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Inaugural Dorchfest debuts this weekend

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Inaugural Dorchfest debuts this weekend
A porch concert in Dorchester last year with the band Soil2Soul. COURTESY PHOTO

This weekend, the streets of Dorchester will come alive with music during the first-ever Dorchester Porchfest, dubbed Dorchfest. More than 45 bands will perform on 25 porches and venues around the Ashmont-Adams neighborhood on Saturday, June 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The festival is free and open to all. Many of the performers have roots in Dorchester and are returning to their hometown to bring music to their neighbors.

When Erin Caldwell moved to the neighborhood from Jamaica Plain, she wanted a way to celebrate everything Dorchester has to offer. A Porchfest, like the successful one running in the JP neighborhood, seemed like a natural way to bring the community together safely.

The Willie J Laws Band will bring its funky blues to the inaugural Dorchfest. COURTESY PHOTO

“I think it’s a part of building neighborhood pride and realizing there’s a lot that comes out of your community that you might not even be aware of,” says Caldwell. Neighborhood pride was at the center of the team’s search for musicians as well. “We wanted to prioritize diversity and Dorchester connections.”

Kera Washington, bands coordinator for Dorchfest and music teacher at Mather Elementary School, says another top priority of the organizing team was paying the musicians. Payment is not typical for the Porchfest structure, which is usually done on a volunteer basis. The Jamaica Plain Porchfest began paying musicians for the first time last year. Payment is not only fair compensation for the work provided, but also an important sign of respect for neighborhood talent.

“As an African-American woman who lives in this neighborhood one or two blocks away from Ashmont, which seems to be a big dividing line in terms of demographics in this part of Dorchester, it was really important to me and all of us that we reflect the diversity of Dorchester,” says Washington. “We wanted to make sure we reached out to folks of color, Black and brown folks of Boston, and did everything we could to encourage them to be a part.”

Due to this careful curation, the Dorchfest lineup features a broad range of musical genres, from rock and jazz to Haitian, Indian, Cape Verdean and Brazilian beats. An interactive map on the Dorchfest website illustrates where music will be playing and when. Besides the porches of individual houses, a few notable spots include the Adams Street Boston Public Library branch; All Saints Church, where Washington’s Mather Elementary students will lead a sing-along; and Peabody Square, where Keytar Bear will be jamming. The Dorchfest route will also serve as a neighborhood tour, showcasing the beautifully preserved Victorian architecture of homes in the area.

The Dorchfest team hopes, above all, to spread some joy to the community during a difficult time.

“Particularly with the news about the continued weight that Black and brown folk around this nation carry as we just go to the grocery store or try to go to school … it’s hard to continue to feel hopeful,” says Washington. “Music is one of the ways that I’m able to process many emotions and feel like there might be some hope.”