Porchfest Celebrates Live Music, Historic Neighborhoods in Record Numbers

 

Historic Athens Porchfest united the city’s music lovers with over 150 bands and musicians performing across six historic neighborhoods in Athens. 

Over 13,000 people — double the estimated amount of last year’s festival — attended Sunday to watch the performers, said Tommy Valentine, executive director of Historic Athens, a nonprofit that exists to preserve community heritage. The event, organized by Historic Athens and sponsored by Cafe Racer, featured locations in the Boulevard, Buena Vista Heights, Cobbham, Newtown, Normaltown and Pulaski Heights neighborhoods. 

“With 30 concerts an hour roughly, all day long, you could spend all day just in one neighborhood and still not see everybody,” Valentine said. 

Valentine’s role as executive director began in 2019, the year Porchfest started. That year, 69 bands were scheduled to perform. This year, 156 bands were on the lineup. 

Despite worries of Hurricane Ian in the days leading up to the festival, the weather on Sunday was sunny and 70 degrees, inviting residents to enjoy the festivities. 

“Last year was kind of the first full-fledged event post-COVID. And it was a really good year,” said spectator Becky Hammock, who was a host at last year’s Porchfest and was attending for her third year. “And this year, it’s grown bigger.” 

The event closed out with its tradition of “The Mayor’s Show” with the Winterville mayor’s band, Dodd Ferrelle and the Wintervillains, hosted by Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz at Stan Mullins Art Studio.

Hammock said Porchfest has a lot of variety and genres of music. 

“It introduces you to bands you wouldn’t go pay money for based on a name,” she said. 

‘A Great Sunday’

Paul Quick, one of the front porch hosts of the event, said Porchfest brings together the beautiful architecture and the music that Athens is known for. Quick was among many residents who volunteered to host on their porch again this year. 

“It’s a great way to combine the two things, you know, the two things about Athens that are greater — the historic architecture and a music town,” he said. “So you put those two things together and you got a great Sunday.”

As the event kicked off, spectators arrived by foot, on bikes and in cars. Sixteen performances were scheduled to start at 1 p.m., with more following every hour until the final show at 7 p.m. Each performer and host volunteered for the free event, open to anyone, including pets. Some brought their dogs to hang out on the lawns.

At Quick’s house in Cobbham, people sat in an assortment of chairs lined up in the front yard. Others stood nearby or sat on the curb across the street to watch the band Visc perform.

Visc, an indie rock band from Atlanta, played their set on the wraparound porch of the light gray house on Hill Street. The crowd consisted of around 30 attendees bobbing their heads and cheering to their original songs and an Elvis Presley cover song. The band members said they played at a porchfest event in Atlanta for the past two years and decided to make the trip to Athens this year.

The drummer, Daniel Lane, found out about the event through an Instagram post sent to him and said, “Hey, let’s give it a try.”

‘They Just Want to Be Here’

Sarah Brendel and her husband, Zach, hosted on the porch of their navy blue house shaded by trees on Cobb Street. The performer, Hunter Morris, is a friend of the family and drew a crowd of close to 100 people to enjoy the melodic sounds in Cobbham. 

“I love just bringing the community together for a fun, free event that, you know, there’s no pressure in any way,” Brendel said. 

Morris, whose band is named Hunter Morris and Blue Blood, said the number of people out on the street showed how much people care about music. 

“That wasn’t even a PA or anything,” Morris said. “They just want to be here.”

This was the Brendels’ second year hosting. 

“We didn’t really do a whole lot,” she said. “We just had to get some extension cords. They bring all of their own equipment.” 

People congregated in the street and the yard across from the Brendels’ house. Children also participated in the event, whether they were dancing on lawns or selling baked goods with their friends. 

The Brendels’ daughter, Vivian, had a bake sale set up on the sidewalk during the show. Vivian and her friends sold items such as macaroons, brownies, muffins and cookies from a wooden stand with a toy cash register.

The proceeds were donated to the Athens Area Homeless Shelter, continuing the theme of the day: giving back to the community.  

Reported by Grace Farmer and Abigail Watts, who are students in Reporting and Writing Across Platforms (JOUR 3190). 

 

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