Lowell’s own Lollapalooza is back

Town & City Festival returns Oct. 18-19

Lowell native and concert promoter Chris Porter brings his Town and City Festival back to downtown Lowell this weekend.

Chris Porter knows how to throw a festival. He is involved with Bumbershoot, a Labor Day weekend festival in Seattle and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco, to name just a couple.

Last year, Porter, who grew up in the Belvidere section of Lowell, decided to put his connections and festival prowess to work in his hometown, creating The Town & City Festival last October.

The festival included 50 artists — musical and spoken-word — across 10 venues in downtown Lowell over two nights. The festival was small, as Porter knew it would be, but he was buoyed by the interest of the performers and those who came to hear them, all of whom agreed the festival had potential.

This Friday and Saturday, Oct. 18 and 19, the second annual Town & City Festival will be held, with about 60 artists performing at 10 venues over the two nights.

And though the Town & City isn’t exactly South by Southwest, it’s a labor of love for Porter.

Porter, 54, recently spoke about the Town & City while he was putting the finishing touches on Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, which was held Oct. 4-6.

“I have an enormous team working on that,” Porter said of the California festival, “so the irony is that although the Town & City is a much smaller event, it’s my baby so I end up working on that much more than other festivals.”

Porter’s dream has been to create a festival in Lowell that could complement other musical events in the city, including most notably the Lowell Folk Festival in July and the Lowell Summer Music Series, which brings national and international acts to Boarding House Park in downtown Lowell.

“I definitely wanted to up the ante this year,” Porter said. “Last year was kind of a test to see what would work and what doesn’t work. I think we established ourselves pretty well last year and caught the attention of other performers and booking agents and industry people who seemed to be a lot more welcoming this year to try to procure talent.

“Last year, I had to pitch myself. This year, there was a lot more pitching to me.”

Porter hopes the festival grows each year and that folks from Lowell and surrounding communities embrace local musicians (some of whom are popular nationally, i.e., Buffalo Tom, Bob Schneider and Sarah Borges).

“I’m really touched that there was great feedback from patrons, performers and all the venues,” he said. “It’s an investment. From a financial standpoint, I hope to see a little growth every year. As far as the encouragement we got, we received a lot of positive vibes.

“There’s a lot of great energy surrounding it. It feels like a unique thing for the region, and while I’m happy to have touring acts like Bob Schneider, I’m psyched to be able to focus on regional talent. There really aren’t many, if any, festivals in the region that book a lot of local talent.”

Porter named the festival after a book by Jack Kerouac, and the festival is being held just as the annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! closes out its annual commemoration of the Beat Generation author.

Here’s a closer look at four of the acts.

Lowell on Buffalo Tom’s radar … again?

Buffalo Tom

Bill Janovitz isn’t sure if the band he fronts, Buffalo Tom, has ever played Lowell. Give him a break, though. They’ve been around for three decades — and the band members all met at UMass Amherst, so there’s that.

“I feel like we must have played UMass Lowell back when we were playing every college in driving distance and beyond,” Janovitz said, but he’s still not sure.

Whether they did or not, Buffalo Tom will play Lowell on Saturday night — The Zorba Room at the Olympia, to be exact — as they headline the Town & City Festival.

Janovitz is from New York (we’ll forgive him), but Buffalo Tom is a Boston band through and through, coming to prominence in the ’90s scene when WBCN and WFNX ruled the airwaves. (They opened for Soundgarden at one point.)

He jumped at the chance when Town & City promoter Chris Porter called him up and asked if he wanted to play hist festival.

“I’ve known Chis a long time. He asked if I wanted be part of the festival and I jumped at it.”

Buffalo Tom had been out of the limelight for a few years after, as Janovitz put it, “we rode the tour-record-tour-record-tour merry-go-round for 10 years solid years from ’89 to ’99.”

”Then a bunch of things conspired,” he added. “The music industry changed. We kind of rode that pre- and post-Nirvana wave. But it seemed like a natural point to get off the cycle for a while.”

They never broke up, but weddings and children happened, and soon Janovitz, who sings and plays guitar, and bandmates Chris Colbourn (bass) and Tom Maginnis (drums) — the Tom of Buffalo Tom, by the way — found themselves in a recording hiatus.

That ended in 2018 with the release of “Quiet and Peace.”

And even if Buffalo Tom never did play Lowell back in the day, Janovitz did see Neko Case at Boarding House Park for a Lowell Summer Music Series show in 2014.

“It’s a great city, and we’re looking forward to playing there,” he said.

It’s all rock ‘n’ roll to Sarah Borges

Sarah Borges

Ask Sarah Borges what genre she and her band, The Broken Singles, play and she’ll tell you, “Rock ’n’ roll.”

But in these days of pigeonholing bands into subgenres and subcategories within those subgenres, she’ll cop to falling under the Americana label.

“I like to say we play rock ’n’ roll, but, yeah, I guess we’re Americana,” Borges said. “That’s where we started, with more country leanings, and we still play those songs.”

Borges and the band just finished up a run of shows along the East Coast, from Virginia up to Rhode Island, and she was nursing a cold she picked up from her 8-year-old son during a recent conversation.

Don’t worry, she’s sure to be in fine voice for her show Saturday night at the Richard and Nancy Donahue Family Academic Arts Center at MCC.

Borges hails from Taunton and has built a name for herself, with Allmusic calling her 2009 effort “The Stars Are Out,” “material grounded in Americana even as it morphs from folk to rock and even soul.” Another publication described her music as “walking that fine line between punk and country.”See what she means about that pigeonholing thing?

Borges & The Broken Singles have covered artists from Tom Waits to Smokey Robinson to fellow Boston-based band The Lemonheads, and she said Friday’s show could include one or two of those sprinkled between the band’s originals, like “Do It for Free,” “Stop and Think It Over” and “House On a Hill.”

Genie Santiago coming home to ‘open more doors’

Genie Santiago

Music has been a part of Genie Santiago’s life since she was a small child.

“My father was a musician so it’s always been a part of my life,” she said. “My first memories are putting on performances in my living room for my family.”

Santiago, 29, spent five years living in Lowell after high school and can’t wait to come back to the city to perform in the Town & City Festival.

“Oh, my God, I still have so many friends in Lowell,” she said. “Hopefully, this will open more doors for me.”

Santiago started performing professionally several years ago, but her career started to really take off in 2017.

“I took all my savings and put it into my dream. I realized that if I really wanted something to happen for me, I had to do it full time.”

She specializes in R&B with hip-hop and, as she calls it, “a spiritual element.”

And almost exciting as performing at Town & City is that she gets to share the stage with Jazzmyn RED. “I am completely obsessed with her,” she said.

Genie Santiago plays Friday at UTEC.

Lowell High grad Marcela Cruz coming home to (re)mix it up

Marcela Cruz

Marcela Cruz singer-songwriter is from Lowell, graduated from Lowell High in 2008 and is excited about coming home to perform.

“I don’t get to perform that often in Lowell, so I’m always excited when get to perform in my hometown. I usually perform a lot closer to the Boston area. I’ve performed up and down the East Coast, but the majority is in and right around Boston.”

Cruz, 28, says her performances encompass R&B, pop, hip-hop, mostly originals, but she’s not afraid to mix in some covers.

“I like to create my own remixes for songs that are already out there,” she said, “so I might remix Cardi B music or Arianna Grande music. I like to mix it up.”

Cruz will be accompanied by a guitarist for her Town & City performance Friday at The Old Court.

Cross-genre Texan Bob Schneider headlines Friday

Bob Schneider

If you listen to The River 92.5 FM, you could not have missed the infectious song “40 Dogs (Like Romeo and Juliet).” The song came out in 2009 and is still a favorite among the jocks there. You should expect to hear it when Bob Schneider headlines the first night of The Town and City Festival on Friday in The Zorba Room at the Olympia Restaurant.

Schneider is somewhat of an anomaly among the artists playing this year’s festival, in that he hails from Austin, Texas, rather than being a locally based musician. But his pop and alt-country sound will fit right in.

Schneider has won a slew of Austin-based awards for everything from funk to Americana and back again, and his songs have appeared on many a soundtrack.

If you check out his show, don’t expect him to just stand there and sing. He likes to improvise and get the audience involved.

And here are the rest of the artists (go to thetownandthecityfestival.com for full schedule)

Ajda the Turkish QueenStyle: Singer-songwriterFrom: Boston via TexasListen to: “Bobby’s Car”:Website: ajdatheturkishqueen.com

And the KidsStyle: Alt-rockFrom: NorthamptonListen to: “No Way Sit Back”Website: andthekids.com

Ariel StrasserStyle: Singer-songwriterFrom: Boston via MinnesotaListen to: “Motivation”Website: arielstrasser.com

Arty $langStyle: ElectronicFrom: LowellListen to: “Taurus”Website: facebook.com/artyslang

Avanti Nagral

Avanti NagralStyle: Pop, hip-hopFrom: BostonListen to: “thank u (pls)”Website: avantinagral.com

BabydriverStyle: Indie rockFrom: BostonListen to: “Let All the Sun In”Website: babydriver.bandcamp.com

Bradley Copper Kettle and Friends

Bradley Copper Kettle and FriendsStyle: AmericanaFrom: Lowell (of course)Listen to: They play coversWebsite: bradleycopperkettleandfriends.com

Brooke AnnibaleStyle: Singer-songwriterFrom: PittsburghListen to: “Hold to the Light”Website: brookannibale.com

Carissa JohnsonStyle: RockFrom: BostonListen to: “So Far So Good”Website: carissajohnsonmusic.com

Carolina StoryStyle: AmericanaFrom: MemphisListen to: “Lay Your Head Down”Website: carolinastory.com

Circus TreesStyle: RockFrom: LowellListen to: “Despondent”Website: facebook.com/CircusTrees

Chris Brokaw & Thalia ZadekStyle: Alt-rockFrom: New YorkListen to: “Red Cities”Website: chrisbrokaw.com

Cold ChocolateStyle: AmericanaFrom: BostonListen to: “Gone”Website: coldchocolatemusic.com

Corner SoulStyle: RockFrom: LowellListen to: “Gimme Gimme”Website: facebook.com/CornerSoul

Darlingside

DarlingsideStyle: AmericanaFrom: BostonListen to: “Hold Your Head Up High”Website: darlingside.com

Dori FreemanStyle: AmericanaFrom: VirginiaListen to: “All I Ever Wanted”Website: dorifreeman.com

Dutch ReBelle

Dutch ReBelle:Style: Hip-hopFrom: BostonListen to: “Tonight”Website: dutchrebelle.com

Eddy DyerStyle: Singer-songwriterFrom: LowellListen to: “She”Website: eddydyer.bandcamp.com

Eddie JapanStyle: RockFrom: BostonListen to: “The End of Everything”Website: eddiejapan.bandcamp.com

FairgroundsStyle: RockFrom: Syracuse, N.Y.Listen to: “Atoms and the Void”Website: fairgroundsny.com

Floor HockeyStyle: Indie rockFrom: LowellListen to: “Window Shopping”Where and when:Website: floorhockey.bandcamp.com

Frank MessinaStyle: PoetryFrom: Jersey City, N.J.Read: “Full Count: The Book of Mets PoetryWhere and when:Website: spokeface.com

Frank Morey BandStyle: RockFrom: LowellListen to: “Let It Roll”Where and when:Website: facebook.com/frankmoreyofficial

Grace GivertzStyle: Singer-songwriterFrom: BostonListen to: “Elephant in the Room”Where and when:Website: gracegivertz.bandcamp.com

Hech RhymesStyle: Hip-hopFrom: BostonListen to: “So Far”Where and when:Website: hechrhymes.com

HoneysuckleStyle: FolkFrom: BostonListen to: “Greenline”Where and when:Website: honeysuckleband.com

Jazzmyn REDStyle: Hip-hopFrom: TauntonListen to: “Positive Vibes OnlyWhere and when:Website: jazzmynred.com

Jeffrey FoucaultStyle: Folk-rockFrom: Whitewater, Wisc.Listen to: “War on the Radio”Where and when:Website: jeffreyfoucault.com

Jonah TolchinStyle: Blues-folkFrom: New JerseyListen to: “Thousand Mile Night”Where and when:Website: jonahtolchin.com

Julie RhodesStyle: RockFrom: BostonListen to: “I’d Rather Go Blind”Where and when:Website: julierhodesmusic.com

Kat Wright

Kat WrightStyle: SoulFrom: Burlington, Vt.Listen to: “By My Side”Where and when:Website: katwright.com

Lady PillsStyle: Indie rockFrom: BostonListen to: “Pink Void”Where and when:Website: ladypillsmusic.bandcamp.com

Lily Black BandStyle: PunkFrom: BostonListen to: “Take the Crown”Where and when:Website: lilyblackband.com

Lonely Leesa and the Lost CowboysStyle: AmericanaFrom: BostonListen to: “Stayed”Where and when:Website: lonelyleesaandthelostcowboys.bandcamp.com

Magen Tracy & the Missed ConnectionsStyle: Indie-folkFrom: BostonListen to: “Long Fuse Burning”Where and when:Website: magentracymusic.com

Michaela AnneStyle: AmericanaFrom: NashvilleListen to: “I’m Not the Fire”Where and when:Website: michaelaanne.com

Mint Green

Mint GreenStyle: RockFrom: BostonListen to: “Holy”Where and when:Website: mintgreenma.bandcamp.com

Muddy RuckusStyle: RockFrom: Portland, MaineListen to: “From the Floor”Where and when:Website: muddyruckus.com

New AuraStyle: RockFrom: BostonListen to: “Win Place or ShowWhere and when:Website: newaura.bandcamp.com

Old JackStyle: AmericanaFrom: BostonListen to:Website: oldjackmusic.com

Party Bois

Party BoisStyle: DanceFrom: BostonListen to: “In Your Head”Website: patrybois.bandcamp.com

Pernice BrothersStyle: Indie rockFrom: BostonListen to: “Chicken Wire”Website: pernicebrothers.com

PowerslutStyle: RockFrom: BostonListen to: “Hot Tub WingmanWebsite: facebook.com/powerslutband

Ryan Montbleau

Ryan MontbleauStyle: AmericanaFrom: BostonListen to: “75 and Sunny”Website: ryanmontbleau.com

Sons LunarisStyle: RockFrom: LowellListen to: “Cold”Website: facebook.com/sonslunaris

Squires of SoulStyle: Funk-rockFrom: LowellListen to: “Fell For You”Website: squiresofsoul.com

The Burning HellStyle: Indie rockFrom: TorontoListen to: “Friend Army”Website: burninghell.bandcamp.com

The Luna CollectiveStyle: JazzFrom: LowellListen to: “Blues on My Mind”Website: business.facebook.com/lunacollectiveband

The Mallett Brothers BandStyle: AmericanaFrom: MaineListen to: “Long Black Braid”Website: mallettbrothersband.com

The Old RochelleStyle: AmericanaFrom: LowellListen to: “Flyin’ Through the Ages”Website: 75bunnies.com

The Only HumansStyle: Folk-rockFrom: BostonListen to: “Oh, GodWebsite: facebook.com/theonlyhumans.com

The Only ThingsStyle: RockFrom: LowellListen to: “Dandelion”Website: theonlythings.bandcap.com

The RationalesStyle: AmericanaFrom: BostonListen to: “Ready to Go”Website: therationales.com

Tucker Antell GroupStyle: Blues-jazzFrom: New HampshireListen to: “Grime Scene”Website: tuckerantell.com

Twisted Pine

Twisted PineStyle: AmericanaFrom: BostonListen to: “Bound to Do it Right”Website: twistedpineband.com