Music was in the air at The University of Pennsylvania’s campus this past Saturday as the PopNoise Festival made its way back to the Rotunda for the third year in a row. Stellarscope lead singer Tommy Lugo, who aimed to expose Philadelphia to the diverse sounds of underground music for free, created this unique concert series.
“There are so many talented artists out there being ignored and underappreciated,” Lugo said. “I wanted to do something more for the underground community that I have been working with for so many years.”
Lugo, a main sponsor of the event, represented and coordinated PopNoise with his record label Patetico Recordings. “I absorb the costs for the festival, promote it, market it, etc.,” Lugo said.
When it comes to selecting 12 bands, Lugo is put in a tough position. “I receive hundreds of CDs throughout the year and it’s a hard process because there are so many great bands out there. I try to select the bands I feel would cause a bigger impact as well as the ones who have wanted to play the previous festivals,” Lugo said.
Inspired by bands such as Pink Floyd, Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead, Lugo sings and plays an assortment of instruments including guitar, keyboard, bass and programming boards. He has already recorded eight albums with his band Stellarscope, and also has a solo project called Panophonic.
Since 1998, Lugo has been coordinating events in Philadelphia to demonstrate the power of varied music. “[I started by] holding an ongoing show series called ‘Flow of the Underground’ that has been held in almost every venue locally, as well as Virginia, New York City and [Washington], D.C.,” Lugo said.
The live performances of the festival were very appealing. Although the event began later than intended, interested students came from all parts of campus to hear the music.
The bands played one after another, and while setting up sets in between performances, PopNoise had DJ Scary Sarah of American Gothic Productions from Chicago spinning. The music, quite literally, never stopped.
Music fan Beth Huxta, a Temple graduate, attended the event for the first time to see L’Envoi, after hearing about them from a friend. Huxta said she liked the idea of a free concert.
With over a dozen bands including Soundpool, Grayland and the Opposite Sex playing at the event, there was clearly something to peak every interest.
Instead of mainstream music, PopNoise represented the sounds of indie, shoegaze, psychedelic and experimental rock. Other bands from the festival included R-Tronkia, Last Year’s Model, Psiconautas, L’Envoi, Panda Riot and The Metrosexuals.
Soundpool, from New York City, is categorized more as an alternative, indie and shoegaze band. “With shoegaze, it’s become synonymous with more ethereal rock that borders on electronic. We represent more of the left side of the spectrum type of music,” guitarist and vocalist John Ceparano said. Their featured songs, “Walking on Air” and “Millions&Billions&Trillions” instantly delight audiences with their catchy beats and synthesized keyboards.
Grayland, a shoegaze band from Virginia, features a vocal duet that captures the hearts of indie-pop music fans and whose songs have a relaxing tone. Tunes such as “When Your Gone” and “1000 Miles” are surprisingly soothing.
Shaun Helton, from the post-punk band the Opposite Sex, categorized the band’s music as exceptionally diverse “At times [our music] can be really aggressive and at times it can be really melodic, we’re kind of across the board with something that’s … beautifully chaotic,” Helton said. They are expecting a new album to be released sometime this November.
Lugo is organizing a similar version of PopNoise in Puerto Rico called PopNoise Fest Puerto Rico. “This event will hold over 40 bands on two stages for three days. There will be camping … kind of like a mini underground Woodstock,” Lugo said.
Lugo has the motivation and determination to make PopNoise an annually awaited part of Philadelphia culture.
“I firmly believe that you can’t wait for things to happen for you,” Lugo said. “You have to grab the bull by the horns and make things happen, and there is so much more work to be done.”