My Takoma Porch

PHOTOS • BY BILL BROWN

This reporter intended to cover the whole Takoma Porch festival – the third annual event featuring bands on around 20 porches within a several-block area. But, I never got much farther than my own porch and the porch next door. It was too much fun.

Our two households hosted four bands. Neighbor Lex O’Brien is drummer for local jazz band Brûlée, so they were on his porch, playing all-original tunes. My musician friend Andrew Marcus asked if his duo Calithump and his brother’s band Frost and Fire could play on our porch. Both play contra-dance and English ceilidh music. The fourth band was The Squeezers, melodion and concertina players who bridged the jazz-to-folk gap with an eclectic play list.

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Brûlée: Aura Kanegis (lead vocals), Louis Matza (archtop guitar), Andrew Brown (upright bass), and Lex O’Brien (drums). They were joined by special guest Andrew Buhler on pedal steel. Brulee has a Facebook page, and a website to hear and download their music.

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Hosting a Takoma Porch event requires little preparation: mowing the lawn, cleaning the porch, arranging some chairs and setting out recycling and trash bins. The audience is supposed to bring their own food and beverages – though of course we had a cooler of beer around the back for the musicians and friends.

At 1:00 PM the musicians started arriving and setting up. Despite the requirement that all bands are acoustic, some amplification was required. The Great Outdoors is capricious. It swallows some sounds but favors others. Concertinas and accordions can be heard a block away, but voice, fiddle and guitar barely register at the edge of the yard.

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Callithump:  Andrew Marcus (accordion). Glyn Collinson (vocals, bouzouki, clogs).

Since we had four bands and two porches we had an unusual schedule. Instead of each band playing 2 45 minute sets – which is the Takoma Porch norm – the bands took turns playing short 3-4 tune sets, alternating from one porch to the other. Some audience members moved from yard to yard, but most stayed put trough the transitions – avoiding the direct sun on the summer’s first hot, humid day.

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Frost & Fire:  Aaron Marcus (piano, concertina, banjo, foot percussion), Viveka Fox (fiddle, bodhran, djembe), Peter McFarland (fiddle, low whistle). Aaron’s bother Andrew Marcus sat in on accordion, substituting for band regular Hollis Easter.

It was a casual concert. Children clambered up the porch steps to chat to hang out with their musician parents. 7 year old Freya Matza joined her father Lou, Brûlée’s guitarist, on “stage” and provided one song’s background vocals.

The folk bands exchanged personnel often, especially after 4:00 PM when the band Frost and Fire drove in from Vermont via a wedding gig. Within a few minutes Frost and Fire’s Aaron Marcus was clogging on his step-a-tune to the fiddlers’ melody.

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The Squeezers: Jim Besser, Gus Voorhees and Randy Stein.

We were lucky that the rain, forecast to begin around 3:00 PM, didn’t start until 5:30 PM, and then only as a sprinkle. At 6:00 PM, the official end of the concert, an impromptu jam session broke out – as everyone knew it would. Because of the rain, it was indoors. Friends who had brought their instruments got them out and joined in. Pizza was ordered and beer and sodas flowed.

The unanimous sentiment was “let’s do this again next year!”

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About the Author

Bill Brown
Bill Brown moved to Takoma Park in 1982. He has been involved in journalism in one way or another since he co-published an underground high-school newspaper in the late 1960s.