For four consecutive years, historic Athens has hosted a musical trend that has quickly become popular – Porchfest. In a city as musically ubiquitous as Athens, adopting a porch music festival was the perfect way to engage both students and locals in the local music scene.
On October 2, a day that was originally expected to see winds and rain from Hurricane Ian, attendees were pleasantly surprised by the glorious weather that greeted them at the event.
Under an umbrella of sun and wind, locals strolled from porch to porch listening to local bands of all musical genres. The bands played hour-long sets from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., changing every hour.
Spearheading the organization of the event was Historic Athens Executive Director Tommy Valentine, who jumped at the idea when he heard how the popularity of music festivals held on porches was spreading across all the countries.
“As soon as we heard about the move we thought ‘Oh this is perfect for Athens,'” Valentine said. “This year we have 158 individual performances on 158 porches in six of the most beautiful historic neighborhoods in the world.”
Although the massive artistry that has emerged from Athens has garnered national attention through bands like B-52 and REM, it is the deep roots of black culture and the Athens music scene that have inspired the Porchfest.
“One of Little Richard’s parents lived here and when he came to town he would pull his piano out on the porch and Little Richard would do a neighborhood gig and everyone in Newtown would go, which was historically a black neighborhood,” Valentine said.
One of the most impressive aspects of this event is the call to action from the Athens community, who have graciously worked with Historic Athens and groups by offering their porches around the city as a platform for the ‘event. Without these different people opening their homes, Porchfest would not be possible.
“What really makes this event possible, the only way to do it, is for each of these musicians to contribute a performance and each of these porches is contributed by the people living in these homes,” Valentine said. “The fact that there is so much support for an event like this every year takes us by surprise. It’s encouraging, it makes us wonder where we can grow.
Among the more than 155 bands that played at Porchfest, one of the featured bands was local Athens indie rock band, Monsoon. A three-piece band founded by Sienna Chandler almost 10 years ago, Monsoon now plays a lot of her music on the road. However, the band happily accepted the chance to play Porchfest for the third year in a row.
Monsoon didn’t initially tour due to their young age, but it was the community of Athens and its music scene that became their support system as a band.
“Even though we weren’t able to tour, we had a really good community in Athens that supported us,” Chandler said. “I have always felt really supported by this city.
Monsoon played at the historic Athens fire station at 1 p.m. to a crowd that seemed more than happy to hear them come out.
“I don’t think I would have done this if I hadn’t started here. [in Athens]”Chandler said.
As the day progressed, attendees could be seen dancing together in the crowd and coming together, bonding over the love of talented local music and sounds.
With over 155 performances, it was impossible to get to all of these events, spread across six historic districts of Athens. While many walked, some people chose to travel by bike in order to soak up as much of this massive event as possible.
Next year, Historic Athens hopes for an even bigger turnout with even more groups for local Athenians.
“We can’t even imagine what next year might bring,” Valentine said. “It takes a special community to organize an event like this.”