The Front Porch, Preview

Click here for The Front Porch Schedule

By Kevin Alan Lamb

No different than life, community is a two way street on which the more you give the more you get. Over the last six months I’ve found myself drawn to ways I can utilize what I’ve learned pursuing my passion to make an offering to the Ferndale community in the form of music and shared celebration. This intention drew my attention to what is likely perhaps the most unique and accessible collision of music and community in Michigan.

In its third year, The Front Porch transforms over 30 residents’ front porch into the perfect stage on a summer’s day. From Noon to 7 PM over 50 performers offer their gifts and medicine at no cost to the five thousand and counting patrons who walk and dance upon the streets, grateful for a time and tune like this. With each week that passes I’m reminded that my soul is at home along a beach on a Great Lake, but in those days between, I’m given purpose, belonging, and tingles sharing space and collaborating to concoct events that help others identify with what makes them feel home, content, and stoked.

Click here for The Front Porch After Party

I’ve never had the privilege of enjoying The Front Porch, as a result – this year I decided to dive right in because I’m living a little a closer to my heart and purpose these days. It feels like an event manifested to serve the delight and joy of its constituents – Ferndalians. Ferndale does a bang up job bringing in folks from all over with events that meet a model contrived from a place far away from the beat of the heart of the people that make it possible, but hey – we’re all learning. This event tickles my fancy because it’s built on something more than inflated beer tickets and cattle herding. It’s a difficult task to make money on a free event that doesn’t serve alcohol, and that protects the character, authenticity, and integrity of its existence. I get the way it all works, and what makes the cookie crumble, I’m just expressing my joy for the possibility of an alternative model. One that adds a little more than it detracts. Something about the people and the planet…

Artists are an oasis of joy and potential for advanced consciousness that I am committed to serve and protect. As a result, I have immense gratitude for the overflow of submissions, interest, and willingness to perform at this event without a wage. This too, speaks to the quality and potential of this phenomena.

Please join us Saturday, June 22 to experience something special in a world where originality is fleeting, duplicated, and discouraged. Talented performers of all walks from far reaching towns held this date on their calendar to deliver each and everyone of you an intimate, intentional, and joyous performance to remind you of the things you love, and perhaps have let go astray.

Catch Royal Grand (3:45 PM) and Remnose (5:30 PM) in action on This Is A Good Porch, 619 W Breckenridge St.

Royal Grand
Remnose Ferndale Set.jpg

Then bring it all home with the Front Porch After Party on Vester hosted by M-Brew, and Valentine’s Distillery featuring Brother Hallow, Royal Grand, and FlyLiteGemini from 7-10 PM.

Brother Hallow

Here is my interview with The Front Porch founder Michael Benghiat, who fate and a friend delivered me to in the kitchen of a Ferndale church basement. My journey with Michael has only just begun, but the joy behind his eyes, and passion in his cadence while speaking give me plenty of reasons to believe that The Front Porch is a good thing that could last.

Click here for The Front Porch Schedule

Earlier you mentioned growing up in The Bronx, and described the scene where DJs were pulling power from streetlights in parks / basketball courts to put on shows. Is The Front Porch your version of that?

Yes, I grew up in the Bronx, New York. My formative years, during much of my teens was in the mid-to-late 70’s and while even back in those years I was exposed to and enjoyed many different types of music it was during the birth of rap and hip-hop. I was living essentially in the “backyard” of the Sugar Hill Gang, Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Kurtis Blow and so many others. Many aspiring DJ’s, or MC’s as they were known, and mix-masters also known as “scratchers,” would have “throw downs” in parks where they would pop the plates of city lamp posts and attached their turntables and have this thrown downs or battles.

I see The Front Porch as an event that’s more for the people of Ferndale than other events. Do you see it that way?

While Ferndale is the location and a good portion of attendees may be from Ferndale and the surrounding area – Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak, Oak Park, Southfield, Birmingham – people come from all over the metro Detroit area. I’ve met people from the Grosse Points, Macomb, Port Huron and other communities – so it’s for people who love music and especially want to be exposed to all the great talent in the metro Detroit area and throughout Michigan.

I will say this, it’s unlike any other even that Ferndale is host to as it’s not like a Pig & Whiskey or any other event where 9 Mile is shut down but rather The Front Porch is embedded in the neighborhoods and of course were using resident porches as mini stages so the community is really involved.

Tell us about your vision with The Front Porch and Detroit Public Television?

Well, the concept originally was to create a TV show of the same name where we’d feature up and coming bands throughout Michigan being interviewed on a front porch, maybe in their hometown, and they’d also play some music. So, the concept was presented to Detroit Public Television and while they really liked the concept, they need a proof of concept. Having a live event brand extension of the TV show was always a thought, so I said okay let’s produce the event, which we did in 2017, hire a production crew and film a pilot. We presented that pilot to Detroit Public Television and they “green lit” for me to have a timeslot for a show.

Thing is, now I need to find funding for a ten to thirteen episode show. It’s still in the works.

What are some ways you’d like the Festival to grow?

In the first year, 2017, the city and police, after conducting some due diligence of other communities that host like events, approved for twenty-five porches in year one and then growing incrementally by 5 porches every subsequent year. We had twenty-seven porches last year and will have thirty this year and think we’re learning that thirty or so porches, maybe up to thirty-five, and near sixty performances is very manageable. The scheduling of performances on porches is the most difficult aspect of the event.

This year we will have a children’s band, Miss Paula & The Candy Bandits who identify as hard rock for kids (and their parents). We’ll see how it goes and the kind of response they get and if it warrants, we’ll explore adding more children’s music in the future.

I’ve also considered other types of activity on porches – A day of music, and other stuff, on Ferndale porches – like some comedy, spoken word, and other like activity.

But what we have achieved this year, and something we had thought of since year one, was how to we extend the event into the downtown of Ferndale after the music stops in the neighborhoods at 7:00 pm. We always thought with so many people coming to Ferndale during the day, how do we keep them here to frequent the various restaurants, bars and cafes, stay for dinner, have a drink. How we create a Front Porch at Nite or Front Porch PM.

We finally pulled something together for this year with an “official” Front Porch after party sponsored by M-Brew, Valentine’s Distillery and CrossFit HCS, all located on Vester Street just east of Woodward. Happening after the day portion of The Front Porch beginning at 7:00 pm.

Click here for The Front Porch After Party

In your eyes, what makes Ferndale so great for this event?

Ferndale is all about “placemaking,” creating amenities, assets and offerings to enhance the health, wellness and overall lifestyle for its residents, businesses and visitors.

And of course…great porches!

The Front Porch concept requires an urban, walkable and biking-friendly setting.

When you look at the complexion this concept, you quickly realize that it is a perfect fit for the make-up and personality of the Ferndale community.

It just fits!

In the neighborhood of Oakhurst, a historic neighborhood in the southwest corner of Decatur, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, a recent article promoting its 2016 Porchfest event was titled, “At Porchfest, Oakhurst residents say,‘Get on my lawn.’ That’s the attitude and feel of Ferndale as well and why I selected Ferndale for The Front Porch.

What makes the Front Porch and the over 50 Porchfest events throughout North America so successful is summed up in a quote I saw by Andy Adelewitz, co-organizer of the founding Ithaca Porchfest, “it’s the simplicity and democratic nature of the event combined with Fall Creek “being a really creative and groovy neighborhood.” It is just “neighbors playing music for neighbors,” he said, and anyone can sign up, which makes it “feel more like a pure celebration of making music.”

This too is the character and personality of Ferndale.

Who are some people you’d like to credit for your success so far?

First and foremost, I must give a big shout out to Andy Chapman who helped to create The Front Porch brand and identity. He’s essentially The Front Porch creative director and a tremendous talent and his creativity has helped to build the exposure and awareness The Front Porch has experienced.

Early sponsors who helped to fund the operation of the event like Faygo and the Kramer Restaurant group, owners of Pop’s For Italian, One-Eyed Betty’s and Rosie O’Gradys.

The city of Ferndale, its events committee and Ferndale Police department are wonderful partners who believed in this event from the start and have been great to assist on event day to ensure a successful event. Happily, we have never experienced a single problem.

I also have had variations of an advisory committee of people who are tapped into the Ferndale community and cultural activity and also have a pulse on the local music scene. People like Dave Feeny of Tempermill Studio, musicians Daniel Cafferty, Steve Taylor, Jere Stormer, Rob Paul of Ferndale Radio, Becky Scarcello of The D Brief and of course This Is A Good Sound.

Probably of most importance, Ferndale residents who have offered up their porches so we may turn them into mini stages and of course the so many artists and bands and their willingness to play. If not for porch hosts and performers to bring The Front Porch to life, there would not be an event.

But lastly, and I’d be in trouble if I didn’t recognize her, is my wife Marcy. This is not what I do day in and day out as a career, it’s a passion-project, and she’s been my biggest cheerleader and supporter.

What are some other events like yours that you’re aware of?

Well, as mentioned there are fifty somewhat Porchfest music events throughout North America. In fact, a few in Michigan including Port Austin, which happens to be the same day as ours, Ann Arbor, and Mount Pleasant are communities I am familiar with. But of course, there are so many music festivals but The Front Porch and others like it are different in that it offers a unique music experience, one in where you can really see music up close and personal.

How can the community get involved?

We can still use volunteers for this year and you can make a volunteer submission at http://www.thefrontporchmi.com. Volunteers are “porch captains” and help us manage crowds and are just another set of “eyes and ears” for us.

We are already accepting porch host submissions for 2020 also at http://www.thefrontporchmi.com. So, if you want to be a porch host for next year, send a submission.

Who are some bands you’re excited about for this year?

It’s had to select any particular bands…I can’t choose favorites. I’m always excited to hear them all. And while we have many performers back from the first and second years, I do look forward to hearing the new acts we have.

In fact, I am very appreciative and happy to have This Is A Good Sound involved with The Front Porch this year and for bringing some fabulous music to us in the Gasoline Gypsies, Royal Grand and Remnose. I’m already hearing a lot of chatter about people wanting to see these bands.

And, This Is A Good Sound played an integral role in helping to create the After Party as well. So, thank you!

What I am most proud of is the very diverse program we have created, and it keeps expanding. We’ll have music labeled as Americana, Pop, Garage Soul, Roots Rock and Soul, Gospel, Folk, World Music, Hip Hop, Alt-Country, Jazz, Funk and more.

We want to have a diverse program so that we can attract Front Porch-goers that have varied taste in music.

Click here for The Front Porch Schedule

Click here for The Front Porch After Party

Just in case you were listening for one, This Is A Good Sound. Special shout out to the fine folks at M Brew, Valentine’s, and Crossfit HCS for making The Front Porch After Party possible. Love ya!

7:00 PM Brother Hallow

8:00 PM Royal Grand

9:00 PM FlyLiteGemini

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