OK, so maybe South Philly doesn’t have as many museums and theaters as Center City. It also lacks the bustling college scene of University City and all the super-trendy, “up-and-coming” allure of North Portfishington. Nevertheless, when you take a stadium complex, a beautiful green oasis, a vibrant arts community, and a slew of stellar dining establishments and mix them together into one giant melting pot, inevitably you wind up with a pretty awesome recipe for summertime amusement.
For starters, residents can look forward to an endless string of festivals and block parties—from Fleisher Art Memorial’s 6th Annual ARTspiration (June 9, 10am-4pm) to the first Commotion Festival from June 16-30. Commotion is actually a six-month-long public art project between a diverse group of local artists and students from the University of the Arts in collaboration with community members in the Grays Ferry, Point Breeze and South Philly neighborhoods.
It all culminates with the 15-day festival, which will host the world premieres of six site-specific, one-of-a-kind events at various locations around the project area. This includes “Night Ferry,” a large-scale interactive sound and video-art installation in which audiences can interact with images created in real time by four local video artists that will be unveiled on June 30. Earlier that day, folks of all ages are invited to witness the Frankenstein-like raising of artist Jebney Lewis’ 20-foot-tall creature at a community block party along 22nd and Fernon streets, featuring live music, a gallery of artwork by neighborhood artists, crafts, food and a family-friendly movie.
And speaking of interactive art, for its latest exhibition, Starter Home, (June 22-July 27) Paradigm Gallery is inviting the public to come out and assist printmaker and installation artist Kay Healy in constructing 350 square feet of fabric “rooms.” These “rooms” will include more than 100 hand-drawn, screenprinted and sewn furniture pieces that have been created based on four Philadelphian’s memories of their childhood homes. The exhibit opens with a reception and sewing party (6-10pm) and open community sewing hours will be held each week, Wed.-Fri. from 4-8 p.m.
Finally, whether you realize it or not, South Philly is practically the epicenter of the local alternative comedy scene. Between the free monthly improv showcase at Connie’s Ric Rac, Second Stories upstairs at the Dive and the Philly Improv Theater’s million different monthly shows, you can pretty much guarantee that someone will be cracking jokes somewhere around the neighborhood every night this summer. One of the newest comedy ventures to the scene is Polygon, a community arts organization devoted to building a thriving and sustainable comedy scene for comics of all varieties. Starting June 12, they’ll be hosting a showcase every second Tuesday of the month at L’Etage, offering audiences a mix of stand-up, sketch, improv and storytelling from a revolving lineup of comedic talents. Upcoming performers include stand-up comedian and storyteller Alejandro Morales, the long-form improv duo Cock Hat and Grimmacchio and, last but not least, Philly Secrets, a new team of improvisers who act out and interpret secrets that have been submitted by locals live on stage—regardless of whether these secrets are hilarious or absolutely horrifying. (Nicole Finkbiner)
Philly’s Big Night Out. As the city’s newest entertainment hub, there’s guaranteed to be something going on all summer long at Xfinity Live! For starters, every Saturday night, you can catch a free live concert on the mini outdoor turf field. This month’s acts include Mason Vixon (June 16), Go Go Gadjet (June 23) and Modern Bliss (June 30). Every Sat. Through Sept. 8pm. Free. Xfinity Live!, 1100 Pattison Ave. 215.609.1600. xfinitylive.com
Guilty Pleasures. Comedian Brendan Kennedy has his finger firmly on the pulse of terrible written work—from found scripts and terrible poetry to embarrassing emails and love letters—and he’s ready to present it all to you in all of its hilarious awkwardness. June 6, July 4, Aug. 8. 9pm. $8-$10. The Shubin Theater, 407 Bainbridge St. 267.233.1556. phillyimprovtheater.com
FDR Park Summer Concert Series. Discover a new favorite local band each month as they jam under the stars at the bandstand in FDR Park. The lineup includes singer/songwriters TJ McGlinchey and Dani Mari, folk-rocker Thom McCarty and the soulful five-piece roots-rock group Toy Soldiers. June 8, July 27. Aug. 31. 7pm. FDR Park, 1800 Pattison Ave. fdrpark.org
Cooking Class: Midsummer Classics. Watch and take notes as Swedish chefs prepare an assortment of classic, delectable Swedish summer dishes. At the end of the three-hour workshop, you’ll get to enjoy the fruits of their labor with a tasty meal. June 9, 10:30am. $40-$45. American Swedish Historical Museum, 1900 Pattison Ave. 215.389.1776. americanswedish.org
Fleisher’s 6th Annual ARTspiration. This annual street fair provides a day of fun, free art-making activities for all ages in addition to food, craft vendors and live entertainment. Featured performances include classical Cambodian dancers, Brazilian capoeira dancers and the D.N.A. steel drum band. Adults will even have a chance to compete throughout the day, constructing sculptures from recycled materials. June 9, 10am. Free. Fleisher Art Memorial, 719 Catherine St. 215.922.3456. fleisher.org
Advanced Auto Parts Monster Jam. Sixteen custom-designed, five-ton Monster Jam trucks will fill Lincoln Financial Field with drivers competing in both racing and freestyle challenges. The freestyle competition allows drivers a limited amount of time on an open-dirt track show off their skills—jumping over obstacles, flying and crushing everything in sight. June 9, 7pm. $15-$100. Lincoln Financial Field, 1 Lincoln Financial Way. 800.745.3000. ticketmaster.com
Cinémathèque Screenings. Each month, this repertory foreign film program coordinates a different intimate screening followed by a discussion surrounding international film language. On June 10, they’ll be screening the 2009 documentary Veiled Voices, which profiles three influential women Islamic leaders. Every second Sun. & fourth Weds., 6:30pm. $5. L’Etage, 624 S. Sixth St. 215.592.0656. creperie-beaumonde.com
Extreme Beer Brunch. What better way to start your morning and simultaneously cap off Philly Beer Week 2012 than with a booze-absorbing brunch? The draught list will include rarities from Russian River, Firestone Walker, Allagash and more. June 10, 11am. Free. South Philadelphia Taproom, 1509 Mifflin St. 215.271.7787. southphiladelphiataproom.com
Grays Ferry Crescent Grand Opening Celebration. Celebrate the opening of the newest segment of the Schuylkill River Trail —the first to provide access to the river for neighborhoods in South and Southwest Philly. Following a dedication featuring Mayor Nutter, all will be welcomed to food in the beautiful lawn area and fun activities along the 1,600-foot-long pedestrian trail. June 11, 11am. Free. Grays Ferry Crescent Esplanade, Wharton St. & Schuylkill Ave. 215.222.6030. schuylkillbanks.org
Second Stories Presents: Balls to the Wall. Sure to get you feeling super-pumped about summer, several funny locals will share personal tales of endurance, triumph and unbridled enthusiasm. Hosted by storytelling extraordinaire Jaime Fountaine, this free storytelling series is held the first Tuesday of every month. June 12, July 17, Aug. 14. 7pm. Free. The Dive, 947 E. Passyunk Ave. 215.465.5505. facebook.com/the.dive.bar
Camp Woods Plus. Having quickly become a must-see event within the city’s burgeoning comedy scene, each month this alternative sketch comedy showcase features one local sketch troupe, one out-of-town act and a brand new set from the Philly sketch juggernauts themselves, Camp Woods. June 13. 8pm. $10. L’Etage, 624 S. Sixth St. 215.592.0656. creperie-beaumonde.com
After Work Workout. Blow off some steam and mingle with neighbors all while simultaneously helping to beautify FDR Park. Sure beats paying out the ass for a gym membership. June 14, July 19, Aug. 23. 5pm-7pm. FDR Park, Boat House, 1800 Pattison Ave. fdrpark.org
5th Floor. In conjunction with the 3rd Annual SoLow Festival, Bright Light Theatre takes you on a thrilling and intimate ride on a mysterious elevator—literally. The story unfolds as you travel floor to floor; secrets are revealed and eventually you become part of the action itself. June 15-17. Various times. $0-$10. Foremost Building, Elevator, 525 S. Fourth St. solowfestival.blogspot.com
Looking for summer excitement in your neighborhood—or an excuse to explore new parts of the city? Either way, you’re golden: Here’s our compass-based manual for locating the hottest fun to be found around Philly, one direction at a time!
Unless you weren’t already convinced, hopefully we’ve proven to you by now that Philly is jam-packed with awesome summer events. But for a little suburban staycation, we threw in our top picks for events happening outside city limits.
Sunny enthusiasm, morbid fascination or retro nostalgia: Whatever mood you feel like cultivating in your culture, you can find it just inside the roundabouts-northerly edges of the Philadelphia city limits.
Who’s ready to have too much fun in West Philly this summer? We are!
From the convenient entertainment hub that is NoLibs to the booming cultural mecca better known as North Portfishington, there are pretty much an endless supply of things for you to do, see, hear and eat this summer in North Philly.
An eclectic melting pot of Philly’s smaller neighborhoods, Center City has the most to offer with the greatest variety.
First Person Arts Podcast: Proud Mom