Simone Jacobs/Sun Staff Photographer

Porchfest attendees dance on Sep 24, as local musicians performed on porches in the Fall Creek neighborhood during the annual event.

September 26, 2023

Music Brings Ithacans Together During Porchfest

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Sixteen years ago, Fall Creek’s Porchfest festival was an informal gathering of 20 musicians who realized that they could perform on their porches since they rehearsed there anyway. 

“A lot of us practiced on our porches, and somebody had the idea — why not put on a concert and get everybody practicing on the porch at the same time?” said Cookie Coogan, a local singer. 

These musicians performed on private property — homeowners’ porches, hence the name — and informally organized the event. Andy Adelewitz, a Porchfest co-organizer, said the city largely ignored the gatherings in the beginning.

“In the early years, it was very low-key to organize,” Adelewitz said. “All the performances took place on private property, and the crowds were relatively small, so the city was pretty hands-off about it.”

But a lot has changed between Porchfest’s founding in 2007, by neighbors Gretchen Hildreth and Lesley Greene, and its most recent occurrence on Sunday, Sept. 24, which featured 150 performers. The event now requires collaboration with the City of Ithaca and significant backing infrastructure such as volunteers, organizers, permits and vendors, according to Adelewitz. Still, he said, the performers have maintained the original loose, informal atmosphere.

“We definitely don’t have to take a hands-on approach with performers — people want to play Porchfest and look forward to it every year,” Adelewitz said. “We just open the signups over the summer and spread the word.” 

Performers at this year’s edition of Porchfest highlighted the connections between the groups and the Ithaca community, with Eva Lampugnale, the lead singer of local punk band Microbes, Mostly, promising to support another band immediately following the end of their performance.

“It takes a community of people to get it to work,” Lampugnale said during the event. “Around the corner there’s a band called the Dart Brothers, and our bassist’s mom plays fiddle in that band, so we’ll go out and support her.” 

Malcolm Olson ’24, a fan of Microbes, Mostly since their formation, said the band’s support for other groups makes them special.

“They have always been such huge supporters of other musicians in the area — I don’t know if the Ithaca scene would be half as open and as vibrant as it is right now without their influence over these past few years,” Olson said. “All the coolest bands adore them, and all the kindest music dweebs go to their shows.”

However, Microbes, Mostly is not the only band with connections to other groups and figures of  the Ithaca music scene. Students from Cornell’s MUSIC 4615: Jazz Ensemble course also performed at Porchfest, playing an assortment of jazz tunes in the basement of Opus Music School. They were directed by Prof. Paul Merrill, music, who was mentored by Prof. Steve Brown, music performance, Ithaca College.

So too was Coogan, who performed a vocal jazz set with Dave Solazzo, a jazz piano instructor and visiting lecturer at Cornell. Coogan came to Ithaca in 1984, where she attended Ithaca College and learned under Brown, whom she credited for getting her started in Ithaca’s music scene.

“[Brown] started getting me out in public, and I liked Ithaca and didn’t want to go home,” Coogan said. “So [to perform] with [Solazzo] today, I was just so excited.” 

Luke O’Brien ’27 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].

Correction, Sept. 27, 10:39 a.m.: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Andy Adelewitz’s name. The Sun regrets this error.