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Takin’ it to the Porch: Second Annual Porchfest in Grants Pass

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While everyone has the band they love and would go see them perform in a back alley with garbage trucks rumbling by, venue can be almost as important as the music being played. The growing house concert movement is a sure sign that audiences want to be closer to the musicians in a more intimate venue, and Porchfest offers the perfect combo of favorite music with a homey place to hear it.

Grants Pass’ second annual Porchfest on June 16 will feature local bands of the highest caliber, with each featured on the front porches of houses on historic Washington Boulevard and surrounding streets, which will be closed to traffic so the audience can stroll or ride bikes between the porch stages.

Porchfest takes place all over the country and Canada, in small and large cities alike. It was first coined in Ithaca, New York in 2007. This year’s Grants Pass event features 36 musical acts, along with food, drink and art vendors, and will benefit Maslow Project and CASA of Josephine County. Last year, Porchfest awarded CASA with a $10,000 grant.

This community-oriented focus of the event is what makes it so good, says Porchfest Organizer and Board President Linda Scott. “It’s amazing how great things can happen in a community when folks get out of their vehicles, disengage from their devices, and just enjoy each other’s company,” she says.

We caught up with two bands new to Porchfest this year, to get the view from the porch looking out.

 

Sequoia. Photo Credit: Lucas Brinkerhoff

Band Name:  Sequoia

Brief History of Your Band and Upcoming Plans:

Sequoia is an acoustic Americana flavored family band, featuring warm harmony, folk, newgrass, and eclectic original instrumentals. Members Al and Deborah Brinkerhoff have hosted local music events, home concerts for traveling bands and local acoustic music jams for several years in the Rogue Valley. Al has been a talented sideman for many bands, and is known for his talented dobro (steel resonator) licks. Sequoia performs at local wineries and special events as a duo, trio or quartet.  

RVM: What are looking forward to in the Porchfest event?

AB: The festival easily demonstrates community camaraderie and spirit, and reflects a simpler time, when people gathered on their porches. Music was always part of those times

RVM: What is unique about Porchfest, and how is it a good fit for your band?

AB: Americana, folk, bluegrass and old time music originated from a time long ago, carrying on traditions and stories from the past—people’s heritages. Music shared people’s stories—in barns, at the general store, on the porches. Our music reflects the same, as many of our selected tunes are story songs with messages to share.  Porchfest seems to be a perfect venue for audiences to experience some of that music style, the way folks used to gather.

RVM: What are your insights on the music scene in Southern Oregon, and also, specifically Grants Pass?

AB: From our perspective, there are many talented musicians tucked away and get together with friends that you would never know are “out there”, retired, or not interested in playing in public.  The variety of genre overall has grown in the Rogue Valley. There are a handful of “good” bands, but not always accessible to “families” due to the fact that they play in bars.  Venues hire bands that will bring customers, and many customers in Grants Pass would choose “blues.”  For so long, Grants Pass tended to promote many of these blues and cover style “bands.” Often people have a stereotyped impression of certain genres and might “think” they don’t like a certain type of sound (bluegrass-country etc.). That has paved the way for many groups to attempt to describe themselves as “Americana” or “variety,” exposing folks to tunes they end up enjoying despite themselves! Live music opportunities with festivals, park concerts, open mikes, “jam sessions” and small home concerts have grown.  People are sharing through Facebook music groups promote private get-togethers as well. The local newspapers have been able to provide huge lists of all the choices in our area, and now with the wineries becoming live venues as well, the Valley has quite the variety, to accommodate the varied preferences in our area.  

 

The Illinois Valley String Band. Artwork by Dan Kittleson. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Illinois Valley String Band

Band Name: Illinois Valley String Band

Brief History of Band: 

The band was formed in approximately 2004 by banjo player George Shook, guitarist Kent Fisher, and mandolin and banjo player Jack Dwyer. Soon after, they were joined by bones and accordion player Mark Kelz. When George left the band in 2012, Jack’s wife, Carol Valentine, and their son, Ari Dwyer, both of whom had been sitting in with the band occasionally, were officially added to the roster. Ari plays fiddle and Carol plays harmonica, guitar, percussion, and second fiddle. The two also added their voices to the band’s already-rich three part harmonies, completing the lineup that will be heard at Porchfest.

RVM: Upcoming Plans?

JV: The Illinois Valley String Band will play at Taylor’s Country Store in Cave Junction on July 13 and looks forward to two intimate unplugged performances at the Chateau at the Oregon Caves, on July 28 and September 1.

RVM: What are looking forward to in the Porchfest event?

JV: We look forward to playing in a casual, relaxed atmosphere, and being able to interact with a flow of people.

RVM: What is unique about Porchfest, and how is it a good fit for your band? 

JV: Porchfest is a musical potluck that allows people to sample a wide range of local musicians. It brings people out to stroll and visit, and enjoy a wholesome, old-fashioned afternoon appreciating music and the lovely houses in the Porchfest neighborhood. Porchfest is perfect for the Illinois Valley String Band, because string band music was born on the porches of America! We love it when our music can be shared up close and personal without the need for wires.

RVM: What are your insights on the music scene in Southern Oregon, and also, specifically Grants Pass? 

JV: The Illinois Valley has quite a music scene, with three open mikes each week and numerous venues presenting live music every weekend. 

 

Native Tuesday Ukulele Group was a crowd favorite last year. Credit: Courtesy of Grants Pass Porchfest

Grants Pass Porchfest

12 – 3 pm, Saturday, June 16

NW Washington Blvd and surrounding streets in Grants Pass

Drop-off zone at Lawnridge Park, 1090 NW Hawthorne Avenue, Grants Pass

Free

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