Members of the community roamed through the streets of Ithaca, guided by the sounds of live music Sept. 23 during the 11th annual Porchfest. Some were on foot, some on bicycle, stopping at designated addresses to listen to an eclectic variety of music. Local musicians, including some Ithaca College students, shared their music with passers-by from the comfort of volunteers’ front porches.
Started in Ithaca in 2007, Porchfest has since grown into a phenomenon throughout the continent. Over 100 cities now host their own version of the festival, both in the U.S. and Canada. In Ithaca’s 2018 festival, over 100 local musical acts held performances, with genres spanning from indie rock to rhythm and blues to bluegrass. The festival takes place at locations throughout the town but is centralized in Thompson Park, where visitors can shop at local food vendors and purchase Porchfest shirts. Attendees of the festival are also provided with a map and schedule, which displays the addresses and times specific musicians are performing.
To participate in Porchfest, musicians must find willing homeowners to host a show on their porches and then sign up through the Porchfest website. There are certain regulations. For instance, the first hour of Porchfest only includes acoustic performances. Specific addresses have a limit of three acts.
Student bands regularly participate in the festival alongside local and touring bands, and some students who rent off-campus houses volunteer to have bands perform on their porches.
Some professors at the college offer up their porches as stages. Senior Luke Armentrout performed with his band, East Coast Summit, on assistant professor of voice Alison Wahl’s porch. East Coast Summit has been a group for just over a year, and its members describe their style as indie folk with R&B influences. Porchfest was its first formal performance, band member Abby Sullivan said.
“It was really touching to see so many people rooting for us and enjoying our set,” Sullivan said. “It was a really special debut performance.”
Armentrout said Porchfest differs from other live music events in Ithaca because it allows students from the college to mingle with the community. Sullivan said it serves as a way for students to listen to their classmates perform while visiting areas of the town they might not have otherwise. The festival also brings publicity and networking opportunities to bands. Those who attend the festival can explore the town and discover new local music, and those who perform are able to share their sounds, Armentrout said.
“Porchfest is absolutely great for getting IC students involved,” Armentrout said. “It’s also a unique way for students to share their music with the community.”
Senior Jacob Sullivan performed at the festival with his band, Jake and the Nowhere Men, a self-described “weirdo, garage-punk” group. Sullivan said this was the first Porchfest he’s ever attended, and after participating this year, he regrets not attending in the past. He said he appreciated watching the hundreds of community members pass by throughout his performance.
“My favorite moment was seeing all the bikers stop for a second, then just stare and nod and roll away,” Sullivan said. “It made me smile.”