Saturday was Play Music on the Porch Day. Not just in LA, but in 650 cities worldwide. You haven’t heard of Play Music on the Porch Day? I had not either, but I found myself in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, the birthplace of “PORCH” talking with the founder and listening to some damn good music by one of my favorite local bands. It all started with a text that changed my plans from a major downtown music venue to the Highland Park Senior Citizens Center.
I was scheduled to go to the free concert by the Latin Grammy-Winning Mariachi band from New York, Flor de Toloche, at Levitt Pavilion. The Levitt, a large outdoor amphitheater in MacArthur Park, puts on a free summer concert series and I usually try to get there. I was especially keen on this concert because I had met the women in the band just before their Grammy win (see the interview here on my YouTube Channel) and kept touch, so I wanted to say hi after the concert. But then I got a text from Fernanda Ulibarri, founder of The Mexican Standoff band, telling me about the Play Music On the Porch Day and that they were playing and could I come and shoot some video for them. When friends call, the answer is almost always yes, even if the venue is a senior citizens center.
I am really glad I decided to go. “PORCH” 2018 was actually a good-sized community event in the park next to the Center, complete with stage, lights, projections and a solid sound system. It was sponsored by LA City Council Member José Huizar and featured booths by local businesses, artists, and non-profits including a blacksmith from AdamsForge.org giving demonstrations. And of course there was food, both at the celebration and at taco trucks and food stands across the street (no alcohol – family event). The heart of the event was a continual Facebook Live broadcast to 650 cities around the world and our watching a performance from Zimbabwe.
The talent lineup was local and first class. It was headlined by The Mexican Standoff, a Latino-fusion, sometimes ironic, always fun band fronted by three outstanding women: Latin Grammy- winning guitarist and singer, Alih Jey; Best Jazz and Best Latin Singer Award- winning singer/songwriter Nancy Sanchez (who also leads a mariachi band);, and founder Fernanda Ulibarri, producer and singer/songwriter who toured with pop star Julieta Vanega before founding her own bands.
Warming up a diverse crowd that was relaxing in the while plastic chairs – except for the children who were doing anything but relaxing – was the British invasion, power pop quartet The Ultra 4. They were followed by the post-retro rock and roll band The Andersons who belted out solid rock songs with a with a touch of green-eyed soul. The Anderson’s defied the casual feel of the day by dressing in their trademark snazzy suits and ties on the guys and little back dresses with high heels on the women. Between the sets, a young guitarist and singer Mario Alcaraz entertained us and the thousands of people around the world viewing us on Facebook Live.
And we watched people from around the world too. Hundreds of cities in the US hosted “Porch” concerts from Anchorage to LA , from San Francisco to Charlotte, from Corpus Christie to Bangor, plus hundreds more in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa. Each city played its version of “Porch” and fans anywhere could find performances anywhere using Facebook Live. The Highland Park stage was backed by a large movie screen which was used to project a live set from a band in Zimbabwe.
The Mexican Standoff wrapped up their set and the projector linked to Zimbabwe, where the smiling and laughing band MarchForthKenya greeted us. We all waved back and forth across the miles and introduced Play Music on the Porch Day founder Brian Mallman and local activist Monica Alcaraz, who was running the projector on our end. The African band introduced itself and launched in African pop-rock songs to cheers from both sides of the screen. They played a medley of songs, joked with us a little and the they were gone. It was 5:50 am in Zimbabwe so perhaps they decided to go back to bed – I would have. After the Zimbabwe set Mallman and Alcaraz officially closed the proceedings and distributed posters for next year’s Play Music on the Porch Day in Highland Park.
Mallman is actually a visual artist, not a musician. “I hack around on the guitar a little and was in bands in my 20’s and secretly always wanted to be a musician” he said, adding “when I was growing up there was always music around”. The idea for playing music outside also came from his childhood which had outside music and big parties. So it was a natural thing for him to start. broadcasting it globally when an interviewer with Tone Mob magazine suggested it using 2015. Mallman stated out with a handful of people and spread “Porch” to 650 cities using online tools. The heart of “Porch” is local community, sometimes only one band that gets together and plays for the world to enjoy, and sometimes a whole lineup, like I saw. “Porch’s” ground zero is Highland Park, where it all started. It moves around the neighborhood and his year was in a park next to the Senior Citizens Center.
“Porch” is a break from dark clubs, giant festivals and thousands of fans at amphitheaters, although I love those too. But for a change, I got to kick back, talk with Mallman about his idea, meet Alcaraz and her neighbors, watch a blacksmith at work while munching on hot dogs and tacos, plus enjoy one of my favorite bands. I don’t know where in Highland Park it will be next year, but I will be there. Check it out…if there is not a “Porch” in your city, start one.