Strumming a guitar on the front porch is a popular American pastime – so much so that an event celebrating the practice has become widespread. In recent years, the “Porchfest,” a unique neighborhood-based music festival, has spread throughout the nation. Several homes, typically in the general vicinity of each other, host musicians on their porch or front lawn, roads in the area are closed off, and additional activities often complement the scene (think food trucks). Music is often acoustic or with minimal amplification. The first Porchfest was held in 2007 in Ithaca, New York, with dozens now held annually around the country.
In 2018, Bristol piloted its own mini PorchFest with four original spots, plus two pop-ups. The event was such a success that by 2019 it grew to 18 bands on nine porches and a count of over 3,000 strolling fans.
“We have amazing porches and great local musicians – combining the two is the perfect way to bring together friends and neighbors for an afternoon in Bristol,” says MaryKae Wright, PorchFest co-chair and member of Arts In Common, a local organization that promotes arts and culture in Bristol. Adding to the festivities, this year BayCoast Bank is the community partner sponsoring the music.
“One of the most amazing things was meeting friends and neighbors coming together as a community to enjoy a Sunday afternoon of great local music on our historic porches,” says Bradley Wester, Arts in Common and Bristol PorchFest founder.
After a year off due to the pandemic, Bristol PorchFest returns Sunday, September 19 from 3-6pm (rain date: September 26). The outdoor event will feature a variety of musical genres, and a portion of High Street will be closed to vehicular traffic. Spectators can wander and listen to singer-songwriters, reggae, classic rock, bluegrass, tribute bands, LatinX, electronic pop, Celtic, traditional Portuguese, big band, jazz, Spanish guitar, R&B, and eclectic/funk.
“The team has done an amazing job of bringing back some musical favorites while adding new voices and sounds to the event,” notes PorchFest co-chair Nancy Kellner. One well-known local musician playing this year is Mark Cutler, leader of Rhode Island Music Hall of Famers The Schemers, and Men of Great Courage.
“I’ve never played the PorchFest before,” says Cutler. “I’m really looking forward to singing there, especially after what’s happened with COVID. We have to appreciate every little moment of goodness that comes our way.”