Sounds from the stoop, with Ottawa Porchfest

By Bradley Turcotte – 

A cacophony of melody and music blankets Hintonburg September 9, when Ottawa Porchfest perches on platforms around the neighbourhood.

Now in its third year, the festival sees local, independent acts perform on porches and balconies of residents who volunteer their verandas.

Co-founder Ken McKay, whose family owns and operates several businesses including Updated Vintage and Not Mother, drew inspiration from the original Ithaca, New York Porchfest and similar events held in Montreal.

“We’re trying to have a festival where anybody can get a start,” Ken says, “anybody that wants to put on a show can get out there and make it happen; whereas you’d never get that opportunity in almost any other festival as an amateur. It is a launching pad for new acts as well as established acts to be able to come out and have fun.”

Artists will perform from 1 to 5 p.m. at staggered times.

Jon Sims performing at last year’s Porchfest. Photo supplied by Ken McKay
Jon Sims performing at last year’s Porchfest. Photo supplied by Ken McKay

Unconventional stages are nothing new for Ottawa rock band, Arms of the Girl, who have played everywhere from driveways to back decks, says band member Cee Cote, but a porch performance will be a new arena for the group.

Arms of the Girl typically features electric instruments but their Porchfest set will see the band going acoustic, Cee previews.

“We’ll probably throw in a mandolin, which is an instrument we don’t typically use in our shows but will be perfect for Porchfest,” Cee says. “We’re looking forward to conquering this new type of stage.”

Neo-soul duo, leMeow, have travelled to Japan to perform a four-minute set, yet Gin Bourgeois admits she’s excited to perform locally at Porchfest.

“It’s a great setting for us to get to know our neighbours a little better and to meet fellow musicians within the area,” Gin says. “I love the simplicity of coming together as a community to share and appreciate local music.”

leMeow will also strip down their performance to an acoustic set, playing tracks off their debut album York St., with some of their favourite covers thrown in.

As the festival continues to grow, Ken says he hopes that in years to come the event will create employment for residents. The festival avoids liquor or beer sponsors as it’s a family friendly event.

“Our big goal is to try to keep that essence of it and not let it get so big like other cities.”

Ken floated the idea that the Hintonburg Community Association (HCA) could take the reins in the future, however, HCA board member Paulette Dozois, who is volunteering her porch for the festival, says she is not aware of this proposal.

Over 65 acts are slated to grace porches this year and Ken says he’s seen bands from previous years go on to record albums and move on to proper stages.

“We would like to see it expand for the sole purpose of it gives more opportunity to musicians and local artists to present their art. That’s the goal. We love being a grassroots festival. We love that we draw thousands of people from outside our neighbourhood to our neighbourhood.”

For more details, including a full list of participating performers, go to ottawaporchfest.ca.

Jon Sims performing at last year’s Porchfest. Photo supplied by Ken McKay

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