Every book lover can remember a lost weekend while binge-reading a novel whose ending had to wait because the body just gave out. No matter how compelling the story, somewhere around the 30th hour the brain shuts down and nothing more goes in.
The organizers of the Miami Book Fair (MBF) know this, so they’ve organized the Porch as an urban hangout hosting mostly free events on the corner of NE Third Street and NE Second Avenue. Think of it as a break from the fair's crush of book stalls, author readings, signings, and workshops.
All week, through Sunday, November 19, the Porch offers live music, craft beer, karaoke, burlesque, comedy, games, and food trucks, where fair attendees can plug in their brains and recharge.
The mastermind behind the week of diversions is Melissa Messulam, program manager for the Porch. She has engineered a break for both binging bibliophiles and their children by programming a distinctly Miami, multidisciplinary experience and then crossing over many of the Porch happenings with those at Children’s Alley — a program of concurrent events geared toward young people.
“We programmed the Porch to have a space during the MBF that was all about community-building, and this year we have a very cohesive program,” Messulam says. “Because it occurs under the umbrella of the Miami Book Fair, we want it to be multidisciplinary.”
The program is also intergenerational. “We’ve set things up so that young, emerging Miami artists can have a dialogue with older, more established artists,” she explains. “Every evening an emerging artist shares space with an established artist.” And then many of these artists also spend time teaching music and dance workshops with kids as part of Children’s Alley.
One of Messulam’s favorite acts, Inez Barlatier, is a good example. Barlatier is a young Haitian-American performer whose music exudes Afro-Haitian influences, from her choice of African instrumentation to the percussion-based rhythms that make her music infectious. Barlatier will perform at the Porch Tuesday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3:30 p.m. On Sunday, she'll lead a percussion workshop for kids as part of Children’s Alley.
Another example Messulam offers of a crossover act is PATH — Preserving, Archiving & Teaching Hip-Hop — a Miami-based hip-hop group that challenges the negative stereotypes and behaviors often associated with hip-hop culture.
This will be the first time PATH performs and teaches at the festival. "They have been the quintessential Miami b-boy crew since the mid-'90s," Messulam says. “They use the hip-hop genre to teach our youth about the positive effects these artistic forms can have on a person.”
Fresh off their successful collaboration with London-based hip-hop theater artist Jonzi D at the Breakin’ Convention at the Arsht Center in October, Rudy Goblin and the Flipside Kings will return to wow audiences with their DJ'ing, MC'ing, and b-boy'ing/girl'ing at the Porch this Friday, November 17, at 10 a.m. Then they will workshop the dance forms with young people as part of Children’s Alley Friday through Sunday.
One artist Messulam singles out as a must-see is classical violinist and Miami music teacher Daniela Padron, whose latest album, Bach to Venezuela, melds the German composer's music with Venezuelan folk sounds.
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In her recording of Bach’s “Minuet Medley,” Padron makes the classical line lilt at the end of phrases, magically catching the merengue rhythm kept up by bass, maracas, and the cuatro (think four-stringed Venezuelan ukulele). “Padron somehow makes it work,” Messulam says. “You get that traditional Venezuelan Joropo sound, while at the same time you are definitely listening to Johann Sebastian Bach.”
If the MBF crowds and your literary binge leave you feeling manic, retreat to the Porch for music and dance and maybe a little crayon therapy — the latest edition of The Wynwood Coloring Book is also available at the Porch.
– Sean Erwin, artburstmiami.com
Miami Book Fair. Through November 19 at Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Building 8, First Floor, Miami; 305-237-3258; miamibookfair.com. Ticket prices vary by event.