One of the cool things about PorchRokr is its user-friendly versatility. There are many ways you can tailor the potentially long day to maximize your PorchRokr experience. Sure, there are plenty of factors you can’t control. I’ve been to all eight PorchRokr festivals in Akron, and at nearly all of them, the late summer rain or August heat, or some combination of both, became a factor. This year we got lucky as Mother Nature kept the rain at bay and the heat and humidity at reasonable levels for a mid-August day.
At the festival, you'll see folks in their portable lawn chairs, camped out and comfortable on someone's lawn. Other people wander from porch to porch until someone captures their attention. Some people hit the nearest legal booze dispensary in the Highland Square business district and let the music come to them. Then there are the people who make their way to the festival's beer garden and stay there much of the day, enjoying whomever takes the stage.
This year, the beer garden campers got an interesting musical mix that included heavy prog-rockers Axon-Neuron's knotty riffs and intense vocals. That wild ride was followed by past PorchRokr headliners Time Cat, a dependable and damn good live band that always whips whoever's watching into a classic-influenced rock 'n' roll frenzy.
Nearby on Weber Avenue, Cleveland quartet Forager played a kinetic set of its melody-driven catchy indie pop to a solid-size crowd that may or may not have been enticed by the big handmade sign over the open garage touting "beer and shots."
One of the purposes of PorchRokr is to get folks to experience the many residential nooks and crannies to be found in Highland Square. I've lived in that area for a decade, but at some point during most PorchRokr festivals I find myself on a street I've never been on before — and this year was no different.
Also in the Highland Square hinterlands (no offense to the denizens of Sherwood Drive, Sillars Avenue, etc.), but visitors do need detailed instructions on how to get to your neck of the Highland Square woods), singer-songwriter Samantha Grace — armed only with her keyboard, a harmony singer and mirrored sunglasses — charmed a small crowd with her stripped-down folksy pop.
Meanwhile, on the strip, Youngstown's Model Rockets, all rocking matching Hawaiian shirts, purveyed their emo-influenced guitar rock to a packed patio of happy day drinkers.
Over on the kid-focused area of Marshall Avenue, teenage PorchRokr veterans Detention impressed a mix of family, friends and passersby with a set of covers (they killed on Tom Petty's "I Need to Know") and a few of their original tunes including "Devilberries," which has gotten some play on 91.3 The Summit.
For the bands, PorchRokr is an opportunity to play in front of potential fans who might never see them otherwise.
Hayden Gilbert, lead singer and guitarist for Hayden Gilbert & The Ruckus, who played at last year's festival, said he and the band relish the chance to play anywhere, but PorchRokr is different.
"It's amazing to see how many bands and musicians come out and the connection with the community. I think that's beautiful," Gilbert said shortly before his 6 p.m. set at Annabell’s.
Gilbert, who released his band's EP during the festival, said he enjoys the diversity of the music and the crowd.
"I was walking to see [a band], and there is all these different sounds. There was folk, there was blues, pop-punk, straight rock 'n' roll, and it's so cool to hear that," he said.
"That's what's so amazing about this community. People come out and go places they wouldn't otherwise go and hear music they wouldn't otherwise hear," Gilbert said. "That's what's mesmerizing and magical."
Malcolm X Abram can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3758. Like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml, and follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.