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Sounds of summer: Homewood’s Porch Fest puts an end to music drought

Homewood and Flossmoor residents have been gathering at Homewood’s Artisan Street Fair, Homewood Fall Fest and Flossmoor Fest for years. The three big warm-weather festivals have been filled from beginning to end with live music.

Sadly, these events were canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Residents grew tired of being cooped up during the spring lockdown and were still eager for a bit of summer celebration.

They had few prospects — until Porch Fest came along. The festival on Aug. 8 was staged on home porches (and one garage driveway). It seemed to provide enough of a festival fix to help residents get through.

M.G. Bailey introduces a Jethro Tull song during his Porch Fest performance. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

The festival, hosted by six central Homewood families, was organized by a handful of volunteers.

While local musicians performed on porches that Saturday, residents gathered on lawns under favorable festival conditions, with sunny skies and temperatures in the vicinity of 80 degrees.

Kids took the opportunity to frolic, throw Frisbees and turn cartwheels.

Organizers Anne Bailey and Annie Lawrence planned for a walkable route through an area of Homewood, but some decided getting from one porch-stage to the next was easier by car or by bike.

“I think it’s a success even though it just started. What a way to do it in a time like this: keeping distant, safe and doing a little entertainment,” Doug Rafferty said as Kirk Lindstrom played one of the early sets at 1459 Olive Road. “It’s a great way to bring the community together since we haven’t been able to be together. This is a nice cap to our summer.”

Lauren Roman, who hosted a performance by Tai Taylor and The Alley Katz, said the crowd was bigger than she expected but she was pleased to see people complying with pandemic safety measures.

“One industry that was really hurt in this was the music industry. I was excited they found a way to make the event safe and we were able to support some musicians,” she said.

Another host, Brooke King LaBreck, also was gratified by the crowd’s adherence to safety recommendations and thanked Bailey for helping by providing hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and paper towels.

“What an amazing afternoon! It did the heart so good to hear live music again,” LaBreck said. “We had an amazing turnout for M.G. Bailey and everyone was super respectful, masked and distanced, and all around just so happy to be there.”

M.G. Bailey, Anne’s brother, included in his one-man-band show a tribute to his father, the late Robert Bailey.

“This whole thing was dedicated to my dad,” he told his audience. “He was a huge Jethro Tull fan and I just feel obliged to play a little Jethro Tull for him.”

Bailey played one of the band’s most popular songs, “Locomotive Breath,” recorded in 1971, which he said was one of his dad’s favorites.

Bailey thanked the crowd, which spread along LaBreck’s lawn and across the street.

“I really appreciate everyone braving it up and coming out,” he said. “You’re showing support for me, which is amazing, but I really feel you’re showing support to the community for being here, and showing support to each other in these super trying, super crazy wild times.”

Anne Bailey said when the pandemic hit she wasn’t sure Porch Fest would be possible, but after the music celebration she was very pleased with how it went.

The porch at 1459 Olive Road was big enough to accommodate the nine members of TiMELeSS. About 100 people sat in the wide open front yard to enjoy the sounds for about 40 minutes and gave enough applause to get the band to do an encore. Their rendition of “Sweet Home Chicago” was the perfect ending to a great event.

“Homewood residents and all who attended the fest were so amazing. I knew we were good, but not that good,” Bailey said. “Everyone was so kind and respectful. I can’t believe how lucky we are. My Dad would have loved it so much! Thank you Homewood-Flossmoor, thank you bands, thank you hosts, and thank you to everyone who helped to make it happen.”

Bailey said organizers plan to make Porch Fest an annual event and hope to feature a different section of town each year.

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