ITHACA, N.Y. — On Sept. 27, the porches of homes throughout the Fall Creek and Northside neighborhoods will once again be commandeered by a variety of foot-stompers, fiddle-pickers and other motley musical crews. An annual tradition since 2007, Porchfest boasts a 2015 lineup with over 180 performers, including arts and crafts and comedy in addition to music.
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“Porchfest is a celebration of the creative vitality of our neighborhood, and really all of Ithaca, since so many musicians from around the area find a friend’s porch to play on,” said Andy Adelewitz who, along with Lesley Greene and Gretchen Hildreth, is a co-organizer of Porchfest. “It’s just a quarter of a square mile, but the fact that we’ve got 180 different acts lined up this year really shows the energy of the Fall Creek community.”
With all these options for entertainment, navigating the event can be hectic. It’s difficult to decide which performers to see, because many of the bands play similar styles of music. There are a few ways, however, to break down the acts.
Ithaca is a community that, during the school year, is largely made up of college students, and Porchfest will more than likely be attended by many of said students. Perhaps you would like to see some of your fellow Cornell and Ithaca College classmates perform. Look no further than The 14 Strings!, a Cornell-based ensemble featuring 14-stringed Filipino instruments, backed by a bass and guitar. The group plays Filipino folk dances, modern Filipino compositions, Western classical music, show tunes and movie themes.
Catch The 14 Strings! at 607 North Tioga Street, starting at 1 pm.
For more college-based acts, see: Cornell Ukulele Club (Cornell), Ella Sarachan (Ithaca College) or SuP (Rochester Institute of Technology).
Bands Featuring Fiddle:
Maybe the college scene isn’t for you, and you fancy yourself some music of the fiddle variety instead. If that’s the case then the Fall Creek Fiddlers are for you. The most diverse of Porchfest bands in terms of age, the Fiddlers range from five to 50 years old. All of the players are students of Sarah Cummings, a teacher for the Suzuki Institute at Ithaca College. The group stated that they play “favorites from the Suzuki violin repertoire as well as fiddle tunes from around the world.”
See The Fall Creek Fiddlers at 1106 North Cayuga Street, starting at 1 pm.
For more fiddling to get down to, see: Better Than It Sounds, Doolin O’Dey, Mad Goat, PIPERVENTILATORS, The Second Street String Band, Suzuki Violins, Uncle Joe and the Rosebud Ramblers or The Wolf Tones.
I know what you’re thinking, “The fiddle reminds me too much of Georgia. Is there anything more tropical?” You must be looking for ukulele, the fiddle of the Pacific. Ukulelese as a Second Language aims to engage their audience by actually teaching them how to play the ukulele. The group provides ukuleles, so all spectators are welcome to grab one and start strumming.
Join Ukulelese as a Second Language at 204 West Yates Street, starting at 4 pm.
If you’re looking to just watch performers play the ukulele, see: Ukulele and Hula Showcase or UUUU welcomes Ukulele.
Successful performance requires a great deal of chemistry between band members, and some groups become so close that they’re like a family. Other bands actually are family. A fantastic example of such a family band is The Better Barn Burning Bureau. A brother-sister duo founded in the Finger Lakes, the group states that they draw inspiration from “hand-picked, foot stompin’ cover songs.”
Enjoy The Better Barn Burning Bureau at 513 Utica Street, starting at 2 pm.
For more family bands, see: The Grady Girls, Ithaca Cats, NBR (No Blood Relation) or The Nepotist.
Bands Named After Animals:
Arguably the most important part of forming a band is choosing a band name. A name can draw in or push away potential fans, and many Porchfest bands seem particularly interested in attracting lovers of the animal kingdom. While the list is extensive, a great option for bands with animal-themed names is Cats Elbow, an Americana outfit established in 2011. The band “weaves distinctive vocal stylings and old-time harmonies into original pop-rock songs,” according to their website.
Take in Cats Elbow at 112 West Marshall Street, starting at 5 pm.
For more animal bands, see: Immortal Jellyfish (this reporter’s nominee for best band name), Moon Tuna, Dickie Starfish Allstars, The Falconers, Ithaca Cats, The Ithacats, Mad Cow Tippers, Mad Goat, The Mockingbeards, The MonkeySquids, The Wolftones or Woof!
Best Known Bands:
Porchfest is more a celebration of local spirit than of worldwide fame, but the event still draws its share of relatively big names. If you are looking for a well-established group that you might have heard of before, the co-organizers have some suggestions. According to Adelewitz, one of the more popular groups this year will be The Gunpoets. A seven-piece hip hop outfit, The Gunpoets hope to “engage audiences with an exciting live performance that exhilarates and inspires.”
Experience The Gunpoets at 502 Linn Street, starting at 5 pm.
For other popular bands, see: Johnny Dowd, Not From Wisconsin, Mosaic Foundation, Anna Coogan, NEO Project, Rockwood Ferry or Mary Lorson.
Bands Not To Be Overlooked:
Adelewitz also offered suggestions for a few bands that shouldn’t be overlooked. One of these performances is a special acoustic set from the Harry Nichols Band. The band describes itself as “an indie rock quartet specializing in addictive melodies, beachy arranging and general shenanigans.”
Hear the Harry Nichols Band at 206 East Lewis Street, starting at 2 pm.
Another easily-overlooked performance will be the Cornell Gamelan Ensemble. The organizers commented that the group was one of the highlights of last year’s Porchfest. The ensemble plays Javanese music using brass gongs and metallophones. Adelewitz described the group as “really beautiful and fascinating.”
Check out Cornell Gamelan Ensemble at 318 Lake Avenue, starting at noon.
If you want to find a performance that isn’t necessarily just music, look no further than Tiny Rebellions, a dance troupe that describes themselves as “using movement and voice to investigate the identities we wear, with movements, sound and ball gowns!” Or if you’re in the mood to laugh, check out, 1 Hour of Knock Knock Jokes, which is exactly what it sounds like. Michael Smith tells the jokes, and Matt Lewis will accompany him on the double bass.
Tiny Rebellions will be performing at Tompkins Park at noon. 1 Hour of Knock Knock Jokes will be performing at 712 North Tioga at 4 pm.
A Super Mario Story is a new project that will debut at Porchfest this year and is inspired by one of Nintendo’s most enduring and influential video games. According to the creators, the story will “follow Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Toadstool on an adventure through the Mushroom Kingdom to defeat the (maybe) evil Bowser.” This narrated story is accompanied by the video game’s original music, arranged for a saxophone trio.
Relive some childhood memories with A Super Mario Story at 104 Adams Street, starting at 1 pm.
Taking in the sights and sounds of Porchfest can be a draining task. Once you need to refuel your body the event’s sponsor, Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (INHS), will be organizing a food truck roundup at the 210 Hancock Street parking lot, so the food options will be as extensive as the performances.
Porchfest can be an overwhelming endeavor. Each year more and more performers take the porches of Fall Creek by storm, with the number of acts up from 158 to 180 since last year. But don’t fret: with this guide you will be able to navigate the Fall Creek community and assemble a Porchfest lineup to suit your tastes. And even if you get lost, you are guaranteed to experience some great art.
For a full list of performers and more info on Porchfest visit porchfest.org.
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