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Killiam Shakespeare Celebrates One Year of the Beat Street Jam at Silk City.

October 18, 2016

steve-mckie-lady-almaText by Morgan James. Images by James Younge.

The scene at the last Beat Street Jam at Silk City was… inviting. Considering the shitload of talent overflowing from within and scattered outside of the venue, that may feel counterintuitive. But alas it was a super chill and welcoming vibe that permeated the monthly jam session hosted by Killiam Shakespeare.

Killiam is a band of instrumentalists founded by producer and drummer Steve Mckie (pictured above with Lady Alma) and keys player/producer Corey Bernhard. The two met touring together as part of Bilal’s band. Between the two of them, they’ve toured with artists including John Legend, Jazmine Sullivan, Common, Joss Stone, Charlie Puth and a host of others. Their recent project Killiam Season 1 is a compelling compilation of soulful music, each track scratched together by Philly legend DJ Jazzy Jeff.

Bernhard was living in Brooklyn and would often travel down to West Philly to hang in Mckie’s studio where they further bonded and worked on music together. His frequent visits led to the band’s formation almost one year ago.

“We were working on a whole bunch of music before we even really started Killiam Shakespeare,” said Bernhard. “About, like, a year ago, we ended up feeling like we had to put all this music out so we started a band and production team and were able to kind of bring the songs to life with Killiam.”

Beat Street is a community extension of the feeling both Bernhard and Mckie felt as touring musicians for other artists. They were artists brimming with original music, but no outlet to share them.

“Beat Street Jam is basically that platform where we open up… we invite people from all over the world, all over the states,” said Mckie. “It’s a 3-song set and jam. We jam and the format is basically vibing and connecting together on stage and projecting the energy out to the crowd. You know, walk away hearing some very cool stuff as if you were in the studio creating with us.”

A collaborative air electrifies the room. At one point during Killiam’s set in September, the master of ceremonies for the evening, singer Aaron Camper, began improvising to their music. Reesa Renee, an up-and-coming singer/songwriter, jumped onto the stage and began riffing off of him, engaging him in an impromptu duet that that the crowd ate up.

Lady Alma, the heart of Philly’s soul and of King Britt fame, could be spotted by the bar. She came to show love to her friends and fellow peers.

“I am here to support Killiam and watch them rock,” she said.“And my home girl Reesa Renee from the DMV!”

John Legend’s touring music director, Man Man, was seen coolly chatting with peers. Ambient Philly rapper André Altrez was off to the side, nodding his head in deep appreciation of the musicians on stage.

Running into tastemakers happily blending in with everyone else is to be expected.

“You’ll see Jazmine Sullivan in the crowd just getting a drink,” said Mckie. “You’ll see James Poyser hanging out with us. All of these people are my friends. They’re amazing friends. And they’re coming out to help support and put on for Philadelphia. The city. The music.”

CJ Branch & Mario Crew were featured last month. They’re touring musicians and grateful to Killiam for allowing them the channel to showcase their own original work. They’ve toured with the likes of Kindred the Family Soul, Chance the Rapper, Jazmine Sullivan, Nico & Vinz, Fabolous and the cast of Empire.

Rock Pop Soul band Johnny Popcorn performed after traveling from New York’s Hot 97 radio station earlier that day. Hezekiah, the band’s lead singer along with Jani Coral, has a similar background to the other musicians. He’s written and produced for Bilal and formed Johnny Popcorn as a means to come to his own as an independent artist.

All in all, it was a dope night of fellowship and most of all, amazing music.

Join Killiam and their peers for the one year anniversary session October 25th at Silk City.

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