Porchfest ready to provide live music straight from neighborhood porches

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Sounds of live concert music will once again be heard as Porchfest returns to celebrate the arts and community.

This is the second annual Princeton Porchfest organized by the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) that gives residents and visitors the chance to take in musical performances from bands and musicians straight from the front porches of Princeton homes and properties.

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The free shows performed during what the Arts Council calls a “walkable music festival” are set for April 29 from 12-6 p.m. Porchfest will culminate April ARTS, a months-long celebration of art, music and the Princeton community.

“Last year’s Porchfest was an astounding success. Part of our strategy last year was come for lunch, listen to the music, stay for dinner,” said Adam Welch, executive director of the ACP. “Our premise behind Porchfest was an opportunity for us to encourage people to come to town, utilize the businesses, shop local, and eat local.”

With counters at each of the 11 porches at the inaugural Porchfest in 2022, the Arts Council calculated that more than 1,500 people had attended Porchfest.

“We thought Porchfest would be welcomed here in Princeton and turns out it was,” Welch said.

This year, Porchfest organizers decided on 18 porches that will be utilized for Porchfest. The ACP has already met with Princeton officials and the Princeton Police Department to go over the map to ensure safety.

With an increase in porch applications, it had become more difficult to map out and create a proximity of porches that flowed for people seeking to view performances at more than one location.

“The reason why it was more difficult is because we had so many more porches in various places. Some are repeat porches, but there are so many new ones,” Welch said. “It is a balance and is not something we take lightly. When looking at the map there are obvious outliers, homes or places that are not close to other porch locations.”

The Arts Council wanted to have at least three porches that were in close proximity that could be easy enough to walk between, but not close enough to hear.

“A block away would not be sufficient, but if it is on the back street a block away that would be sufficient. Safety also comes into play, especially roads that are busy such as Route 206,” Welch said, noting they based their porch selections to close proximities of one another and making sure the porches vibe with one another.

The Arts Council selected the 18 porches out of more than 40 applicants who applied.

Those locations – 102 Witherspoon, Maclean House (PU), Palmer Square, 120 John St., 225 Birch Ave., 77 Leigh Ave, 254 Witherspoon St., 150 Jefferson Road, 178 Moore St., 17 Jefferson Rd., 71 Wiggins, 11 Willow St., 19 Chestnut St., 45 Linden Lane, 19 Linden Lane, 30 Murray Place, 51 Aiken Avenue, and 49 Markham Rd.

“This is an opportunity for neighbors to sit in each other’s yards, talk and reach out over the communication hurdles that social media and other stuff has conveniently helped us to forget,” Welch said, adding society has somewhat lost the simple “reach across the yard and say hello to the people in our community.”

Welch added that he is excited for porch performances that include locations such as On the Green in Palmer Square, the President’s House at Princeton University [MacLean House] on Nassau Street, on Birch Avenue and Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design firm on Witherspoon Street.

For the day, 108 bands applied to perform for Porchfest.

“The total number of bands we accepted was 87,” Welch said. All the other porches are 12-5 p.m. and the last performers are here at the Arts Council from 5-6 p.m. At Arts Council we started a little late last year at 5:15 p.m. to allow people to get here from the other porches for one last final show here.”

Each of the 18 porches will have five bands with scheduled performances at each location.

“We are such a musical community. There are so many bands in town,” he said. “There is a need for music and a desire for music.”

The bands will each have a 45-minute set with a 15-minute break between sets.

“Last year there were 40-minute sets with a 20-minute break,” Welch said, noting they learned they set the break time for too long. “Twenty minutes was almost too much time to wait around so we narrowed it down to 15 minutes.”

Welch said Porchfest certainly fills a need in the community. It is evident from the increases in people, who applied to offer up their front porches and the musicians who sought to perform on the porches.

“What we knew from conversations we had with people regarding Communiversity, people wanted to have cultural experiences, artistic experiences, and be able to offer something someone does not have to commit to,” he said.

“We knew [Porchfest] started in Ithaca, New York in 2007 and many towns have taken on this model, so we knew there was an appetite just from how popular it is around the country.”

For more information about Princeton Porchfest, visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

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