Archive for the ‘Boston’ Category

New England Cultural Potholes

May 28th, 2017

Ah, the glorious Boston and surrounds…Flawless? Well, no.

Having lived most of my life in Boston, I choose to remain. Yet, the most amusing foibles of a region are those the most chauvinist locals have never noticed, and might even deny if you would describe them.

Esoterica Hazing

May the Great Pedants forbid that you mispronounce or misspell a New England place name or other highly localized term! Think for one of an imported TV meteorologist a few years ago who left quickly in disgrace in his trial period because of Stoughton.

He was talking through a forecast and seemed to follow school pronunciation rules saying Stuff-ton. In local speak, that city is Stoat-in. The weather guy disappeared shortly afterward.

A better, more civilized outcome? Sure. Don’t be so clubby, rather accept that nearly all ignorance is easily fixed. As opposed to stupidity, with the exception of a few technical or math concepts, teaching a proper pronunciation or spelling, for example, is quick, kind and easy.

Do that and the formerly ignorant one is clued in and part of the gang. Plus, you are the good guy. As another bonus, there’s the chance and likelihood of a nickname-level running joke, endearing instead of hostile.

90-second C.V.

Many locales (think Paris and London) have their share of snots. Few though can compete with New Englanders’ instant, intrusive résumé battles. Within a minute and one half of meeting a typical local, you have to hear:

  • every famous person related to said local
  • childhood prep school
  • college
  • important people they know or work with

This dick-on-the-table measurement contest is as predictable as it is tedious. The NYC equivalent, in contrast, is much more benign and prone to camaraderie from shared experience. There, the first verbal hugs are ones no Bostonian would ever ask, to wit,  how much do you pay for this apartment/condo? New Yorkers do that to start a conversation and to share envy or condolences, depending.

Alas, insecure New Englanders have to prove themselves to each other constantly. My prep school or U is more prestigious (locally) than yours or my ancestors are better known…

I think of one of my Inc. Magazine writing-stable buddies. He regularly would stop a group discussion with something like, “Ball, you went to such a shitty school. How come you know so much?” He was fourth generation Harvard (accepted and pushed through likely because of his family’s largess). Other Inc. staffers with Ivy degrees would often tell him that I was simply smarter and better read. He could not believe any such trivialities would trump Harvard.

Shout ’em Down!

Far too many New Englanders are in the old England debate mode. That is, browbeat someone else, even at high volume, and claim victory when they shut up.

“You have not converted a man because you have silenced him,” wrote John, Viscount Morley in the 19th Century. That’s not the guideline here. Rather, what used to hold only in debate clubs and those same prep and Ivy schools is to bully your way to an alleged victory. The more classical, even Talmudic, ideal of discussion to approach and refine truth does not fit this style.

Shouting people down is delightfully ridiculed by Monty Python in their argument sketch. It is enough of a thing to happen there as well as here.

Truth be told, screaming at people and using intimidation instead of facts and analysis is blessedly not that popular outside of New England in this country. If you move here, you will certainly run up against it all the time.

No Comfort to Enemies

The infamous, and far too thrilling, Boston driving, is more accurately New England driving. Offensive is considered defensive driving to many around here.

That does not happen alone. One expression is when you ask a local why they do not signal turns much less exits off rotaries. With a maniacal laugh, a Bostonian is likely to reply, “That only gives information to the enemy (a.k.a. other drivers).”

Sure, it would be safe to let fellow drivers know where you are headed. It would be considerate not to surprise those behind you if you will clog a left lane for a turn. It would even comply with state law.

This road attitude manifests throughout the region in many forms. For an example of inconsiderate arrogance, I think to a side business I had briefly with a chum from New England money. We proposed to rent fancy motor yachts for private functions. The owners got some cash for unused boats and we did all the work of renting, entertaining and cleaning.

Part of this was meeting with a yacht owner and discussing particulars. My friend made it very plain to me that the proper attitude was to disparage the yacht and act like it was barely adequate. I could not believe that. From my Southern heritage and my observation of local rich folk, I surmised:

  1. they were likely proud of their overpriced ship, and thus insulted personally if we talked down their said ship
  2. they would question our intellect and observation if we ascribed false flaws
  3. I would try graciousness instead, as that was what I knew

Much to my chum’s amazement, my pleasant presentation and charm worked. We got far better deals than he expected and the owners originally proposed.

What far too many New Englanders do no know is that nice is free. You do not pay a financial price nor lose face.

 

 

Bully (Boy) for the Blizzard

January 7th, 2017

Those whose parents trundled them off to factories to watch candy bars, Q-TIPS® or Fords being made, know there is a more adult alternative. We skidded six and one-half miles in a blizzard this afternoon to keep our tour appointment at Bully Boy Distillers.

Better than shoveling snow or fighting crowds for the last gallon of milk, the tour was worth the $10. (I note here that a long time ago, we toured the chateau of the original Cognac, Otard. They poured liberally, even by French standards. At the end of the tour, the very jolly group bought phenomenal amounts of the brown juice. Good marketing ploy.)

I took notes and intended to write up a walk-through. Then I saw that Boston Bar Hopper had already done that, with pix and product descriptions. You should go there and enjoy that.

Note that:

  • Bully Boy has moved its main operations across the street from 35 to 44 Cedric Street
  • The primary still was 150 gallons that is still at 35 and devoted to their Estate Gin
  • The new primary is 750 gallon and gorgeous
  • The Bar Hopper tour included tastes of six types of their booze. Today’s had eight — American Straight Whiskey, White Whiskey, Boston Rum, White Rum, Vodka, Estate Gin, Hub Punch, and The Old Fashioned

 

Our tour guide Alex knows more about cooperage and barrel aging (first American Whiskey for 3 years the dark rum for 3) than you or I. Cost, origin, legal requirements, reasons for using them for this or that drink. Listen and learn.
The new site centers on a 750-gallon still. The old 150-gallon is across the street and for gin. The rums and whiskeys start here.
Paired with the still is a bubble column for drawing off the booze at various proofs. They might be at 160 proof (80% alcohol) before dilution and barrel aging. By the bye, Bully Boy used the great Boston water via the Quabbin Reservoir (we concur).
Subtly on the shelves below the antique bottles from great-granddad’s speakeasy hooch are some Bully Boy bottles adorned with some of their many medals.
The barrel room for aging has maybe 120 of them. Whiskey and dark rum sit for 3 years in one of these. They hold 53.5 gallons each (roughly 300 bottles). After the whiskey has aged, the same barrel ages dark rum. After another 3 years, they sell the barrels to craft-beer makers.
The specific oak for the barrels is now rare and the barrel prices have roughly tripled. Alex said they locked in a very good rate years ago for the handmade barrels.

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once. Click images to enlarge.

In the Bar Hopper post and on the Bully Boy site, several great tidbits thread through. Apparently the Willis guys, Will and Dave, had a fascinating great-granddad. The latter was a college classmate of Theodore Roosevelt (must have been Harvard the Fly Club). He apparently was a bootlegger who ran a speakeasy. They guys found a walled-in room in his basement chock-a-block with old booze, with known names like Bacardi and gone ones like Very Old Cow Whiskey. The distillery displays some of these.

They named their business for their ancestor’s favorite draft horse, a gigantic beast named in turn to Teddy’s, “Bully!,” catchphrase.

Snowy Afternoon

To our particular blizzard experience, we loved getting samples of the eight current Bully Boy products at one time in one place. Alex started each of us by putting a light cocktail in our hands before we began. It was the prepared Hub Punch from a found 19th Century Boston recipe mixed with something like ginger ale…a harmless diversion while we gawked at the distilling hardware and watched Alex’s little beagle in the next room.

  • American Straight Whiskey – really the lead booze of BBD, it is kind of like bourbon but not as sweek because it hkas 45% rye. The dryness offsets any innate sweetness. My wife and I both like this, although I’ll take a good bourbon (think Woodford reserve) in the price range.
  • White Whiskey – fundamentally milder, safe moonshine (only 40%/80 proof). Not barrel aged. My wife liked it. I found it oily, like tequila.
  • Boston Rum – their dark rum is beautifully aged and complex. We both liked it.
  • White Rum – pleasant, harmless, good for mixing, but a taste and smell weak cousin of the dark version.
  • Vodka – made with corn. This extremely smooth vodka could easily sneak up on you.
  • Estate Gin – my wife has gotten to like gin, particularly American-style botanical varieties such as Berkshire’s Ethereal limited edition ones. Hearing the description of this one, she really expected to love it. Alas, she figures they used too many herbs or the wrong ones. I found undertones of sharp flavors, like a cinnamon bite.
  • Hub Punch – one of two gimmicks to my way of thinking. This is what we got at the sart. By itself, it is too thick and sweet. As a cocktail, you could do a lot better with their American Whiskey or Boston Rum.
  • The Old Fashioned – not a bad gimmick. This is a premixed cocktail and a pretty good one.

Fortunately for the tour, each taste was a splash. No one got tipsy and we got to consider each of the eight samples without them stepping on each other. When a single whiskey at a bar can cost $10 or $20, $10 for the eight samples was a good deal. Plus, we got snappy patter.

 

 

Stuffing, dressing and one vulgarity

December 26th, 2016

Back to yesterday and yesteryear, the stuff of stuffing emerges. Most of us, it seems, just know what is supposed to go in the roast bird. Our grannies or other family cooks did the perfect version — in our hazy memories. Anything different or less fails.

I too grew up with plugged up and trussed turkeys, ducks, chickens and geese. I am honestly indifferent to stuffing on my own and really prefer the control over the appearance, flavor and cooking times with an empty carcass. If you really want the best flavors and looks, cook a hollow bird.

However, do not delude yourself; holiday food fans want to see and smell (and in a perverted Proust madeleine moment) fully recall and relive stuffings of childhood. I advise acquiescing and producing the expected here. You can be creative with the rest of the bird and meal. At the least concentrate on a groaning board of beautiful, memorable appetizers.

Yesterday was the Christmas feast for a dozen. We did not go to mass on Christmas, rather massed for languid frivolity, gift and jest swapping and popping Christmas crackers.

As I prepared stuffing for the too-big turkey, I thought back to a Thanksgiving nearly 50 years ago in an alley in Cambridge, MA, with the grandiloquent address of King Place. It is a quarter block long, dead ended and perpetually shabby.

Oh, 10 or a dozen of us college types shared this narrow house of four tiny apartments in a brick building cheek to jowl with the next. We did not know each other except in pairs or small subgroups before moving there, but heck it was Thanksgiving away from family and friends. We’d make our own communal feast.

Then as now I was the primary cook. Our house consensus though included two essentials. First, we needed a sizable turkey, and second, it had to come from the oven extruding bread stuffing. Then democracy and family became obvious. We were all WASPy types, but our family and regional differences became pronounced. Each of us knew exactly what was necessary for a proper stuffing.

We had outlying votes for oysters, chestnuts and other favorites from other homes. We ended up agreeing as youth are wont on too many, just to make sure everyone would fork through to find the right bites. As I recall, in addition to the requisite cubed junk bread, stuffing stuff included celery onion, walnuts, prunes AND raisins, onion, poultry seasoning, pepper, salt, sausage and more and more.

I finished prep with far more than the turkey or any bird short of an ostrich could have held. Hence came the trays of patties, morphing from stuffing to dressing. My companion of the period loudly dubbed the patties buffalo turds. She was born in North Dakota, but more to the point, she was charming and attractive enough that she could and did get away with such vulgarities. I am sure to this day there are a few from the house who will refer to dressing patties that way.

We were all happy with our democratically derived stuffing and dressing.

Flash forward

Back to fewer than 24 hours ago, our Christmas feast benefited from that memory. I relented and decided to stuff the gigantic bird.

I’m not much for too easy and quick. Those result in bland or worse. I think Stop Top stuffing is more like wood wool, a.k.a. excelsior, than food. I fell back on childhood, King Place, restaurant, and previous stuffing goes. Still I was surprised as virtually all at the table went on about the stuffing.

  • The previous day, I cubed two family sized, thick sliced loaves of junk white bread into a huge bowl.
  • I added things that wouldn’t go bad, including 12 ounces of chopped walnuts, two teaspoons of kosher salt, a teaspoon of black pepper and a teaspoon of powdered sage. I mixed these and left the lid off for the cubes to harden up a little.
  • I cooked the turkey neck and giblets to death, removed the neck meat and minced everything. to this, I added a pound of smoked ham run through the food processor. These meats rested overnight in the fridge. Separately, two cups of turkey broth from giblet cooking cooled overnight.
  • I minced two medium onions, one long celery stalk, the celery core including the fine leaves, and a half cup of fresh parsley. Those too rested in the fridge.
  • Early in the morning, I ran about 12 ounces of rinsed baby bella mushrooms, stems included, through the food processor.
  • I got the broth from the fridge and microwaved a cup of golden raisins in it on high for two minutes. The idea was to pre-plump the raisins before stuffing the bird.
  • I heated a stick of unsalted butter and softened the onion mixture, and added the mushrooms.
  • All the ingredients went into the jammed bowl (I have some huge bowls) in the sink to permit an occasional errant lump. When all were squished by hand, I pressed as much as possible into the body and neck cavities of the dry-brined turkey. Six hours and one turning later, the bird received much praise.

To me, stuffing is merely a side dish. Yet, it got the level of compliment a well scrubbed, smelling and looking deb would have at the ball.

We should not overlook or deride simple pleasures. As one of Robert Frost’s poems concludes, “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches. ”

 

 

The bloggers are dead. Long live the money makers.

December 12th, 2016

laptop keysToday, Meetup sent around the obituary for The Greater Boston Area Webloggers Meetup Group. It was not so much a changing of the guard or the end of an era as a faint echo of T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men — “This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”

Founded in 2002, the group was some slag in the furnace from when the fuel was content. Depending on your seat, in this era of Instagram and Twitter, blogging has evolved or devolved into self-marketing. We bloggers always wore clothes woven of our egos. Now though the abstract is insignificant. The literal minded own the field.

Yes, there are blogging groups in and around Boston. The real difference is that we are hard pressed to find one that does not concern itself almost entirely with monetization. A couple of years ago, success came in “creating your brand,” and now it is exclusive in the measurements. How many clicks, links, and cash payments?

We are too close to this, at least I am, to say the new form is inferior. In fact, we need only go back, way back to Samuel Johnson, from his Life of… Vol. III, to read, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”

Yet of course, many did and do. There’s the vanity. There’s the conceit. There’s the drive to record and announce our brilliance and insight. There’s the hope to alter minds and change the course of events. Blah, blah. Blockheads all? Maybe.

Back to the 14-year-old just taken off the respirator, Meetup had warned us that without a replacement coordinator, it would be shut down. There had been a few managers over the years. Flaky (my description, not her given name or formal epithet) Emma was in charge when I attended. No one, including I, was inclined to take on the clerical work involved.

I have my own excuses and reasons. I’ve run several non–profits and professional groups long term and am worn out. I am sure many of the peak 102 membership can whinge right along in tune with me.

Plainer, blogging for its own sake remains a solitary endeavor. Yes, there are group blogs, think BlueMassGroup, and fame-paying freeloaders, think Huffington Post, but people who want and need their ideas in the ether don’t really need to meet regularly with others like themselves.

The new classes though do. What can you do for me? What can we benefit each other with links and contacts? Are you ready to marvel in my latest glory?

I acknowledge only that the old Boston bloggers group is dead. I kicked some dirt on it by my indifference.

 

Splayed Social Skills

October 30th, 2016

Occasionally, I wear a kilt. That has become a family thing.

alkiltMy first daughter-in-law, wife of our eldest son, is singularly proud of her Scottish heritage. She’s not a skirt/dress person, but does wear a kilt. Our son does too and so does their son. He is one of the two males pictured here; you can decide which is his image and which mine.

A Scottish neighbor discussed the manners and mindfulness involved in kilt wearing. His was a long tale about a wedding. He was in the groom’s party and sat in the nave during the ceremony. Of course, as a Scott, he was kitted in kilt.

During the wedding, he wondered what dementia gripped his wife and other family members. The women he could see gesticulated repeatedly in some indecipherable sign language He smiled faintly by way of acknowledging them but did not get the message until after the nuptials.

mbdouglasTurns out, the women in the pews were trying strongly to say, “Close your damned legs!’

He was, as I do, wearing his kilt traditionally  — with no clothing underneath. The whole church other than those standing or seated with the wedding principals had no doubt of his gender.

I thought I had gotten the hang of it. I observed other kilt wearers and saw that most men push the front material in a fold between their thighs, making a crotch curtain. Yet last evening at a fair sized party at our house, my wife crossed the room to provide my own close-your-damned-legs moment. She was more pleasant but the message was the same.

In my experience, women are no more polite or considerate than men. Yet nearly all try to preserve modesty when they wear a skirt or dress or kilt. The Sharon Stone Basic Instinct reveal when it occurs is intentional.

Men on the other hand (other leg?) do not grow up learning to keep their knees together when seated. For all but men with the least muscled thighs, keeping legs closed when seated allows no hanging room for what the Brits call naughty bits.

I enjoy wearing a kilt, for the variety and comfort. I only once was out in the bitter air and wind of winter in one though.

I suspect I’ll master the physical and social skill of the seated curtain. I also tend to travel with my kilt watcher to remind me.

Early voting, even in MA

October 2nd, 2016

New, Improved, Zap, Pow! For the first time ever, MA including Boston will allow early voting. That’ll be Monday, Oct. 24 through Friday, Nov. 4.

Yes, yes, this is long overdue. At least MA is one of the states going the right way. Sixteen or more other states have been legislating nonstop to limit voting. On the other hand, I’d like to see at the least:

  • Prolonged early voting
  • Same-day registration
  • Automatic voter registration upon becoming 18
  • Choice of any ballot in a primary to those registered in a party or political designation (popular in MA

However, I’m sure the legislature and secretary of the commonwealth will  look carefully at turnout this and the next few elections.

The way it work in MA and Boston this first go will be designated locations on specified days and times. You can see Boston’s locations and times here.

The overview is each neighborhood gets one ore more four to eight hour periods. Boston’s city hall has early voting every few days. For example, my Hyde Park area gets a single period, Wednesday, Oct. 26 from 2 to 8 PM.

I haven’t gotten my training for the pending general election. As a precinct warden I’m want to understand some details. For one, the election polls open Tuesday, Nov. 8 at 7 AM.

We’ll get check-in and check-out books that list each registered voter in the precinct. I assume there will be a designation beside each early voter’s name that indicates they have already voted. We have a version already for absentee voters (AV). I assume there’ll be EV or the like. So the data-entry minions at city hall area likely to be clerking away from Friday afternoon on to make sure the books we get are up to date.

Note: This also appears at leftahead.com.

5¢ Victory

October 1st, 2016

Ifairmounttoot can be as cynical as anyone about befuddled, unthinking, unresponsive bureaucrats. One thoroughly surprised me last evening.  I got an almost instantaneous reply…from a human…with a resolution to a complaint.

I felt like a panel in one of Keith Knight’s Life’s Little Victories.

It was just over a nickel. I figured the rules-are-rules, that’s-the-way-it-is forces would likely ignore me or eventually tell me to go away. Instead, I got a callback within 10 minutes of emailing a complaint.

Maybe it was the French connection. Keolis manages the commuter rail here, including fare collection and ticket issuing on trains. After a terrible winter with many skipped or late trains, they try to be efficient and revenue producing.

As of July 1, the MBTA hiked fares roughly 5%. A few fares fell on one side or another of a price fence. The one at issue here was the zone 1A train fare for those with a senior card, i.e. me. The rate as of July 1 went to $1.10 one way from my Fairmount stop to South Station.

Recently and suddenly, the conductors have adamantly demanded not $2.20 for a round trip, rather $2.25. There’s a bureaucratic logic to that, in that senior prices are almost all 50% that of regular adult tickets. Yet, it’s not $1.125 one way, just $1.10.

Someone had clearly trained the conductors poorly on this fine point. One after another told me strongly that the round trip was $2.25. They just knew it. I on the other hand had seen the initial price hike info, including the posters that appeared for weeks in each train with the $1.10/$2.20 info.

No Chewing Gum

I admit that today’s nickel is yesterday penny. When I was wee, it would buy a five-stick pack of gum. Not in 2016. 5¢ pieces are earning the same disdain as 1¢ ones. They are more of an inconvenience than currency.

Yesterday I decided to test my memory. I bought a $1.10 ticket to South Station. There, I went to the commuter-rail ticket office to:

  1. Buy a return ticket and
  2. Ask the clerk what the round trip fare is

She must be used to alter kakers and other sticklers. She didn’t laugh or tell me to drop dead. She immediately said $2.20 and then verified that by calling up the ticket on her database and computer screen. Sure enough, $2.20.

Last evening, I used the MBTA site’s contact-us tab. I sent my whiny complaint by their form.

Within a few minutes, I got a call. That was remarkable enough. Moreover, she said, “You’re right.” Beyond that she said they’d immediately send a memo to all the conductors informing them that the senior round trip in zone 1A is $2.20, not $2.25. She agreed what 5¢ was small change indeed, but “We should all be on the same page.”

Mirabile dictu!

 

White Squirrel Fest #6

September 10th, 2016

The JP Music Fest is a tot by Boston standard, but really they’ve pulled off six annual versions now.

We enjoyed a few hours there. As a note, the hipster quotient was low today. For example, I only counted two Trilby hats.

Here follow a few snaps of groups we heard in a few hours. I recommend following the links and listening to each. You can also catch a track from each at the JPMusicFest site.

The festival is this time each year, runs with continuous music from noon to 7, offers a wide variety, and is free.

Merrie Amsterburg plays a wide variety of instruments, including allegedly a washing machine. She was on the electric mandolin in JP. merrie3
amechoes2 America Echoes reminds audiences they are identical twins, Laura and Nina Ganci.
The America Echoes women do R&B and folk, electric and acoustic. amechoes6
boxofbirds1 Box of Birds is a folk rock quartet. Steph Durwin leads the vocals.
Guitarist Charlie Gargano of Box of Birds sang too. boxofbirds4
louder1 Louder Than Milk is a very local fun and funny country-like band.
Louder Than Milk has a drummer vocalist too, Jay Page (h.t. to Bridget Murphy). louderthanmilk



jpflute



On the way to the festival, we had a mini-concert from a wee flutist trying to get the ducks and her brother to listen.

Pix note: Published under Creative Commons . You are welcome to use them. Just credit Michael Ball once.

Shoot Me Not

August 13th, 2016

My fashooterlure as a senior engineering manager was not shooting my direct reports. That was both physical and digital.

We all put in long, productive workdays. Mine tended to run longer. I got to the office around 5 AM. They’d stumble in around 9 or 10. I was the documentation manager/head tech writer. The chief UI designer would arrive about the same time. We’d work alone and together on our stuff and the complex interface, head to the downstairs FitCorp gym at 6 or 6:30 and be groomed and caffeinated when the programmers finally showed.

They’d goof around, then work, then insult each other, and keep it going until 5 or 6. Then they’d shift from coffee to Pepsi. As all savvy tech companies, ours provide unlimited cold and hot caffeine. They’d do hours of multi-player games over our network, taking great joy in visually splattering each other for hours.

Weekend meetings might be paintball, when then mayhem was more literal, involving downers (beer) and bruises from the balls.

Old Mike instead read books, wrote blogs, worked cryptic puzzles, and philosophized. I had no interest in figurative murder or literal punishment.

I’m older. The sprouts seemed to forgive me. We all went out to lunch and after-work drinks. I just had no interest in multi-player games and feigned warfare.

When my engineering VP went off to sell the company, he dubbed me in charge of engineering, as in development, test, QA, docs and such. I became the socket for the whines. “His code sucks…he doesn’t know how to clear a memory address…she uses 54 lines to do what I can in 12…my girlfriend’s cat pisses in my shoe…I found this function perfectly done in Fresh Meat…Tom did not subversion his code and I wasted four hours waiting…”

You’ll never find a bigger bunch of kvetchers than developers.

Yet, I admit, I’d been a better sport had I picked up a paintball gun and tried to humiliate and hurt my reports. I could have upended my life and fought rush-hour Boston traffic to get in late, leave late, and devoted two hours every evening to network shooter games.

Sorry. I win.

 

JP Porchfest Again

July 9th, 2016

We’ve gone to all the JP Porchests. Truth be told, that’s a small deal. Today’s was the third annual. Yeah, yeah, it’s spottier than say the Lowell Folk Festival, but no matter what music you like, they got it and if you don’t like one group, look at the event map or simply wander the neighborhood. There are 100 or so in play at any moment.

I finally relaxed on this one. Previously, I’d planned the long day from noon into evening, hopping in 15 to 20 to 30 minute listens. I wanted to get the maximum aural and visual exposure. This year, I sussed out the performers in advance off the Porchfest site and simply picked several to listen to a long concert with each.

Liv Greene is apparently a Tufts senior and likely older than she looks. Her voice and song writing are plenty mature. She is wont to compose morose lyrics that she mixes with folk cover songs. She pulls off her sad tunes with strong guitar to match her sweet voice.

We saw her later playing with Liv Brook in the duo they call Liv and Letliv, doing Appalachian songs to guitar and fiddle. I grew up with WV hillbilly music. They’d do just fine on Jersey Mountain.

livgreene2
Aurora Birch was starkly slender and dressed all in black. She closed her eyes when she sang. She could seem forbidding except for her frequent gesticulations and grins between songs. She clearly enjoyed herself. She switch among several acoustic and one electric guitar and jocularly regretted not also playing her banjo. abirch1
Fiona Corinne followed the sincere and subtle Aurora Birch…in a very different style. She let us know that she grew up in the world of musical theater. She proved it with the strongest voice of my afternoon. fionac1
Boston’s poet laureate, Danielle Legros Georges, was serious and politically aware. dlgeorges
Allysen Callery accompanied her ethereal voice with finger-style guitar. allysen

We heard snatches of several of the many dozens of performers, but those were ones I dove deeply into. I think that suits me better than trying to catch as many as possible. This is like my beloved Lowell Folk Festival. The key is to pore over the schedule carefully and map an itinerary.

Lowell is an absolute must, but JP’s Porchfest is damned good. Each is well worth hitting the schedule in advance and plotting your performance. Oh, and like Lowell, this one is free too.