The community vibe is better in Philly.
Now that the terror of swine flu has abated, it’s a fine time to mingle with thousands of your Philly brothers and sisters at the big music festivals that descend upon Philadelphia every summer. Granted, our fests may not have the national cachet of a Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bumbershoot or All Points West, but neither are they quite as overwhelming, costly or full of hassles. We still get plenty of big-name acts, but generally there’s more of a community vibe to our festivals, and isn’t that why people keep coming here?
Besides, who really needs the grandeur of the California desert or the majesty of the Seattle mountains when—on a hot, sticky East Coast summer afternoon—you can hang at the waterfront, chill in Rittenhouse for PW’s concerts (to be announced soon!), listen to some tunes and gaze at the Camden skyline or enjoy all the smells wafting from Port Richmond? A singular thing of beauty, ’tis ...
Sat., June 6, 2pm. $47.50-51. Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing. okayplayer.com/rootspicnic
Sure, you can flip on the telly every weeknight and see the Roots doing their thing on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. But one minor casualty of the format is that MC Black Thought rarely gets to show off his inimitable flow like longtime fans of the long-running Philly crew are used to. So now, when the Roots get the chance to play live, it seems like he spits extra fierce, which is nothing but a good thing for us. That the entire crew will be a battleship-tight unit at this, their second annual Roots Picnic, isn’t even a question—they’ll prove it with full opening and closing sets. And they’ll participate in perhaps the day’s most anticipated set: teaming up with Public Enemy to plow straight through the latter’s classic It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, with Brooklyn Afrobeat collective Antibalas adding some extra horn-y funk to the proceedings. The main stage also boasts an appearance by magnetic New York art-rockers TV on the Radio— possibly the best, most interesting band to combine experimental weirdness and moodiness with stadium-worthy anthems since Radiohead—plus the pummeling blues-punk of Ohio guitar- drums duo the Black Keys and the kaleidoscopic New Wave-y pop of one-time Philadelphian Santigold. Meanwhile, who woulda thought when they were putting this thing together that a white rapper from the Philly ’burbs playing the second stage would be one of the Picnic’s biggest draws? That’d be Asher Roth, love him or hate him. It’ll be fun to watch the expressions of both joy and disgust in the crowd when he whips out “I Love College” and other tracks from Asleep in the Bread Aisle. Rapper and Kanye-collaborator Kid Cudi also graces the second stage, as will Making Time’s Dave P., but of all the up-and-comers, your favorite act just may be Philly hip-hop crew Writtenhouse, whose beats and rhymes wowed ’em at the Troc a few months back when they opened for the Wu-Tang Clan.
Fri., July 24–Sun., July 26. Single day passes: $20; three-day passes: $40. Wiggins Park, Camden, NJ. www.xpn.org
Helping Philadelphians get their AAA on (that’s “Adult Album Alternative”) for years, WXPN invades the Camden waterfront for three days with their annual XPoNential Music Festival. This year’s roster of 40-plus acts is heavy on the singer- songwriters, low-key indie-rockers, blues purveyors and a number of acts who nibble on the outer fringes of pop. Among the better-known outfits leading the way on the main stage are long-running quirk-popsters They Might Be Giants, whistling Swedes Peter, Bjorn and John, veteran bluesman Robert Cray, wrestling masked surf-rock instrumentalists Los Straitjackets, goofy, quasi-jam-band jangle rockers Guster, singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, soul-blues belter Shemekia Copeland, and ex-Dream Syndicate singer Steve Wynn along with his backing band the Miracle 3. But there are also some gems of the local variety appearing on the second stage, including soaring Philly psych- popsters Like a Fox, harmony-laden Bucks County folk-rockers Good Old War, the dreamy and driving East Hundred (who have a kinda Velocity Girl thing going on) and the vaudevillian folk-pop of Perkasie (who hail from Lancaster, not Perkasie).
Sat., June 20, 12-8pm. Free. Second St., Northern Liberties. www.poppedphiladelphia.org
After immensely successful runs in ’07 and ’08, Popped! was poised this year to become one of the nation’s premiere music fests—a Lollapalooza-sized event in FDR Park featuring an array of huge bands (as Popped! Attorney Conor Corcoran recently told us, “These were not some small bands out of Fishtown with six kids with attention deficit problems. These were major acts ... that command six figures to show.”) But then the bottom fell out in February when mega- promoter Live Nation suddenly, and without comment, backed out. Severely wounded, Popped! is still going forward—albeit on a far, far smaller scale—as a free all-day event folded into the Second Street Festival in Northern Liberties. As of this writing, the more underground-skewing lineup includes Philly soul-rockers Blood Feathers and local explosive groove-noisemakers Birds of Maya, plus Benjy Ferree, Heavy Hands, Magnet City Kids, the Chimeras, and a few more bands yet to be announced. It’s certainly better than nothing, and perhaps the start of a new Popped! tradition.
Fri., Aug. 14–Sun., Aug. 16. Single day passes: $44-$75; three-day passes: $105-$131. Old Pool Farm, Schwenksville, Pa. www.pfs.org/PFF.php
One of the longest-running fests of its kind in the nation—and the world, really—the Philadelphia Folk Festival celebrates its 48th annual edition with dozens of acts, thousands of pairs of Birkenstocks and countless pounds of weed descending upon Old Pool Farm in Schwenksville for three days of music, revelry, camping and noodle-dancing. There’s typically at least a couple big names on the roster each year—this year’s lineup sports the much-loved indie-folk outfit Iron and Wine, bluegrass legends the Del McCoury Band, the quickly emerging avant-folk singer-songwriter Alela Diane, soulful Americana singer-songwriter/storyteller (and Steve’s son) Justin Townes Earle, slide-blues musician Sonny Landreth, New Orleans jazz-funk heroes Rebirth Brass Band and folk singer Tom Rush, who helped pioneer the idea of the “singer-songwriter” as we know it today. There are a couple headliners yet to be announced, which we’ve been told are going to be huge. Of course, there are tons more acts, many of them local (Slo-Mo featuring Mic Wrecka, Wissahickon Chicken Shack, etc.) to discover, provided you’re not off wandering in a field stoned out of your mind.