Philly Music Fest 2020 as it was first conceived last fall, fell apart in July 2020 when independent venues across town realized they wouldn’t be able to open their doors to a crowd in just a few short weeks. With COVID-19 restrictions, there was simply no way the festival could proceed as in years past. PMF founder and curator Greg Seltzer was at a standstill. But like he told me over the phone a few days ago, “you have to have some creativity on the production side of music.”
“The industry has been deferential--almost exclusively--to the artist community for creativity. And now the producers, the venues, the industry need to step up and be innovative. It’s on us now to be creative.”
The same week Greg canceled Philly Music Fest 2020 as he knew it, he received an offer from Ardmore Music Hall to live stream the festival. Refusing the call to action, Greg replied that he didn’t want to see another zoom show with Macbook audio capture filmed in bands’ living rooms. “Live stream fatigue” was fully setting in. Fortunately, that’s not what Ardmore had in mind.
Philly Music Fest 2020 will be live-streamed, yes, but with the production and setting you remember from last year. It’s been months since even the most devoted fans have seen a live stage performance, and with production from Ardmore’s Nik Greely, Chris Perella, and Julian Booker to name a few, we’ll have that experience again. “It seemed innovative to me,” says Greg.
The lineup this year, even with fewer bands, still runs the gamut of musical styles Philly has to offer. PMF lineups have always been unique in that they flow from the Americana genre to bluegrass to funk to indie rock to experimental jazz. “I need to showcase all of those disciplines because they're all vibrant in Philadelphia,” says Greg. Thursday’s lineup this year is headlined by indie pop superstar Japanese Breakfast and opens with improvisational trumpet player Arnetta Johnson (who you may recognize from Beyonce’s 2013 Super Bowl halftime show). And Friday's lineup welcomes back to town Langhorne Slim (who is driving up from Nashville) and Mt. Joy, who would've been on tour with The Lumineers.
From left to right: The Districts, Zeek Burse, Langhorne Slim, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Mt. Joy, Arnetta Johnson, Japanese Breakfast, and Arthur Thomas and The Funkitorium.
Besides shining talent, PMF has always been bolstered by support from the community, and this year is no different. Watch parties are cropping up all over the city for Philadelphians to watch PMF in small groups. Victory Brewing, Love City, and Roy Pitz are all screening the fest on large screen projectors. And in King of Prussia, Barney Cortez is opening with a live set before Workhorse Brewing’s screening.
However you watch, whether it’s outside at an event or from home, please donate as if you were paying for a ticket. Funds raised by Philly Music Fest are invested in the next generation of musicians via music education nonprofits in the hope that students today may play our city’s stages in the future. Support for PMF means support for our city’s music scene in its full lifecycle, from students to emerging artists to household names.
CVZ is thrilled that Philly Music Fest will go on (not without a hitch) this year, and we can’t wait to celebrate Philadelphia’s talent on Thursday 7-10pm and Friday 7-11pm at https://phillymusicfest.com/watch.