Oakhurst Porchfest Redefines the Local Music Festival

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Oakhurst Porchfest Redefines the Local Music Festival

This past weekend, more than 130 bands descended upon Decatur, Ga.'s Oakhurst neighborhood, just outside of Atlanta. There were no fences nor tickets, and hardly a corporate sponsor to be seen, unless you count Paste co-founder Nick Purdy pulling around a keg of his Wild Heaven beer, which was also free. The bands who were playing the Oakhurst Porchfest were volunteers, and many lived nearby, as well. In keeping with the name, they primarily played on the porches of other volunteers, though sometimes they played on lawns, just to mix things up a bit. Attendees, who included The Walking Dead's Andrew Lincoln, walked from house to house, over the course of four hours, stopping to listen to whatever style of music they liked.

"Real neighborhoods aren't static," says Porchfest founder and local resident Scott Doyon. "They grow and change over time. Sometimes that change can be tough and I'm a big believer that communities of committed neighbors who know and rely on each other are the ones best able to work their way through it, whatever it turns out to be. So that's what I wanted to do—connect as many neighbors as possible. And music is one way people of all stripes can find common ground."

While many of the bands were relatively unknown, a few names stuck out, like Paste favorites Oryx & Crake, local icon Blake Guthrie, The Voice contestant Sydney Rhame and a selection from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Without true "headliners," attendees were left with short descriptions to guide them like the ones for The Soogs ("The Pixies meets the Partridge Family"), Melissa the Loud ("Medieval, traditional, and original music on the loudest hurdy gurdy in Decatur") or Pretend Sweethearts ("Mystical hobo folk music").

The festival culminated with a performance on the Oakhurst square from Black Sheep Ensemble, a brass-and-percussion street band.