Porchfest 2021

October 3rd, 2021
contra, covid-19, music
Yesterday, I played at Somerville Porchfest with several contra dance friends. This is an annual festival that has been running since 2011, modeled after Ithaca's event of the same name. Bands sign up to play music on their porches and people wander around the city listening. It was cancelled in 2020, and postponed to the Fall in 2021, so this was the first one in two and a half years. (And I had missed the previous event because I was traveling.)

I had initially been hoping to play with Kingfisher and then Whirlwind, But my bandmates weren't available and I ended up organizing a pickup group the day before. This ended up being super fun: unlike my regular bandmates, these were musicians I hadn't seen since before the pandemic (aside from my dad), and it was nice to be reminded of how much I like them all.

I've made a lot of changes to my rhythm stage setup over the last few years, and it was really helpful to have a chance to run it live. You learn so much more than practicing at home: what does the crowd like? What sounds do you prefer in the moment? How can the interface better accommodate the demands of live performance? Afterwards I had a nice list of tweaks and new features to work on.

Partway through the set I noticed contra dance folks informally dancing in our neighbors' empty driveway, and offered them a mic in case they wanted to call. A group of ~12 ended up dancing a few:



I feel somewhat conflicted on this. On one hand, I love playing for dancing and it was great to get the opportunity to do that for the first time in almost 2 years. I also heard from several of the dancers that they were really excited to get to dance. And it's probably not (much?) higher risk than what people are already doing.

On the other hand, it seems to me like this is a higher level of risk than our local contra dance community has been comfortable with. The only organized dancing in Massachusetts I know of since before the pandemic was at Pinewoods this summer, with outdoor pavilions, and they closed in mid-August, when cases were 2/3 of what they are now. Similarly, I had been booked to play an outdoor contra in early September, which was cancelled in late August. Outdoor transmission remains very rare, however, and I'm not sure I would have cancelled an outdoor event.

(I used to organize outdoor dances in Davis Square, but stopped when Lily was born. But it's probably too getting too cold to organize any this year?)

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