In February, the Highland Square Neighborhood Association, feeling all good because of its recently acquired 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation to help with fundraising, decided to have a community festival similar to the Larchmere PorchFest held each year in the Cleveland neighborhood.
The group got a bunch of bands — the easy task — and eventually found enough folks to offer up their porches and staged the Porch Rokr Music Festival.
The inaugural festival occurred in June and was an unqualified success with folks from around Akron and other areas leisurely strolling around the streets of Highland Square to listen to live music and hang out. Some Highland Square denizens even met some of their longtime neighbors for the first time.
“No one was more surprised than ourselves,” association President Anita Marron said.
The event went so well that the group decided to pair it with the annual Art in the Square festival, which was shelved in 2012, for a big fall twofer — Porch Rokr Music Festival/Art in the Square.
“The logic [behind combining the two events] was self-torture,” neighborhood association secretary Mark Smith said, laughing.
For the sake of clarification: yes, the city-sponsored Square Fest that happened in late August was on the original date for Art in the Square, causing the association to reschedule its event, but there are no hard feelings or ill will, organizers say. Besides, Highland Square can handle as many cool community festivals as folks are willing to stage and attend.
“We were surprised at how well this thing worked out and what we realize now is that Porch Rokr is really the thing we want to do,” Smith said. “We’ll still have the artist vendors and all that but we’ll probably wind up dropping the Art in the Square name and just go with Porch Rokr.”
For the fall edition of Porch Rokr/Art in the Square on Saturday, everything is bigger with more than 120 acts in a variety of genres and styles on more than 50 porches. The summer festival had about 80 bands. A new addition will be Merch Row, a centralized area where visitors can purchase music and merchandise from the acts they enjoy.
There will also be 140 artists and exhibitors plus a few food trucks and a skateboard park with ramps, rails and quarter pipes in the parking lot at 27 Grand Ave. One of the biggest differences is the shifted location. The June Porch Rokr used porches north of West Market, while the fall edition will focus on the streets between West Market and Exchange streets, including Marvin, Borton and Dick avenues and South Rose Boulevard.
“We’re hoping to continue that where we kind of rotated it around so every year it’ll be a nice rotation and people can get to know each other in different areas,” Marron said.
“One long-term goal that’s been kind of understated with our group is we basically want to bring people together,” Smith said. “One of the biggest divides in Highland Square is West Market. People refer to it as the Mason-Dixon [line].
“If we can get through to people on the south side of the street and the north side and get them to move into each other’s neighborhoods for these things, all the better; it’ll be good for everyone,” he said.
Obviously, I can’t list all of the 140 acts. Point your Intergoogle machine or intelligent phone to porchrokr.com for details. Smith suggests that folks planning to come take a few minutes to peruse the many choices and pick a few they definitely want to see, “otherwise they might be a bit overwhelmed,” he said.
The music and neighborhood-wide warm fuzzies will begin at 11 a.m. with about 20 acts performing each hour and several acts performing on more than one porch throughout the day.
Among those sharing their talent is the intriguing sounding Amy vs. Godzilla, purveyor of Video Game & Life Soundtracks on Borton Avenue. Among the 22 acts at noon is Terence Cranendonk (awesome last name, dude) performing “intelligent physical comedy”on Elmore Avenue. At 1 p.m., you can head to Corson Avenue to check out the Turkish and Balkan folk stylings of Brenna MacCrimmon of Toronto.
At 2 p.m., head to Dick Avenue for some fine roots reggae and ska from the Rhodes Street Rude Boys. At 3 p.m., you can take a break from the music and observe Italian street theater from the Miller South Commedia dell’Arte Troupe.
If by 4 p.m. your soul feels a little soiled, you can get a quick spiritual shower from the First Apostolic Faith Church Praise Team singing the Lord’s praises on Elmore Avenue. Among the 5 p.m. acts are Men of Leisure with Dance Du Solei, a pairing of deep house DJs and a belly dance troupe.
There’s another combo act at 6 p.m. as two rock/blues bands — the Bleeding Feathers and Xtra Crispy (Bleeding Xtra Crispy Feathers?) — join forces for an all out blues-rock jam.
The music ends with a performance by local singer/songwriter/activist Zach who will perform duets from his recently released album Provenance. Zach will perform with many of the folks on the CD including local favorites singer-songwriters Ryan Humbert and Rachel Roberts, singer-guitarist Colin John and poet T.M. Gottl.
Sales of Provenance and any donations offered during the show will go to local organizations dedicated to promoting nonviolence in our communities. There also will be tip jars for performers, so bring a few bucks and make it rain for our local starving artists.
Lastly, the Square Card fundraiser for the association has returned. Festival-goers can donate $20 for five Square Card coupons that can be redeemed at artists’ booths, food vendors and local businesses for free stuff.