Ed Balloon
Ed Balloon

Chris Porter grew up in Lowell, graduated from Lowell High School in 1983, then went off to chase his musical dreams. That journey took him across the country, starting in Boston, where he worked for a couple local rock clubs at the time, all the way to Seattle, where he helped put together and promote Bumbershoot, an annual Labor Day weekend festival that has become, in its 47-year existence, one of the largest music and arts festivals in North America.

As he was making his name in festival circles, Porter would visit his parents back in Belvidere. When they died, he inherited the house and used it as a "home base."

Caitlin Canty
Caitlin Canty

And a funny thing happened. The more he stayed in Lowell, the more he realized that he liked what he was seeing in the city's rebirth and resurgence as an artists' community. He heard the city was trying to push economic development and trying to bring more people from out of the city into the downtown.

An idea started itching at the back of his mind. Why not combine his love of music festivals with his rekindled love for his hometown? And the Town & City Music Festival was born. The first -- hopefully of many -- is set for Friday, Oct. 19, and Saturday, Oct. 20l.


Advertisement

Chris Freeman
Chris Freeman

Unlike most music festivals -- think Lollapalooza and the Download Festival -- at which bands rotate off a main stage and a smaller stage or two, the Town & City will feature about 50 acts playing at 10 different downtown hot spots.

Porter said he got the idea to host a walkabout festival from other similar types he has helped to promote.

Ill Supreme
Ill Supreme

"The granddaddy is South by Southwest in Austin," he said. "That just blew up, and it's a festival where you walk around to different venues. And I thought, 'Why not Lowell?' I mean, you have access to Boston, three highways, the commuter rail. It's kind of centralized in New England. New Hampshire is right there. It could be a very attractive place for something like this.

"There's a lot of great talent in New England," he added, "and I thought it'd be great if there was a festival to feature those artists, and it'd be extra great if it could happen in Lowell.

Scarlett Sabet
Scarlett Sabet

"Lowell is a very walkable town. There are a lot of venues that could host a lot of different performers."

Once the idea of the festival planted itself, Porter had to figure out when to have it. He didn't want it too soon before or after the Lowell Folk Festival or the Summer Music Series at Boarding House Park.

Then, the idea of tying it in to Jack Kerouac struck. The group Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! observes the Lowell-born Beat Generation author's birthday every October with a series of events.

Luna Collective featuring Cara Campanelli
Luna Collective featuring Cara Campanelli

Seeing that Okemah, Okla., honors a hometown hero every July with the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, Porter figured tying a festival in to Kerouac would be perfect for Lowell. (The Town & City Festival is not officially linked to Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!, but Porter said the group has been helpful in the planning. You also need not be a Kerouac fan to enjoy the festival.)

"It struck me," Porter said, "that these artists were big and Woody meant so much to a lot of them. I'd like to think Jack was an inspiration to some artists, so why not make it more of a celebration of Lowell and music and arts, and name it after Jack's first novel, 'The Town and the City,' which is based largely on Lowell?"

The results of the planning will be evident on Oct. 19 and 20, when a lineup of eclectic performers -- from rock to rap, from well-established to up-and-coming, from Lowell to England -- all come to the downtown to play, and to walk the streets hoping to catch some other acts

Porter can't wait.

"I really believe in this city," he said. "I'm hoping it becomes a staple among the other staples in the city, like the Folk Festival and the Summer Concert Series."

What Local Artists Are Saying About The Town & The City Festival

Will Dailey

The Andover native has made quite a name for himself in the past decade, with his music being played on many Boston stations and some across the country. A self-avowed fan of Jack Kerouac, he said he jumped at the chance to play the festival.

"This festival has the potential to be something really special and unique," Dailey said. "Every different location has music all day and all night. You have to make a choice on what you want to see and where you want to hit."

Dailey is a festival regular across the country, having played Farm Aid with Willie Nelson and Neil Young as well as the Festival at the Farm in Canton. He's hoping to be able to catch Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses, Wreckless Eric and "my friends," Kingsley Flood.

Gary Hoey

The guitar-shredding, heavy-metal Lowell native, born and raised on 18th Street, is pumped for the Town & City.

"I knew Chris -- I used to do some of his gigs in Seattle," Hoey said of Porter. "Then I found out he was from Lowell, and that obviously gave us a bond. When he came back home, we ran into each other again, and he told me he was working on this idea for a really cool festival for Lowell. He reached out about it, and I said I'd be happy to be involved.

"I think it's a win-win for everybody. The musicians get to play in front of a new audience, and I also think it helps to bring lot of people to Lowell who may not think of Lowell as a live-music venue."

Hoey is playing The Zorba Room at the Olympia restaurant, which suits him fine. "I'm trying to work it out with the promoters that I get paid in Greek food," he said with a laugh.

He said he has checked out many of the acts that are playing the Town & City on YouTube, and he is impressed by the talent.

Evan Goodrow

The singer-songwriter/ guitar maestro lived in Lowell for a few years but moved closer to Boston a few years back. He and his band were regulars at The Back Page in Lowell before that live-music venue closed.

"Somebody introduced me to Chris Porter," Goodrow said. "Then I found out he has roots in Lowell, so we met for coffee and he told me about this festival. It sounded great. ... It's not the normal thing where you herd everybody in front a stage and you're spoonfed the bands."

He said he knows about three-quarters of the acts playing Town & City, "and they're all great. The only tragedy is that I can't get to see all of them at the same time. I'll play it by ear and see who's playing when I have time off."

The Acts

Abbie Barrett: Rock. Best Songwriter, Boston Music Awards, 2015; semifinalist in the Rock 'n' Roll Rumble held at ONCE in Somerville, 2016. Likened to Neko Case, Lana Del Rey, Cat Power and Fiona Apple. Listen to: "That Shame"

Ali McGuirk: Soul, R&B, Nominated for Best New Artist in Boston Music Awards, 2017; first album," Slow Burn," released in November 2017. Made Herald's Best Music of 2017 list. Likened to Marvin Gaye, Sade, Norah Jones, Ledisi. Listen to "I Can't"

Analog Heart: Rock. Semifinalists in the Rock and Roll Rumble 2016. Band founder Scott Riebling was the original bass player for legendary '90s Boston band Letters to Cleo and has been involved on the production side with Weezer, Fall Out Boy and Tracy Bonham, among others. Listen to: "Not Good Enough"

Andrea Gibson: Poetry, spoken word. Maine native. Four-time Denver Grand Slam champion; fourth at National Poetry Slam, 2004; third at Individual World Poetry Slam, 2006 and 2007. First poet to win the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Has written four books and released seven albums. Listen to "First Love"

Anjimile: Singer-songwriter from Texas, now based in Boston. Earned a spot on the WERS Wicked Good Festival in August. Listen to "Golden Hands"

Arlen: Alt-rock. Lowell-based quartet. Likened to Joy Division, Fugazi, The National, Jeff Buckley. Listen to "Forgive Me"

Bat House: Psychedelic rock. Boston-based quartet. Released EP "Stop Dying" in September. Listen to: "Alright, Spaceboy"

Billy Wylder: Americana. A project of Boston-based Avi Salloway of Avi & Celia and Hey Mama, featuring Salloway and a rotating cast. Listen to: "Great Blue Heron"

Bongwish: Psychedelic folk. A project of Boston-based Mariam Saleh. Listen to: "My Luv"

Caitlin Canty: Alt-country. Vermont native with a "casually devastating voice," according to the San Francisco Chronicle; named one of Rolling Stone's "Ten Country Artists You Need to Know." Listen to: "Get Up"

Chris Freeman: Folk-rock. Multi-instrumentalist from the Massachusetts-based band Parsonsfield. Listen to: "Weeds or Wild Flowers"

Chris Trapper: Rock. Original member of the popular '90s Boston band The Push Stars, who put out a new album earlier this year. Trapper has released nine solo albums and an EP. Listen to: "Any Little Town" by The Push Stars

Daisy Bones: Indie rock. Locally based quartet. Listen to: "Choke"

Damon & Naomi: Dream pop/indie folk. Boston-based duo that sprung from the '80s trio Galaxie 500 that has released 10 albums in the past 25 years. Listen to: "Within These Walls"

DJ Myth: Dance/electronic. Chicago-based. Listen to "Fading Angels"

Dan and the Wildfire: Folk. Boston-based quartet. Listen to: "Nothin' but Love"

D-Tension with DJ Emoh Betta: Rap/hip hop. Lowell-based D-Tension has been involved in music for more than 20 years as a radio DJ, promoter and rapper. His last album, "The Violence of Zen," was released last year with Lawrence native DJ Emoh Betta. Listen to: "Fresh"

Ed Balloon: R&B. Boston-born singer. Nominated for 2018 Boston Music Awards in Live Artist of the Year, Dance/Electronica Artist of the Year and R&B Artist of the Year. Listen to: "Graduate"

Ed "Moose" Savage: Rock (one reviewer called it "Mardi garage"). Worcester-based kazoo wizard who fronted the bands Moose and the Mudbugs, Siamese Triplets, and Ed "Moose" Savage and his Litany of Complaints in the 1980s and '90s. Listen to: "I Got Records"

Edo G: Boston born hip-hop artist. Also goes by Ed O.G. His 1991 album, "Life of a Kid in the Ghetto," hit No. 166 on the Billboard 200, and three songs from it hit the rap and R&B charts. Listen to: "I Got to Have It"

Evan Goodrow Band: Rock/soul/blues guitarist and singer-songwriter. Boston-based; popular in Lowell, where he lived for several years and played regularly at The Back Page. Released his 13th album," Burn," in 2017. Listen to "Let's Burn Everything"

EXP: Rap. Massachusetts-based. Listen to "We Outta Here"

Frank Morey: Blues. Lowell-born singer-songwriter active since late 1990s. Listen to: "Let It Roll"

Gary Hoey: Rock. Lowell-born guitar maestro who has released 21 albums; has toured and played with Brian May, Ted Nugent, Joe Satriani, Kenny Wayne Shepard, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, Peter Frampton, Rick Derringer and Lita Ford; featured on VH1 Classic's Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp along with Michael Anthony, Ace Frehley and Dave Mason. Listen to: "Hocus Pocus"

Horse Mode: Rock. Lowell/Billerica quartet. Listen to: "Meathooks"

Idle Pilot: Post-punk. Lowell-based trio with a new album out, "Animals & People." Listen to: "Mr. Skinny Bones"

Ill Supreme: Rap. Massachusetts-based trio. Listen to: "Sick Boy"

Janaka Stucky: Boston-based poet, founding editor of Black Ocean, co-founder of The Guerilla Poets and Black Cat Burlesque, known as the "King of Horror Burlesque." Listen to: "Recreating a Miraculous Object"

Jireh Calo: Jazz and soul. Philippines born, Boston-based Jireh Calo is a singer, composer, arranger, producer and music educator. Listen to: "Stay"

Kingsley Flood: Rock. Boston-based six-piece has played the main stage at Newport Folk Festival and has opened for Josh Ritter, Grace Potter, Lucius, Longhorne Slim, George Thorogood & The Destroyers (at Boarding House Park in 2012). Listen to: "Waiting on the River to Rise"

Kristin Hersh: Alt-rock singer-songwriter. Co-founder of the popular Boston '80s band Throwing Muses, began her solo career, releasing 11 albums, and has written a memoir, "Rat Girl," that Rolling Stone placed eighth in its "25 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time." Listen to: "In Shock"

Luna Collective featuring Cara Campanelli: Jazz. The Luna Collective plays regularly at Mill No. 5. They'll be joined by singer Cara Campanelli. Listen to: "Blues on My Mind"

Melvern Taylor: Folk. Lowell-based singer-songwrite/ukulele maestro fronts his band, the Fabulous Meltones. Listen to: "Jet Black Chevy Chevette"

Oldsoul: Alt-rock. Lowell-based quartet. Listen to: "I Fell Asleep to Twin Peaks"

Phil Cambra and the Space Cadets: Indie rock. Lowell-based quartet. Listen to: "Fixation"

PNDB: Punk. Lowell-based band. Listen to: "PNDB"

Ryan Lee Crosby Trio: Blues. Boston-based; named Best Singer/Songwriter 2006 by Boston Phoenix/WFNX Radio Music Poll. Listen to: "Going Down South"

Scarlett Sabet: Poetry. London-based poet and performer who has read and performed her poetry throughout the world. (Editor's note: Sabet, a big Jack Kerouac fan, brought her boyfriend, Jimmy Page -- yes, that Jimmy Page -- to Lowell a few years back to visit Kerouac's grave. Just sayin' ...) Listen to: "Elegy"

Scott Pittman: Rock. Lowell-based singer-songwriter and co-founder of the legendary band, The Shods, and a member of another band playing Town & City called Sugar Blood Jinx; recently released a 94-track, retrospective box set of his 30-year career. Listen to: "There's A Lot to Like About Lowell

Sechion: Hip hop. Lowell-based rapper known for his live performances. Listen to: "One of One"

Sugar Blood Jinx: Country rock. Trio featuring Lowell's Scott Pittman on drums with Eric Waxwood and Matt Murphy. Listen to "Hardcore Boogie"

Surprise Party: Rock. Lowell-based trio. Listen to: "Surf Cops"

The Droimlins: Celtic punk. Lowell-based. Listen to: "The Fall of Michael Donelan"

The Natty D's: Rock. Billerica-based. Listen to: "Manifest Destiny"

The Party Band: New Orleans jazz; comprising undergrads, grad students and alumni of UMass Lowell, The Party Band is well-known on the city's music scene, playing Lowell Folk Festival and the Summer Music Series, and sometimes just takin' it to the streets of downtown. Listen to: "Marty (We Like to Party)"

The Shirts and Shoes: Rock. Lowell-based quartet. Listen to: "War Elefant"

Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys: Goth rock. Boston-based band; named an Act to Follow by Improper Bostonian, semifinalist in the Rock 'n' Roll Rumble, won Live Artist of the Year in Best of Boston Music, Boston's Best Artist by the Boston Phoenix Reader's Poll. Listen to: "Come Black Magic"

Will Dailey: Roots rock. Andover native who, in his 15 years as a professional musician, has won seven Boston Music Awards, including Best Male Singer-Songwriter (3 times), Album of the Year (once), Artist of the Year (once) and Male Vocalist of the Year (twice). Also won the New England Music Award for Album of the Year in 2015; he is part of the musical project "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County" with John Mellencamp and Stephen King. Listen to: "Sunken Ship"

Wreckless Eric: Rock/new wave. English new-wave singer who has been active since 1974; one of the original artists on the Stiff Records label, along with Elvie Costello, Nick Lowe and Ian Dury; if you've heard Cage the Elephant's version of "Whole Wide World," then you know at least one of Wreckless Eric's songs; it has also been covered by the likes of Paul Westerberg, The Proclaimers and The Monkees. Listen to: "Whole Wide World"

D-Tension

Lowell s official rapper is curating ( That s what the kids call it these days, he said) the rap and hip-hop portion of the Town & City at The Old Court on Friday night, and he s proud to be bringing Edo G to the city. He might be the only artist on the festival lineup that actually had a Billboard hit. ( Life of a Kid in the Ghetto reached No. 166 in 1991, No. 73 on the R&B list.)

D-Tension, who has done his fair share of concert promoting and was a DJ at the seminal Boston rock station WFNX, said Lowell is the perfect city to do something like this. There are a of passionate music fans here, and the downtown is built for this type of thing.

He added, If this festival goes well, it could become an annual event. There s no reason it couldn t become one of those things, like the Folk Festival you know, Oh, it s October. The Town & City must be coming up. I gotta head to Lowell.

D-Tension is excited to see fellow Lowellians Gary Hoey and Melvern Taylor, among others.

Kristin Hersh she has legend status in Boston rock. Kingsley Flood are so great it s so cool they re coming to downtown Lowell. I hope people come out. There are so many great artists that wouldn t typically play Lowell.