Torching Porchfest

I’ve lived in Sanford, FL for nearly two years. Porchfest 2019 was promoted as its 2nd-annual event, all over downtown for over a month. I had never heard of Porchfest before this year, but I don’t know everything, I’ll admit. All the embedded local establishments had these posters (below) in their windows. Notice that the sponsors are downtown big wheels connected to the Chamber of Commerce.

My interest was seeing the Oak Hill Drifters, who are probably the best band in Orlando right now. My music and business partner plays drums in the Oak Hill Drifters, and I’ve featured a few other OHD-ers on Electrified! (2015). I always like to see them play, if I have time, which I did.

I didn’t get to see them play, on a beautiful day, because no one knew where any of the bands were playing for Porchfest. Where the actual festival was held is also in question– even afterwards. “Housing district” was the best approximation.

There are homes directly east & south of downtown Sanford, with a few also to the west, and Lake Monroe to the north. That’s too broad of an area, and no one could hear any bands playing “Porchfest” from the downtown area.

The Oak Hill Drifters were to play the “Celery City stage,” which turned out to be some resident’s porch, in some residential area, somewhere (?) local. It was nowhere close to the Celery City bar, which had a live performer of its own and was promoting itself as part of Porchfest, with the logo projected on a screen behind the band. No mention of the OHD when I asked the drummer, “What’s up with Porchfest?,” after their performance. He just promoted the events of the day for the establishment, and shut me down on everything else. That’s how you get a gig when you suck.

So what happened? The Oak Hill Drifters were used as an attraction to pack a local establishment, while being shuffled off to a porch where few people could find them. Most of the locals & tourists never found “Porchfest,” and that was by design. Most soon gave up, and went for something to eat & drink.

No maps were ever provided as to the locations of the “stages” or the performers. No signs to indicate “Porchfest, this way,” on the day of the “event.” Porchfest was largely a scam by its sponsors to trap tourists in downtown Sanford and fill their establishments. That’s a shitty way to do business, and very disrespectful to the performers & fans.

For the record, I had my phone with me so I could have called the drummer of the Oak Hill Drifters for a venue address, but the point is I shouldn’t have to. For example, when you have a ticket to see U2, you don’t have to call Bono to ask where the show is, right? The sponsors make sure to tell you because they want you to be there. In Sanford, the downtown sponsors hyped something they didn’t care to deliver, so they could have a big day at the cash register.

I was in downtown Sanford for a large part of the “Porchfest” afternoon. There were mostly no bands to be seen or heard., which is unusual on a Saturday during the snowbird season. No directions on where/when anyone was playing. No one trying to help. Just organized confusion, on a record-heat February 23rd afternoon in central Florida. In other words, business as usual.

I’m glad the Oak Hill Drifters played (somewhere) & got paid, but the organizers of Porchfest get a fail on this. If Sanford business owners have any respect, then one of them will book the Oak Hill Drifters again soon, and actually deliver, so their local fans can see them as promoted. Otherwise these are just small-town scammers. Artists deserve better.

As for me, I’ll keep walking around Sanford, stretching my legs & reporting on what I see. Now whenever I’m confronted for money, my standard reply is, “I spent it all on Porchfest.” Bokeys understand & laugh. The rest don’t get it. It’s almost funny.