On night two of Philly Music Fest, the lineup of artists were once again a diverse and exciting crew. While collecting donations for local music education, musicians and venue staff, the festival aims to make sure there’s another generation of musicians local to carry on the legacy of Philly’s music scene.
Arthur Thomas & the Funkitorium. The name says it all. Loud and groovy off the bat, frontman Arthur Thomas appeared in dark circular shades, a gold vest and boater-style hat accompanied by vocalist “Re-Mus,” Guitarist “Zavetis,” Bassist “The Jusman,” Drummer “Chops” and Dj “Ndot.” Oozing funk and soul, from their sound to their mannerisms and dancing, the group’s energy was incredible. They played their popular new song “Fried Chicken,” which Thomas says “Stands for our vision of the world as we see it today, and all the social injustice that’s going on today.” He continued to tell the audience: “For me as an artist, I can’t live life and act like I don’t see things, and I can’t speak on things in music, and the band feels the same.” They also rocked the stage with another new funky jam “B Train” that came out this year. Their authenticity and fun lyrics shined through. “We’re a band for the culture!” shouted Thomas.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, an indie project that kicked off in 2004, still carry a great stage presence and show after five albums and 12 years on the scene. Starting their set with “Some Loud Thunder,” a track that shares the same title as their 2007 album, the breathy, quavering sound of Alec Ounsworth’s voice reeled listeners in. The band expressed their passion for aiding music education projects in the local Philadelphia scene: “I’ve got to say this is really fun and weird, and it’s very nice to play at Philly Music Fest,” said Ounsworth. “I want to remind everybody out there that’s watching that donations are being collected for music education and a lot of just causes, worthy causes, [like] Settlement Music School which I’m familiar with in German Town. It’s really good for a lot of kids and a lot of adults. Music education is important, everybody knows.” Following “Yankee Go Home,” the lively track about miscommunication, Ounsworth sat down at the synth for “In This Home on Ice” from their self-titled 2005 album. Shifting from an electronic sound, backed up by the band, to a sweet, melancholy solo track, “Ambulance Chaser” was a great example of how their set covered an assorted range of vibes.
Day two welcomed another wonderful set from Arnetta Johnson & SUNNY, who performed during day one as well. In this ensemble, the rich brass elements are what truly shine. The blend of modernized jazz, hip hop and electronic songs created an eclectic and pleasant experience. A bigger group, consisting of a range of instruments like trumpets, saxophone, drums, bass and keyboards, they’re able to make purely instrumental songs stimulating and entertaining to say the least. They released a new album called If You Hear a Trumpet it’s Me in 2019 which features tracks like “Hum” and “Who Are You” featured in the night’s set.
Mt. Joy, a five-piece group of friends, began their roots in Philly during high school and later branched out adding a member through a Craigslist ad once they found each other again in Los Angeles. Their sound is one that feels strangely familiar and home-y. Keyboardist Jackie Miclau sported her Phillies jersey to show her support for the city, alongside vocalist Matt Quinn who wore a “VOTE” tee under his black cardigan. Their set featured some older folk rock, country-esque tracks like “Astrovan,” “Jenny Jenkins” and “Sheep” from their self-titled album. In addition, listeners got a taste of their newer alternative songs like “Death,” “Strangers” and “My Vibe” from their 2020 release Rearrange Us.“We feel like it’s super important for there to be bands like us in the future, or just bands in general, especially after the hardships that everyone’s going through more and more,” said Quinn. “You’re going to see music get cut out of the classroom, and you can make a big difference here, so log on and make a difference.”
“About seven months ago a terrible tornado ripped through Nashnville, Tennessee where I’ve been living for about the last eight years. Two weeks after that the world was upside down in these pandemic days, and with all the noise of that I don’t know, something happened with that where I was able to find a little bit of quiet,” Said vocalist and guitarist of Langhorne Slim, Sean Scolnick. “Maybe I needed to simplify, or calm down, and find some quiet for a bit, and I had all these songs that were coming out. I hadn’t written any songs in a bit and all these songs came out…And we made this record. We haven’t been able to play any of these songs on a stage. Other than recording the songs we haven’t really had an opportunity to play them together, but we’d like to play a bunch of them tonight.” Langhorne Slim’s set commenced with “Mighty Soul.” Switching between slide guitar, banjo and fiddle, Mat Davidson (AKA Twain) accompanied Scolnick to form a twangy, fun duo. Bringing a piece of Nashville back to Philly, their yearning country americana style tunes felt heart-warming and comforting. A track most can relate to, “Lonesome Times,” was one born during quarantine. Scolnick’s quick-witted, transparent humor about the status of his mental health, songs about “losing your damn mind” during Covid, and other relatable issues discussed, in songs like “Changes,” only added to his honest character.
In 2019, Philly Music Fest raised $40,000 (after paying artists who performed) for local music education programs such as Rock the Future, Settlement Music School, Jazz House Kids and more. Their hope is to keep the Philly music community flourishing through aiding musicians, independent music venues, and music education where needed. By contributing to these programs, they’re able to establish a solid foundation for new generations of up-and-coming artists to hone their skills, while celebrating Philly musicians who have worked hard for their success. To donate, visit the festival’s website.
Photo Credit: Sharon Alagna