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Porchfest swings to the sounds of Somerville

Posted by Marcia Dick  May 21, 2012 09:55 AM

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Danielle Dreilinger photos

328 Summer St.: The Ways and Means Committee, four guys in sunglasses sitting on their steps with a bust of Michael Jackson.

May 19 was Somerville's second annual Porchfest: a decentralized music festival with over 100 acts performing on porches, front stoops, yards, and driveways. Here are a few of the afternoon's stories:

1. 21 Summit Ave. features Little Rose and the Boston All-Stars. But more importantly, it's the best police assignment of the week. A cop in regulation yellow and black is propping his elbows on a chain-link fence, bobbing his head and snapping his fingers as Rose calls out, "Who's on their second marriage?" and "Dr. Jeff" of Children's Hospital tap-dances on the porch.

A car noses down the street, then waits. A minute passes, then another, before the crowd finally bothers to notice. The cop steps forward to gesture the car through. Then it's right back to leaning, his grin as shiny as his shades. A couple Lindy-hops. Rose hollers, "Can everyone give a big round of applause for the Somerville policeman who joined us today!" and then, "Anyone need their lemonade spiked?"

2. 45 Laurel St. features Honk! Fest favorites the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band. But more importantly, it's the 2 p.m. stop on Max Katz-Christy's 23-hour 11th birthday party. Max and his friends, Razr scooters stashed and cheeks dusted with freckles and light sunburns, loll on deck chairs (who lives here? who knows) as 20 musicians blare "Grazing in the Grass."

All on their own, the boys have already gone bowling, snarfed pizza, and lost two of their number to sports, says mom Jamie Katz-Christy of Cambridge, 54; later on it's crepes and ice cream, then a sleepover.

"It is so nice to live in the city and be able to go around on your own," says Jamie, a green-transportation advocate who lives between Porter and Davis on the Cambridge side. So what's she doing at the show? "I knew that they were going to be here," she says, a little sheepishly. "He wants me to leave." A guy in a fedora jumps around as she squeezes through the tall hedge to her gleaming green-and-yellow bike.


45 Laurel St.: Honk! Fest favorites the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band.

3. 9 Charnwood Road features Jon Bernhardt, college radio DJ and former Somerville Arts Council board member. But more importantly, it's ... well, what is it? A karaoke-ish backing track starts to play "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Bernhardt waves his hands and a squiggly electronic version of Kurt Cobain's melody emerges from a vintage amp. The musician's dour facial expression contrasts with his pretty porch. The audience begins to giggle.

Schragi Schwartz, 30, wearing a cell biology symposium T-shirt, stopped by 9 Charnwood because it was near his house, with no idea what to expect. He's lucked out. "If I'd seen it on the list and I knew what it was, I think it would have been the first place I'd gone to," he says as Bernhardt launches into a wiggly rendition of "Summertime." A passer-by looks at the porch and keeps on walking.

4. 328 Summer St. features The Ways and Means Committee, four guys in sunglasses sitting on their steps with a bust of Michael Jackson. But more importantly, it has a really cute dog. Teena Eggleston, 39, nanny and sometime stuntwoman, picks up the dog — which looks like a boxer to a non-expert — hugs it to her chest and begs her boyfriend to take a photo. Doggie responds with enthusiastic kisses. Its legs dangle next to her new motorcycle helmet.

Eggleston's psyched about running into Mayor Joe Curtatone today. "I was able to congratulate him on being on the cover of the New York Times" in 2011, she says. As for Somerville, "I love it. I'm actually looking for an apartment right now," which is a challenge for a dog owner, especially given the low vacancy rate and prices, she says. Her neck and collarbones are flushed red. Too much sun? No; Eggleston diagnoses it as an allergy to the boxer's saliva.

5. 29A Charnwood Road features the Charnwood Pickers, a bluegrass outfit with a shifting set of personnel, including a stand-up cellist whose instrument case is plastered with stickers like SAVE WATER: SHOWER WITH A FRIEND. But more importantly, it's the entrepreneurial opportunity of a lifetime for Beatrice Wig and Willa DeMasi, 11, who are running back to DeMasi's kitchen every 10 minutes for a fresh pitcher.

"We're like, 'What should we do today?'" DeMasi says. "We were like, 'I want lemonade!'"

Linda Rhines, 47, Willa's mom, tried to lure son Conrad DeMasi to watch the Pickers. He recently started a band. But "he goes, 'hillbilly,'" Rhines says, and went off to play basketball.

The girls ask Rhines for a bigger money jar and some sliced strawberries to garnish the drinks. They're no strangers to the refreshments racket, having set up shop in Vermont last summer. That raised $80 "and we gave it all to this animal charity and we got to pet these little puppies," DeMasi says.

Conrad DeMasi, 13, returns from the basketball court. Rhines pokes him. "They've got a cello out there," she says.

"Really?" says Conrad, and peers.

"They're really good," Willa says of the band.

"Yeah. I like how there's not just one singer," says Wig. But the afternoon is "a way to see other people, not just listen to music."

The kids wait. It's 20 minutes past the Pickers' official stopping time but they're still playing. Customers are still coming though the berries are nearly gone.

"So are you going to play next year?" Rhines asks Conrad.

"I think so? Probably," he says.

Danielle Dreilinger, the former writer of Somerville Scene, now works for WGBH. She can be reached at


21 Summit Ave.: Little Rose and the Boston All-Stars.

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