Meet the Neighbors

Once an expanse of orange groves fringing the periphery of St. Augustine proper, Lincolnville became a haven for freedmen after the Civil War. Indeed, the neighborhood is named after President Abraham Lincoln, he who decreed the end of the peculiar institution. It later became a hub of activity during the civil rights era, serving as a beachhead for Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, Lincolnville retains its historic character, although it has also become a popular and (relatively) affordable place for the Ancient City’s musician and student populations to hang their collective hats. Enter Jae Bass, leader of lo-fi indie band Ghost Tropic and founder of Lincolnville Porch Fest, which returns this weekend for its third edition. The free, all-day music festival takes place (you guessed it) on porches throughout the neighborhood. More than 40 local bands perform on eight participating porches and two non-porch venues: Dog Rose Brewing Co. and a main stage erected on the grounds of St. Benedict the Moor Church.

Whence does such an idea spring? The answer shan’t surprise you. “It all started on my porch,” Bass told Folio Weekly. “I moved to Lincolnville close to seven years ago. That’s also when I started playing music openly, when I came out as a musician. Where I live used to be a punk house with lots of shows. So I just started having people over and learning more about my own house, how it was part of the local punk scene. The more we were hanging out on porches with musicians, the more we thought, ‘We should do this bigger!’”

Bass was—and still is—aided and abetted by the Ancient City’s premiere man-about-town, Harold George. “My role changes every year,” George said. “I guess I’m kind of a stage manager.”

“When I’m losing my mind, Harold is the calming force,” Bass laughed. “We work together really well. I’ll throw out dream goals, and Harold’s like, ‘OK, let’s think this through.’”

The target date for the inaugural edition was in the fall of 2016, but Hurricane Matthew had other ideas. The storm roared up the First Coast, causing damage and postponing a great many things. Bass and George’s pet project was pushed to February 2017. When it finally happened, the event boasted six host porches plus the main stage at St. Benedict. Some 40 bands participated. It was a success, a multi-block party at which both musicians and neighborhood residents broke bread together—just as Bass hoped.

“One of the reasons we did it was to get people out of their houses, into the streets, to meet each other,” Bass said. “We like meeting our neighbors.”

“It’s also an opportunity for the community to discover local music,” George added. “Most people don’t go out to the bars and venues.”

The second edition of the festival took place in November 2018, but it turns out Hurricane Matthew had it right: fall’s just not a good time for Lincolnville Porch Fest. “It was successful,” Bass said, “but there was a lot going on at the same time. It was just one week after Jacksonville Porch Fest. We realized that people are really itching for stuff to do in the winter.”

So for this third edition, Bass and George decided to wait out the entire year of 2019 and plow the fallow field of February. This year’s headliners include Gainesville’s Palimony as well as St. Augustine’s Wild Shiners and REELS. In addition to the main program are three curated porches booked by local organizations: art activist collective Underwire, Computer Club Records and JBirney Financial (which isn’t as square as it sounds; the eponymous Birney is also a radio host).