Music Row: Festival gems in Fishtown


There’s a run­ning joke in Philly that, at some point in the 1960s, all of Kens­ing­ton and Fishtown picked up and headed north, seek­ing refuge in the bu­col­ic sprawl of the Great North­east, where those ex­pats have held their noses high ever since.

Wheth­er there’s any truth to that or not, res­id­ents of North­east Philly would do well to take a break from dis­par­aging their Kenzo neigh­bors to the south and take a trip down Frank­ford Av­en­ue this week­end.

Yes, if you look past the gore-reel of loc­al even­ing news, you can see some great things hap­pen­ing in Kens­ing­ton. Per­haps the best time of the year to soak in that sea change is dur­ing the com­bined Trenton Av­en­ue Arts Fest and Kens­ing­ton Kin­et­ic Sculp­ture Derby.

Now in their sixth and fifth year, re­spect­ively, the events are vi­brant show­cases of the quirky, do-it-your­self artist­ic cul­ture that has taken root in this part of town over the last dec­ade.

For the fest­iv­al, the broad cobble­stone stretch of Trenton Av­en­ue east of Frank­ford Av­en­ue will play host to nearly 200 vendors. Look for everything from loc­al baked goods and Kens­ing­ton-made soap and ice cream to fine art from loc­al ar­tis­ans.

The real spec­tacle, though, comes with the Kin­et­ic Derby, where a jaw-drop­ping parade of mov­ing sculp­tures weaves its way through the streets of Fishtown and Kens­ing­ton. See­ing this year’s batch of (most of­ten) bike-powered won­ders is alone worth mak­ing the trip to Trenton Av­en­ue this Sat­urday, and you also can count on some beers — brewed down the road on Mar­garet Street — from the Philly Brew­ing Co.

Of course, the fest­ive en­vir­on­ment would not be com­plete without some mu­sic, and there are some choices out there for those look­ing to see great Philly bands.

Head­lining the mu­sic stage at the Trenton Av­en­ue fest is Tag­gart, a Philly four-piece that has been around since the mid-1990s. These guys have brought a gutsy, en­er­get­ic edge to many a loc­al fest, play­ing both ori­gin­als and high-powered cov­ers of bands like The Who.

Oth­er acts in­clude Abe the Rock­star, the naughty Sex­of­fice, Glit­ter, Ex­treme Fishkin, and Con­ver­sa­tions With En­i­mies. The mu­sic starts at noon, with Tag­gart tak­ing the stage at 4:15 and play­ing a half-hour set.

The more am­bi­tious mu­sic­al ef­fort, though, seems to be down the street where Fire Mu­seum Re­cords will present the second-ever High­wire Mu­sic Fest­iv­al on be­half of the High­wire Gal­lery at 2040 Frank­ford Ave. Loc­ated along the Kin­et­ic Sculp­ture Derby route, the fest is held in the gal­lery’s spa­cious side lot.

In all, the High­wire Mu­sic Fest — just a short walk from the main Trenton Av­en­ue hap­pen­ing, and also free — fea­tures a total of 11 acts and some eight hours of mu­sic start­ing at noon.

True to Fire Mu­seum’s repu­ta­tion for giv­ing a show­case to mu­sic on the fringes, Sat­urday’s lineup is an ec­lect­ic one that leans to­ward the heavy and the ex­per­i­ment­al.

Head­lining the fest is the Birds of Maya, a band fea­tur­ing Pub­lic Ser­vice An­nounce­ment’s Mi­chael Polizze. Known for their rough sound and love of heavy blues and gar­age, these guys can bite in­to a riff and hang on to it for a sol­id 20 minutes, cre­at­ing shows that are part raw en­ergy and part hyp­not­ic.

Also min­ing that hyp­not­ic vibe is East Kens­ing­ton’s Chris For­syth, who has put out a string of great re­cords in the last few years and has im­pressed crowds both loc­ally and abroad.

On the mel­low­er end of the spec­trum, fin­ger-style gui­tar­ist Eric Car­bon­ara will team up with harp­ist Jesse Spar­hawk and dazzle the crowd with their oth­er­worldly duets. 

A full lineup of the High­wire Fest can be ex­plored at mu­seum­

You could even make a night of it and check out the heavy met­al of New York’s Black An­vil at Kung Fu Neck­tie (1250 N. Front St.) or head to Johnny Brenda’s (Frank­ford and Gir­ard), where the DJs will be play­ing the “best bangers” from the year 2002.

Just down the street at the Bar­bary (950 Frank­ford Ave.), R5 Pro­duc­tions will be present­ing an all-ages show fea­tur­ing Mem­ph­is May Fire, De­coder, 10 After 2 and Sky vs. Sea.

Over at the M Room (15 W. Gir­ard Ave.), Philly’s Song Dogs head­line, with per­form­ances by South­wark, Winchester Treaty and Khal­id Quesada.

But after those heavy jams at the High­wire Fest, you might be in the mood for something a bit more laid back. Say, like the just-opened Steph­en Starr beer garden at 1210 Frank­ford Ave. With a big se­lec­tion of tra­di­tion­al Ger­man and mi­cro brews to go along with the Bav­ari­an pret­zels and Ping­Pong table, it’s hard to beat.

In Fishtown.

My, how things have changed.

Check it out …

What: Trenton Av­en­ue Arts Fest and the High­wire Mu­sic Fest II

Who: Some of Philly’s, and Kens­ing­ton’s, more com­pel­ling artists play­ing free out­door shows

Where: Trenton and Nor­ris; Frank­ford and Susque­hanna

When: Sat­urday, May 21, noon to 8 p.m. Free. 


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