Bristol's Porchfest party kicks off on Sept. 17

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 8/31/23

PorchFest 2023, the fourth incarnation of the event, will be held on Sunday, Sept. 17 from 3 to 6 p.m., along High Street between Walley and Byfield.

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Bristol's Porchfest party kicks off on Sept. 17


The cure for those end-of-summer blues is right around the corner.

PorchFest 2023, the fourth incarnation of the event, will be held on Sunday, Sept. 17 from 3 to 6 p.m., along High Street between Walley and Byfield.
Brought to you by Arts in Common, a local organization that promotes arts and culture in Bristol, this year’s event features some new bands along with some old favorites. In all, 10 porches will host 20 musical acts in this free, fun, family-friendly event.

“Beautiful porches and great local musicians in our historic district are the perfect way to welcome the fall, bringing together friends and neighbors for an autumn afternoon,” said MaryKae Wright, PorchFest co-chair.

As before, Roger Williams University is partnering with Arts In Common to support this community-favorite event. “The University is thrilled to once again partner with and support the PorchFest organization as they provide a venue for talented local bands and Bristol community members to celebrate music together,” said RWU President Ioannis Miaoulis.

Last year’s PorchFest was a massive success, with an estimated 5,000 music fans strolling and dancing in the street. “One of the most enjoyable things was running into so many friends and neighbors while enjoying a Sunday afternoon of great local music,” said PorchFest Co-chair Nancy Kellner.

New year, new look
Organizers held an open call for a new logo, and Warren-based graphic designer and art director Sarah Quatrano’s design, which showcases local porches and music in a bright, fresh way, won the competition.

“As a creative, my passions revolve around art and, of course, I’m so stoked to have a hand in the new look for Bristol PorchFest and to be part of this awesome community.” said Quatrano. “A Rhody newbie, my first time attending this event was 2021, and I had an absolute blast.”

Old favorites and new sounds
According to organizers, the musical team has done a fantastic job of bringing back some favorites while adding new voices and sounds to the event. “We’re excited about new sounds: Folk from Cardboard Ox, Irish from Turas, Traditional and Gypsy Jazz from Bay Swing,” said Kellner.

Returning performers include Catnip Junkies, Los Duderinos, and Manel the Island Man.

“Bristol PorchFest is unique because we curate the event for diversity in musical styles, plus seek to present 50% new bands yearly,” said Bradley Wester, PorchFest co-chair. Currently scheduled acts include Bay Swing (traditional & gypsy jazz; Cardboard Ox (folk duo); Catnip Junkies (swing/NOLA jazz); Donnell Best (Afro-Caribbean/R&B); Dred Buffalo (rock); Dylan Jack & Ryan Kowal (improv jazz); Hollow Turtle (contemporary bluegrass); Los Duderinos (eclectic/bluegrass /improv); Manel the Island Man (Portuguese); Mt. Hope High Music (student bands & performers); Patty Perry (blues/rock band); Paula Clare Band (classic rock); The Digg It Band (rock); The Honk (jazz/blues/folk); The Jethros (folk/blues/alt/soul/funk/country/mariachi); Turas (Irish); and YourFriendM00N (singer/songwriter).

Bands are given a modest stipend, and all the bands get to keep tips collected during their performance.

“All too often, artists are asked to donate work or perform for free,” said Wester. “So, if you love PorchFest, tip the bands.”

Leave time for the afterparty
As with last year, The Catnip Junkies will be leading a second line parade to the afterparty at Unity Park. The second line is a New Orleans tradition, consisting of people who follow the brass band to enjoy the camaraderie, music, and dance. The second line's style of traditional dance, in which participants dance and walk along in a free-form style with parasols and handkerchiefs, has been called "the quintessential New Orleans art form – a jazz funeral without a body".

The idea to hold a second line parade after PorchFest originated with Beth Silvia of the Catnip Junkies, a band whose mission is the bring the Big Easy vibe to their performances. The idea was met with enthusiasm from Wester, a New Orleans native. “He was all about it,” said Silvia. “Last year we had about 500 people participate — we are hoping for 1,000 this year. Bring your hankies and parasols!”

High Street will be closed from Walley to Byfield streets from 2:45 until 6:15 p.m. on the 17th, with a parking ban on High Street Sunday afternoon. Rain date is Sunday, Sept. 24. For more information, email

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.