Despite how fun the warmer months are in Philadelphia, I’ll be headed out West on a cross-country bike ride from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Anacordas, Wash. (about 50 miles from Seattle) come mid-June. More than 4,500 miles in the saddle, baby.
For anyone staying in Philly this summer, you’ll have a blast – provided you make the effort. Having a bicycle will certainly make it better, since SEPTA is pretty much useless after midnight (except the West Philly trolley lines that run all night), but that’s old news. And, hey, even if you don’t have a bike but still appreciate things that roll, May 17 will be a Saturday to remember.
May 17 brings the second annual Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby to the East Kensington neighborhoods of Fishtown and Port Richmond. This will be as close to an acid trip on wheels as this city may ever come, so make a point to be there.
The KKSD is what Critical Masquerade – the Halloween edition of the monthly Critical Mass ride – always wanted to be, but never was. Wingnuts and wackos congregate with their home-built contraptions for a day of wild fun on wheels – and this goes way beyond cycling. Think spaceships on wheels. Think 10-foot mechanical tin men spinning down Aramingo Avenue. The KKSD is a celebration of basically anything that can be created to roll.
The KKSD is presented by the New Kensington Community Development Corporation, which defines a kinetic sculpture as “a human-powered vehicle that also has an artistic theme.”
Kathryn Doherty, KKSD project manager, said the event is “all about fun and ingenuity, making the wackiest, most interesting contraption is the goal – finishing the course is not.”
If you don’t create a sculpture, you are still welcome to enjoy other aspects of the Trenton Avenue Arts Fair, of which KKSD is a part. The fair features arts and crafts from local artists, as well as Yards beer on tap. The event is less than two miles from Temple –on Trenton Avenue, between East Norris Street and Frankford Avenue at York Street. It takes place from noon to 5 p.m.
The city’s music scene will also be rolling this summer. Basement shows are rarely booked more than a few weeks in advance, so there aren’t many listed yet. But the good old boys at R5 Productions have supplied us with an ample amount of shows to anticipate.
May 1 brings d-beat legends Tragedy, which is pretty much the heaviest, tightest punk band still playing. Go see them at the First Unitarian Church and get schooled. As it looks now, it’ll be the closest we come to a 2008 version of Pointless Fest – the defunct three-day international punk festival in Philly that was ruined by scumbag crust punks in the summer of 2006.
If brutal-yet-melodic d-beat isn’t your thing, there are other shows to look forward to. May 22 brings Canadian neo-legends A Silver Mount Zion to the Church, where they will leave the audience as spellbound as they did last year. From the ashes of landmark post-rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor, this band totally destroys most other noodling, shoe-gazing instrumental bands of our time.
Go to this show. The last one brought out young children and their impressed parents, hippies, punks and frat boys – and everyone was collectively shell-shocked by the power of the band’s live show. Expect epic, riveting, soul-crushing music from this unique collective of multi-instrumentalists.
The point is this: if you stay in Philly this summer, do things! It’s pathetic to stay holed up in your apartment amid all of it. After three years at Temple, I’ve seen countless students contain themselves on campus. This great city extends well beyond North Broad Street.
Take a bike ride through Fairmount Park and watch the sunset from the Belmont Plateau. Get wasted after a show at the First Unitarian Church and swim in the fountain at Logan Square. Bring your guitar to Rittenhouse Square and play for anyone who’ll listen – it’s OK now, the cops realized music isn’t illegal. Have a picnic at Clark Park and make some new friends in West Philly. Pig out at the Reading Terminal Market. Go to the Mütter Museum and check out two-headed babies in jars.
Philadelphia is full of wonderful things to do. It’d be a real shame not to get out and experience some of it.
Julian Root can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.