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Philly Music Fest: “This is a Call to the Philadelphia Music Scene to Rally Around This.”

September 18, 2017


This weekend, Greg Seltzer, an attorney at Ballard Spahr, is launching Philly Music Fest, a two-day celebration of Philly music, beer, food and art at World Cafe Live.

Among the acts will be Strand of Oaks, Cayetana, Steve Gunn, Work Drugs, Eric Slick, Deadfellow, Pine Barons, Cheerleader, Shannen Moser, New Sound Brass Band and many others.

Our G.W. Miller III spoke with Seltzer about the festival, which he hopes will become an annual event, a smaller version of SXSW but with only Philly acts.

What’s the origin of the fest?

Over the last decade and a half, I’ve just been entrenched in the Philly music scene. Since it was not exploding nationally. Over the last five years, I started thinking about the fact that our scene is worthy of national attention but may be not getting as much as it ought to.

The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, Dr. Dog – bands like that have broken out but our scene is so much deeper. Hundreds of bands deeper. If we could shine a little light on them, give them a platform, we could let them show themselves to our city. I don’t know if our city has embraced our scene as much as I’d like it to. For our scene to grow nationally, we all need to get together as a community. Once we do that, and we do that year after year, these artists will sell more records, get more tour dates, etc.

That’s the genesis of it. I want to call attention to these 24 bands over two nights, on two stages. Bring the Philly breweries together. Bring Philly food leaders together.

Two stages? Upstairs and downstairs?


I went to Hal Real (founder and CEO of World Cafe Live), who I know through business stuff. I pitched him the idea. He said, “You’re not leaving this office until we’ve worked out a deal.” He was immediately on board. World Café Live could not have been more supportive of the concept. They said they’d give me both stages. I can program them simultaneously, which, normally, they program between them. This will be like a festival, where you have overlapping sets. You’ll have to decide where you’re going to, whether you want to see some indie punk or alt country or rap.

When you say you’ve been entrenched in the music scene for the last 15 years, what have you been doing?

Listening. Doing everything everyone else has been doing.

Have you been promoting shows or anything?

No. I’m a rookie promoter.

A rookie promoter could not put this festival on without World Café Live. They have the production expertise. They have the marketing expertise. I have the vision and I have the ear to curate the lineup. And I have the ability to work within a budget and make it work. But they had the ability to put the festival together.

How do you finance this?

It’s not as massive as you might think. But it’s a collaboration between me and World Café.

I’m well aware from my dealings with the Newport Folk Festival and some other things that bands, particularly some of the bigger bands, they need to have faith in the concert promoter. They might know I work at Ballard but they don’t know me as a concert promoter. Having World Café there means all these people are comfortable.


When did you start planning all this?

Conceptually, almost two years ago.

And in reality?

Probably 12 months ago. It’s been in the works for a long time. I modeled it with spreadsheets and business plans.

Who was the first band you booked?

The first yes we got was absolutely the Pine Barons.

We went out to a list of 20 bands, with Strand of Oaks at the top of the list. Waxahatchee was on tour. Hop Along was on tour. Sheer Mag was on the West Coast. Alex G is playing Made in America. Marian Hill, same thing.

We got an immediate yes from everyone we talked to. But then they had to check with their availability.

I have some friends who say now that I’ve done this, who will play next year? They have no idea how deep this music scene is. We have a lit of 200 bands who aren’t on this lineup who we will go back to.

This is a spotlight on our local scene. This is a call to the Philadelphia music scene to rally around this.


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