A scene from last year's event. Courtesy of Gary Kaplan

HIGHLAND PARK, NJ—Highland Park’s Porchfest returns this Sunday, May 19th from 12pm to 6pm, rain or shine. 

Porchfests are free, co-operative community events run by the town’s musicians and residents, akin to big music festivals but with small town appeal. 

This year’s event features over 60 performances across 22 porches.

Some porches will host one performance, while others will have back-to-back, 45-minute sets by various artists for the duration of the event. 

“There’s all styles of music, which is really great,” said event co-organizer and Highland Park resident Gary Kaplan. 

The full schedule, listed at the bottom of this article and on the event’s hub page, lists funk, bluegrass, jazz, punk, alternative and rock bands, plus duets and solo acoustic artists, rap, techno and ethereal music, and even a musical about space cops. 

The Porchfest concept has kicked up nationally in the past couple years, with a nod to the pandemic era’s social distancing guidelines, as a way to watch (a lot of) live music safely. 

That the events have grown in popularity since points to their impact in community building.

“There’s very few situations where you can go to a town or an area and just try to see as many bands as possible,” Kaplan said.

“You could have a full six hours of music, or as much as you could stand.”

Co-organizers Sue Winkler and Kaplan joined forces with the Highland Park Arts Council in putting together this year’s event, the fourth for the borough. 

“It’s also an opportunity for people to network, to meet other musicians, and have bands be exposed to new and fresh ears,” said Kaplan. 

“There’s a lot of different aspects of it that are really positive,” he said.

Winkler and Kaplan worked with the porch hosts to create the schedule, and balanced it so that there are different kinds of music going on at all times.

Among the performers are funk outfit The Do Rights, who attracted a crowd of a hundred-plus at their porch last year, as well as rockers The Anderson Council, “where pop and psychedelia meet up for drinks,” indie alt-rock Sonoa, and many, many more from the local scene.

“Steve Weinstein, who is the Pino’s guy, has a really nice lineup on his porch, Tommy Strazza, a bunch of other people. Spook Handy’s performing, he’s an open mic performer here for the last thirty years,” said Kaplan.

Don’t be alarmed if you see musicians in a driveway, you’re still at Porchfest.

“There’s a band called The Hammers, there’s a Luna cover band that Michael Steinbruck does,” he said.

“And of course I’m playing, I couldn’t help myself,” Kaplan laughed. 

Kaplan plays guitar in the rock trio RGD.

“We’ve played pretty much every Porchfest,” he said. 

Those interested in attending Porchfest should know that the streets are not closed off to traffic. 

“The thing with Porchfest is you can watch from the front lawn, or you can watch from the sidewalk,” said Kaplan, “But we’re really not encouraging people to spill out into the street.” 

And it isn’t Mardi Gras when it comes to strolling down Raritan Avenue with a frozen gin fizz.

“Everybody needs to follow local ordinances and rules. We’re asking people to be conscientious of their neighbors and fellow participants, and to be respectful,” said Kaplan. 

“And I think they are. We’re all in it together,” he said. “It’s a co-operative, creative music experience.”

The full map and performance schedule for Sunday, May 19 is available on the event’s hub page, and here below, as of Monday, May 13:

604 S 1st Ave

ACIDCAJUAL88
1:45 – 2:45
~Techno DJ~

Spiritual Leon
3:00 – 3:45
~Hip-Hop/R&B~

302 S 2nd Ave

RGD
1:00 – 1:45
~Velvet Underground with Melody Bar sensibilities~

The Kaleidoscope Project
2:00 – 2:45
~Folk Fusion~

Skyler Bode
2:45 – 3:30
~Americana, a brief tour of great songwriters’ work~

Fania & Fein
3:00 – 3:45
~Rock flamenco singer-songwriter~

Who’s ASKN
4:30 – 5:15
~Indie, Rock, Country, Pop~

401 S 2nd Ave

Mike Maher
3:00 – 3:45
~Acoustic Rock~

The Hammers
4:00 – 6:00
~Four piece (guitar, bass, keyboards and drums) blues/rockabilly with a touch of New Orleans~

31 S 3rd Ave

The Do Rights
3:00 – 4:00
~Funk/Soul~

233 S 3rd Ave

Brendan Maher
1:00-2:00pm

Ian Wolsten
2:15 – 3:00
~Acoustic Singer/Songwriter~

Scott Ivory
3:15 – 4:00
~Blend of ambient instrumental and campfire songs~

42 S 6th Ave

Laurie Davis Band (LDB)
12:00 – 12:30
~Covers from 60’s, 70’s, 80’s & originals~

Ms. Stress of Entropy
12:40 – 1:10
~Originals & covers of rock, R&B, singers – duo~

Soul Stew
1:20 – 1:50
~Rock, pop & classic blues~

Loose Bricks
2:00 – 2:45
~Classic Rock~

Ken Trock
3:00 – 3:20
~Rock originals – acoustic~

Krystina Vazquez
~Meditative Music~
3:30 – 3:50

Lawrence Township Acoustic Music Players
4:00 – 4:30

110 S 6th Ave

CrabGrass
3:00 – 4:00
~Bluegrass~

215 Benner St

Dave Sherman
12:00 – 12:45

Tommy Strazza
1:00 – 1:45

Gerry Rosenthal
2:00 – 2:45

Tom Murphy
3:00 – 3:45

Ricky Chess
4:00 – 4:45

Steve Weinstein/Tommy/Gerry
5:00 – 5:45

427 Benner St

Mariella & Dave
4:00 – 5:00
~Singer/songwriter ~

333 Harper Place

Anthony Walker
1:00 – 1:45
~Americana~

Dr. AALI
2:00 – 2:45
~Live improvised guitar over electronic beats and loops~

Estrada Branca
3:00 – 4:15
~Jazz, Brazilian, Fusion, Pop~

Jazz Genome Project
4:30 – 5:45
~Jazz~

333 Felton Ave

Todd Penedos
1:00 – 1:45
~Rock, Indie and Folky Covers~

Kiss Me Kizmet
2:00 – 2:45
~Indie rock, mix of originals and covers~

Joseph Pacilio
4:00 – 4:45
~Rock~

Stay Tuned
5:00 – 5:45
~Pop/Soul/Funk/Grunge~

125 Donaldson Street

Lineup TBD
Benny Classics
~Rap/MB~

202 Raritan Ave

Jeff Jirout Wails the Blues & Country Classics
1:30 – 2:15
~Acoustic guitar, harmonica, mandolin~

Grass Country Duo
2:30 – 3:15
~Country – Neil Young~

Kevin Liebkemann
3:30 – 4:15
~Singer/Songwriter – Originals & Americana covers~

Spook Handy
4:30 – 5:15
~American Folk~

321 Wayne Street

Burn in Tweed
12:45 – 1:30
~post-punk~

Signals to Signs
1:45 – 2:30
~Pop punk/alternative rock -originals & classic covers such as Green Day~

Rusty Monks
2:45 – 3:30
~Funk Rock~

Three Blind Mice
3:45 – 4:30
~Rock & Blues~

326 Wayne Street

Sonoa
5:00 – 6:00
~Indie rock / alternative~

423 Lincoln Ave

Ankylo / Rex
1:00 – 1:45
~Noise~

Half a House
2:00 – 2:45
~Folk Songs~

Pablo Galesi
3:00 – 3:45
~Folk~

Alice Fawn
4:00 – 4:45
~Ethereal Original Songs~

440 Grant Ave

Renaissance and Baroque music for SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) Recorders and Harpsichord
1:00 – 2:30

216 Cleveland Ave

Isabella Pombrio
1:00 – 1:45
~Singer/songwriter, Indie~

The World Company
2:00 – 3:00
~New Age / Electronic~

Casey McCleary
3:15 – 4:00
~Acoustic guitar folk, blues, Celtic ~

428 Cleveland Ave

S.P.A.C.E. Police
1:00 – 3:00
~musical about cops in space~

133 Benner Street

Triforce with special guests StarStuff and Billable Hours
~Alt Rock~
12:00 – 1:00

14 Highland Ave

I’d Rather Not
12:00 – 4:00
~Indie/pop and techno~

73 Woodbridge Ave

Kyphosis
12:45 – 1:30
~Jazz Funk Fusion/Original~

Drunken Bird
1:45 – 2:30
~Indie rock punk n roll acoustic electric~

Immanuel Church Choir
2:30 – 2:45

Mike Montrey Band
~Americana Fusion Masterminds~
3:00 – 3:50

23MIB
4:00 – 4:50
~A Luna Tribute~

The Anderson Council
5:00 – 6:00
~The corner where pop and psychedelia meet up for drinks~

Music Reporter at New Brunswick Today | bkelly@nb.today | Website

Bennett Kelly reports on music for New Brunswick Today. He is a two-time winner of the Best Arts & Entertainment Coverage award from the NJ Society of Professional Journalists, for his features on the New Brunswick music scene in 2021 and 2022.

Bennett Kelly reports on music for New Brunswick Today. He is a two-time winner of the Best Arts & Entertainment Coverage award from the NJ Society of Professional Journalists, for his features on the New Brunswick music scene in 2021 and 2022.