As she walked the streets of the West Plaza neighborhood during the 2015 PorchFest KC, Kathryn Golden, the event’s founder, wondered whether the festival would become a victim of its own popularity.
“I was surprised how fast it took off compared to other cities that have PorchFests,” she said. “In our first year, both in terms of interest from musicians but also attendance, we were way past what several cities had achieved over several years. And that’s still the case.”
More than 60 bands and songwriters performed at the inaugural PorchFest KC in June 2014. In June 2015, that number grew to about 100. And that wasn’t the only growth Golden witnessed. People were frustrated with street congestion and cars parked illegally.
“I didn’t necessarily want to get bigger, but I wanted to get better,” she said. “Last year I thought, ‘Oh, crap. Maybe it got too big.’ A lot of people couldn’t get close enough to hear the music. On a personal level, I want it to be most about the music, and last year kind of felt like it was a huge yard party with strangers.”
The problem of space and congestion would solve itself. In October 2015, as she was planning the 2016 PorchFest, the West Plaza Neighborhood Association told her that after two years, it was no longer interested in hosting the event.
“They were nervous about liability because of the crowd sizes.”
Without a festival site, she conceded that it was too late to schedule a June event. But circumstances unfolded fortuitously: The Valentine neighborhood agreed to host and, because of a job change, Golden had more time in the summer to work on organizing the festival, which will take place Saturday, Oct. 8.
“I wasn’t traveling all summer like I had been,” she said. “When I started, I wanted the festival to be in the fall, but my job made that difficult. My new job made it possible, which I was really excited about.”
The Valentine neighborhood, a district just north of Westport between Broadway and Southwest Trafficway, should be a better fit for the crowds.
“The porches in Valentine are larger, the houses are farther apart, the streets are wider, there’s more parking,” Golden said.
Still, there’s no guarantee she won’t be looking for a new place in 2017. This year, Golden booked 140 bands to play on 41 porches, up from 30 porches in 2015. She also extended the festival by one hour. Yet she had to turn some bands away.
“There weren’t really enough porches for the volume of musicians that signed up,” she said. “So it might have been even smarter to make it a midtown thing, not a Valentine thing, and have it spread out more widely.”
There is plenty going on this year to be excited about, beyond a new, more accommodating locale. Less than 30 percent of the bands and songwriters on this year’s bill have performed at a previous PorchFest, down about 5 percent from last year.
“Not everyone is absolutely awesome,” she said, “but I’m a proponent of giving people a shot, even if they’re not necessarily at the level where a club will book them. I like the idea of giving them a chance to get out of the house or garage and get on a porch and play in public.”
Golden curates the lineup with one thing foremost in mind: How loud are you? Applicants submit music samples online, and she decides who’s most suitable for the environment.
“If someone was loud I would respond and say, ‘This is an acoustic event. Do you play acoustically or unplugged? If so, you have to show me you can do that,’ ” she said.
She made one exception: Hammerhedd, the trio of young brothers who performed Metallica covers outside a Country Club Plaza business in September; a video of the performance went viral and drew online praise from Metallica.
“They applied with everyone else in July,” Golden said. “They’re so good and I wrote their mom and said I really wanted to make it work.”
So she manipulated the schedule and gave the boys permission to play loud. Their set is from 4:30 to 5 p.m. at 3628 Pennsylvania Ave., following three sets by folk and Americana performers.
“They have 45 minutes of material, so I gave them 30 minutes and cleared all the nearby porches,” she said. “Anyone else within earshot will be done by 4:30, and they’re going to go for it.”
Hammerhedd is likely to draw a big crowd of its own, but, as Golden has discovered, sometimes the key to success is to be prepared for the changes it requires.
PorchFest KC 2016 runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, in the Valentine neighborhood. One-hundred and forty bands will perform on 41 porches. Admission is free; attendees are encouraged to tip the musicians. Some limited VIP parking is available on PorchFestKC.com.
3523 Jefferson St.
11:30 a.m. Electric Mud Band (blues)
1 p.m. Danny Thompson Band (country)
2:30 p.m. Foxlin (country)
4 p.m. Geezer (folk)
3609 Jefferson St.
Noon Shapiro Brothers (country)
2 p.m. Old Sound (folk)
4 p.m. Lauren Anderson (blues)
3612 Jefferson St.
11 a.m. Blue Forest (folk)
1 p.m. Dunan Hill (folk)
3 p.m. Jonny Green (country)
3626 Jefferson St.
11 a.m. Tracy Allison (country)
12:30 p.m. The Invisible World (folk)
2 p.m. Goodbye Gravity (pop)
3:30 p.m. Greg Parker (folk)
3661 Jefferson St.
11 a.m. Mike Ning (jazz)
12:30 p.m. Hardship Letters (folk)
2 p.m. Erin Eades (folk)
3:30 p.m. Not Sisters (folk)
3664 Jefferson St.
11:30 a.m. Been Broken (folk)
1 p.m. Loaded Goat (country)
2:30 p.m. Jake Daly (folk)
4 p.m. The Brass Tacks (folk)
3677 Jefferson St.
Noon Pale Fire Kings (folk)
2 p.m. Bella Donna (jazz)
3678 Jefferson St.
11 a.m. The Engineers (country)
1 p.m. The Perfect Things (folk)
3 p.m. Dinsdale (pop)
3680 Jefferson St.
11 a.m. Caleb Ryan Martin (folk)
2 p.m. Jake Stanton (folk)
3689 Jefferson St.
11 a.m. Steve Southard (folk)
1 p.m. Lost and Found (folk)
3 p.m. Dane Davenport (folk)
3701 Jefferson St.
Noon Kelly & Diana Werts of Tiny Flowers (folk)
2:30 p.m. Blue Eye Truth Tellers (folk)
4 p.m. 96 Strings (folk)
3709 Jefferson St.
11 a.m. Mark Stevenson (folk)
1 p.m. The B Sharps (country)
3 p.m. The Kemps (country)
3710 Jefferson St.
2 p.m. Asylum Bridge (country)
4 p.m. Bailey West (folk)
3720 Jefferson St.
1 p.m. Scott Ford (country)
3723 Jefferson St.
Noon Acoustic Rooster (country)
4 p.m. Brent Lee (folk)
3724 Jefferson St.
11 a.m. Adriana Nikole (folk)
3 p.m. Steamboat Bandits (country)
3737 Jefferson St.
11:30 a.m. Undercurrent (folk)
1 p.m. Shadow Rabbits (pop)
2:30 p.m. Chase Fanning (folk),
4 p.m. Crystal Rose (pop)
3554 Pennsylvania Ave.
11:30 a.m. Frank Rardon (folk)
1 p.m. The Veritas Salon and the Good Times Brigade Variety Show Extravaganza (folk)
2:30 p.m. Gustafson-Daniels Quartet (jazz)
4 p.m. Wade D. Brown (blues)
3564 Pennsylvania Ave.
Noon Violent Bear (folk)
2 p.m. The Shameless Pursuit (folk)
4 p.m. Kate Rose (folk)
3568 Pennsylvania Ave.
11 a.m. Satori (folk)
1 p.m. Drew Black & Dirty Electric (folk)
3 p.m. Matt Ritchie & Bill Thompson (blues)
3615 Pennsylvania Ave.
11:30 a.m. Mundo Nouvo (Latin)
1 p.m. The Road Ahead (country)
2:30 p.m. Kate Whitefield (folk)
4 p.m. Angie Fights Crime (folk)
3628 Pennsylvania Ave.
11:30 a.m. Orion Walsh (folk)
1 p.m. Exit 13 Duo (folk)
2:30 p.m. Timbers (country)
4:30 p.m. Hammerhedd (rock)
3633 Pennsylvania Ave.
11 a.m. Fire Creek (country)
12:30 p.m. Euphoria Stringband (country)
2 p.m. Erica One Woman Band (folk)
3:30 p.m. The Hamptones (folk)
3644 Pennsylvania Ave.
Noon Jimbo’s Singalong (folk)
2 p.m. Miners Bluff Band (country)
4 p.m. Galaxz (folk)
3707 Pennsylvania Ave.
11:30 a.m. Employer (folk)
1 p.m. A.J. Harbison (folk)
2:30 p.m. Amanda Hughey (folk)
4 p.m. Little Maggie (country)
3734 Pennsylvania Ave.
11:30 a.m. Max Fred Band (folk)
1 p.m. Brian Padavic (folk)
2:30 p.m. Calle Vida (Latin)
4 p.m. Deanna Ray (folk)
3817 Pennsylvania Ave.
11 a.m. Johnny Fox (country)
12:30 p.m. Your Robot Friends (rock)
3:30 p.m. GAV7D (jazz)
620 Valentine Road
11 a.m. Tommy Strauser (folk)
12:30 p.m. Cali Roberta (folk)
3:30 p.m. Dan Bliss (blues)
721 Valentine Road
11 a.m. American Slim (country)
12:30 p.m. Ramblin’ Pan (folk)
2 p.m. Jervis Jort (country)
3:30 p.m. Backfat (country)
640 W. 35th St.
11 a.m. Kid on the Mountain (folk)
12:30 p.m. Steve Sterner & Sundown (folk)
2 p.m. Joey & Ashley (pop)
3:30 p.m. Zinzibar Drums (reggae)
517 W. 38th St.
11 a.m. Good Time Charley (country)
1 p.m. Kansas City Bear Fighters (folk)
3:30 p.m. Ashley Raines (country)
626 W. 39th Terrace
2 p.m. Head in the Sand (folk)
4 p.m. Tevin Williams (soul)
629 W. 39th Terrace
11 a.m. Blue False Indigo (folk)
1 p.m. Sweet Martha (folk)
3 p.m. In and Out of Town (jazz)
641 W. 39th Terrace
11 a.m. KC Uke Alliance (folk)
12:30 p.m. Danny Fowler (folk)
2 p.m. Damien Gunn (country)
3:30 p.m. Tall Tales & Jack Ingram (folk)
630 W. 40th St.
11:30 a.m. Jacob the Bigus (folk)
2:30 p.m. Bob Kamler (country)
4 p.m. Gypsy Fingers (jazz)
500 W. 35th St.
Noon Chris Foster (folk)
1:30 p.m. MBird (folk)
2:45 p.m. Whitherward (folk)
4:15 p.m. Joy Zimmerman & Jimmy Dykes (folk)
3732 Washington St.
11 a.m. Seafoam Galaxy (folk)
12:30 p.m. Ernest James Zydeco Trio (zydeco)
2 p.m. Gas Food Lodging (folk)
3:30 p.m. Mister Scotty (folk)
3752 Washington St.
11 a.m. Wyatt (folk)
12:15 p.m. Larry Garrett (folk)
1:30 p.m. Bill Abernathy (folk)
2:45 p.m. Chad Abernathy (folk)
4 p.m. Kasey Rausch’s Country Duo (country)
3775 Washington St.
11:30 a.m. Sticks & Stones (folk)
1 p.m. The Accidental Project (folk)
2:30 p.m. Interstate 49 (country)
4 p.m. Dylan Moses (folk)
3787 Washington St.
11 a.m. Maggie Henehan (folk)
1 p.m. Moe Shinola (folk)
3 p.m. Chico Sierra (folk)
3788 Washington St.
Noon Patrick Quinn (folk)
2 p.m. Dave the Dog (folk)
Compiled by Joel Francis, Special to The Star