Spend a fall afternoon walking through one of the state’s best little cities listening to music from the porches of old river houses at the Lambertville Porchfest on Oct. 1.
The idea of Porchfest—that homes in a community host live music and other artistic offerings for free on one day—started about 15 years ago in Ithaca, New York. Since, the Porchfest phenomenon has spread across North America, including to NJ towns like Princeton, Asbury Park and Bordentown.
But Lambertville, the progressive little city on the banks of the Delaware River, is a unique locale, and a unique community in which to host a Porchfest. Residents famously go full-throttle during Halloween, decorating their homes with intricate scenes and attractions, and there’s a strong sense of unity within Lambertville.
It’s, in many ways, an ideal spot for a Porchfest, which Shaun Ellis helped bring in three years ago. He had played a show with his band, Those Looks, at another Porchfest, and as fate would have it, the experience served as inspiration for bringing one closer to home.
“A few years ago, Those Looks were just starting out and we got invited to play the West Philly Porchfest and had such a good time,” Ellis says. “Our bassist was just kind of joking, ‘What do you wanna do for your birthday, you wanna throw a Porchfest?’ And I was like, ‘You know what, let’s do it’—an impromptu joke birthday celebration turned into a really successful city-wide festival here.”
About 60 mini-concerts will be held on 14 porches across the downtown business district. After the shows (from noon to 5 p.m.), there’ll be an open mic at the Elk’s Lodge and a dance party at the firehouse with local DJs.
(Worth noting: There’s a big old hurricane heading up our way, so organizers/individual porch hosts are going to make a determination Saturday morning whether or not the festivities will commence. The event is rain or shine, but not hurricane-proof.)
Ellis says this Porchfest is a little different from others in that they don’t do much advertising of the event; that is to say, this is primarily a celebration of and for the tight Lambertville community (though others are, of course, welcome to swing by, which is why we’re highlighting it).
“The whole idea behind Porchfest is about talking to your neighbor,” Ellis says. “If you’re gonna have loud music playing next-door, you want to be respectful. … You don’t want to call the police on your neighbor because they’re being too loud.”
Lambertville Porchfest also rotates featured artists from year to year. This year, Bennett Kjenstad created the Porchfest design, featuring Lambertville’s Victorian architecture via an animated spin around town, and guests can have it printed via hand-pulled screens on any garment or bag they bring for $10 at Young Bennet.