The residential block between The Institute Bar and PhilaMOCA on 12th and Spring Garden streets is not at all new to hosting block party events, but the 12th Street Arts and Music Festival is the first of its kind at the location.
The Mad Decent Block Party, formerly hosted by Mad Decent and The Institute Bar, grew too large for the venue a few years ago and has since moved to the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing. Since then, The Institute Bar and PhilaMOCA teamed up to organize this new event. Free for attendants, it showcased local musicians and artists.
The roped-off street with a DJ set up in front of PhilaMOCA’s building gathered a small crowd midway through the festival, which was scheduled to be up and running from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22. Stands varied from informative vendors to local aspiring career artists selling their work, and performers mingled amongst crowd members as they waited for call times. Residents of the block were out and about, having their own garage sales next to the stands and letting their kids weave in and out of festival-goers.
Attendee Stephanie Ricci had a positive attitude about the smaller event. She attended the Mad Decent block parties held at 12th Street, and remembers the last one in particular as being one of the best parties she had been to.
“Block parties are about being free and good fun,” Ricci said, expressing her frustration with high-priced events.
The 12th Street festival appeals to this mentality, though “not as good crowd-wise,” Ricci said. She said she hopes that next year the event gets more publicity and attracts more student attention.
There was a much more relaxed atmosphere than that of the Mad Decent days. Charlie Collazo of The Institute Bar, one of the event’s coordinators, said previous events began with “great music and people coming out and getting along and truly enjoying themselves while still showing some respect for the neighborhood,” but that it became too much in year three.
“The people attending it lost sight of what it was about,” Collazo said.
The 12th Street Arts Festival attracted a more mature crowd, with attendees bringing their dogs, milling around eating cheeseburgers sold outside The Institute Bar or grabbing a beer.
Information stands for The Ultimate Body Applicator, an independently sold detoxifying body wrap product, and Green Mountain Energy, which advocated clean and renewable energy sources, also set up displays at the festival, although they both noted that the crowd was not as receptive as they had hoped. One fundraising stand included a dunk tank, a chance to dunk friends of a biking accident victim for a dollar, and also sold raffle tickets for “booze baskets.”
A one-man Mariachi performer by the name of Taco circulated the area, sporting outrageous cowboy attire and drawing the rapt attention of one young girl, who he allowed to strum his guitar after she followed him for several minutes.
Temple alumnus Jon Swartz, a former Tyler School of Art student, and his brother, David, also an alumnus, manned a stand for their company, Black Ink. The company specializes in illustration and fine art. The brothers live nearby and decided to set up at the 12th Street Festival, as they do at many arts events. Eccentric, colorful paintings and prints at their display drew plenty of attention, though Jon Swartz said he’d hoped for more interest.
One of the most eye-catching craft stands displayed an impressive collection of handmade ceramic flasks, the work of local artist Chase Brown. A former University of the Arts student, he called ceramics a hobby, though he has his own kilns and is clearly quite skilled at his craft.
“I’m just doing something I like doing,” Brown, whose stand was very popular, said. He can often be found at events outside PhilaMOCA, and frequents craft shows in Philly. His friends’ band, Post Sun Times, performed around 4:30 p.m.
Natives of West Philly, Post Sun Times members Adam Ferguson, Robin Carine and Matt Kay performed at the 12th Street festival, their first outdoor show in Pennsylvania. Their “reggae/dub rock” style is something they hope can appeal to a large audience, and they have enjoyed playing at events like Bob Marley’s People’s Fest in Delaware this past summer. In addition to their band, they generate their own “apocalyptic reggae newspaper,” which they compared to the satirical production The Onion, calling it absurdist. Their energy was catching and the crowd gathered enthusiasm during their performance, during which Carine shouted, “We are your musical guide for the upcoming apocalypse!”
“I hope more people come out next year,” Ricci said, flashing a smile before cheering on Taco.
Although arguably less lively than its predecessor Mad Decent, the 12th Street Arts and Music Festival brought culture, crowds and characters to the block.
Erin Edinger-Turoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.