The barrier-to-entry is low to participate in West Philly Porchfest — a free festival hosted annually, where anyone is welcome to host or perform. Just grab a mic, a friend, maybe a musical instrument, and walk out your front door.
The weather was in favor of the crowds that filled the sidewalks of West Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon. They were there to listen to a diverse collection of local musicians perform from their porch stages: Genres ranged from punk, ska, bluegrass, and rap, to electronic, jazz, rock, folk, and R&B. Performances also included poetry and comedy.
For many residents, like Abby Cox and Sarah Dwyer, the day wasn’t just about the music, but about meeting and mingling with neighbors — the event marks an unofficial start to summer in the city.
“[It’s the] beginning of the summer, everybody’s out. It’s nice to see everybody,” said Dwyer, who has lived in West Philly for five years.
“Definitely the place to see people that you don’t know well enough to make plans with, but probably will run into them,” Cox said. “So, just a nice place to see everybody in the neighborhood.”
Attendees could grab or download a map to guide them to different acts, but many listeners simply wandered, happening upon tunes that changed by the block, sometimes by a few feet.
Drummer Chuck Duquesne, of the band Rockers Galore, and harpist Christine Elise, performed on the same Baltimore Avenue porch. Both artists said they love performing in West Philly.
“And the community, it just brings everybody out and together and it feels good,” Elise said.
“I mean, it’s fantastic. Look at all these beautiful people just walking around, enjoying the scene in the neighborhood,” Duquesne chimed in.
Trumpets, trombones, and saxophones could be heard down Baltimore Avenue, along with sounds from Youth Family Band performing their version of Michael Jackson’s “Another Part of Me,” while the Indie folk duo Jackson Pines played original music.
Porchest organizer Joe Devitis, a West Philly resident for the past 12 years, said goals for this year’s event were to increase neighborhood participation, as well as to diversify the music and performers.
“We want to see people who live in that community being the ones participating and attending,” Devitis said.
“We’re trying to broaden the insights that we have in the conversations about what Porchfest is,” he said.
Devitis said he was most excited about a few things: One, a group called “Goth Goth,” that he had never heard of. The band’s description on the Porchfest map: “Sad music you can shake your a** to.”
The other parts, he said, are just the porches, and the people around them, enjoying art together.
“What about the local people you didn’t know about? What about that weird neighbor you’ve never talked to? And you realize actually they’re writing a book, and they’re just up all night writing books,” said Devitis, “or they have some other incredible explanation for their existence.”
Saturdays just got more interesting.