Taking a cue from Austin, TX, Philadelphia recently launched its own 4-day event mirroring the annual, and highly regarded, South by Southwest festival. Including the participation of over 30 venues throughout the entire city, the Philadelphia Film and Music Fest (abbreviated Philly F/M) celebrated the rich, local music scene as well as showcased several independent and alternative films. Also in the mix was a record and exhibitor fair as well as the first annual neighborhood block party, Girard Fest.
I began my weekend Friday night at the World Café Live located in the University City district. The line-up for the night consisted of Felix Lighter, Black Landlord, and Philadelphia superstars, The Dead Milkmen. Felix Lighter initially seemed like your typical indie rock band, but were able to differentiate themselves from every other west Philly local with their added mix of blues and funk. Yet it was Black Landlord who stole the spotlight with their fusion of lyrically keen hip-hop and jazz. Consisting of roughly nine outlandish performers, it was hard to take your attention off the stage for the fear one might miss something. To top off the night, The Dead Millkmen played to hundreds of screaming fans. Obviously no surprise here considering the band's stage presence alone, especially from front man Rodney Linderman who several times pushed his way into the middle of the crowd, is enough to have you up and moving on your feet. But that's not to say that the music was bad, not at all! Bringing back both the instrumental and vocal sounds of old school punk, I left late in the night feeling as though I had witnessed something truly rare in this day and age.
The following day I made my way over to Girard Fest that stretched between 5 blocks on, you guessed it, Girard Street. Located on the strip were three stages showcasing locals as well as several local clothing, jewelry, and food vendors. Overall it was a well-put together family friendly event that embraced the local community, giving a true meaning to the City of Brotherly Love. Yet the end of Girard Fest only marked the beginning of several shows and film screenings that would last into the early hours of the morning.
First stop of the night was a hip-hop show at The Fire in the Northern Liberties district. Philadelphia is a city actively involved in the hip hop scene, well known for fostering up and coming (as well as underground) acts. The line up consisted of 4 locals: Icon The Mic King, Jawnzapseven, Burke, and Mike Voss. Even though he was first on the bill, Mike Voss was the most impressive of all with his well-composed lyrics and memorizing flow. The other three were decent, but undistinguished in the sense that they sounded like every other urban rapper attempting to hit it big.
My final run of the night took place at the Media Bureau, a quaint little warehouse venue located in Fishtown. Never before having even heard of the Media Bureau, I was blown away with its vintage décor, making this location the perfect venue for hosting underground entertainment. But besides hosting a few local Indies, the Media Bureau also doubled as a film venue. Most films played over the night were award winning documentaries that included Zombie Girl: The Movie, a film depicting one twelve year old girl's dream of becoming a filmmaker, and Roll Out Cowboy, which follows a singing cowboy as he tours the west during the 2008 election.
Altogether the participation of the local venues, bands, and the Philadelphia community as a whole greatly contributed to the success of the Philly F/M. The first year is still much of a learning experience though and the producers will surly have some kinks that need to be worked out over the course of its development. That's not to say the Festival will not attract a large following. With the addition of bigger bands, venues, and even sponsors, the Philadelphia Film and Music Festival could one day give SXSW a run for its money.