The “Midday Performances” series for the 19-20 academic year has finally begun after a summer of anticipation.
Boston-based folk act, the Porch Party Mamas, performed a medley of songs from their self-titled debut album and songs from their second outing, “The Life I Own.” The performance also included cover songs and selections from unreleased album music to a crowd of 42 people in the Forum Sept. 23.
Members of the band included Felicia Brady-Lopez (vocals, accordion, guitar, and bass), Jane Grondin (vocals, violin, and guitar), Ksenia Mack (vocals, guitar, and the glockenspiel), Katrin Peterson (vocals and percussion), and Kelly Riley (vocals, guitar, and bass).
However, for this performance, Riley was covered by Liz Cook, who has been with the band for the past year.
Their introductory song, “This Would Be the Thing,” was a tune that deals with the rapid-fire scenarios falling in love entails. Through performing it, the group showcased their harmonizing skills, accompanied by Peterson’s skillful percussive techniques.
As the band tuned up and switched instruments, they bantered with the audience and transitioned into the powerful melodies of “Moscow to Moses.”
The track, which began with a violin solo from Grondin, eventually exploded into a symphony of percussion from Peterson, as well as involvement from the rest of the band, giving the audience some mid-tempo, country vibes.
“Life I Own,” a Grondin-written piece, is a song that takes influence from Parisian music and made great emphasis on Grondin’s violin play, complete with the act of pizzicato – fingerpicking – to make it truly her own. Brady-Lopez’s accordion added to the immersion of the scene they tried to set upon the audience.
“I wrote this a few years back,” Grondin said. “I was approaching a monumental birthday – my sixth decade coming up on this world. … It was a time of reflection for me and it’s relevant to, really, everyone.”
However, after that reclamatory tune, the Mamas went into a slow, sad, yet recollective song called “Still, Within” – a song dedicated to “those that we have loved deeply and have lost,” according to Grondin’s preface.
Throughout it, Peterson uses a rather unique instrument, the udu, a drum of African origin with two holes on its side, presented in the form of a clay pot.
The udu contributed the low tones and percussive aspects of the melody, whereas everything else came in the form of acoustic guitar techniques, complete with a solo from Grondin and Mack.
Two tracks later, the Mamas performed their own version of Neil Young’s 1974 song, “Love Is a Rose,” taking inspiration from Linda Ronstadt’s 1977 cover.
However, the 10th song was the crowd favorite – a cover of Arlo Guthrie’s 1969 hit, “Coming Into Los Angeles.”
The Mamas went all out on this track, after a history lesson from Grondin, making use of quick acoustic guitar strumming techniques, Peterson’s bongo proficiency, Mack’s soulful singing, and a fair bit of call-and-response between Peterson and the band.
Midway through, Mack and Peterson played their hearts out with solos, with Mack shredding away on the acoustic guitar and Peterson slapping furiously on the bongos, showing off for the audience as she used her elbow to buffer out any loud noises from the percussion instrument as she played with one hand.
Before the crowd and the Mamas parted ways, they performed a funky jaunt in the form of “I Can’t Get Through,” a tale of unrequited love and great frustration, with Brady-Lopez performing vocals and skillfully playing the accordion during the chorus sections.
You can learn more about the Porch Party Mamas at porchpartymamas.com.
The next Midday Performance will feature the Four Corners Nov. 4, with a workshop at 1:30 p.m. and a performance at 4:30 p.m.