Porchfest 2015 was the biggest collection of musical talent Fall Creek has seen playing in one afternoon yet.
There were 176 performers officially scheduled to play from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27. This is the ninth year of the musical festival. A number of porches and driveways are double-booked in the afternoon. The limits of Porchfest’s growth in its current format is coming into focus, according to Andy Adelewitz, who organizes the event along with founders Lesley Greene and Gretchen Hildreth.
“The trend for Porchfest’s growth is a straight line since the beginning—it grows by about 20 performers per year, every year,” Adelewitz said. “Last year we added two more time slots to the day, and this year, at almost 180 performers, it really feels like we’ve hit maximum density. Fall Creek is a quarter of a square mile, and even with six time slots, it’s getting really tricky to fit all those performers in, taking into account people’s schedule limitations, people who play in multiple bands and don’t want them scheduled at the same time, and all those sort of considerations.”
The Porchfest organizers have highlighted some new, eclectic acts since releasing the schedule on Sept. 19, including a performance of Super Mario Brothers music arranged for saxophone (1 p.m., 104 Adams St.) and “1 Hour of Knock Knock Jokes” with upright bass accompaniment (4 p.m., 712 N. Tioga St.).
Though the Porchfest concept does seem to lend itself to acoustic music, other types of performances are starting to become part of the mix.
“We’re starting to see some dance, theater, and performance art mixed in with the music, and it feels like an expansion of the creative celebration,” Adelewitz said. “And some of the unique music styles are fascinating too, like Cornell’s Javanese gamelan ensemble [traditional Indonesian metal percussion ensemble], who first performed last year and will be back this year. It’s music you’re not necessarily going to see anywhere else.”
Domenic Gagliano of the band Zero Mean is excited to play his first Porchfest at his home at 611 N. Tioga St., though it is really a driveway show—his porch only has solo act capacity.
“We first experienced [Porchfest] two years ago, just after moving to Ithaca from Brooklyn,” Gagliano said. “I loved the diversity, the loose free-form quality, the surprises around every corner, and just seeing homes and porches become stages with actual crowds.”
More newcomers deciding to play Porchfest is a fine problem to have, Adelewitz said. Adding more time slots into the evening, expanding to two days, or doing some sort of performer lottery have all been discussed. This year, the city required liability insurance and volunteers to staff street closures. Adelewitz said that figuring out how much the organizers, the neighborhood, and City Hall can handle going forward is “definitely something we’ll be tackling after this year’s event.”
“It would be nice to play on a balcony or elevated porch,” Gagliano said when asked about his “dream porch” to play. “What about our roof? Maybe Roof-fest is a possibility?”
All of Utica Street will be closed this year during Porchfest, along with portions of Jay (between Cayuga and Tioga); Linn (King – Tompkins); Tioga (Yates – Farm); Marshall (Utica – Aurora); Cascadilla (Cayuga – Tioga); Willow Ave. (Yates – Cayuga); and Auburn (Tompkins – Yates).
So far as food options go in the mostly residential Fall Creek, there will be a food truck roundup at 210 Hancock Street—the Neighborhood Pride site, sponsored by Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services. Free ice cream sundaes, in honor of Ithaca’s claim to inventing that august treat, will be available from noon to 2 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca, along with over 100 members playing in the Unitarian Universalist Ukulele Union.•
Go to porchfest.org for a schedule and map of street closures. This year's festival is Sept. 18.