I remember the days when I’d spend an hour fixing my hair and putting on makeup, then I’d slip on a sassy pair of heels, stuff a tube of lipstick, some cash, and my phone into a tiny – yet fashionable – clutch purse, grab my girlfriends, and head downtown to listen to a band, and enjoy a night full of life.
But then I had kids.
And the years passed.
My sassy heels have been replaced with sensible shoes, my clutch with a pragmatic backpack (with plenty of room for my wallet, phone, snacks, a light sweater, and a small elephant), and I can now get ready to go out in 22 minutes.
However, the places I go have also changed. These days, I’m at the soccer field or the dance studio, supporting my kids in their interests. I like my life now, but every once in a while I think back to those lively nights spent with friends, experiencing the thrill of hearing live music, and I yearn for that connection again.
Then came North Heights Porchfest. It was at this family-friendly, grassroots music festival that I discovered that I could merge the old me with the new me. I could hang out with my friends and my kids and listen to live music – and by live music, I don’t mean songs by The Wiggles, but my kind of music, like blues, indie, and rock.
Held in October, this annual free music fest is organized by the people who live in the historic North Heights neighborhood, located just north of downtown Joplin in the area between 1st and F Streets, and Main and Jackson. Here, cozy homes with welcoming front porches make great stages for local bands to play their music.
Currently, there are 145 porchfest events held in North America (and one in Australia), and Joplin’s North Heights Porchfest was the 104th to be established. Our city may be small, but our citizens understand the value of arts in the community, so the good people of the North Heights neighborhood jumped on the opportunity to bring a porchfest to Joplin in 2017.
The event is modeled after the original porchfest, held in 2007 in Ithaca, New York. The purpose of porchfest is simple: to foster community connections while sharing in the joy of listening to live music.
This year, North Heights Porchfest welcomed 24 bands, with musicians of all ages representing a wide range of music styles, from Blister Soul (rock)…
…to Scale House (blues)…
…to Halfway to Yellow (indie/alternative),
I love that North Heights Porchfest is held in the afternoon/early evening because it makes it more accessible for families, as well as for people who enjoy hearing live music but don’t want to leave the comfort of their home once the sun goes down (ahem, me).
The three-hour event was divided into three time slots, with new bands playing every hour. There was a handy interactive map and schedule for the event (there were also paper copies available at the event, too).
Because this was my first time at North Heights Porchfest, I didn’t really know what to expect. Now that I’ve gone, I have some tips on how to better prepare for next year, which I’ll pass along to you. First, bring a portable chair or a blanket. Sometimes, the music just draws you in and you want to stay put during an entire set – but your legs refuse to hold you up in one spot for an hour. Taking the load off of them allows you to completely relax and soak in the experience.
Second, you may want to bring some cash for the musicians’ tip jars. These bands are sharing their time and their talent with the community for free, so you might want to show them some love with a tip.
Third, bring a cooler for beverages and snacks. Again, you may want to listen to a band’s entire set, and having refreshments at hand is one way to guarantee that you won’t have to get up and miss anything.
But, if you don’t bring a cooler, no worries. There is a food truck area set up in the heart of the neighborhood, and you can choose from a variety of food and beverages, including street tacos from El Taco Loco, gourmet sandwiches from Danny Jim’s PBJ,
coffee, cider, hot chocolate and puffles from The Coffee Shop at Joplin Greenhouse, and several others.
There are portable restrooms available, too, should you need them. I found this to be reassuring. 🙂
While walking around the neighborhood between performances, I stopped at some of the artists’ booths (there were 13 this year) that were set up at the festival, including Aunt Tracy’s Cookies,
and Susanna Millard Pyrography.
Being a family-friendly event, there was also a balloon artist making animals for the kids.
While we welcomed the opportunity to hear a variety of bands play that day, my friend Julie and I spent the most time listening to The Websters which, ironically, is one of the bands that we used to listen to years ago when we would get all dressed up and go out after sundown.
But on this October afternoon, with the waning light of the sun peeking through the trees, I listened to The Websters sing about Better Days.
I looked at my friend and remembered listening to that same song with her years ago. Then I looked over at our kids, hearing that song for the first time, and I knew this for sure: These days – the ones filled with activities, and homework, and chaos – these are the Better Days.
For more information on North Heights Porchfest, click here.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.