San Rafael rocks out at Porchfest

Ava Carlson

On Sunday, Sep. 18, people filled the streets of Gerstle Park in the pouring rain to experience San Rafael’s third annual Porchfest. The Porchfest had been held before in 2018 and 2019, but was postponed in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns. The neighborhood music festival, which originated in New York, is performed entirely from resident porches.

This year, Porchfest served as an opportunity for local bands to perform in their hometown. The lineup itself offered a look into local music history with some longtime Marin musicians in attendance. Martin O’Neill, an acoustic folk and blues musician, has been performing in Marin since his time at San Rafael High School in 1967, when he formed his band Chelsea Sidecar. At Porchfest, he performed with Jerry Draper as part of the & Friends Band.

“This is our first time here, and it’s such a wonderful event that I would like to encourage everyone to get involved [in]. It’s too bad the weather wasn’t with us today, but it was fun anyway and people really came out,” O’Neill said.

Duo e.x.p, an electronic rock duo, plays the last song of their set at Porch 4.

To put on the event, San Rafael residents volunteered their porches and front yards as stages for bands to perform on. The festival featured live music for Porchfest’s audiences for over five hours. Despite difficult weather and unexpected lineup changes, the show went on. Nyles Lannon, a San Rafael resident and Redwood graduate, performed with his son in the band Nyte Skye. Lannon also served as part of the setup crew, putting together the event and adapting to the rain, up until just half an hour before the first acts took the stage.

“A bar was able to lend us about 11 tents, and we were able to get more from planning members and donations,” Lannon said. “We didn’t really know what to expect and were starting to get distraught about the possibility of bands canceling, [worrying] over whether anyone would be attending. By the end of the day, it was this real positive outpouring of excitement about the music. I think it was really special; there’ll probably never be a Porchfest in the rain like this again.” 

Lannon played at the 2018 and 2019 Porchfest and took on the opportunity this year to help book other artists with the goal of diversifying the sound of the event.

“I love that we can have these kids’ bands playing, these older bands too, and also really avant-garde stuff happening. As someone putting together the bands, I wanted to expand what people think of when they think of Porchfest. There are so many great artists living around here that play all kinds of music, and we really wanted to represent that,” Lannon said.

A poster of Porchfest’s 2022 lineup hangs at the volunteer station on Marin St. San Rafael.

Not only did Porchfest favorites return to perform, but several new artists also made their debut on Sunday. This included musicians of all ages, like duo Kiva Schweig and Callum Brown, both high school seniors at Marin Academy. Schweig and Brown recently put out an album and took their creative pastime to the next level with a live set at Porchfest.

“Having people gather round together, even through the rain, and getting to play our music for them — it’s so much more than you can foresee when you start a project like this,” Brown said.

 Rebecca Coseboom, a Redwood graduate, also played on Sunday as the frontwoman of a 1970s glam-inspired country group Beckylin & Her Druthers. Coseboom has recorded music in a variety of different genres, and had insight into Porchfest as someone who had never played in a neighborhood setting before.

“I’ve never done a venue like this and I honestly really liked it — everyone is so enthusiastic about it, and I think it’s because you’re out there in your community, where you grew up, and people are walking from house to house with this really interesting, informal atmosphere. Playing at shows like this, you get to bring the music to the people instead of making them come to some fancy venue to see it,” Coseboom said.

Terry Ashkinos, the frontman of Fake your Own Death, celebrated the return to live music, and especially the opportunity that comes with performing so close to an audience. Having that ability to form stronger connections with the audience through events like this can make all the difference to a musician, even with a changing music scene.

“Everyone in the band has families and kids, and that audience is something that’s really fun about playing daytime shows. I’m actually a teacher, I teach eighth-grade humanities, so I really love the community building and outreach aspects of shows like this,” Ashkinos said

Porchfest was a unique experience that allowed the Marin community to celebrate local musicians. Not only did the audience get to listen and dance to local music in the rain, but the performers also had a great time interacting with their community. According to Lannon, the bands he booked thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and audience.

“Every single artist I’ve talked to, at the event and since then, has been really happy and really enthusiastic about coming back, so I’m excited about Porchfest’s future and building on it in the years to come,” Lannon said.