Moor Mother leads the way as Philly Music Fest returns with in-person performances at five different venues

The Philly Music Festival takes the first part of its name seriously.

The non-profit festival that benefits music education will return as an in-person event at the recently reopened World Cafe Live on Wednesday and will continue for five days at four other independent venues.

But the PMF, now in its fifth year, lives up to its title not only in where it takes place, but also in whoever performs on its stages.

As always, the 19 acts are either based in Philly or deeply connected locally. It starts with Moor Mother, Brewerytown’s poet, rapper and experimental musician née Camae Ayewa, opening the festival in the upstairs lounge at World Cafe Live with a trio of performances that capture her in three different musical iterations.

And it continues all weekend with Scranton-born pop punks, the Menzingers, making headlines Saturday and Sunday at Ardmore Music Hall, pulling from their 2019 album. hello exile, recorded at Conshohocken’s Studio 4 with producer Will Yip, whose heartbreaking “Anna” rhymes: “I have so much to tell you / Please come back to Philadelphia.”

“Our genre is Philly,” says Greg Seltzer, PMF founder and stage booster who is an attorney at Center City Ballard Spahr. “Other festivals have their own genres. Our gender is what is uniquely Philly.

Every year, Seltzer says, “I get stressed out about attracting local bands that are nationally recognized headliners,” as well as booking lesser-known Philly concerts just as they go. measure.

Moor Mother is internationally recognized: She said in a recent interview that the last time she performed three times at an event was at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 2018.

“So I’m used to this stuff,” she said, speaking by phone from Los Angeles, where she teaches music composition at the University of Southern California this semester. “But it’s really good to have that in Philadelphia.”

Beyond the Menzinger and the Moor Mother, the PMF’s headliners of the year are very varied.

They include: the dazzling freelance songwriter Alex G, who tops a terrific bottom poster at WCL, with Spirit of the Beehive; Frances Quinlan’s Hop Along Quartet, which will play Johnny Brenda on Thursday; R&B soul man Son Little, who hits the front page of MilkBoy Philly on Friday; and rapper and singer Ivy Sole, at REC Philly, also Friday.

The CMP has been consistent in its mission. In addition to the headliners, it features up-and-coming performers like singer-songwriter AnnonXL, who plays Johnny Brenda on Thursday, and Kennedy’s shoegaze band Freeman HighNoon, which ranks first at AMH on Saturday.

The festival raised $ 50,000 last year for organizations like Rock to the Future, Girls Rock Philly (where Moor Mother is a former board member) and Settlement Music School. Seltzer hopes to exceed that number in 2021.

But due to COVID-19, this year’s PMF will be different from any previous version. In 2020, the festival was reduced to two nights at the Ardmore Music Hall, with artists such as Japanese Breakfast and Langhorne Slim performing sets in empty halls that were broadcast live to fans.

The 2021 festival comes as independent venues resume operations after the long shutdown amid concerns over the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Protocols for CMP will vary only slightly from site to site, Seltzer says. “We have a lot of people coming in, and we have to make it as safe as possible,” Seltzer said.

Proof of vaccination is required at all PMF shows. Negative tests will not be accepted. Mask policies are left to the discretion of the venue, said Seltzer, AMH, WCL and MilkBoy requiring masks when not eating or drinking, and Johnny Brenda and REC Philly are encouraging them . The sites will employ additional security to enforce the wearing of the mask, which the PMF will pay for.

Vaccines and masks will also be required at the two PMF networking events. There is a Friday afternoon tech tour to Guru Technologies in Center City meant to bring together innovators in music and technology.

And on Saturday, WCL will host Inside Hustle panel discussions for budding artists that will feature local luminaries like Augusta Koch of Gladie and Yip, the producer who made headlines with his #StopAsianHate raffle to benefit Asian American & Pacific. Islander Community Fund.

Tech Tour and Inside Hustle are both free. All PMF nightly showcases are technically sold out, although Seltzer said theaters have been sold at reduced capacities and “small batches” of tickets will go on sale as the festival approaches. Check phillymusicfest.com for updates.

READ MORE: North Philly Moor Mother activist, poet and musician on her free jazz musical, Afrofuturism and Patti LaBelle

Seltzer said that a goal of PMF is to have gender diversity not only in the festival as a whole, but also within each night. This was easily achieved by entrusting the opening night at The Lounge to Moor Mother, who singlehandedly embodies several genres.

“People can see the extent of what I have done,” she says.

Which is, as always, a lot.

The North Philly artist and activist, whose 2020 album City Circuit was born out of a 2019 Philadelphia Fringe Festival performance on “The Trauma of Living in Affordable Housing,” recently teamed up with Rasheedah Phillips, her partner in the interdisciplinary art practice Black Quantum Futurism, for an art installation, The ancestors come back again / this time only to themselves. It was on display at Hatfield House in Fairmount Park for five weeks this summer.

she just went out Black Air Encyclopedia, his most melodious and accessible album to date, which employs a number of guest rappers and opens into rhythmic and spacious soundscapes without dulling the conflicting force of his music.

Black encyclopedia is the first album she released on the famous independent label Anti-. No one will ever mistake Moor Mother’s industrial music for easily digestible pop, but she joked about it – which refers to Sun Ra Arkestra, Rage Against the Machine, and former NBA player Latrell Sprewell – like his “sold out” album.

“It’s just that my other work is quite avant-garde,” says the artist, who grew up as Camae Ayewa in Aberdeen, Maryland, and moved to Philadelphia to study at the University of the Arts. . “I try to create a starting point for people to enter my music.”

The new music is that of a room with his work: the Afro-futuristic “temporal disruptors” featured in the Hatfield House exhibit, also making reference to the “Temporal Control of Light Echoes”, the opening track of Black encyclopedia.

“I like to do several projects at the same time, just being positive, having fun creating music,” she says.

The new album is one of three that Ayewa, who previously worked as a substitute teacher and basketball coach at Friends Select School, recorded during the pandemic, while learning the saxophone.

“I became a studio person instead of a live performance person,” she says. Moor Mother’s next album, due on Anti- next year, “will be my most accessible work. After that, I’ll take another path.

In 2019, she comes out Sonic Black Holes analog fluids, with a production of King Britt and Mental Jewelry. The latter is a noise-rock producer with whom she will partner as Moor Jewelry on Wednesday at PMF.

For this concert, the duo will be joined by drummer Phillip Price and guitarist Marissa Paternoster of New Jersey band Screaming Females, with whom Ayewa has recorded another upcoming album. “It’s going to be a great punk rock record,” she said.

At the WCL, Ayewa will close her evening with Irreversible Entanglements, the group of musicians from Chicago with whom she explores free jazz and the experimentation of spoken word creation. “We haven’t seen each other for almost two years, so it’s going to be really great to just be reunited, to meet up and to kiss.”

Between the two, Ayewa will play the role of Moor Mother, alone on stage.

“I’ll be the one to do something,” she laughs. “I don’t know yet, even if it’s only in a few days. I’ll probably do something from the new record. But I will also do some new things. These are the things that excite me the most.

For more information and a full schedule, visit phillymusicfest.com.

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