Among the most notable local events ending the ban on live music since the pandemic shutdown is Eugene PorchFest, a brand-new, five-day, DIY music festival running July 7-11 at improvised concert spaces throughout the Eugene-Springfield area.
An eclectic bunch of local artists will perform at the event, including small classical ensembles like Delgani String Quartet on Sunday, July 11, Balkan music from Kef on Saturday, July 10, and the popular live band Mood Area 52 playing tango and Americana fusion, also on July 11.
Up to eight performances are scheduled to take place on each day of the festival, according to event organizers.
Although a Google Map on the PorchFest website gives some sense of the venues’ locations — the intriguingly named Eugene Difficult Music Ensemble, for example, performs somewhere on Harris Street in south Eugene — where exactly these concerts take place remains unannounced until tickets are purchased through one centralized website, making the festival a bit like a series of ticketed house shows.
Alex Abrams and Emma Rose Lynn are two organizers of the concert series.
Throughout the 2020 concert shutdown, Abrams and Lynn wondered, “Where can we perform that we don’t often think of?”
A married couple, Abrams and Lynn are themselves musicians — he played cello in the Eugene-based post-rock band This Patch of Sky, among other projects. She sings classical art songs with Spire Duo, slated to perform at PorchFest on Friday, July 9. (Abrams sits this year out as a performer.)
Lynn, a soprano, explains that at the height of the pandemic last summer, she and her music partner, Andrew T. Pham, who plays piano in Spire Duo, were both so desperate to play, they cleaned out Lynn’s garage and “did a whole bunch of concerts,” she says.
“That garage became a concert hall,” she remembers. “It was really powerful. The community was really grateful.”
Abrams and Lynn hope the festival not only provides space for musicians and audiences to interface during the COVID live music freeze, but also help artists rethink where they typically perform.
“Instead of a restaurant, or bar or tap house, why not see music in someone’s backyard or driveway?” Abrams says.
A quick online search turns up “PorchFests” in a few other cities, like Milwaukie, Oregon, but Abrams and Lynn say their event is connected only in spirit.
“Everyone does it a little differently,” Abrams says, but it was “super helpful for us as we were putting this together, to see what different models were. Once we framed what this would look like,” he continues, organizers took inspiration from how others had pulled it off.
Playing old-time folk and bluegrass with a modern twist on July 10 is Corwin Bolt and the Wingnuts. As soon as he was approached to play PorchFest, Bolt says he knew it would be special.
“Turns out a musical performance doesn’t have to happen in a concert hall, or in a bar. It can happen anywhere,” and the Wingnuts are no strangers to playing porches, city parks and parking lots, he says.
At Eugene PorchFest, Bolt continues, “each host and band work together to create a unique experience: every performance space is different,” and the styles of music are wide ranging, he adds.
“People will emerge from their bunkers, step into the blinding sunlight and hear the sounds of music,” Bolt says. “I cannot wait to see the looks on their faces.”
No festival-style passes are available to the series of concerts, and each show requires a ticket. But the good news is that it’s pay-what-you-can, starting at $5 and capped at $40, with an option to tip the musicians.
All the money goes to the performers, and capacity is limited — 30 at most at each event — so while it’s possible to buy day-of-show tickets, it’s best to get them early. No walk-up tickets will be sold, and the event could not happen without the generosity of the volunteer hosts, Lynn and Abrams say, so respect their spaces.
Even though state-mandated COVID precautions ended at the end of June, any further COVID-related safety measures will be up to the discretion of each individual venue, all outdoors. But, as a rule, the festival will follow the most up-to-date safety guidelines according to the CDC at the time of the festival, organizers say.
Sponsored by ArtCity, the inaugural Eugene PorchFest is July 7-11 at DIY music spaces all over the Eugene-Springfield area. For more information, to make a tax-deductible donation, or to get a complete lineup of events and to purchase tickets, go to EugenePorchFest.com.