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Diversity Now 

Larchmere PorchFest returns with a colorful lineup

Last year, a group of Shaker Heights and Larchmere neighbors banded together to hold the first Larchmere PorchFest. Modeled after a festival in rural New York, the event featured local indie artists playing short, unplugged sets on neighborhood porches. Well-attended, the inaugural fest netted an "Excellence in Neighborhood Marketing" award from LiveCLEVELAND, an area nonprofit devoted to bolstering neighborhoods. The festival returns for its second outing this weekend, with porch performances running from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 19. It culminates in a 6 p.m. concert at Shaker Square featuring Heartbeat Afrika, world-beat rockers the Good Things, and singer-songwriter Brent Kirby.

"I was surprised by last year's turnout," says organizer Jason Linder. "This year, we're trying to be a little more diverse, and that's evident with the performances happening on the Square, where we've booked bands that are trying to stretch across genres." The event is free. Go to myspace.com/larchmereporchfest for more information.

Six years ago, Maura Rogers left behind an acting career (she studied theater at Baldwin-Wallace) to become a singer-songwriter. This weekend she celebrates the release of her debut album, Get Up Girl, with a performance at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 19, at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124, beachlandballroom.com). Recorded at Painesville's Suma Studios, the album features a sparse Cat Power-like sound, showing off Rogers' quiet but powerful vocals.

"The [CD] is a big step for me," says Rogers. "I guess fear held me back, but it's always something I wanted to do. The most intimidating thing is the guitar. I studied opera, and I feel like I have a strong background in voice, but being able to conquer the guitar has been the biggest challenge."

The concert will also serve as a benefit for a Kenyan exchange student who left for Africa recently to help his grandmother. "He grew up homeless," says Rogers. "Once he finally got into school, he proved to be a brilliant student." Rogers is hoping to raise enough money so the guy has a place to live in Kenya this summer.

Known for her website metalsanaz.com, where she claims to make and break bands, jet-setting rocker chick and online sensation Metal Sanaz hosts a local metal blowout at Geneva-on-the-Lake's Cove (5326 Lake Road West, 440-466-8888, myspace.com/coveniteclub) at 6 p.m. Friday, June 18. Ventana and Kriadiaz, two heavy-hitting local groups with Mushroomhead members, headline the gig. A bunch of other local hard-rock bands are also on the bill.

"The main thing is hanging out with the fans and giving them the time to talk and take pictures," says Sanaz. "I introduce the bands and get the crowd cheering and going. I watch all the bands and figure out which ones I like and start promoting them after the show is over. It gives people a chance to see me in person and realize I'm not just on the internet."

Sanaz, who was hooked on metal after seeing Black Sabbath when she was seven, got her start as an online VJ before falling into her taste-making role. But Sanaz insists she's not a groupie. "I heard that I was dating Dave Navarro and Dave Mustaine, but none of that is true," she says. "The bottom line is that I'm just a fan. I don't see myself as a journalist."

Send feedback to jniesel@clevescene.com.

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