‘Our genre is Philly’

Camae Ayewa will perform as Moor + Jewelry, Moor Mother and then with the jazz band, Irreversible Entanglements at Philly Music Fest. Image | UV Lucas

Like music? Want to support local artists and educational efforts? Then Philly Music Fest is something you don’t want to miss.

Philly Music Fest returns for its fifth annual music festival Oct. 6-10. Uniquely known for exclusively featuring Philly bands performing at independent venues, PMF is a nonprofit in the business of raising money for kids’ music education and giving opportunity to emerging musicians. Noting “Our genre is Philly,” Philly Music Fest features jazz, rock, hip-hop, punk, bluegrass, folk, spoken word and Americana artists – all of whom call The City of Brotherly Love “home.”

Venues hosting in-person, musical performances this year include World Café Live, Johnny Brenda’s, Milkboy, REC Philly and Ardmore Music Hall. Over the past five years, PMF has featured 96 bands from Philly, and this year will host national touring artists such as The Menzingers, Alex G, Hop Along, Ivy Sole, Son Little, Spirit of the Beehive, Control Top, Queen of Jeans and Moor Mother, as well as emerging artists Moses Mosima, Barney Cortez, Irreversible Entanglements, Stella Ruze, Highnoon, Moor Jewelry, West Philadelphia Orchestra, Annonxl, Lunch and Kelsey Cork and The Swigs.

Get all of the details, including tickets and lineups, at phillymusicfest.com.

“Look, last year was tough, but we innovated and donated over $100,000 to musicians, venue staff and music education through our virtual festival and micro-grant campaign,” founder and curator Greg Seltzer said. “We’re super proud of that, but getting back into venues and having our community safely gather together in-person – the excitement is incredible and we’ve worked hard to ensure that our 2021 lineup matches the enthusiasm.

“The growth of PMF, from two shows and one venue to six shows and five venues, is a testament to the strength and passion of our local music community,” Seltzer added. 

In addition to the six PMF shows, PMF will again feature two “bolt-on” events related to music. PMF’s Tech Tour at Guru Technologies in Center City will feature panel discussions on startup, venture capital and tech topics, along with a diverse array of bands playing before, after and in-between the panel discussions. 

Catch Hop Along at Johnny Brenda’s on Oct. 7 as part of Philly Music Fest. Image | Jacob Boll

PMF also will again host Inside Hustle at World Cafe Live. Inside Hustle is a series of panel discussions featuring music industry professionals that conveys content regarding the business and industry of music in Philadelphia. 

Check out the website for more details about both of these events.

While much of the attention is focused on the entertainment, the Fest also has an impact on educational efforts around the city. Philly Music Fest’s impact has grown each year. In 2017, the nonprofit donated $15,000 to music education programs. In 2018, the total increased to $25,000, then $40,000 in 2019 and $50,000 in 2020. Programs that received donations include Rock to the Future, Girls Rock Philly, Settlement Music School, Musicopia, Live Connections, and Play on Philly.

PMF also deployed more than 330 micro-grants in 2020 to musicians and venue staff struggling as a result of COVID-19. The funds for the micro-grants were crowdsourced from the community and through a donation by WXPN.

PW recently caught up with Seltzer to talk about the festival’s history and this year’s event.

This will be the fifth annual Philly Music Fest. How and why did it all begin?

The seed or kernel that spawned Philly Music Fest was really a question: Can an annual music festival exist in Philly that features nationally recognized and emerging bands from Philly? After toying with various spreadsheets, the answer was decidedly, “no.” There’s not enough profit. That’s when I decided to disrupt the festival business model and form Philly Music Fest as a nonprofit.

Talk a little about the festival’s mission and the people and groups it helps. In other words, where does the money go?

Philly Music Fest has a three-pronged mission – showcase and assist local musicians, host shows at and support independent venues and donate profits to music education programs for children. The amazing byproduct of the mission is that our music community comes together each year for an incredible run of shows, celebrating our artists and our ecosystem, while simultaneously generating capital for music education – the next generation of Philly bands.

How excited are you to have the festival back in the venues and artists performing before live and in-person audiences?  How did you decide to keep this year in-person and what kinds of things are you doing to keep the audience safe?

We’re a small team at Philly Music Fest – just me and my wife, so excitement is typically reserved for a few moments during each show. We’ve been in planning mode for months and want to ensure we are taking every reasonable safety precaution. In-person music has been back for about six months, but moving indoors is a bit novel. Ultimately, our decision to move forward with Philly Music Fest is because our artists need income, our venues need income and our music education programs desperately need support. We are requiring proof of vaccination and masks at three venues (masks are highly encouraged at the other two). We have collected information for contact tracing and eliminated vendors and reduced media presence to limit the number of bodies in each building.

Son Little takes the stage Oct. 8 at Milkboy along with more artists as Philly Music Fest kicks off its fifth annual event. Image | Sebastien Vincent

Talk a little about this year’s lineup. You have some exciting acts scheduled to perform.

I’m in love with this year’s lineup. Each year I focus on a few core aspects. I try really hard to book both nationally recognized headliners and emerging bands. I like to mix and match genres, with the bassline that “our genre is Philly.” And, I love showcasing an artist or two that I think will break-out by placing the artist in a specific slot. The headliners fell into place with The Menzingers, Hop Along, Alex G, Son Little and Ivy Sole. We’ve paired these headliners with emerging bands such as AnnonXL, Stella Ruze, Kelsey Cork and the Swigs, Barney Cortez and Queen of Jeans.

Then, we mix genres. West Philadelphia Orchestra, a jazz-influenced conglomerate, will open for The Menzingers, a hard-charging indie rock band. Similarly, Barney Cortez’s palette of Americana and rock is paired with the hip-hop of Ivy Sole. Son Little’s smooth rock and R&B is locked in with the pop punk of Kelsey Cork and the Swigs and roots-influenced Stella Ruze. And then there’s the mash-up that is the show at World Cafe Live.

A critical part of my vision for PMF21 was highlighting Camae Ayewa. Camae’s main project is Moor Mother, but she has several side projects that are incredible, mostly focusing on Camae’s poetry and spoken word artistic delivery. I offered Camae the upstairs stage at World Cafe Live – three sets, all to herself – to feature three of her projects. Camae will perform as Moor + Jewelry, Moor Mother and then with the jazz band, Irreversible Entanglements. The three sets will showcase punk, hip-hop, electronica, jazz and funk. She’s a wizard, and her recent release as Moor Mother is going to break Camae as one of Philly’s newest stars.

And, as that is unfolding upstairs at World Cafe Live, the downstairs stage will feature the experimental indie rock of Spirit of the Beehive, which is already getting break-out worthy reviews of their latest release, and then headliner Alex G will convey his unique style of rock, folk, experimental and punk.

For those interested in attending, what do they need to know? Where should they go to learn more about schedules, tickets, etc.?

Our website (phillymusicfest.com) has all the information. Venues may be releasing additional tickets to the sold out shows in the next week or so, follow our Instagram (@PhillyMusicFest) for updates. And, please remember – Philly Music Fest is a registered nonprofit, so please consider making a small donation via Venmo (@PhillyMusicFest) or through the Donate tab on our website. Please arrive at the shows with proof of vaccination and a matching ID, along with a mask.

  • Eugene Zenyatta was raised on old-time Memphis 'rasslin' and strongly prefers the company of dogs to people. His greatest heartbreak came in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic.

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