‘Porch Fire’ to light up Mac’s Uptowner stage

Carole Hodorowicz, Verge Reporter

Members of the band "Porch Fire" party with the crowd at their first show at Mac's Uptowner last spring.
Members of the band “Porch Fire” party with the crowd at their first show at Mac’s Uptowner last spring.

The southern Illinois bluegrass band Porch Fire will be heating up Charleston when they take the stage at Macs’ Uptowner Saturday at 9:30 p.m. Guitarist Blake Bledsoe, drummer Troy Hutchens, mandolin player Dakota Yeck-Petty, upright bass player Elizabeth Hartman, keyboard player Levi Jones and violinist and fiddle player Cecily Rhodes bring the fire in every performance.

Band members Hutchens and Yeck-Petty both said their sound is difficult to explain because of how different it is from other bands that play similar music.

“We don’t mind dragging you through the mud,” Hutchens said. “We try to really push the boundaries of jamming and improv and not a lot bands really do that.”

The Porch Fire sparks caught flame 2015 after Yeck-Petty’s bluegrass band Old Toby and Hutchens and Bledsoe’s “Jamband” Candlefish broke up.

The three musicians became friends, and Hartman, Rhodes, and Jones soon joined, and Yeck-Petty said he has “never regretted it since.” Hartman said she is so lucky to have joined the group.

“With the six of us, we can fuse bluegrass, funk, rock, blues, classical, jazz and electronic,” Hartman said.

Similar to their talents, the members of Porch Fire have all had different musical upbringings and influences. Addicted to bass lines since birth, Hartman said she was born to Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik.”

“I began playing upright (bass) as soon as my hands were big enough,” said Hartman. “Porch Fire has been an incredible experience because it’s forced me to get off sheet music and incorporate additional elements from my listening history into my playing.”

Rhodes said she found her love for classical musical in first grade and played in orchestras growing up.

“Being in a jam grass band is a huge change of pace for me, and it’s been the most fun I’ve had with music so far,” Rhodes said.

Yeck-Petty said he played in a concert band as marching percussionist and began playing the mandolin in college, where he played with a traditional bluegrass band.

Bluegrass bands The String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band and Greensky Bluegrass influence Yeck-Petty.

“I felt like these bands were really pushing bluegrass genre to new places, and (I) wanted my music to do the same,” Yeck-Petty said.

Hutchens said he also started in his school band before he became a live performer.

Jones said jazz pianist Robert Glasper, classical pianist Arvo Pärt and American funk composer Roy Ayers are his keyboard influences.

On the other hand, Bledsoe said when he first started as a guitarist, he got a lot of inspiration from the metal genre. The band agreed that their favorite venue they have performed at was Shoe Fest at the beginning of September.

“The crowd was kind and the sound was righteous,” Hartman said.

That was not the only memorable aspect for the band, as Yeck-Petty said the band’s craziest experience was last May when they played at a local bar in Carbondale.

The band was joined by hula-hoop dancers dressed as fairies while the crowd was filled with glow sticks and balloons. Although the band is from Carbondale, Rhodes said that Charleston, overtime, has become the band’s second home.

“Macs’ Uptowner is a great venue that we have had the pleasure of performing at a few times,” Rhodes said.

Yeck-Petty even grew up in Mattoon, and he said that playing in Charleston is a “hometown throwdown” for the band. Fans, locals and students can experience Porch Fire’s heat this Saturday or by checking out their Facebook page.

Carole Hodorowicz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]