Community residents and businesses host the 2017 Takoma Porch music festival

Evan Schnoll and Mark H Rooney performing Taiko, traditional-style Japanese drumming at the gazebo. Photo by Janine Hu.

By Janine Hu

It was impossible to see it all at the Takoma Porch music festival.

Fifty-two local artists performed live at the city-wide event, which took place on 22 porches throughout Takoma Park.

The free, walkable festival featured a diverse group of local musicians across many genres. When choosing performers, festival organizer Zach Parkman likes to focus on artists that are acoustic and mostly local.

“I have no problem with rock and roll, but we try to keep it to a minimum because this is a residential area.”

This year, the festival boasted several traditional acoustic genres like folk, blues, and Americana. But some unique genres were also represented, including a gypsy jazz ensemble, two DJs and a taiko drummer.

Parkman believes that the city’s culture makes Takoma Park the perfect venue for the event.

“Takoma Park is a very crunchy neighborhood. People love organizing and getting out and doing things together. They love being part of the community. I can’t think of a better place to host it.”

Each year, residents volunteer their porches. Parkman tries to keep the number of porches limited to around 20 porches for performances. While the festival usually attracts enough volunteers, it’s always looking for more residents who would be willing to provide a porch for the event.

The layout of Takoma Park is ideal for hosting a porch music festival, says Parkman. The proximity between the residential and commercial areas makes the festival walkable and allows both residents and businesses to lend their porches to musicians.

An increase in participation from local businesses is one way Parkman has seen the festival evolve since its first year in 2013.

This year, several businesses offered a helping hand either by hosting musicians or providing festival maps and schedules.

House of Musical Traditions returned as a host this year, but moved its performance to its back porch.

Store owner David Eisner, who has been heavily involved in the festival since its beginnings, feels that the festival plays in important role in bringing together the community.

“It gets people out and doing things as opposed to sitting at their computer,” said Eisner. “Any type of interaction that’s human-to-human is pretty important.”

Eisner also feels that the festival contributes to the city’s thriving music festival culture.

“How many towns have a jazz festival, a street festival, and a folk festival? A lot of towns don’t have any festivals. We have three.”

But Takoma Porch is nothing like most music festivals that involve heavy crowds standing around one stage. Instead, festival-goers are invited to walk around the city at their own pace and pick which performers to see.

“It’s interactive in that you get to choose your own festival,” Parkman said.

Local taiko drummer Mark H Rooney, who performed at the gazebo this year, likes how the unique layout of the festival allows people to walk around to different venues throughout the city.

“Some people see you for like 30 seconds, I think that’s great,” said Rooney. “They’re going from place to place and they catch a glimpse.”

While music is certainly the focus of the festival, it’s also about community.

Beth Broadwater, who recently moved to Takoma Park, saw the festival as a chance to meet her new neighbors and get to know her community.

She says attending the festival “makes me really glad that I moved to this neighborhood.”

The festival was a great experience for her because it provided the opportunity to get out and talk to people, find out what they have in common, and make new friends.

The festival is expected to return next year.

Although this was Parkman’s second year organizing the festival, it was his first time doing it remotely.

Parkman recently moved to New York City and did most of the planning through email and phone calls.

Despite the distance, Parkman is open to organizing the festival again next year.