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Princeton Porchfest set for Saturday, rain or shine

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Get excited music fans, Princeton Porchfest is set for Saturday, rain or shine, according to organizers.

For those who attended the first year will not only get to hear returning performers, but new ones as well from the porches across properties that include Palmer Square, the Arts Council, Maclean House and Birch Avenue as the Arts Council of Princeton’s Porchfest returns from noon to 6 p.m. April 29.

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“I love seeing friends and strangers get a smile on their face, take a moment away from their troubles, dance if they want to and be transported by music,” said Ed Hynes, co-founder of Gravity Hill Band. “I just love what music does for people and how we are all one thing when we play music.”

For Gravity Hill Band, this will be the group’s first performance at Porchfest, but not its first as a band, which formed more than a decade ago. Formed by founding members – Hynes, Rob Moreno and Rob Burt – after an open mic night at Princeton’s Alchemist & Barrister restaurant, the band continues to perform shows.

Burt, the band’s bassist, has since retired, but Hynes, who plays rhythm guitar, and Moreno, who also plays guitar, have been joined by bassist Dave Padulo and drummer Jim Linnehan for the Gravity Hill Band that plays today.

“We all love music, tend to gravitate to similar genres, even artists, some of them obscure. It is such a pleasure to play with these guys,” Hynes said.

He describes their music vibe as a concoction of classic and alternative rock music.

“We draw our inspiration from wherever we find this combination of fun, smart, and danceable or at least energetic music,” Hynes said. “Our originals tend to be drawn from the same reference points and feel of the cover music we do.”

Gravity Hill performs covers of musicians and bands that they admire include Bob Dylan, The Cure, The Velvet Underground, Johnny Cash and Little Bruce. The band also has been creating its own original music, which will be heard at Porchfest.

“You will see at Porchfest, we will take five original songs and 10 covers, and we will blend the two. With any luck you won’t know the difference,” Hynes said.

Gravity Hill’s original music that will be performed is going to be new for most people, as the band builds a puzzle when putting together its set list.

The band has linked its work with great causes over the years, and for Porchfest, it will be no different.

“We view this as a great way to bring awareness to a great cause – the cause of art – and the way it changes lives in Princeton. We are going to set up at 10:30 a.m. and support all of the other artists,” Hynes said.

Gravity Hill will be playing at 4 p.m. on the porch at 19 Linden Lane during Porchfest.

One of the returning artists to Porchfest is Vinny Conte known as “Mimosa Watusi.”

Conte, 36, is a music creator from Hamilton, who has been producing people’s music plus his own since he was 18.

“I really enjoy the production side of music, so everything produced on the computer with digital synthesizers, and I also incorporate live instruments piece by piece until I have a whole song,” he said.

Conte started singing his own music a few years.

“I always did just production for other people and finally had the courage to sing on my own,” he said.

A confidence boost came from learning a whole bunch of production tips when he worked for a music school in New York called 343 Labs – Music Production School.

“I feel like that brought a lot of confidence with it and [I] learned in ways how to mask my own voice in a way,” he said. “I always thought I had a bad voice and that kind of helped me [overcome the thought]

“I started singing because a lot of my music that did not have lyrics was not accessible to everybody. People want lyrics in music, and I was always doing music with instrumentals without lyrics, so I wanted to explore music that had lyrics and explore If I could do it and create a challenge.”

Along with the Princeton Porchfest, Conte has played shows in New York City and Lambertville’s Porchfest.

“The Porchfest is great, because it is the atmosphere where everyone is friendly and open to anything. It is a very welcoming atmosphere, and I can do anything, and it is not intimidating,” Conte added.

For the Princeton Porchfest this year, Conte will play a set of songs that he has out on Spotify and other streaming platforms and new music that he does not have out yet.

He noted that it is hard to put the music he creates into any kind of genre but said his music falls into an “Indie Dance or Indie Alternative” category.

Signing up for the Porchfest allowed Conte to challenge himself in 2022 and now again in 2023. Something he admitted, he was not ready for the first year.

“When I signed up for Porchfest last year, I did it on a whim and did not expect to be selected,” he said. “Once I got approved, I was like I have to do it now. I like to put myself in positions that present a challenge. Being vulnerable and living up to the expectation.”

Conte said he looks forward to seeing energy in the crowd at the 2023 Porchfest.

“That is really everything. Just excitement or people dancing or smiling or enjoying it, that is really fun [to see],” he said. “Also, if they are confused that is a win too.”

Conte goes by Mimosa Watusi when he performs and there is no specific explanation for the name.

“I think it is a little mysterious and mischievous. I leave it up to the audience to determine what it means,” Conte said.

Mimosa Watusi is performing at 2 p.m. on the porch of 254 Witherspoon St.

The Arts Council selected 18 porches out of more than 40 applicants who applied for the 2023 Porchfest in Princeton. And some 108 bands that had applied to perform were whittled down to just more than 80 bands.

Performances will occur at the Arts Council on 102 Witherspoon St., Maclean House at Princeton University, 10 Palmer Square, 120 John St., 225 Birch Ave., 77 Leigh Ave., 254 Witherspoon St., 150 Jefferson Road, 178 Moore St., 17 Jefferson Rd., 71 Wiggins St., 11 Willow St., 19 Chestnut St., 45 Linden Lane, 19 Linden Lane, 30 Murray Place, 51 Aiken Ave., and 49 Markham Rd.

Performances will run from noon to 5 p.m. and the last performers of the day are playing music at the Arts Council from 5-6 p.m.

The Arts Council will start the last performances at 5:15 p.m. to allow people to get to the organization’s location on Witherspoon Street from the other porches for one last final show.

At each of the 18 porches, the bands each will have a 45-minute set with a 15-minute break between sets.

Before the start of Porchfest, the Arts Council launched its interactive map on the organization’s website www.artscouncilofprinceton.org to help those attending navigate each porch location and find what band/musician is performing at each location.

Through the interactive map, people are able to see what time the bands/musicians are set to perform their sets, where the porch locations are in proximity to others, and also know where to find food and beverage sponsors for Porchfest.

The map can be found on the Arts Council website www.artscouncilofprinceton.org and directly at https://artscouncilofprinceton.org/porchfest-map/. 

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