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PorchFest coming to Swampscott Sept. 14

SWAMPSCOTT — On Sept. 14, Swampscott residents will enjoy the sounds of live music right from their neighbor’s porches.

The event is called PorchFest, and it is a mini-music festival that began in Ithaca, N.Y., 12 years ago and has since taken over the world, said Swampscott co-organizer Philip Alexander. Everything from classic rock to Irish music, Americana, bluegrass, big band jazz, spoken word and acoustic performances will be heard throughout the Olmstead/Monument Avenue area at the noon-to-6 p.m. event.

“I thought Swampscott would be the perfect town to have this because we have so many porches with beautiful ocean views, and it turns out there are so many talented musicians and music people here,” said Alexander. “It’s a great way to get people out playing on porches, hanging with neighbors and enjoying each other’s music.”

Alexander said he became familiar with the concept when Somerville debuted its Porchfest in 2011. He researched it and ended up joining a Facebook group called PorchFest Organizers International, where there were 140 reported fests across the globe.

“I wasn’t surprised to find out the concept started in my hometown of Ithaca,” he said. “I was already living in Swampscott at that time, though.”

Swampscott’s inaugural PorchFest is meant to cap off the town’s annual Summer Concert Series, which had its last show on the Town Hall front lawn on Aug. 21. Alexander, who is on the concert series’ organizing committee, said the summer series kicks off with the Strawberry Festival. He wanted to find a way to send it off with the same amount of creative energy.

There are about 18 participating bands and performers, each with a one-hour slot to play, already signed up for the event and many of them are local, he said. 

One porch will be dedicated to spoken word performances and will feature the Intergalactic Poetry Experience Allstars, headed by Lee Eric Freedman, president of the Tin Box Poets of Swampscott. In one format or another, Alexander said he hopes to get a chance to perform on a porch, whether it is with the town’s Blue Big Band, where he plays saxophone, or with his bluegrass band.

The live acts and hosting porches are all on a volunteer basis, meaning the costs for the event are as close to zero dollars as they could get, he said. Any money spent will go toward printing out event maps and lawn signs.

“I think people want something exciting where the community comes together, and you can be a host or you can be a band and you don’t have to be a superstar,” said Alexander. “You just have to want to play.”

Jackie Kinney, PorchFest co-organizer and ReachArts board of directors member, said the event was Alexander’s brainchild and he won over the town with it. The response has been great in regards to performers wanting to be booked and residents interested in lending their porches, she said.

“We wanted to keep this geographically small, which is why we picked the area around the Olmstead district,” said Kinney. “We wanted to keep it walkable, slow-paced and manageable. Our thought was let’s start small and get our feet wet, then next year we could expand to other neighborhoods.”

Performers interested in volunteering their acts and residents eager to volunteer the front of their homes have until Sept. 1 to sign up on the ReachArts website, said Alexander. If weather issues arise, the rain date is Sunday, Sept. 15.

“How much more neighborly can you possibly get than stopping at a neighbor’s porch to hear a band and chatting with the people who own the house,” said Kinney. “It’s an expansion of a big block party in a way.” 

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Alexander said.


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