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Inaugural Ash-Hop Porchfest brings music into neighborhoods Sept. 30

by | Sep 18, 2023 | Featured, Featured: Features

Area musicians and aficionados will share their passion for song at the first Ash-Hop Porchfest grassroots music festival, which is taking place in Hopkinton and Ashland on Saturday, Sept. 30.

“It’s like a scavenger hunt for music,” explained Porchfest Organizing Committee member Darlene Hayes of the free event. “There will be artists performing on porches and public spaces in both towns.”

The concept of Porchfest reportedly originated in Ithaca, New York, in 2007 as a way to build community by banding together musicians and neighbors. Now, annual Porchfest events are held throughout the United States and Canada.

Signs with QR codes will provide maps, the names of the performers and information about the musical genre so people can hop from one place to another or go to see specific performers. Information about some performers will be available on the event’s Facebook page.

Ash-Hop Porchfest will take place between 2-6 p.m., and a rain date is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 1. Performances in Hopkinton will end around 5 p.m. to allow people to travel to Ashland for the finale and to visit local businesses and restaurants along the way.

Artists are mainly based in the MetroWest area, Hayes added, although one performer is coming from Connecticut and another recently moved to the area from Nashville, Tennessee. More than 25 performers already have signed up, and as of late August, performers were still being added.

Hayes said she was contacted by Ashland resident Allison Horgan, who previously was involved with the popular Jamaica Plain Porchfest in Boston, about joining forces on the Porchfest Organizing Committee. They agreed that hosting it jointly would attract a more popular and diverse array of performers while bringing residents from both communities together.

“The vast majority of towns that host a Porchfest are the size of Hopkinton and Ashland combined,” Hayes explained. “We looked at the popularity of Natick Porchfest and thought we could recruit more popular artists from MetroWest and beyond by coming together. Natick Porchfest has been extremely successful, with 65 bands performing.”

The event boasts something for virtually every musical taste, according to Hayes. In addition to pop and rock, there will be jazz, blues, bluegrass, grunge, alternative rock, techno, gospel and folk.

Added Hayes: “We even have a hillbilly jug band.”

Some local performers include Hopkinton’s Mikey Hutchinson, Greater Boston alt-rockers Friendly Fire Band, Worcester guitarist and WICN jazz DJ Joe Cicero, and Framingham’s multiple-genre singer-songwriter Kevin So.

“The artists will be split pretty evenly between Ashland and Hopkinton,” Hayes said. “There will be several performers in the Sandy Beach area, while the majority of them will be concentrated in a hub in the downtown area along Grove Street, Hayden Rowe and Park Street.”

“There is something just so magical about the Porchfest experience,” added Horgan, who moved to Ashland about a year ago from Jamaica Plain, bringing her Porchfest expertise with her. “It’s an exciting, organic experience that involves everyone from Berklee College of Music students to popular area bands.

“People have exposure to music and neighborhoods they might not have known about before,” she continued. “It’s like being a kid in a musical candy shop — the best of all worlds, I think.”

For Horgan, the fun part now is matching the performers with their porch hosts.

Hopkinton’s Police Station will host a stage to promote Baby Safe Haven, a national organization. The Safe Haven Act of Massachusetts, which was passed in 2004, allows a parent to surrender a newborn infant seven days old or younger at a police station, manned fire station or hospital without facing criminal prosecution.

“When I met with [Norfolk County District Attorney] Mike Morrissey, I was impressed with his dedication and commitment to educating people on the Baby Safe Haven law,” shared Hopkinton Police Chief Joseph Bennett via email. “When he asked if we would host a concert on the front lawn of the station, I thought it was a fantastic idea. These concerts have been going on for years, and by all accounts they are very well received. So, stop by on September 30th and enjoy some music!”

The Corner Spot in Ashland will feature The Road Dawgs, a popular classic rock/pop band based in Ashland, as the finale performance from 5:30-7 p.m. There will be food trucks and a beer truck where refreshments can be purchased.

“In Ashland, the activity will be very focused on the center of town, and a few performers will be on the Shaw’s side of town,” Hayes continued. “The main spots will be Ashland Town Hall, the Federated Church of Ashland and The Corner Spot. We also have a location next to the Ashland senior housing development that we hope will draw residents out.”

The Ashland Farmers Market will be wrapping up as the finale begins, giving residents a chance to purchase locally grown produce, she added.

Hayes and Horgan hope that the day will allow for increased neighborhood connection while attracting people to the business districts. If successful, Ash-Hop Porchfest may become an instrumental annual community event.

Hayes credited Ashland’s Town Hall staff for being “absolutely amazing” in helping to coordinate the event on the Ashland side. She also thanked local sponsors for “allowing the costs to be kept at a minimum.”

Hayes had a simple reason for becoming involved in the inaugural event.

“I love live music,” she said. “I love the Hopkinton Center for the Arts and the summer Concerts on the Common. This is a way to bring music into the neighborhoods. We hope people will like it. The goal is to make it an annual thing.”

“Everyone involved in this is a volunteer,” Hayes noted. “Musicians donate their time for free in an opportunity to increase exposure and community connection. Hosts donate their yards, porches and electricity to set the stage for the performers and bring neighbors together with positive musical vibes.”

Ashland resident Timothy Bryant Jones, chair of the Porchfest Organizing Committee, has been the lead singer of the Friendly Fire Band for the past two years. Inspired by Natick Porchfest, he wanted to bring the concept closer to home.

“After being involved in the Natick Porchfest and as a musician, I really wanted to bring Porchfest to this community where I live in Ashland and together with Hopkinton, which combined have a similar population as Natick,” Jones said. “It is a great way to hear live music from a variety of genres in a casual, family-friendly way.”

He added that it is an ideal opportunity for fledgling performers.

“The Porchfest concept is all about connection,” he explained. “It’s a great opportunity for amateur bands that are starting out to get some exposure and get to a higher level of performance. A lot of up-and-coming bands can’t get gigs in restaurants and other venues without having live performance experience under their belts.

“My favorite saying is that Porchfest is a place where porches become stages and strangers become friends,” Jones added. “This is where a critical mass of people can gather to enjoy live music from all kinds of genres.”

To learn more about Ash-Hop Porchfest, visit ashhopporchfest.org.

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