More music festivals should take place in the fall.
It seems obvious, but organizers at Coachella, Pitchfork and hundreds of jazz festivals warp our Summer Ale-addled minds into thinking that it’s hip to dehydrate. Thankfully, Philly’s Flava Fest coordinators picked a weekend Farmer’s Almanac scholars would approve of.
The festival, which runs from Sept. 20-22, formed out of a love for the Gathering, the city’s longest-running hip-hop event held the last Thursday of every month at the Rotunda in West Philadelphia. Director Chris Anderson, a former volunteer at the Gathering and a Temple alumnus, debuted Flava Fest last September to 2,000 people for one day at Clark Park in Un iversity City.This year, Anderson upgraded to an event that won’t give you heat stroke but may induce a bout of sensory overload. The three-day festival spans five venues and at least 30 years of hip-hop inspiration: slam poetry contests, breaking battles, freestyle face-offs, graffiti shows and after-parties will ensue.
At 6 p.m. Sept. 20, Temple students Jake Winterstein and Rashid Zakat will kick off Flava Fest with the SLAM Poetry Competition at the Sneaker Villa.
Winterstein, a senior geography and urban studies major, worked with Anderson at “Hip-Hop for Palestine” last December. Zakat, a senior film and media arts major, hosts Philly’s Soul Aquatic freestyle jam session.
At the competition, roughly 20 slam poets will compete in three rounds, and a group of random audience members will decide who wins the $350 prize.
“It’s best when the judges don’t know too much about poetry and just choose what they like, because you can’t seriously judge someone’s pain and anguish,” Winterstein said. “We’re going to have fun. But it’s fun with sustenance, not booty-shaking fun.”
The Thursday event will also host a custom sneaker show, in which artists splatter ink and acrylics onto stark white sneakers, and a graffiti art gallery, which is “fine art meets street art,” Anderson said.At the F.U.E.L. Collection on Sept. 21, the literary battle royale morphs into the more danceable form of a freestyle face-off. During Friday’s preliminary rounds, DJs Skeme Richards, Lil Dave and Phillee Blunt will spin upbeat ’70s funk and golden-age hip-hop beats. Eight emcees will compete in a two-day, four-round competition that ends at the 40th Street Field on Sept. 22.
It will be like that freestyling scene in 8 Mile, except it’s live, hundreds of other audience members are watching it with you and the crowd’s reaction determines the winner. But the fight’s not over. Breaking, popping and locking battles will take place alongside the freestyle competition on Friday and Saturday. The best part? Open call-out battles.
“If a breaker from West Chester has beef with someone from New Jersey, he can humiliate him in front of the whole crowd,” Anderson said.
Flava Fest’s headliner Pharoahe Monch, an anti-establishment Brooklyn rapper with the quirky vocals of Andre 3000 and the social frustrations of Dead Prez, will conclude the weekend with a performance the Trocadero at 8 p.m. Sept. 22.
“Pharoahe is perfect for this festival because he defies people’s stereotypes of what hip-hop is. A lot of people turn on the radio and hear T.I. rapping about money, drugs and sex. They think that’s what all rap is like, but Pharoahe is here talking about gun violence,” Anderson said.
“That’s an issue facing our own urban community.” From 11 a.m. to 4 a.m., an after-after-party will take place at the Arts Garage near Broad and Parrish streets, a venue known recently for holding the last enjoyabledance party in the city: White T’s and White Belts. Man up and attend this last gem – it’s not summer anymore, so you won’t be a in a heat coma. And buy a pumpkin latte if you need to wake up; it’s only available seasonally.
Holly Otterbein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.