Throughout the streets of Ferndale June 24, singing voices and live instruments were a common theme. No, the music wasn't coming from a loud car radio or an extensive stereo system, but rather, the pleasing sounds were happening live from residents’ front porches.
The live music was the result of The Front Porch, a one-day music festival where select homeowners allow artists to perform on their front porches. Over 30 local musicians of various genres performed outdoors at the event on 25 front yards west of Woodward Ave.
According to The Huffington Post, the front porch concept began in 2007 at the Porchfest music festival in Ithaca, New York. It has since grown in popularity across the country, appearing in states such as Tennessee, Arizona, California, and Utah. This marks the first time this type of event has appeared in Ferndale.
The Front Porch Founder and co-organizer Michael Benghiat says he “fell in love with the concept” after attending the front porch event, Larchmere, in Cleveland in 2014. He and co-organizer, music journalist Gary Graff, then set out to bring the music festival to metro Detroit. The marketing and business development professional says he chose Ferndale as the city to host The Front Porch was because of how family-friendly the area is.
“The personality and DNA of this event fit Ferndale perfectly, and let’s face it, great porches,” he says with a laugh. “Our goal was to create a family-friendly, non-alcoholic event where people can listen to great music.”
Benghiat says once The Front Porch was approved by city officials, several residents and artists were willing to participate. He plans to bring back the festival next summer and hopes to have more front porches available.
Along with creating an event that brings the community together, Benghiat’s and Graff’s goal is to turn The Front Porch into a TV show to showcase Michigan talent. PBS has shown an interest in the project but wants to see a pilot before moving forward. Coming prepared, Benghiat and Graff brought a film crew to the festival to shoot the first episode.
Camera crews were there to capture Mia Green, an 18-year-old singer-songwriter from Troy. Describing her sound as “acoustic pop/folk,” Green has already written over 100 songs, mostly on life and relationships. She says she began taking guitar lessons as a child in school and soon started writing songs. Two years ago, Green decided she wanted to pursue a music career and has since released a self-titled EP in 2015 and her first full-length album, “Tipsy,” in February.
Green says she heard about the festival from a friend and was later contacted by Benghiat.
“I like that it’s so community-based. It gets people involved to hear the local music, and it’s the perfect kind of crowd, so family-friendly. Anyone can enjoy it.”
The Troy Street porch Green performed on is the home of Greg Mudge. He says he was already planning to host a party that day, so he didn’t mind hosting live music as well. In addition to Green, singer-songwriter Acoustic Ash performed on Mudge’s porch.
“My fiance and I were both very excited about this event when we heard about it,” Mudge says. “We thought it was a neat, interesting idea. It’s new and fun, and I’ve never experienced anything like it. So when we found out there was a possibility to host, we were super excited. It’s been fun.”
Down on Lewiston Street, resident Andy Chapman was also a porch host. He was also the graphic designer for The Front Porch, creating the logo, banners, and yard signs. Chapman says he wanted to become involved with the project after seeing a similar event in Grand Rapids.
“Seeing the community come together, being able to see your friends and neighbors creating that interconnection is a plus,” he says.
One of the performers on Chapman’s porch was Oblique Noir. A world music band, the trio puts their spin on classics such as an accordion version of The Doors’ song, “Alabama Song.” Oblique Noir also performs songs in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French.
Lead singer Sylvia Inwood joked that she has loved music ever since she was a baby in her mother’s stomach. While attending an arts summer camp at the age of nine, she came to the realization that singing was her passion. Inwood followed that passion at Wayne State University, where she majored in theater and sung in bands such as Two Blue, the Layabouts, and Sylvia Inwood and the Woodtones. She says she heard about The Front Porch from a friend, and then sent Benghiat an email.
“It’s great playing outside, and seeing people who have never heard of us getting to hear us play.”