Monday, June 15, 2015
I wasn't sure what to expect out of Porchfest. Two friends who live in the West Plaza neighborhood invited me on Facebook and I couldn't tell from the invite if maybe it was one or two houses hosting a block party or what.
It was dozens of houses spread out over several blocks of Terrace, Genessee, Wyoming, etc. Every few houses there'd be another band on a porch.
You could kind of gauge the quality of the bands by the size of the crowds in front of a house. Though the overall quality of the bands was excellent.
I hadn't realized Kansas City was a hotbed of bluegrass, but I heard a couple of top notch bluegrass bands, whose names I didn't catch, a pop band called the Timbers, a world class Latin band.
And I kept running into friends along the way.
There were plenty of people drinking beers and wine and whatnot, and it took me a while to grok that it was a BYOB affair. There were food trucks, I had Bochi wings, but when I started casting about for a brewski, I was told by a volunteer that it was an 'alcohol free event.'
The look on my face got her to elaborate, 'Look, we get it, people are standing around outside listening to music, beer is going to happen. We're just not selling it.'
So I wandered up to the QT on Westport Road and grabbed a four-pack of Boulevard's The Calling, which may have replaced Anchor Liberty on my desert island list of beers. I freaking love that beer.
I got back to another one of these killer bluegrass bands, and they were playing Big Bottom. Which is a Spinal Tap song. And the craziest part, it wasn't the first bluegrass interpretation of it, I have it on a Hayseed Dixie CD. I'm thinking, Spinal Tap wrote a bluegrass standard? I started singing along, and a woman near me turned around. I think she was mildly disturbed by the lyrics to begin with, but she said to me, 'You know the lyrics?' I stopped singing.
It was raining when I got there, but the sun came out after an hour or two. Being an older neighborhood, even when it rained there were lots of pretty dry listening spots where the big old trees caught all the rain.
This Latin band, Ayllu, really killed me. When they introduced the members, it seems like everyone in it was from a different country, but then they called out something about Chili, and a couple of people across the street spoke up. An invitation to sit in was extended and these two guys came and grabbed percussion instruments and joined in on the last couple of numbers. At least I thought they were strangers invited to sit in, they fit so seamlessly in, it was as if they'd rehearsed. If they hadn't, they had big ears, very sensitive to what was going on with the other players.
The guy on the end with the tiny mandolin-type instrument (which he sometimes played along with a pan flute type thing), I had to find out what it was. A charango, he told me. Traditionally made from an armadillo shell, though modern ones often aren't, with twelve strings tuned in pairs. The headstock is nearly as big as the body.
Then I stopped at a house where a band was breaking down and people were waiting for the next act. Who's next, I asked? Someone with a program said, 'Echo Elvis.'
Then he came out and I realized it wasn't 'echo' it was Eco Elvis. He's a reasonably good Elvis impersonator who has written environmentalist lyrics to go to Elvis' songs. He sang Burnin' Coal, Let's Go Organic, that kind of thing.