Porchfest has turned out to be one of my favorite events in Buffalo, for a lot of reasons. The biggest reason is the chance to see so many bands and musicians playing that I might not ever get a chance to see otherwise. Musicians come out in droves, to play intimate performances, in front of listeners who vagabond from porch to porch.
Yesterday, I was pretty excited to head out at 1pm, when the first bands were set to play. Unfortunately, the rain rolled in, so my friends and I sat in my garage listening to music, bikes and backpacks by our sides, awaiting for the weather to break. Around 2pm, the rain subsided, so we headed out in search of live music.
Instead of looking at the map of bands/porches, we decided to wing it. As we biked, we simply listened out for sounds coming our way. Within minutes, we were stationed in front of a band near the corner of Bryant and Elmwood. I had recently posted about the reconstruction of this porch (see here), so I couldn’t have been happier to see it get put to good use by the band Rap and Destroy. The band had a pretty cool mascot too – a dude in a bear suit getup.
From there, we headed over to the epicenter of Porchfest – the corner of Elmwood and Lafayette. It seems as if this is the stronghold for porches and bands, and everything else somehow emanates from this corner. There are a couple of heavy-hitting porches that always attract a ton of visitors.
One of these stations is Inn Buffalo, where the band Rabbit Jaw was playing (lead image – photo by Glenn Murray). Lead singer Erin Bahn was up to her usual antics, jumping around, jammin’ on the ground, flitting around, and being entertaining as all get out. She had the crowd going – this was our longest stay of the day, because every time we got packing and ready to go, Erin would come running down the front stairs with some new crazy costume. The tunes were as good as the costumes and the antics, which made for a super enjoyable stay.
Eventually we dragged ourselves away, and headed up Ashland, where we knew we would find some great porches/performances. Moments later we were standing around listening to some Cajun blues style tunes by Big J Blues.
We were immediately sucked in to the sounds, which was different than anything else we had heard thus far. That’s what’s so great about Porchfest – it’s so diverse, which means that the crowds out in the Elmwood Village was comprised of all ages and personalities. The neighborhood was hopping like I had never seen it.
After waving our goodbyes to Big J Blues, we realized that it was getting late, and it was almost time to head over The Place for a post-Porchfest party. We were excited to catch a seasoned Dead cover band called Workingman’s Dead, scheduled to kick off at 6pm. But first, we wanted to stop by the corner of Elmwood and Summer, to pay a visit to Captain Bill Zimmerman’s porch, where a couple of musicians were playing harmonica (Richie Sasala) and steel guitar (Raedwald Howland-Bolton). In typical Captain Bill fashion, he got Porchfest a bit backwards – the musicians played in the yard, and the audience was up on the porch. But somehow it still worked… as long as the porch was being used.
It was so neat to see a family that was waiting for the Summer Street bus checking out the performance – Captain Bill invited them to come into the yard to listen to the tunes, which they readily accepted. They had so much fun that when the daughter yelled that the bus was coming, her father said, “We’ll catch the next one.” Once again, a great Porchfest moment.
It’s incredible how fast time flies during Porchfest. It felt like the day had just begun, but suddenly it was time to head to the afterparty, which we were on time to arrive at the start. But, as luck would have it, I was drawn in to see an act called HarmonicVines, who had managed to attract a family of three passing by on bikes. I listened to a couple of tunes, before they packed it in, which was fine, because I was already late.
When we arrived, Workingman’s Dead was already playing, and there was a great crowd in The Place’s parking lot (the inside was packed too). Although the event was free to attend, some people decided to “camp out” on the opposite side of Lexington Avenue, where they were happily sitting and standing along the sidewalk.
Inside the front gate, a large crowd of music fans were standing about, drinking beer and soaking up the sun – the day had progressively gotten nicer and nicer weather-wise.
2018 is the first year that any of the Elmwood Village restaurants held post-Porchfest events, which is a surprise. I have a feeling that this trend is quickly going to catch on during future Porchfest events.
To me, Porchfest is akin to the Garden Walk, with showcases of bands and porches instead of flowers and yards. I can’t tell you how many people told me that they hoped that another Porchfest would take place in the fall. They also said that more events, similar to this, should take place in the city, because it’s so much fun. I know that it’s a lot of work, but it’s so important to the happiness and the growth of the village. Maybe there could be mini Porchfests in the future, where different streets would be activated instead of the entire village – similar to block parties? All I can say is that this event certainly has captured the imaginations of Buffalonians, who have gravitated to the concept, and embraced it fully.
Thanks again the Elmwood Village Association for putting together this tremendous event.