Back in 2007, Porchfest got its start as an impromptu gathering of musicians on their own porches, or those of friends, in the Fall Creek neighborhood north of Downtown Ithaca. Each year since, the event has grown, and this Sunday's Porchfest will feature nearly 140 musical performances spread over four hours across Fall Creek and Ithaca's Northside.
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> Visit the Porchfest mobile web schedule: http://porchfest.org/m/
Family-friendly music at 2011's Porchfest. Photo provided by Porchfest."Porchfest is free, open to all ages, and especially family-friendly," says Andy Adelewitz, one of this year's trio of organizers. "We encourage all performers to play acoustically, or at least keep amplified volume very low, which makes it a great environment for kids (like my five-year-old) who don't get out to bars or nightclubs and aren't ready for the full audio onslaught of a major festival like GrassRoots."
Alan Rose, a local singer-songwriter who's gained attention the last couple of years playing as Alan Rose and the Restless Elements at GrassRoots, the Ithaca Festival, and such venues as Castaways and the Nines, agrees. "I'm a big supporter of youth music and arts, and it's important to me that folks who aren't yet old enough to get into a bar have opportunities to be exposed to the music scene here and perform themselves."
It's Rose's fifth year performing at Porchfest. "I'd been hoping to bring out my band the Restless Elements to Porchfest for the first time, but the scheduling didn't work out, so I'll be playing solo again." He's among the acts kicking off the afternoon, with a 1pm set at 201 East Yates Street. "it's completely open to anyone who wants to perform, which encourages a much wider range of people to get out there," he adds. "And with more people performing, that's more friends, neighbors and family members in the potential audience."
The music festival is spread out over numerous blocks in and around the Fall Creek neighborhood, scheduled to create as few conflicts as possible for a given block or for musicians -- many of whom perform in multiple local acts. In many cases, musicians are performing on (or in front of) their own porches or friends' porches, or organizers have connected performers with residents who've volunteered their space for the afternoon.
Performances are scheduled at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, or 4pm this Sunday, September 15th. The full schedule and a map of the performances is online at www.porchfest.org, and a mobile schedule app suitable for use on any smartphone, such as iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry, presented by 14850 Magazine, is at www.porchfest.org/m/.
Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Service, which is sponsoring this year's event, will staff an information booth at Thompson Park offering printed maps. The park is on North Cayuga Street north of Cascadilla Street. Rest rooms will be available during the event at the Neighborhood Pride Grocery on Hancock Street, Tabernacle Baptist Church at the corner of North Cayuga and Lincoln Streets (which will also have refreshments on the lawn), and Northstar Public House.
Alan Rose and the Restless Elements performing at the Ithaca Festival last spring."It's really a musical smorgasbord," Rose says. "Some folks do come and just watch people they already know and don't hear anything new, but a lot of people find themselves getting drawn into things that they're just passing by, stay for a few songs, and move on to something else. As an audience member, it's an unparalleled opportunity to explore and find something new."
Playing Porchfest with his old band, Armageddon Monks, back in 2008 was a highlight of the tradition for Adelewitz. "Playing an acoustic set was a pretty new idea for a metal band like the Monks, and it really informed the way we looked at ourselves as a band. It's great to see some new faces in the audience as you're playing, who aren't likely to go see a metal band at a bar but may still appreciate the music you're making."
"The music business creates a lot of barriers for the little ones, between needing to be a certain age to get into bars, and the late start time of most concerts, and the very high volume level," says Adelewitz. "When I see my son and our friends' kids dancing to the Gunpoets or the El Caminos or Djug Django, that's really what makes Porchfest special for me."
The concerts will be followed by a public picnic and open jam at Thompson Park at 5:30pm. There will be food trucks on hand selling their wares, and community members are welcome to bring their own picnic or a dish to share with friends, as well as their instruments.