The streets of the West Side of the city of Binghamton were filled with community members listening to local musicians and chatting in the sun during the third annual Porchfest on Sunday afternoon.
Porchfest is held in the Abel Bennett Tract Historic District on the West Side. Performers from local bands covered all genres of music, and the neighborhood surrounding the festival was filled with students and community members alike, with groups of all ages. Porchfest is an annual festival directed by Chris Bodnarczuk, ‘11, the editor-in-chief of Triple Cities Carousel, a free, monthly publication that covers art in the area.
“It’s easy to forget how amazing our neighborhood and our neighbors are, because for so much of the year we’re all bundled inside sipping cocoa and trying to avoid shoveling snow,” Bodnarczuk said. “But there really is something special here. And I think a lot of what Porchfest does is get all that special together at once as a big protest to the naysayers that say we’ve got some kind of dead town.”
Bodnarczuk explained that Binghamton Porchfest is modeled after a similar event started by residents of Ithaca, New York in 2007. The Ithaca model has spawned over 85 Porchfest events, including the one in the city of Binghamton, and others in Cleveland, Tucson and Kansas City, Mo. Bodnarczuk said that some of the other Porchfests “are very corporate, and involve big-deal sponsorships,” which is something that he wanted to stay away from.
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“[Ithaca’s Porchfest is] very grass-roots in nature: no official vendors, pop-up porches everywhere, a neighborhood of beautiful freaks doing what they will to make the festival a true representation of the neighborhood,” he said. “That’s what I wanted in Binghamton. We provide a schedule, we put out a program. But beyond that, it’s up to the creativity of the neighborhood itself.”
This year’s Porchfest was much larger than that of prior years, as it featured 110 bands, which is 18 more than last year. There were also 40 porches, as opposed to last year’s 26.
Hosts Domm and Jess Leuci have been fans of Porchfest since they attended the event last year.
“We walked around, we saw all of the bands, we loved the music,” Domm said. “Everybody loves live music. [Porchfest] is all about promoting Binghamton and the West Side, [which] is a great place to be and live.”
This year, they asked to host acoustic rock band RNR and Pete Ruttle at their home on Riverside Drive.
“We wanted to have a band on our patio [and] Porchfest is a great way to do that,” Domm said. “[The] community gets out, they love it, so we love it too.”
The program for this year’s festival included a varied slate of bands, including singer-songwriter Paul McDonald, who performed on Seminary Avenue; A Touch of Brass, a quintet which performed on Lathrop Avenue; and the Scott Freeman Band & The Revival Horns, a self-described Irish funk group, which performed on Riverside Drive. There were also karaoke and open mic stages throughout the festival for attendees who felt inspired by the music.
One participating band composed of five BU students, POOL, was no stranger to the pressure of performing for hundreds. POOL was the student band selected to perform at Spring Fling last semester, opening for Mac Miller and Ty Dolla $ign.
Eric Sabshon, guitarist and drummer for POOL and a junior majoring in business administration, praised how Porchfest brings the community together.
“Porchfest does a fantastic job of uniting the community,” Sabshon said. “Binghamton [University] students don’t have the opportunity to really embrace the cultural side of the town of Binghamton. With Porchfest, students get to experience the people living in town, as well as their musical interests.”
In addition to bands, Porchfest was also the unofficial home to local vendors such as Muckles’ Ink and Laurel’s Garden Handcrafted Products. Bodnarczuck said he loves the creativity and spontaneity the event spurs within the community.
“You’ll see hosts decorating their porches elaborately, or vendors setting up all impromptu,” Bodnarczuck said. “[There are] lots of lemonade stands, lots of chalk art [and] lots of mayhem. But it’s organized mayhem — organized anarchy.”