This Monday night, listen closely for a sound in the distance.
You might hear the faint rumble of an under-appreciated music scene gaining momentum.
Philadelphia POPPED! co-founder and West Philadelphia resident Ben Morgan has high hopes for his festival. The weeklong event, running from April 9-15, featuring 36 Philadelphia bands is not only an opportunity to showcase local talent, but is also a way to bring together bands that would normally stick to their own fan base.
“I believe there are lots of immensely talented artists all over the city, but they lack unified support,” Morgan said. “I’ve seen other scenes that are big and healthy and I get jealous. The Philadelphia scenes tend to be fragmented and cliquish. We’re trying to get people to play together who might stay in their respected scenes.”
Morgan said he hopes that the festival will give lesser-known bands (and the venues they play) more recognition.
The shows will be at Johnny Brenda’s, The Avant Gentleman’s Lodge, The Parlor and The Starlight Ballroom.
“We didn’t want to book the same places everyone knew of – the TLA, the Troc and so on,” Morgan said. “We wanted to get
that house-show vibe. In some cases, these places don’t have bands very often, like warehouse spaces.”
Morgan is the type of person who understands how to accomplish things with a do-it-yourself model. He has worked
seven years as a music promoter or, as he prefers to call it, “concert scheduler,” at the Millcreek Tavern, at 4200 Chester Ave., in University City. Last summer he was approached by local promoters Alexis Rosenzweig and John Emory with the idea to have a festival exclusively featuring Philadelphia bands.
As the wise old man of the trio, the 31-year-old Morgan had the most experience with promoting music in the area. Even though he had seen festivals that were attempted and forgotten, with Rosenzweig and Emory by his side, Morgan had no second thoughts about what would eventually
become Philadelphia POPPED!
“We wanted to try bigger and better things,” Morgan said. “We all have different specialties. I know a lot of local bands, and when you’re just starting out, we [at The Millcreek Tavern] tend to be first place people play when people are from Philly. John has his own record label, Badmaster Records, and puts on most of the shows that happen at the Danger! Danger!
House. Alexis runs FlyingV Presents [a promoting company] and is a very focused promoter.”
To their credit, Philadelphia POPPED! has some trendy sponsors on board, including ‘Philadelphia Weekly,’ WXPN and Philebrity, a blog about Philadelphia. The festival has even gone so far as to have the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (known for its catch line, “Philly’s more fun when you sleep over!”) on board and to help promote the festival beyond just Philadelphia.
“Unless you have Live Nation, or you’re promoting mainstream rock, you don’t get the funding only really big concert promoters can really afford,” Morgan said. “We did a fair amount of pitching to people. Once ‘Philly Weekly’ came on board, that helped us get Philebrity, which made us more attractive to some younger companies. We just went to a lot of meetings and told them how awesome our festival was.”
The centerpiece of the festival is the Dr. Dog and Spinto Band performance at The Starlight Ballroom April 13. Morgan said he’s looking forward to seeing Philly-based Dr. Dog play at home again. He cautiously
admitted that he might have been the first person to ever book them in Philadelphia.
“Dr. Dog has been a favorite of mine for long time,” Morgan said. “I’m excited to be working with them again.
They’re on a much bigger scale. They’re the biggest band coming out of the indie scene. They just got mentioned in ‘Rolling Stone.’ We hope that show will be the hook for people to at least look at the festival.”
Chris Zakorchemny can be reached at