Porchfest takes over Virginia-Highland for year two

Neighbors listen to Tuesday Nights Live during the first Virginia Highland Porchfest. 
Courtesy Virginia Highland District

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Neighbors listen to Tuesday Nights Live during the first Virginia Highland Porchfest. Courtesy Virginia Highland District

Where to find more free live music in and around Atlanta this spring and summer.

When the newly formed Virginia Highland District created a neighborhood Porchfest music event that mirrored the long-running Oakhurst festival, organizers expected that a few thousand people would spend a spring day listening to a handful of bands play on porches throughout the neighborhood. By nightfall, 20,000 people had spent time reveling in one of the first neighborhood events since the pandemic began.

Christina Carrick, Virginia Highland District’s director of community outreach, said she remembers thinking of that first festival in 2021, “I don’t know who’s going to want to do this; I don’t know who’s going to want to show up.” In the end, 50 bands had performed on more than 40 porches.

“There were a couple of times where I got emotional because this was not at all what we envisioned,” she said of the DIY festival. “It just blew our minds.”

The second iteration of Virginia Highland Porchfest takes over the neighborhood May 14 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with more than 70 bands on 55 porches, lawns and driveways between Virginia Avenue and Drewry Street. The festival includes vendors, food trucks, a ticketed VIP experience and a costumed, one-mile Rock ‘n’ Run race around the festival grounds. More information is at virginiahighlanddistrict.com/porchfest.

This year’s event builds on the success of the first Porchfest. When Carrick asked for resident feedback after the festival, she frequently heard words like “magical” and the phrase “the best event I’ve gone to in Atlanta.” Still, there are some things Carrick and her team will do differently this time around. Since they were anticipating a small crowd, many of the vendors ended up running out of food early in the day. With the knowledge that the crowd size could double from last year, the food trucks will come prepared. She also said that unlike last year, houses along North Highland will not be participating due to safety concerns on a busy street. Hours have also been extended to allow for more bands that will bring a wider mix of genres to the neighborhood.

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Tuesday Nights Live is back for a second year at the Virginia Highlands Porchfest. Courtesy Alex Wu

Credit: Alex Wu

Tuesday Nights Live is back for a second year at the Virginia Highlands Porchfest.
Courtesy Alex Wu

Credit: Alex Wu

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Tuesday Nights Live is back for a second year at the Virginia Highlands Porchfest. Courtesy Alex Wu

Credit: Alex Wu

Credit: Alex Wu

Emily Dodd, who plays guitar in the bands Tuesday Nights Live (11 a.m.) and Fruit for All (3 p.m., both at 935 Virginia Circle), has had thrilling community-oriented experiences at both Oakhurst and Virginia-Highland porchfests. Though it can be tricky fitting the seven-piece Tuesday Nights band on small porches, she said it’s always been a blast.

“The hosts of the events, the people who offer up their porches, are wonderful to share their space with us and make this possible. Without them, we wouldn’t have a place to play,” she said. The majority of the hosts who welcomed bands last year will be participating this year.

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Neighbors listen to Webster Band Atlanta during the first Virginia Highland Porchfest. Courtesy David Goo

Credit: David Goo

Neighbors listen to Webster Band Atlanta during the first Virginia Highland Porchfest. 
Courtesy David Goo

Credit: David Goo

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Neighbors listen to Webster Band Atlanta during the first Virginia Highland Porchfest. Courtesy David Goo

Credit: David Goo

Credit: David Goo

Steve and Kathy Fazenbaker hosted two bands last year from their porch on Highland View. For the second running of the festival, they will welcome singer-songwriter Joshua Fletcher at 11 a.m. and Mutant County Line at 4 p.m. The Virginia Highland District matched up each willing porch owner with the bands, but residents could request certain groups if desired. The Fazenbakers, who have lived on the street for more than two decades, host because they love the energy and the buzz it creates in the community and like being part of a festival where bands are playing at houses up and down the street.

“Last year, our band finished and people could literally turn around on the same street and start listening to a new band,” Kathy said.

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Neighbors listen to Tuesday Nights Live during the first Virginia Highland Porchfest. Courtesy Virginia Highland District

Credit: Handout

Neighbors listen to Tuesday Nights Live during the first Virginia Highland Porchfest. 
Courtesy Virginia Highland District

Credit: Handout

caption arrowCaption
Neighbors listen to Tuesday Nights Live during the first Virginia Highland Porchfest. Courtesy Virginia Highland District

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

It’s this community feel that draws Dodd to Porchest, whether in Oakhurst, which takes place Oct. 8 this year, or Virginia-Highland. The chance to revel in music for an entire day, with residents exploring their neighborhoods at the same time, is meaningful.

“It’s almost like nothing else exists,” she said, “except this good time we’re having with the community.”

Check out more free music that will be happening in and around Atlanta in the coming weeks and months:

Roswell

Alive in Roswell

The mini festival occurs each third Thursday through October, from 5-9 p.m., in Historic Roswell Town Square and surrounding areas. Live music happens in the Heart of Roswell Park on Canton Street and in the Roswell Antique & Interiors parking lot. aliveinroswell.com.

Riverside Sounds

Free concert at Riverside Park (575 Riverside Road) on the fourth Saturday of the month, from May to October. Artists include Emily Wolfe, J & the Causeways and Ruby Velle & the Soulphonics. www.roswellgov.com.

Alpharetta

Home by Dark Concert Series

This free concert series is offered at Brooke Street Park, located behind City Hall, from May 14 to September 10. Concerts start at 7:30 p.m. www.homebydark.com.

Norcross

Summer Concert Series

Eight free concerts, from May to September, on Friday nights from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. in Thrasher Park (93 Park Drive). www.aplacetoimagine.com.

Duluth

Summer Stage Concert Series

The Evolution of Pop plays a free concert at the Town Green (3142 Hill St.) on July 23 from 8-10 p.m. duluthga.net.