Normand Fullum strummed his handmade guitar in front of a fire pit outside his home in Hudson, Que. The small, picturesque town of about 5,000 people, west of Montreal, is known for its artists and has a large community of musicians.
At 62, Mr. Fullum doesn’t read music. “It’s not my profession,” he said. “But I love playing.”
He is practicing for Porchfest, a one-day event that takes place in Hudson on Saturday and draws aspiring musicians out from their basements, bedrooms, garages and even fire pits.
The festival will showcase more than 60 musicians and bands, many with roots in the town itself. Neighbourhood homes and businesses will transform their porches and terraces into stages for performers.
Event organizer Tim Walsh said Porchfest provides an opportunity for amateur musicians, young and old, to play in front of an audience. “We provide the sound equipment, the speakers and the mixers. All they have to do is show up with their instruments and a microphone,” he said.
At the event, musicians get to develop their craft and meet other participants, Mr. Walsh said. Performers play for 45 minutes, giving amateur musicians a chance to create an entire setlist, a step up from a typical open mic night where they might get to play just three songs.
Hudson resident Alex Remington, 21, was brought in this year to expand what he calls “the youth presence.”
He has attended a few Porchfests in the past and thought it was a cool concept. But he wanted to add more diversity to an event that had tended to cater to Hudson’s older demographic with acoustic-driven folk music. This year, he is working to bring in more women and younger bands to draw out a youthful, energetic crowd – something he hopes to expand upon in future years.
Mr. Remington is in charge of the pop-music stage and is bringing five new bands to the festival. They include his own, Kurt Reston, a Montreal group influenced by 2000s-era pop-rock whose members include Mr. Remington on lead guitar. The stage will also feature the Last Waltzon, an alternative-rock band with a punk approach, and Scarlet Wives, a female-led group that describes their music as “apocalyptic fairy grunge rock.”
People love hearing live music and young people will travel further for the bands they want to see, Mr. Remington said. “Nothing crazy is going to happen in Hudson,” he said. “But our stage is going to be the one that has the most action.”
Monica Guenter, a professional violinist, viola player and music teacher who is performing at the festival with her band Good Morning Capitan, agrees with that assessment. A lot of people like the old classics, folk music and cover songs. But not everyone wants the same thing, she said. She loves that the pop stage is bringing in something completely different.
Between the residential porches and the stages hosted by local businesses, Porchfest has grown from five stages when it began in 2017 to 15 this year. The event is held entirely outdoors in open spaces, but it’s still relying on attendees to maintain COVID-19 protocols.
Andrew Dumas, a local business owner, initially hosted a festival performance on his own porch. “I had just bought a restaurant, but it wasn’t open yet. I served hotdogs in my backyard,” he said. “It was just packed – I loved it, having strangers wander in to listen to the music and leave when it was over.”
This year, he built a stage at his hotdog and burger joint on Main Street, Casse Croute Chez Sauvé, which he intends to turn into a permanent space for live performances. He wants to give young people who aren’t old enough to visit a bar or concert venue that serves alcohol a chance to listen to live music, rather than the digital versions available to them today.
For Mr. Fullum, this will be his first year playing on a bigger stage for a larger audience. It’s not the size of the crowd that matters to him, he said, but the quality of the experience. Porchfest offers both locals and first-time concertgoers a chance to come together for a day of music, community and kinship. “It’s like having a small group of friends sitting around listening to you play,” he said
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