Uptown & The Pinch

Front porch concerts rock the Uptown neighborhood

There are few things that speak to the character of the South like sitting on a porch with family and friends, chatting and laughing as you watch the sun set on a hot summer’s day. Throw in some music, and you’ve got an experience as quintessential to Southern life as fried food.

The Uptown Community Association is embracing the spirit of porch culture with their new Uptown Porch Series summer concerts. Residents will be rocking the night away with six concerts on six different residential porches, all featuring different musical acts. The goal to build relationships, increase community involvement, and showcase Uptown’s vibrant culture to both outsiders and its own residents.

Rebecca Garcia, one of the four-member team heading the UCA, said they hope the series will, “...expose us to different streets, different areas of Uptown.” It’s a hope UCA president Kaleigh Donnelly shares.

“I think it’s going to make certain parts of the neighborhood visible to other parts of the neighborhood. It’s easy to think, ‘Oh, this is what Uptown is,’ but there’s a whole lot of what Uptown is,” she said.

The first concert was held on June 5 at Donnelly’s home on Greenlaw Place. Neighbors sat at the adjacent Uptown Park while Memphis-based band Geist played on the porch of the hill-top home.

“[The park is] a really easy gathering place so having the first one here makes sense. But we wanted to get out into the neighborhood,” said Donnelly.

A young boy rides his bike on the path at Uptown Park as his parents and neighbors enjoy the show. (Cole Bradley)

From the June 5 kick off until the August 21 final show, the six concerts will take place every other Tuesday. The next two will be on Main Street porches, followed by shows on North Fourth Street, Keel Avenue, and Looney Avenue.

The series is made possible by an events grant from the Memphis Medical District Collaborative aimed at activating spaces inside district.

“We get to pay local musicians some real money to play on our porches this summer and make Uptown even more awesome than it already is,” said Donnelly in thanking the MMDC at the inaugural concert.

Organizers felt the first event was a big success with nearly 35 people coming and enjoying refreshments and each other’s company.

The shows are also a way for residents to meet their neighbors. Melissa Hammond and Mary Ferguson have both lived in the Metropolitan apartments next to Uptown Park for four to five years, but they’d never met. They heard the music from their respective apartments, came out to listen, wound up sharing a park bench and began chatting between songs. They share a love of their quiet, safe, and diverse neighborhood and both enjoyed the music.

It’s this sort of relationship-building the organizers had hoped for.

Garcia also hopes it will build deeper relationships for the UCA. They’re always in need of more volunteers and fresh ideas. The organization is primarily social and hosts fun events that give community members the opportunity to connect to one another and their neighborhood. Since 2006 they’ve hosted an annual chili cook-off in October and community Thanksgiving meal in November. They’ve also hosted block parties, community clean-ups, and now, the concert series.

“We love it here, and really anything I can do to make this neighborhood even better. I believe in this neighborhood, I believe in what happened to get it going. I like the economic diversity, the diversity of people in general, of viewpoints and lifestyles. It’s just a great place to be,” said Donnelly as her husband sat down with their picnic basket and the next song filled the park.

The next concert will be held at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, June 19, at 626 North Main Street and will feature local artist Tia Henderson. For more information on the Uptown Porch Series summer concerts, visit the UCA’s Facebook page.

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Read more articles by Cole Bradley.

Cole Bradley is a native Memphian and graduate of the University of Memphis. Cole's worked locally as a researcher and community engagement strategist and began contributing to High Ground in Jan 2017.