The return of the music festival

Irreversible Entanglements Philly Music Fest
The Irreversible Entanglements are one of the many bands ready to hit the stage again at Philly Music Fest, Oct. 6-10. Image | Bob Sweeney

COVID-19 spelled the end to live, in-person music for more than a year. No shows, no concerts, no festivals.

Now, though, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Slowly restrictions are being lifted, and venues are beginning to come back to life.

Two Philly favorites are also set to return this fall: Philly Music Fest and the XPoNential Music Festival. Here’s a look at what we know about both right now.

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. “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.

Control Top will be performing this fall during Philly Music Fest. PMF and the XPoNential Music Festival both are welcome returns to the city’s live music scene. Image | Courtesy of Control Top

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.

For tickets, schedules (exact set times should be announced about two weeks in advance) and more, visit

“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 said. 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 is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 7 between 4 and 7pm. Tech Tour 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. Tech Tour is free and open to the public, but space will be limited.

On Saturday, Oct. 9 from noon to 2pm, PMF 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. Panel topics will include: Should I Stay or Should I Go – exploring Philly as a home for musicians; Company in My Back – answering questions concerning forming an entity, tax and accounting; and Only a Pawn in Their Game – how musicians can maximize and control their own destiny among an industry of corporate conglomerates.

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 deployed over 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, importantly, through a donation by WXPN.

Sofía Valdés will perform at the XPoNential Music Festival presented by Subaru at Wiggins Park on the Camden, New Jersey, riverfront.

And speaking of WXPN, the non-commercial, member-supported radio station of the University of Pennsylvania, recently announced the artists who will perform in its 2021 XPoNential Music Festival presented by Subaru. The annual three-day festival that features the expertly curated mix of established and new artists enjoyed by WXPN members and listeners will take place Friday, Sept. 17, Saturday, Sept. 18, and Sunday, Sept. 19 at Wiggins Park on the Camden, New Jersey, riverfront. 

This year’s lineup includes Dawes, Los Lobos, The Record Company, Shovels & Rope, Ani Difranco, Strand of Oaks, Devon Gilfillian, Nicole Atkins, Cory Henry, Adia Victoria, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Jade Bird, Sierra Ferrell, Sofía Valdés, Michaela Anne, Paul Beaubrun And Lakou Mizik. Additional performers will be announced this summer.

The XPoNential Music Festival presented by Subaru is WXPN’s signature annual concert event that draws audiences from throughout the Greater Philadelphia area, Mid-Atlantic region, and Northeastern U.S. Produced in partnership with the Camden County Board of Commissioners, the family-friendly XPoNential Music Festival is now in its 17th year at Wiggins Park. It is known for convenient access via public transportation, natural amphitheaters that produce great sound, plenty of activities for kids, extensive food, drink, and vendor selections, and festival seating and riverfront promenades that offer spectacular views of the Delaware River and Philadelphia skyline.

Weekend passes to the 2021 XPoNential Music Festival are currently offered in pairs and only as a thank-you gift with an XPN Membership of $30/month or more. Individual weekend and daily passes will be available for purchase at a later date. Details about the XPoNential Music Festival are located at the festival website, The festival hashtag is #xpnfest. Follow and share on Twitter at @xpnfest, on Facebook at, and on Instagram at @wxpnfm.

  • 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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