Thursday, March 24, 2005

Why Can't Philly Do a South by Southwest?

I caught this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday, detailing the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. South by Southwest is a gigantic, week-long music festival and conference in Austin, started in 1987 as a showcase for the city and its music scene. Numerous Philly performers participated this year, from Diplo and DJ Lt. Dan to Man Man and Dr. Dog. It sounds like an amazing week of non-stop music, drinking and parties, and I hope to make it down there in the future. Check out the pictures at Catchdubs (and here), The Fader (and here)and Houston So Real (more to come on this great blog) for visual evidence of the music and debauchery.

I immediately thought how cool it would be to have something similar in Philadelphia. SXSW has been both a result and a product of the emergence of Austin, Texas. It started off as a showcase for the city and its music scene, as they wanted the rest of the country and world to know what a great place they had for music. However, it was also a chance for Austin to meet the world. This helped create a inter/national music festival for performers, writers and industry people that has turned Austin into a music center.

Seeing all of these Philly bands and DJs participating, it seems like this event could be done here in our city. Our city has one of the greatest musical legacies, but it has really done so without More importantly, I like the notion of bringing the city to world, and vice versa, as it is time.

I do not know anything about setting up a festival, or promoting, or what it would take to do even one concert. I know that this would not be easy, but feel like it is an idea that is worth the time and effort. I would love to hear from anyone who has experience with this type of thing, as you would know best if this could happen, and what Philly lacks or needs to make it happen. The infratructure would seem to be there, as the city is incredibly walkable, has decent public transportation, and lots of bars, clubs, hotels, restaurants, etc. Our proximity and relative cheapness to NYC, D.C. and Boston helps. Best of all, the music here is amazing, running the gamut from hip-hop, Baltimore Club, dancehall to rock, jazz, and classical. You can see Philadelphians running music of all genres, and it would seem that they could put their weight behind this idea. Plus, we are already a major stop on tours, which means that bringing the rest of the world is doable. Finally, sponsorship from local companies could make the initial costs manageable.

What would it take? What kind of money? Are there already festivals or groups that I have not acknowledged in Philadelphia, already trying to do this very idea? What does everyone think?

Imagine how great it would be to have a major yearly music festival in our city, bringing in thousands of artists, writers, industry people. Imagine thousands of festival goers roaming the city, checking out different clubs and bands and neighborhoods that we have always taken for granted. Imagine all of the great shows that would happen, dream bills (check out the shows Matt of Houston So Real put on, for example) that could come together. Imagine Philly being the center of all of this press coverage, showing off for the world what we have here. Imagine.

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