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Clashing cymbals and thrumming mandolins: JP Porchfest marks its 6th year

Alex McCue, Sam Smith, and Jamila Gordon of the band The Group Activity performed on a porch on Centre Street during the JP Porchfest 2019.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

On one end of the block came the sound of mashed cymbals and dad-rock vocals. The other: the ticky-tap of an old-timey group.

On a perfect summery Saturday afternoon, no one needed any excuse to wander the streets of Jamaica Plain, where the sixth annual JP Porchfest brought 177 artists and groups to 99 locations for a day of performances.

As she delivered mail, postal carrier Wildie Pierre said the festival gives her job something of a soundtrack.

“It’s nice to listen to the music while working,” she said as she opened a mailbox.

The concept of folks jamming on their porches as a popular community event originated more than a decade ago in Ithaca, N.Y. Various iterations are now held in 130 communities in Canada and the United States, including 18 in Massachusetts, according to the Porchfest website.


After beginning with 65 bands on 35 porches in 2014, the Jamaica Plain version has kept growing to reflect the neighborhood’s diversity, cofounder Mindy Fried said.

“Our mission is to build community across the divides of race, class, culture, and immigrant status, through a vibrant arts festival,” she said in an e-mail.

Some of those that spent the afternoon in Jamaica Plain have also attended other versions of Porchfest.

Rob Hash, 25, said he was there to “keep the Porchfest vibe going,” after enjoying Porchfest in Somerville, where he lives.

Not knowing what kind of music he’ll encounter is part of what he likes about the event. “If you have no expectations, you’ll have a great day,” he said.

Going with the flow is the modus operandi of performers at the festival as well, according to Mike Sims, a Jamaica Plain-based musician.

Though he came in with a set list, Sims instead picked songs based on who showed up to his spot in front of The Frogmore restaurant on Centre Street.


“You have to be more tuned in because the audience changes,” said Sims, 30, who was playing his third JP Porchfest.

Lucas Phillips can be reached at lucas.phillips@globe.com.