Porchfests are taking America by storm! And it’s no wonder. These cool, low-impact, neighborhood music festivals celebrate all things local: music, architecture, art, food, culture, and people! They cost little to put on, are free to attend, and naturally condone a very friendly, relaxed, DIY attitude.
All the above makes hosting a band at a porchfest a fun activity for anyone with a front yard and place for musicians to play (you usually don’t need to have a porch). And for a family with kids who are just starting to appreciate music, hosting a porchfest show can be an immersive way to introduce them to live music in an extremely family-friendly atmosphere.
One of the most compelling things about hosting a porchfest band is how easy it is. Imagine having a band party in your front yard that only lasts about an hour and requires very little work or expense from you. It’s a great way to give back to the community and have a blast at the same time!
What Exactly is a Porchfest?
If you’ve never heard of a porchfest, it is basically a neighborhood party where local bands and music artists play on front porches. The audience (generally people from the neighborhood and surrounding areas) walks between the different porchfest shows, listening to music in front yards, meeting other neighbors, and celebrating their local community.
Porchfests are generally not money-centric events. As mentioned above, they are free to attend and the bands don’t receive compensation other than from tips or the sale of merchandise. They are open to everyone, and really help to unite communities and introduce new fans to the local music scene.
To learn more about attending porchfests, as well as see a list of some of the bigger porchfests happening around the U.S., check out this helpful article from our friends at TribalFeast.com.
Is Hosting a Porchfest Show the Right Thing for You?
Having a band play for an hour or so on your front porch for free may sound like an easy no-brainer, but hosting a porchfest band does come with some responsibilities and expectations. You may also be wondering if you are even eligible to host a porchfest band because of where you live.
Let’s go over some of the challenges of hosting a porchfest show, but again we want to remind you that these are generalities based on typical porchfests. The event near you may have different rules and expectations. Always check with the organizers before making any decisions – which brings us to our first point:
Communicate with Organizers
Above everything, being a great communicator is the most important part of being a porchfest host. Be responsive to communications from event organizers and the band that you will be hosting. Quite often, decisions rely on your response, so the longer people have to wait, the more stress is put upon them. And porchfests should remain stress-free events for everyone!
Even if you are arranging for a band to play on your porch, don’t leave it up to the band to contact the organizers. Be the point of contact. Not only will this take some burden off of the band, but help ensure everyone is on the same page.
You May Not Need a Front Porch
Don’t have a front porch? Check with organizers of the porchfest in your neighborhood, but in most cases, bands can set up right in your front yard. And if you have an awesome backyard with easy access, then that might work too.
Some porchfests include sidewalks in front of local businesses and even nearby public parks.Just because you don’t have a spacious front porch doesn’t mean you can’t participate!
If you are going to have the band play in your front yard, and you happen to have (or can borrow) a 10’ by 10’ pop-up tent to offer to set up over the band, they will be very appreciative to know that they and their gear will be out of any sun or rain. If the weather is awesome, they may not want it, but it is a thoughtful gesture.
Renters Can Host Porchfests Too!
In most cases, just because you rent doesn’t mean you can’t host a band for a porchfest. The decision maker in this one will be the owner of the property you are renting. Make sure you get his or her permission ahead of time and that he or she has a clear understanding of the event. also make it clear that you will be present to make sure their property and your guests are safe from harm.
Even with the property owner’s permission, make sure the promoter of the Porchfest knows you are renting and has your landlord’s contact info in case of emergency.
Notify Your Neighbors
Let your neighbors know you plan on hosting a band and that you will do your best to make sure there is no overflow into their yards. You may find that they want to help you make your audience comfortable and happy. At one porchfest show we’ve attended, a neighbor fired up the grill and was handing out hamburgers and hotdogs!
Another super important thing is to be available – not only during the time of the event, but also for the setup and take down of the band. If you really don’t want to miss some of the other porchfest shows, take that into consideration before signing up to host a band.
Discourage the Audience from Entering Your Home
You typically don’t have to do much crowd control during a porchfest – people are friendly, proud of their neighborhood, and happily follow rules – but there may be an occasion where an audience member needs to use your bathroom.
Use your common sense when it comes to letting strangers in your home, but a good way to avoid non-emergency restroom situations is to provide some signage in your yard indicating where the nearest public restroom is. Porchfest organizers often have arrangements with local residents or businesses, or brought in porta johns for porchfest participants to use. Most porchfests provide maps off the shows that also indicate these facilities.
By the way, do make sure the band has access to a bathroom in your home, as having to hike up the street moments before they are scheduled to perform is simply not an option.
Tips for Hosting an Awesome Porchfest Show
Now that we got some general “rules” out of the way, let’s focus on some fun things you can do to make the porchfest show you host fantastic for band and audience alike.
Be Excited About the Music You Are Hosting
For most porchfests, porch owners can select the band they would like to host. Quite often it a band and homeowner will get together ahead of time and then go to the event organizers asking to be added to the schedule.
But if for some reason you don’t get to choose the band (or maybe don’t know what band to choose) be excited to be supporting the music fabric of your local scene and potentially having your musical horizons broadened a bit.
In some situations, you may not want or be able to host an electrified band and will need to opt for an acoustic act. Make sure you are clear with event organizers ahead of time and verify this with the band you are hosting as many performers can play both electrified and acoustic.
Walk Your Yard before the Event
Before your porchfest show, make sure to walk your yard. Look for fallen limbs, animal burrows, and anything else that would create a tripping hazard for the band and guests. If you have a large tree in your yard, look up into the canopy to make sure there are no dead limbs that could fall on your guests.
You also want to carefully walk your lawn to make sure the neighbors dog hasn’t left a present for you. Picking up dog poop in your yard is never fun, but it is much easier than scrubbing it off of your sidewalk or even your hardwood floor after someone tracks it into your house.
If you have some lawn or garden furniture, it is a great idea to set it out for those in your audience for whom standing or sitting on the ground is not a comfortable option. If you know you have an older guest coming, reserve a chair for him or her with a sign.
Be a Gracious Host to the Band
Provide a small cooler of cold water and maybe a few beers if you think it is appropriate for the situation. Giving them a bag of snacks or sandwiches is also a great way to let a few starving artists know they are appreciated. Remember that they are giving freely to the community as well and you all are in this together.
Porchfests don’t typically pay the bands and neither should you as it is against the whole spirit of what a porchfest is. But you can and should make an effort to see that they can easily collect tips and sell merchandise if they have it.
Often, they may not have someone with them to handle the sales of t shirts and records while they take down their gear, so volunteering to be their “merch girl” can be a huge help to them as they are loading out. And if they have a porchfest host question or need your help with anything, they will know exactly where to find you!
Provide Trash Cans and Recycling Bins
Generally, porchfest shows don’t produce a lot of trash, so just making sure your personal trash and recycling bins are out for your audience to use should be fine.
If you expect a large crowd, you could ask to borrow a neighbors cans or contact the city to see what is available. People at porchfests are generally great about picking up after themselves, but having trash cans and recycling bins available can ensure you have little to pick up after the show.
Provide a Bike Parking
Many people opt to navigate a porchfest by bicycle, which allows them to cover more ground quickly and, potentially, carry more comfort items. Also a bicycle is a great choice for porchfest attendees from the surrounding area who want to avoid the hassle of parking their car then walking. Porchfests can be as much a cycling event as a walking event.
If your neighborhood is very bike friendly and you think you may have a lot of people riding their bicycles to the various porch shows, why not take a little time out to provide some accommodations for them?
Designating a bike parking area will not only be appreciated, but may avoid the tripping hazard of people stepping over a bicycle laying in the grass. If you have a bike rack or some object that several bikes can be parked against, all the better.
Keep Your Audience Hydrated
Most porchests around the U.S. take place in September and are a great way for local communities to bid a fond farewell to summer. These days, though, September doesn’t necessarily mean Fall is here and temperatures can be pretty unseasonably hot for your particular porchfest. Having water on hand can go a long way toward keeping your audience happy.
A great way to go about this is just a big galvanized tub with ice and bottled water. You could even throw in a variety of sodas and have a separate monitored tub with adult beverages.
If you want to keep the plastic waste to a minimum, fill a 5 quart beverage cooler with water and ice and provide paper cups. You’ll find that many porchfest attendees will have their own water bottle and will refill from the cooler.
Fire Up the Grill
Cooking up hamburgers, hotdogs, and veggie burgers is a great way to put a smile on the faces of your more hungry audience members, but remember that you need to be available at all times assist your band and audience. If you do decide to fire up the grill, have a friend, family member, or neighbor do the cooking. And make sure the band gets fed!
Pro tip: charge a modest fee for the food you are providing and give the money to the band! This is a great way to make sure your band gets fed and has a little extra pocket money for donating their talents, equipment, and time.
Starting Your Own Porchfest
If there isn’t a porchfest in your neighborhood, why not start one? Because the nature of a porchfest is to celebrate the music, culture, architecture, and people of a neighborhood, any local community that is walkable and friendly is fair game to have one.
Tapping into the Local Music Scene
Like porchfests, music scenes are DIY affairs that run on community energy. If you are not sure whether your neighborhood is right for one, start with the local music scene.
If your community doesn’t seem to have much in the way of a music scene or any music venues, don’t assume there aren’t any bands or musical performers around who are dying to play. Just hit the closest music store and ask about local musicians and bands who may be interested.
One porchfest can introduce the local neighborhood to the musical talent in the area and that is the first step to creating a music scene. And you could have a part in making that happen with minimal work!
Approaching Local Government
Another wise thing to do while assessing whether or not you want to try to organize your own porchfest is to approach the local government with the idea. You may be surprised at the support and connections you can garner from a few minute conversation with a city council member.
In most cases, the city council is made up of people who are rabidly proud of their local community and they should recognize the value that a porchfest brings to the community. But if you are met with anything less than enthusiasm, it would be good to then ask what obstacles may be in the way of you putting on the event. This will at least give you an idea of what you will be up against from the city or local government.
The Finer Details in Putting On a Porchfest
If you have gotten the sense that the local music scene is embracing the idea and there are no expected stumbling blocks from the local powers that be, the next step is to get the wheels in motion.
Fortunately, established porchfests are very helpful and forthcoming with the processes involved in putting one on. The most helpful information comes from the organizers of the very first Porchfest in Ithaca, New York. Not only is their website a treasure trove of information, they have also prepared a pdf information sheet to help porchfest organizers.
Celebrate the Spirit of Porchfest Year Round!
Here at Tiki Flamingo we are all about home parties and entertaining neighbors and friends. So porchfests are very near and dear to us. In our home base here in Athens, Georgia, our very first porchfest was held this past September (2019) and featured nearly 70 bands on 70 porches! It was a huge hit in a town that is already crazy about local music. We can’t wait for the next one!
Before the 2020 Athens Porchfest, we’ll talk to some organizers, hosts, and bands and give you even more insight into what it takes to host a band or even put on a porchfest of your own.
In the meantime, keep the porchfest spirit alive! Throw a backyard band party and invite your friends and neighbors over! It will be great practice for when you host a porchfest show!