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/.