Over the last three years, Ypsi residents have been treated to a special summer music series hosted on a front porch of North Washington Street. With a welcoming and laid back vibe permeating across the sizeable front lawn, local musicians gather just after suppertime and start serenading the neighborhood. The 2017 installments of Porch Shows begin Sunday, June 4, featuring Evan Haywood, Cig Butts, Robert Voorheis, Russell Davis, and an acoustic set from Goldblum. This special Porch Show is actually partnering with another, more expansive festival, YpsiArboroo (which we reported on, here).
Local musicians J.T. Garfield and Emmet Cousino started arranging a string of several exclusive outdoor performances in 2014, mostly on a whim. “I have so many friends that play music and a lot of them were hanging out on my porch anyways,” said Garfield, who records/performs with local groups like Truman and The GRDN. “The first one was three years ago… I was missing the homey feel of Woodruffs (which closed in 2013), and I wanted to stoke that sense of community around a live show again.”
The premise is simple: a porch show! Amble on up, bring a blanket, stand, sit, chill, dance, and just get to know your music-loving neighbors while you listen to music together on the front lawn of the stately looking neo-colonial home (and its formidable veranda). Set at the northwest corner of Washington Street and Washtenaw, this will actually be the last summer’s worth of shows hosted at this house, so check it out while you can.
“I love doing this and I don’t plan on stopping,” said Garfield, who co-coordinates shows like this with Cousino and Brian Little. One option for the Porch concert hosting trio could be to transition to collaborating with Ypsi’s Parks & Rec Dept and maybe set up using Frog Island or Riverside Park. But that’s in the unforeseeable future, for now. “But as far as city officials? I think we’re pretty far off their radar. That’s fine with me, unless they want to give me a grant or something.” (And this writer thinks that sounds like an interesting idea!)
“What I would love to see is more people doing events like this,” Garfield said. “Throw a show in your yard! It’s extremely fun and you get to meet a lot of great people in your community doing it.” Although the shows were shut down a couple times by the cops early on, they wisely got noise permits to avoid that. “Plus, our neighbors are angels,” said Garfield, “and they don’t call on us…I think, anyway.”
Each show, hosted on the first Sunday of Summer’s four primary months, will be unique, struck by what Garfield reported as a poignant “sense of calm and communion amongst audience members and performers. The overall theme that keeps coming back to me while doing these shows is community and togetherness.”
Garfield said he’s continually surprised at how many people show up. That’s what really makes the shows special. You’re just sitting in their front yard. There’s no glitz or glam to it. Everyone’s hanging out, eating burgers, and enjoying the music.
“The best part is when someone turns the corner, has a surprised look at encountering the show and joins in for the night. That happens quite often. I think for artists, it provides a low stress and extremely intimate performance space!”
One unforgettable show was when even a rainstorm couldn’t stop the magic: “Brian Little and I zip tied a massive quilt of tarps to the top of my porch and spread them over a pop up tent,” recalled Garfield. “It looked like some mad circus on my lawn. Matt Jones and Misty Lyn performed to an audience in what was essentially a giant lawn fort as rain poured down. It was magical… There was the time that a night of improv happened. I was performing behind Anthony Morgan in a band that night. Performers like Qween Lou, Flwr Chld, Soultry and a lot more just happened to be strolling by. They got on stage and it turned into this amazing soulful performance”
Come experience something low-key, yet totally unexpected: Porch Show on June 4 partners with YpsiArboroo. If you want to learn more about YpsiArboroo this year, just read our recent feature, here.