03/23/2015 11:02 EDT | Updated 05/23/2015 05:59 EDT

Porchfest NDG transforms neighbourhood's front porches into stages

Aurora Robinson moved back to Montreal recently after several years in the Boston area with memories of local musicians playing on their front porch and families strolling the streets at the local Porchfest.

“I lived in Somerville, Massachusetts for a number of years after I graduated from Concordia," she said. 

"It kind of is to Boston what NDG is to Montreal, and they had one there. I thought it was fantastic! Laid-back, not commercial at all, not over-crowded and messy. Just fun and easygoing, and a great way to feel like you're a real part of your neighbourhood.”

Robinson decided she wanted to set up an NDG version of that event.

“When I moved back to NDG, it just occurred to me that this would be the perfect place to hold a Porchfest. I take a lot of walks in the 'hood. There are so many nice, tree-lines streets and so many balconies and porches. Lots of musicians live around here. It just felt right.”

So she’s been posting flyers and putting the word out to invite local musicians to sign up.

Robinson thought perhaps she’d get 20 bands for the first event, set to take place May 2.  

Now, just a week after she put out her Facebook notice and started putting flyers in local venues, she’s already got half a dozen bands eager to take part.

“It’s a bit overwhelming really," she said. "I didn’t expect such a fast and enthusiastic response”.

Mike Clay from Clay and Friends plans to perform from a porch on Old Orchard Avenue, where one of his band members lives.

“I think it’s a great idea— having people from the neighbourhood realize there are musicians there," he said.

"It’s great to get out of the house and see what the neighbours are up to.”

A small idea that spread

The Porchfest concept was born in 2007 in Ithaca, N.Y. while Lesley Greene was playing the ukulele on her front porch with her husband.

“A neighbour came by and said how nice it is to hear music outside," she said 

Greene says the first Porchfest attracted 20 bands. Last year, 161 bands signed up.

“There’s no way to really count the people, but thousands show up," she said.

"It’s a really fun, easygoing, social afternoon that people love.”

That Porchfest has spawned several other events in the U.S., and one Canadian Porchfest in Belleville, Ont.  

PorchfestNDG will be the first one in Quebec.

Musicians have until April 6 to sign up by going to the Porchfest/Balconfête website.