There is something warm and inviting about a big cozy front porch. In Historic Springfield, cozy porches transform into intimate stages as local and regional musicians gather November 5th for the third annual Jacksonville Porchfest, presented by Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council. The free, family-friendly event features more than 20 performers bringing porches to life throughout the neighborhood. Attendees can stroll from porch to porch and camp out on sidewalks and front lawns as they enjoy live music and a wide variety of food, drink, and arts vendors in Jacksonville’s oldest front porch neighborhood.
This year’s event will be held in Springfield’s Southwest quadrant and will conclude with an evening performance with co-headliners Canary in the Coalmine and Katz Downstairz in Klutho Park. Fellow performers include Whetherman, Mama Blue, Kim Reteguiz and the Black Cat Bones, Groove Coalition, the Junco Royals, Katie Grace Helow, The Hummingbirds, Marcus Parsley Trio, Young Step, Crazy Daysies, Spade McQuade, Mere Woodard Band, Chrome Heart, Cedar Creek Ramblers, Ruby Beach, and Jacksonville Old Time Jam. Maps of porches and performers are available on the event website at JacksonvillePorchFest.org and will be provided on the day of the event.
Festival director Christina Parrish says this year will feature an expanded lineup including performances by student groups from Duval County schools and the FSCJ Jazz Combo, as well as a new VIP area that will include stage front seating. PorchFest 2016 also features public art and a surprise announcement of a new art initiative to take place in the Springfield neighborhood.
“We are increasing our efforts to include younger musicians from local schools, so this year, in addition to all of the professional musicians we employ, we’ll have a number of student performances. PorchFest makes a donation to all of the schools that participate. We are also excited to announce a new partnership with Florida State College at Jacksonville. FSCJ’s Jazz band will be performing and the school is providing parking for PorchFest at their downtown campus, adjacent to Klutho Park,” says Parrish.
“I absolutely love the fact that we are able to hire and pay more than 60 local musicians every year.”
While the original template for PorchFest stuck closely to roots and Americana style music, Parrish says this year’s festival lineup was broadened to be more inclusive and reflect the diversity of the Springfield community. “We started PorchFest two years ago and our musical focus was a little more narrow. We envisioned the event as presenting primarily traditional music featuring musicians playing acoustic stringed instruments. Springfield is an incredible community, one of the most diverse communities in the southeast. Several neighbors reached out and asked that we include other genres of music. We worked together this year to expand the lineup and include everything from hip hop to traditional Americana. We’ll have contemporary classical, spoken word, rock, jazz, folk, bluegrass. It’s a really great variety,” says Parrish. “Our headliners reflect that, too. I think everyone who comes out for the evening show will enjoy both of those bands even though they are from almost opposite ends of the musical spectrum. We want to make sure that everybody in the neighborhood feels included in PorchFest.”
Parrish says it was the goal from the festival’s inception to create an event that would work in tandem with the city’s artistic community to help musicians receive exposure and earn money for their art. Offering the paid component as an incentive for artists to give their time and talent to the event also helped raise the bar on the caliber of artists and created a pool of willing participants larger than the number of spaces to fill.
“Our festival is a little different from most of the other PorchFests around the country. Typically, they are informal events that tend to feature people in the neighborhood who just come out and perform on their own porches or have friends come over to perform. The bands are not paid. We started our PorchFest not only as an effort to bring people to the neighborhood and show off Springfield—although that was a priority—but also because several of us involved, working in the arts community for a long time, felt frustrated with how difficult it was for musicians and other artists to earn money in Jacksonville. We were committed from the beginning to pay every single musician who performs at PorchFest. I absolutely love the fact that we are able to hire and pay more than 60 local musicians every year.”
“With PorchFest, we’ve managed to create a successful event that uses art to improve our community and financially supports and promotes the artists who create that art. That’s a win-win for everyone.”
This year there will be a public art-related pop up event in Springfield on the day of PorchFest. “I can’t say too much about it because we want it to be a surprise!” says Parrish. “We’ll also have an announcement about a very cool Springfield public art project that we’re going to pay for with funds from PorchFest.”
PorchFest brings important attention to Springfield’s beautiful architecture and the ongoing revitalization of the community but it also helps fortify arts and cultural programming in the area. Proceeds from the event benefit SPAR’s arts programming and education fund. Parrish says SPAR furthers the PorchFest mission by continuing to sponsor performances by musicians at other events throughout the year.
“I understand why many groups doing fundraisers ask musicians to perform for free—they are trying to raise money, not spend it—but I personally struggle with that practice: consider the many, many hours accomplished musicians invest in practice and rehearsals and the cost of instruments, and equipment, and education. They certainly should be paid for their time. With PorchFest, we’ve managed to create a successful event that uses art to improve our community and financially supports and promotes the artists who create that art. That’s a win-win for everyone.”
For more information about PorchFest, visit JacksonvillePorchFest.org.