“Two minutes to show time,” Kasey Rausch shouted to her band mates still inside the bungalow behind her. A crowd was gathering on the lawn at 4706 Fairmount St.
Rausch and band mates Scott Stanton and Grady Keller, who performed as the Buttermilk Boys, introduced themselves with little fanfare. They strummed and plucked their way into both a cover of “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” and a historical moment:
The first PorchFestKC was underway.
The band was one of about 70 acts scattered across porches in the West Plaza neighborhood Saturday afternoon. The Buttermilk Boys were one of a few folk ambassadors at the music festival, but right down the road an audience had gathered before the porch of 4632 Fairmount St. to hear traditional Mexican ballads from Maria The Mexican.
A few blocks over, Summer Osborne was on a porch doing a one-woman-and-guitar act with the musical sound of Michelle Branch and the vocal delivery in the style of Lauryn Hill edging toward Adele.
Osborne, with her encompassing, soulful voice and cheeky banter between sets, is pretty much made for intimate settings like PorchFestKC.
“Most people can’t tell I’m lesbian; they usually think, ‘dude,’” Osborne said sporting a buzz cut. “Then they hear me talk and think, ‘That dude’s gay.’
“What they don’t know is that I’m actually a straight black man trapped inside of a gay white woman’s body,” she said, tuning her guitar unnoticed over the laughs.
Hardly anyone seemed to notice she was stalling while replacing a string that had broken during her performance.
While delivering a live performance has it pitfalls, the number of things that can go wrong when you put musicians in an unusual venue — say, a porch — grows exponentially, said Mikal Shapiro, one of the PorchFestKC hosts.
“You’re basically it out here. You’re running your own sound, your own show,” Shapiro said, speaking from experience as a musician.
Nevertheless, when the PorchFestKC organizers put out a call for porches, “I was like, ‘Oh, oh, me, me, me,’” Shapiro said on tiptoes raising her hand.
In between sets at Shapiro’s house, lines between audience and entertainment got blurred. Shapiro and some of the festival’s musicians sat circled on her front lawn with a couple guitars, some chords and a song to sing.
The moment had a very romantic, DIY feel, none of which was lost when Shapiro and Rausch dropped a line in a song narrating a breakup.
But was the narrator of the song leaving Monday or Tuesday? The women kept harmonizing even when they realized they’d sung different days.
Laughing, the ad hoc group ended the tune to the applause of passersby.
Kathryn Golden, PorchFestKC's primary organizer, said she chose the West Plaza neighborhood for a couple reasons.
First, she lives there.
Second, she needed an area that lent itself to the event’s festival-style action. Kansas City on the whole is not very walkable, Golden explained, but the area that hosted PorchFestKC is a noteworthy exception. Other selling points were the mature, shady trees and compact lawns with porches against the street.
After the thousands came and left the West Plaza neighborhood Saturday, Golden said, she’s been in contact with representatives from the Brookside neighborhood and downtown Liberty wanting to do something similar in their areas.
“And I would love to, but I'd need to secure more help and funding,” Golden said, adding she’s confident the support is out there for subsequent events.