jason stives interviews Alexis Rosenzweig, the creator of the POPPED! Festival in Philadelphia …
So, it’s September once again, and outside of the occasional offshoot proceeding, the summer music festival season has come to an end. For many living in the tri-state area, the affordability of going to any of the big festivals throughout the United States is no easy feat. Travel fare, hotel accommodations, ticket prices — all these are factors that play into planning going to a Lollapalooza or a Coachella like a summer vacation.
Those have all come and gone now, but thankfully there are some events left for the local flavor like the POPPED! Music Festival, a two-day showcase of indie and alternative rock acts in Philadelphia. Within the last 24 hours, organizers moved from FDR Park due to forecasted rainfall. The event, which is in its third year of existence, will be host to some of today’s most popular rising acts headlined by artists like The Shins, Foster The People, Cage The Elephant, and Girl Talk.
Pop-Break’s Jason Stives had a chance to chat on the phone with the festival’s creator, Alexis Rosenzweig, to discuss the reasons behind the festival’s existence, its participants, and why shows like this matter to the city of Philadelphia.
Pop-Break: How did the POPPED! Festival come about in Philly?
Alexis Rosenzweig: Well, I live in Philadelphia, so that definitely helps [laughs]. POPPED! was started because I felt like Philly needed a festival in the vein of Lollapalooza in Chicago or South By South West in Austin. These festivals define a city and are what represents the essence of where it is being held. There is a strong music scene in the city, so people would really appreciate an annual festival to bring some great artists together for a couple days.
PB: Choosing September for such a festival is an interesting choice, especially since most festivals take place in the middle of the summer. Was that done not to compete against other big festivals or was it to do something different?
AR: It’s kind of strange. In a city like Chicago, there are people there constantly, young people, so having a festival during the summer there works. Philly really empties out during the summer, and seeing that this festival caters towards a much younger audience it affords for us to have college students in town. Plus, with FDR Park as a new venue, or at least, an accessible venue, it allowed the show to be made available to the youth in the surrounding colleges and for those that DO actually live in the city all year. So it all brings in the audience we intend to have with acts that really are akin to what’s relevant at the moment.
PB: Each day of the show has an eclectic lineup, with the mix of indie, pop, and some techno-based bands. What made you decide on these particular acts to capture the Philly crowd?
AR: I wanted an eclectic group of artists and ones that are relevant. So it more less came down to what was relevant and to have several genres represented over these two days. The industry these days is all over the place and with some of these acts you never know who might take off in the time that you get them signed for a show. Most of these acts play places in town like Kung Fu Neck Tie, which holds like a hundred people and they sell them on Craigslist for 70 bucks, so it was more taking a chance if they do take off. If a band went from unknown to big in the time it took for us to put them on the bill, that’s how it is, and it adds more of an appeal for people to come out and see them.
PB: Were there any artists you tried to get but couldn’t get them to play?
AR: Everyone we wanted for the most part signed thankfully. It’s hard to say who is a headliner at this point. Foster The People could easily be one at this point, but when we booked this in the winter and spring it was more projecting where they could go and some have really taken off. But yeah, we really got everyone we wanted, and it represents the overall eclectic style we were going for and the overall vibe of having all bands of different genres mixed together.
PB: Outside of some great music, what is being offered to people who are present in this weekend?
AR: There is the POPPED! food bazaar which is a community feast in which we get local vendors with local produce from farms all over Pennsylvania, so food is definitely a huge focus. We have about 25-plus vendors that are a part of this, and we will be having stand-up comedy acts there, too. Philadelphia has a great underground comedy scene, and we have been able to facilitate a showcase for some of these comedians in our festival.
PB: It has been said in the past few years that festivals are dying out. I don’t agree with that, but what do you think of that notion? Is it possible that conducting a music festival in this economy is a risk?
AR: Well, I think in the festival business, yes, some have had trouble in the past, but I feel more people are going to festivals now than ever before. They are going to these multi-billed events because it’s easier to pay 50 bucks to see 10 acts then go see one single band and pay $20, $30, or $40, which is a bit ridiculous, and some venues charge that. We have done a tremendous job of keeping ticket prices low and getting people to attend. You can’t charge hundreds of dollars for tickets, at least not in this market.
We use this as a way to grow organically and know what works year to year. While there are a lot out there struggling, Philadelphia is very acceptable, and we are marketing to people in the tri state area who can just go in their own backyard and not worry about hotels and traveling big distances. It’s all about giving the best for the most affordable price and people who love great music who are close by, and Philadelphia is the kind of place for just those things.
PB: I know that you guys have held POPPED! for a couple years now, but based on what you end up doing business wise next year, do you see yourself having this again next year?
AR: Well, we would hope to do this festival annually. This is our third year of doing it, so hopefully we will be back, and I would love for us to be back next year.