Tag Archives: lollapalooza

Popped! Music Festival Finds a Home at Philadelphia’s FDR Park

19 Sep

This Friday, September 23 and Saturday, September 24, the Popped! Music Festival will take place in its new, permanent home of FDR Park in Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love has some of the largest parks in the country, one of which being FDR Park, and after four years of holding the festival in various venues scattered throughout the city, Popped! is finally in a set and recurring location. Festival creator, Alexis Rosenzweig, says, “Our goal was really getting into the park and we did that, and now we have a permanent location to operate out of.”

The idea for a festival in Philadelphia emerged from Rosenzweig feeling that the city would be a great destination where the people living in and around the city, as well from all over, could come for one weekend and enjoy great music, food and comedy. In its earliest incarnations, however, that wasn’t entirely the case.

The first Popped!, held in 2007, was what Rosenzweig would call a “DIY operation.” There were no investors then and each day was treated like a show to a few thousand people across multiple venues. Then, the next year, the festival took place in one location, outside on Drexel’s campus, and featured Vampire Weekend and the Ting Tings, two artists who were on the cusp of major recognition, which is what Rosenzweig looks for when booking acts for Popped!

“For me what Popped! is really all about is being trendsetters,” Rosenzweig says. “I really try to find acts who are about to blow up, and the Ting Tings are a perfect example of that.” The Ting Tings opened the Drexel campus festival, and by that point, “Shut Up and Let Me Go” was number 1 on the Billboard charts. “I try to look for acts like that who are going to be relevant by the time the festival happens,” she says.

As far as stand-out artists at this year’s festival, Rosenzweig puts Foster the People at the top of the list. They appeared on her radar by way of a promoter friend when the band was playing at Philly’s 110 capacity seating, Kung Fu Necktie. Her friend forwarded her a Craigslist ad showing a listing by someone scalping tickets for the show for $70, which is more than a single day ticket at Popped! Rosenzweig didn’t even know the name of the band at that point but based on their buzzworthiness, she booked them for the festival without ever having seen them. Then, that all changed at this year’s Lollapalooza this past August, and Rosenzweig saw how people were freaking out to their songs. “It’s exciting to see a band like get so successful so quickly,” she says.

Also on her list of artists she’s excited to see are Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. who are friends of hers and have an incredible live show. She says, “I’m excited to see them in a festival vibe.” She adds that Girl Talk always does well in this market, and Kreaysean will not only play her first show ever in Philly, but Popped! marks her first festival, as well. The Shins are only doing a handful of shows this year and Rosenweig is excited Popped! is one of them. “Pretty Lights have grown tremendously. I haven’t seen their live show yet, but I hear it’s out of control,” she says and adds, “I think the lineup is really great.”

Rosenzweig has been working in events for the last decade, half of which has been spent working in the Philadelphia area, working largely with the Roots. While working on events in music is her background, she says a lot of it is a politically driven job. When planning a festival, so much has to do with the city and the location, and it has to be sold as what it will bring in terms of revenue and will be good for the city. “I was very lucky to have people who believed in this and had the city very much onboard,” she says.

Citing Lollapalooza, again, as an example, Rosenzweig knows Chicago was very accommodating about hosting the festival there and says, “There’s always red tape and always hurdles in any city, but at the end of the day, the city has to be on board with, ‘Yes, this is going to generate commerce, going to generate revenue and going to bring people into the city.’”

But Popped! differs from Lollapalooza in that Rosenzweig isn’t trying to be exactly like the festival giant. “It’s about a long term goal, it’s about building. We’re trying to do this is in the most organic way possible and not going into it trying to do a Lollapalooza-type festival.” Meaning, it is not a touring festival, like Lollapalooza, which has its own identity and has x amount of money to hold it in cities that vary year to year without a set location.

“FDR Park is probably in the most convenient location you can imagine,” Rosenzweig says. The park is directly across the street from the Philadelphia sports complex. And while people are expected to come from New York, Baltimore, Allentown, New Jersey, Delaware, and any number of Philadelphia’s surrounding, which are vast, Popped! is about providing a festival for people who live in this area. “Philly is a driving city – lots of people work outside the city and drive in for work and to see shows,” she says. Those familiar with events held in Philly, are familiar with the area and know the drill in terms of driving to that location.

Popped! has built on itself since it started and has grown already from where it began. “It’s catered to fit where we’re at with the festival here, the grounds that we’re on and what the market is.” She says it’s important to look at all those things when taking on a project like this, and knows how easy it could be to go in, blow it out in an enormous way and not look down the road, long term. Rosenzweig is looking down the road, and at how Popped! Music Festival can grow in an organic way so the people of Philadelphia have a festival to enjoy for many years to come.

For more information on where to stay, transportation and a list of the festival’s full lineup, check out http://poppedphiladelphia.com/.

The Joy Formidable are a Formidable Force to Be Reckoned With

15 Sep

Rock acts have been sorely absent from the music charts of late, and North Wales band the Joy Formidable sounds worthy of a place at the table. Their full length debut, The Big Roar, is a nineties throwback, but in more of a refreshing homage rather than a carbon copy kind of way. The Big Roar mixes fuzzy guitar riffs and heavy, heart thumping drum beats with layers of deliberate distortion. Songs like “A Heavy Abacus,” “Austere” and “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” have infiltrated indie rock airwaves, standing out with their pop/rock hybrid of hooks to the tune of singer Ritzy Bryan’s ethereal yet driving voice. Simply put: they are a big deliciously blurry sound of grungey rock goodness, and they are breathing life into a genre that has been stale for quite some time.

Their influences are varied, drawing from many different genres, past and present, and not settling on any one, lending even more so to their timeless sound. Growing up, bassist Rhydian Dafydd tended towards Hendrix and other artists of the 60s and 70s, but says, “It was all really just a gateway to good and bad music, in my eyes. I’m not drawn to any specific genre. I enjoy anything with a story and a unique voice and, ultimately, a soul is good enough for me.”

Same goes for the other members of the band. Dafydd says singer/guitarist Bryan was “spoiled for choice” by her mom and dad’s massive record collection. At an early age, she was exposed to Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and other great songwriters like Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.  “I’m sure that had a big effect on our songs being very lyrically driven,” he says. Drummer Matt Thomas’ taste is also varied, spanning the spectrum from jazz to metal with some Frank Zappa in between.

For Dafydd, it all comes back to good and bad music. “That’s why an album for us is a very dynamic piece of work,” he says. “I don’t want to hear the same sound or same structures twelve times on an album. I want to take you on a journey.”

And the Joy Formidable deliver. These varied musical tastes come together in a post-grunge sound that has traces of the Pixies, Sonic Youth, Garbage and Smashing Pumpkins. Bryan only plunges the bands’ sounded deeper into the 90s, drawing parallels to grunge girls PJ Harvey and Louise Post and Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt. Even Bryan’s look channels Courtney Love with her updated baby doll dresses, albeit Bryan looks the wholesome, impish anti-thesis to Love’s heroin chic hot mess.

So it is easy to see why Dave Grohl tapped the band to open for the Foo Fighters this fall, alongside Social Distortion. “It’s a kind of nice story because it seemed to come around quite naturally,” Dafydd says. While driving one day, Grohl heard the band’s “Whirring” but didn’t catch the name of the band. Trying to remember the tune in his head all the way home, Grohl figured it out, tracked them down, and since then, the Joy Formidable has played several shows with the Foos, including a secret show at Lollapalooza and some dates in the UK.

Dafydd confirms what so many others are already saying about Grohl and the Foo Fighters being the nicest guys in rock & roll, “We had a blast. They’re very down to earth and still know what’s important about it all and that’s the music,” he says. “Sometimes you get people with motives or with weird sort of egos and competition. They seem genuine, and that means a lot.”

The Joy Formidable came together in its most recent incarnation three and a half years ago. Bryan and Dafydd are childhood friends and reconnected musically in their hometown after a string of bad experiences, “We got back into writing music for the right reasons. We started enjoying and losing ourselves in the music, which is what is important.” They found a drummer. They rehearsed. That drummer didn’t work out. They found Thomas, and since he joined two and a half years ago, Dafydd says, “It’s been non-stop gigging.”

In addition to being childhood friends, Bryan and Dafydd are also a couple.  Dafydd says the only challenge for them in that respect is to find alone time because the band and the music is so all-consuming but says that was a choice the two made early on. “We’re quite lucky in that, first and foremost, the music is what brought us together,” he says. “We had that before we even became a couple.” If anything, he says it adds to the natural dynamic and chemistry necessary in a songwriting partnership. As with everything else, Bryan and Dafydd see it as a blessing that they get to travel this journey together.

“It’s a really beautiful thing that we’ve found it together. Dynamic in a band is a very precious thing,” he says.  He cites chemistry as a crucial element in a band because of the amount of time spent together, and says, “We feel like we’ve got that ultimately. When we get onstage, that’s where it all comes into its own, and we really lose ourselves. That’s where the beauty and the truth comes out.”

That beauty and truth is ever present on their journey, and there is a moment in every day that Dafydd is well aware that he and his bandmates are living a life many only dream of, “It’s not a job at the end of the day,” Dafydd says, “It’s a lifestyle, and it’s a privilege to be able to give value to our creative outlets in a way that it connects with other people. We don’t take any of it for granted.”

Dafydd, Bryan and Thomas have been travelling the festival circuit for a large part of the last year, and the rest of 2011 includes another month or so of festivals before a headlining tour in the UK. Then they’re back in the US for the Foo Fighters’ dates and even more shows follow after that. Dafydd wouldn’t have it any other way, in fact, he revels in the travel and touring to help generate the spark of creativity.

The variety of travel affords the band with the opportunity and freedom to get ideas down, collaborate and feel inspired, “It’s a great time to be feeling these things and seeing these things and meeting new people and seeing the world in that different light.” He adds, “To challenge yourself as a songwriter, you have to be able to put yourself in different contexts.”

The band arrives in Philadelphia Friday, September 23 for the Popped! Music Festival at FDR Park and then again for their date with the Foo Fighters at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, November 10. They’ve been to the states several times, staying mostly along the east and west coastlines, and Dafydd knows they’ve got some ground to cover in between, “There’s still some nooks and crannies, but we’ll get there.” No doubt about that: the Joy Formidable are well on their way.

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