One of the things I love most about Dallas is its distinctive neighborhoods and rich communities. When Zach and I first moved to this city in 2013, we lived in an apartment in Deep Ellum. We so enjoyed living there that first year. We could walk to excellent local businesses, such as restaurants, bars and donut shops. We explored the neighborhoods of East Dallas by car, and particularly took a liking to the neighboring Lakewood and Junius Heights. Both neighborhoods featured beautiful, historic houses that we absolutely loved to drive around and gawk at.
Since that year, we’ve lived in the Cedars neighborhood to the south, where I worked as a barista (at the long-time institution, Opening Bell Coffee) and Lake Highlands to the north, finally settling in our first home in Casa View, just east of White Rock Lake. All four of the neighborhoods we inhabited are nestled into the east side of the third most populous city in Texas. I have quite a bit of pride for East Dallas. I even own a t-shirt from the wonderful local Dowdy Studio that reads “East Dallas is the Best Dallas.”
At some point during these heady East Dallas years, Zach was invited to play for a powerhouse of a house concert operation in a gorgeous Junius Heights craftsman with a hell of a backyard, complete with a cool blue pool and grassy stage area to delight musicians and listeners alike. It was a magical evening, and we made some long-time friendships that continue to result in more playing opportunities.
The latest of such opportunities occured last week, on the tail end of a couple of weeks during which the temperature dropped 40 degrees and the rain never seemed to stop. The event, called Dallas PorchFest, was in its third year running with a mission to raise “awareness about music, the arts, community, and historic neighborhoods.”
It seemed a miracle that the rain stopped and the sun emerged Saturday, leaving nothing less than an entire perfect day for neighbors to emerge, blinking from their homes, children and dogs in tow, to gather, sip, chat and listen to an array of live, small musical performances on the 4300 block of Junius St. Wristbands got participants unlimited local beer and a commemorative glass. Proceeds went to neighborhood beautification and community programming in and around Peak's Addition neighborhood.
It had been a while since Zach and I had last set up our own sound and played original music to festival revelers, but it was truly a joy. We took our places in front of a stylish historic home which has been revitalized and split into individual apartments. We found this solution impressive: fitting more residents into the neighborhood while maintaining its historic charm. Children played on bales of hay and pumpkins in front of us on rocky paths behind us. Dogs of all breeds lounged in the crisp fall air. Parents stood and sipped their glasses of El Super Bee Saison and Razzy Witbeer. A small audience stood and listened attentively. We told stories and sang songs. It seemed everyone on the block enjoyed the early evening.
Since Zach and I don’t particularly enjoy big crowds, this was our idea of a perfect festival. Just one small residential block, mostly neighborhood residents enjoying a day out with their families, perusing art and enjoying a truly local experience. A refined block party of sorts. No rock bands, just local musicians - soloists, duos, trios and quartets. It felt good to participate, and even more so celebrating our own East Dallas. I hope to see more small festivals like these - for those of us who don’t enjoy fighting through throes of people from around the state and beyond, $20 parking and downtown traffic for the sake of a corn dog. For those of us who love to truly support local.