Twenty-three front porches in the Dunleath Historic Neighborhood spread out over five streets hosted a free community-centered and family-friendly music festival on June 10 from noon to 5 p.m. The festival was called Porchfest and it was intended to celebrate local musicians, residents of the neighborhood and attract people outside of the neighborhood to come and enjoy the free festival.
Porchfest was not only a front porch live music festival but also was a place where attendees donated canned food for the local food bank and supported one another. Ghassan’s Mediterranean food truck, along with neighbors selling roasted corn and popcorn showed up to feed attendees and make the experience more memorable.
Shawn Patch, of the twangy-rock band The Radials and 11-year resident of the neighborhood, got the idea for Porchfest from one of his fellow musician friends who lived in Atlanta where something similar was done in their neighborhood. Last fall, Patch said he went to the neighborhood board to pitch the idea. Patch said they liked the idea and he was able to work with the special events committee. He said this process was about eight to 10 months in the making but the whole thing was organized in about five months.
“It has far exceeded our expectations in terms of success,” Patch said. “Initially we had discussed this in the committee, we thought we would consider it a success if we got most neighbors to participate and volunteer in some way.”
Patch said they not only got the involvement and support of neighbors but also many people outside of the community, which is exactly what the committee wanted.
“It really brought the community together in a positive way,” Patch said. “We already have a tight knit community so this is a better way to capitalize on that.”
There were several neighbors, including Patch, who volunteered to perform and host as well as musicians within their own networks that expressed interest in performing.
“This neighborhood has a very strong sense of community,” Patch said. “Most of us know each other, fairly well and it is the kind of place where you could be standing outside talking to a neighbor at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and someone else will see the two of you having a conversation and they’ll stop. Before you know it, there are five or six or 10 people out with a glass of wine or having a beer.”
Patch said that Porchfest it is this the logical extension of this kind of attitude. Patch said this is not only a chance to enjoy music but also to share with everyone else in this neighborhood.
“We had a couple goals and one was to get as much diversity in music with different genres so we could appeal more audiences,” Patch said. “We also wanted to get neighborhood diversity, we did not want it to be focused on one street or block, we wanted to make sure that the entire neighborhood participating.”
Miranda Oakley, the front porch host for J. Timber, a classic rock, and R&B artist. Louisa Taylor, fellow porch dweller with Oakley said J. Timber’s music is like a mix between Lenny Kravitz, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye.
“When I saw his description, I told my husband ‘we have to go there,’” Taylor said.
Oakley said Porchfest was really fun for her and for the community.
“There are so many people here, there is a mix of neighbors and and people who aren’t neighbors and it is great to see everyone out and about,” Oakley said. “It shows off what our neighborhood does and how we are all a big community.”
William von der Goltz from the Latin Jazz-fusion band Nueva Voz Band that played on Fifth Avenue at Porchfest. Von der Goltz said the Dunleath Historic Neighborhood and Porchfest reminded him of downtown New Orleans.
“I think [Porchfest] is a great thing to do, it gives the opportunity for musicians to show their art,” Von der Goltz said. “I think it is a great venue for a neighborhood, I had no idea this was here.”
During his show, Von der Goltz was able to show off his new electronic Cajon from Roland that has 30 different sounds, he said this was the perfect show to bring his new instrument to because it got people curious and asking questions about the instrument.
Robert Chrismon grew up in the Dunleath Neighborhood and came back to celebrate Porchfest with his wife and son. Chrismon and his family were watching the folk and traditional band Bloom perform on Percy Street.
“It is a lot of fun to come back and seeing what is going on,” Chrismon said. “It is cool to see a couple that came from the same program as my son in and doing as well as they are.”
Chrismon said he and his family chose to watch Bloom because the band members recently graduated from Weaverville Academy and Weaverville is where Chrismon’s son goes for classical guitar.
Lars Farabee, a homeowner in the Dunleath Historic Neighborhood and porch host for Bloom. Farabee said he did not know who he was going to be hosting the band.
“They have done pretty awesome,” Farabee said. “We would have them back next year if we had the chance. They were great for this kind of venue, they were super professional and this kind of event is something gets people outside and talking to each other. This is something we have looked forward to having.”
Olivia Moore, Julia Houghton and Evan Campfield make up the band Bloom. Moore and Houghton are graduates of Weaverville Academy and Campfield attends UNCG in the music program. They all said Porchfest was a really fun and positive experience for them and their band.
“At one point there were about 60 people out here watching us,” Moore said.
“It was one of our biggest crowds for sure,” Houghton said.
Mebane Ham volunteer and special events committee member said Porchfest was intended to help neighborhood camaraderie and to let people see how great the neighborhood is.
‘I grew up in a neighborhood like this,” Ham said. “I can walk around the corner and know who is in the house, their dog’s names and the kids’ names. It is a family style neighborhood.”
Patch said the committee is already planning on doing Porchfest again next year, even though an official date has not been set yet.
“That is one of the things we are going to have to look at,” Patch said. “Whether we want to do it again this time of year- whether it is spring or fall, but yes, we want to do this again not just because of how much interest of the neighborhood, but also of the broader city. There has been a big demand for it.