs from1 to 3 pm during Plymouth’s PorchFest on the terrace at Plymouth Center for the Arts on North Street, courtesy image

In Hull, a community with a busy waterfront district, a large public beach, and a strong local music scene, organizers worked with town officials to design a Porchfest playing out within a “contiguous, defined space in the town’s Kenberma neighborhood,” including a segment of Nantasket Avenue.

Hull Porchfest organizer Tom Hardey described the festival zone as “not really big, but the tradeoff is that a police barricade will make it all walkable.” The event will offer music on some 15 sites by 30 bands, Hardey said, from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sept. 18.

Hardey, who plays the mandolin, a common instrument in bluegrass music, said the town’s Porchfest history got off to a strong start in 2018 when hundreds of people took part in a festival more widely scattered throughout town. Logistic problems stymied planners the following year, he said, and 2020 was lost to the COVID shutdown. So this year’s event will be the town’s second porchfest, he said.

If all goes well, including weather, Hardey expects an even stronger turnout this year. After losing a year to the virus, people are eager to hear live music, he said. He cited a recent live music show at Hingham Shipyard that was “mobbed.”

Learn more about Plymouth Bay Cultural District, a facet of Massachusetts Cultural Council, and its community assets or programs at https://www.plymouthbayculture.org/

“People love it,” he said of live outdoor music.

Hull Porchfest planners will release a schedule of performers, places, and times as the date of the event draws near, Hardey said. “It’s good to have some extra time to do organizing,” he said. “Flexibility is key.”

Hull Porchfest planners also are able to help musicians with logistics and equipment needs. The town has also organized a series of programs called “Saturday Previews” from 9 to 11 a.m. on Aug. 28 and Sept. 4 and 11. For details, visit hullporchfest.org.

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By Robert Knox