“The Philly scene is on fire right now, producing band after band putting out good music and building a close-knit community,” Dan Ozzi wrote on Feb. 4.
Well, thanks Noisey. I appreciate the shoutout. But what is it about Philly’s DIY scene that brings on such praise?
In my last column, I quoted Jake Detwiler of the Don’t Tread on Me House describing the Philadelphia music scene as “communal” and “totally interactive.” Philly not only has a great catalogue of bands to choose from, but it has a strong and developing infrastructure of support behind those bands. Numerous groups and individuals have worked together to create systems of keeping the 215 scene going strong.
The nature of DIY events makes it sometimes hard to track them down. Typically, you won’t find advertisements for basement shows in the classifieds of the Inquirer. So unless you are a part of the Facebook niche that receives the stream of event invites on a daily basis, how are you going to know what’s going on in your community?
DIY PHL took on this challenge by creating a show and event listing for DIY events in Philadelphia area. According to its website, its mission is to “promote and support a music and arts community that creates a positive, inclusive and accessible environment for all to create, participate and enjoy in.”
The online calendar is interactive, allowing for guests to submit shows. Submissions are reviewed for appropriateness and accuracy and then are listed in an easy to navigate display. This creates a constantly updated database of everything DIY – shows, charity events and even foodie get-togethers.
In addition to the online calendar, DIY PHL puts out a monthly print calendar that is distributed around the city and at shows. A different artist is asked to design the calendar each month.
In a city as large as Philly, spreading the word to the right people is key. That is where groups like The Guild come in.
The Guild refers to itself on its website as “a collective of likeminded show promoters in the great city of Philadelphia.” Simply put, they get the word out.
Utilizing Twitter and Facebook, The Guild promotes shows of all varieties across the city. This is important because not everyone has a few thousand Facebook friends and can fill up a venue with fans. Groups like The Guild get the details out to the masses, thus creating that close-knit community Noisey raved about.
Sean Agnew owns and operates R5 Productions as a DIY show promotion agency. R5’s website states that its main goal is to “provide the Philadelphia area with cheap, friendly shows in an honest intimate setting.”
R5 Productions works with a series of venues around the city, including Johnny Brenda’s and the First Unitarian Church. These shows differ from many other Philadelphia shows in that they often fall somewhere in the middle between basement and big league. While it is common to see a list of locals on a bill, these shows are also made to accommodate larger names that are on tour and want to make a stop in Philadelphia.
With door prices typically ranging from $8 to $12, these shows are still cheap but allow for bands to get paid their guarantee. While donation-based house shows are great, $20 thrown in with a case of light beer won’t fill a van’s gas tank. These mid-level shows make it possible for small label touring bands to play in the area without sacrificing its budget. Additionally, these shows allow for local bands to get their names out in front of larger crowds.
So, while it easy to focus on the bands coming out of a music community, Philadelphia is a prime example of what a quality scene looks like. In the modern world of YouTube, any band can grow an online presence on its own. But nothing says DIY like a solid do-it-together mentality. And in that, Philadelphia is first.
Jared Whalen can be reached at