Napa’s streets will again be alive with the sounds of music – from rock to bluegrass, jazz, classical and much else.
A smorgasbord of musical genres will unfold – each style a short walk or bicycle ride from the others – Sunday afternoon during Napa Porchfest. The ninth annual community music crawl in the historic Old Town neighborhood will bring together 114 musical acts playing at 58 venues – mainly front yards and porches of local homes – to thousands of strolling spectators during a series of free concerts from 12:30 to 5 p.m.
While Porchfest’s promise of a diverse musical menu along tree-lined streets remains the same as before, organizers from the Napa County Landmarks hope to make this year’s festival more manageable – for music lovers and residents alike – by pulling in the boundaries of an event that has grown from barely 300 spectators at its 2011 debut to as many as 15,000.
Sunday’s gathering focuses on a rectangle of Old Town blocks bordered by Jefferson, Third, Fourth, Coombs and Pine streets, withdrawing from homes in Alta Heights and the “alphabet streets” west of Jefferson Street that have hosted performers in the past.
Announcing the cut-down Porchfest zone in March, organizers said the smaller festival zone – in which motor vehicles are banned during the 4 ½-hour schedule – is intended to help volunteers better manage crowds and traffic, and reduce the pressure on public safety, trash hauling and other services.
The boundaries have been drawn to preserve traffic flow on Jefferson and Coombs streets and reduce the inconvenience to those not involved with Porchfest, Jamie Cherry, chairman of the event committee, said earlier.
Despite the more compact spectator area, enough homeowners agreed to host concerts that this year’s Porchfest should deliver at least as much artistic variety, if not more, than it did when playing out over a wider area, predicted Cherry, a co-owner of The Inn on First bed-and-breakfast on First Street.
“We were able to get more porches inside the area; when you compare the numbers to last year (when 125 acts participated), there are almost as many bands playing,” he said Monday, pointing to an “adoption” program this spring to connect performers to residents seeking to host them. “… It’s always been pretty diverse but this year I think we’ve got more diversity.”
Within Porchfest’s smaller envelope, directors are shortening some concert sets to reduce the spillover of sound from one stage to others. Performances on blocks with larger numbers of stages usually will be capped at 90 minutes, with bands on more isolated blocks allowed as much as two hours.
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As of Monday afternoon, Porchfest had signed up 65 volunteers to guide spectators, sell festival T-shirts and oversee entry points. Organizers are seeking to raise that number to about 90 by festival day on Sunday. Those who volunteer will receive free Porchfest T-shirts, whose sales are one of the event’s two funding sources, along with donations.
Volunteers will be assigned to one of three shifts before, during and after the event – 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., and 3:30 to 6 p.m.
Spectator services at Porchfest will again be centered on Fuller Park, the green space at the hub of the Napa Abajo-Fuller Park historic district. About 15 food vendors are expected to bring trucks and carts to the park during the festival, Cherry said.
One Napa concert venue on Sunday will feature its own slate of live music – at a former Porchfest stage but without the festival’s imprimatur.
Churchill Manor co-owner Joanna Guidotti announced a concert for the front lawn of the historic B&B at Brown and Oak streets, running from noon to 5 p.m. The inn hosted Porchfest musicians for five years but was left out of the festival’s revised map, which places the 130-year-old landmark just outside its eastern border along Oak Street.
Three performances are planned at Churchill Manor, including one by the 18-piece Generation Gap Big Band, whose bandleader and trombonist K. Trekkor Wills has called the spacious front porch and lawn a necessity for the size of both his band and its expected audience.
“We’d like to be included in future years, but it’s nice (this year) to have the opportunity to perform,” he said Friday.
Guidotti estimated Churchill Manor’s grounds can hold up to 250 spectators, and said she will rely on an existing city permit for amplified sound with which the inn hosts weddings. Cash donations at the non-Porchfest venue will support Napa City Nights, the summertime concert series at Veterans Memorial Park, she said.