‘Soak Up the Sun,’ youth rockers sing, as mostly rain-free Modesto Porchfest goes ahead

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The third annual Modesto Porchfest went on Sunday under a mostly rain-free sky.
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The third annual Modesto Porchfest went on Sunday under a mostly rain-free sky.

Organizers of Modesto Porchfest had their ears on the music and their eyes on the weather radar Sunday afternoon.

The third annual free music event in the college and La Loma neighborhoods and downtown came just a day after the clouds dumped 0.47 inches of rain downtown, Modesto Irrigation District records show. The historical average rainfall for the whole month of May is 0.48 inches, according to MID data.

And Sunday morning, just hours before the start of the noon festival, nearly an additional quarter inch fell.

“It was pouring, and I was like, ‘We’re not gonna make it. Nope, we’re not gonna make it,’” singer-songrwiter Vanessa D. Valencia said to her audience between songs on a West Roseburg Avenue patio. “But then, somehow, magically, the sun appeared.”

Sean Coxford, 12-year-old drummer of the band Not All Right, said he was concerned earlier in the week that Porchfest might be canceled. “I would have been pretty bummed, but I knew if we kept on practicing, we’d get more practice in for next year.”

Sunday morning, even as the band was setting up on a covered front porch on Enslen Avenue, the drops were coming down pretty hard. But the sky cleared in the 11 a.m. hour, and Not All Right went on as scheduled at noon.

The band, which also includes sisters Zoe Leach, 11, and Edie Leach, 9, is a VMI Rocks act. It wowed its crowd with songs including The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop,” The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun,” which the audience did — until a couple of brief downpours later in the afternoon.

Even during that rain about 3 p.m., “people rallied!” organizer Kate Trompetter reported in a text message.

At least five days ahead of Porchfest, the people putting it on, and those preparing to host or perform, were bracing for bad weather. Trompetter said midweek that with the rainfall not looking too bad for Sunday afternoon, the shows would go on, but likely with venue and performance updates right up till that morning.

About an hour into the festival Sunday, standing beneath a partly sunny sky, she said, “We’re watching the Doppler and it looks like there’s still some raining coming through, but for the most party, it looks like it will be light.”

The original schedule had 58 host porches, which by Porchfest’s start had been pared down to 35. Most had built-in coverage, she said, and the rest of the hosts put up canopies. Across the venues, about 45 acts played, Trompetter saidIts first y. About 10 venues hosted multiple performers, and at least a couple of performers played two porches.

Its first year, Porchfest was the last Sunday of July, and the mercury shot to 97 degrees. “It was hot, like we’re-worried-people-would-get-sick hot,” Trompetter said, recalling driving from venue to venue to drop off bottled water from the back of her car.

So moving to May made sense. And last year, the weather was perfect, she recalled.

So Sunday’s rain was a huge learning experience, she said. “We were all emailing each other at 3 in the morning (Sunday), moving people around” on the online Porchfest schedule and map. Even with the festival underway, updates were being made.

“We’re just really grateful,” Trompetter said, “that the community was as understanding and flexible as they’ve been.”