POP IN TAPE: Open A Can Of ‘Shh’ & Keep It On The DL


BY MICHAEL FICHMAN Props to the Popped Festival — a massive undertaking that has gone reasonably well thus far. To see the back-porch house show cats making moves and slinging in-kind donated energy drink, it makes you feel proud. We’ve crawled from the mud-caked basements and now we are basking in the light for all to see in our hirsute, road biking glory. Shit, even though there’s a one-to-one musician/promoter/DJ/photographer/blogger to fan ratio, it still feels like a bona-fide event rather than a rearrangement of furniture. But in an ironic twist, as the Popped Festival protrudes its proud, puffed-out chest and showcases Philly’s talents for the rest of the tight-pantsed country to see, the roots of the Popped Festival are experiencing a temporary withering. That such a festival should take place as the venerable West Philly house scene seems to be crumbling seems not so much worrisome as distracting. However, there’s some cause for alarm.

Recently, there has been a rash of shutdowns in the West Philly house scene. 409 Haus has come under threat from neighbors and subsequently, the house’s owner. They decided, as of yesterday, to pack away the PA after about a year’s worth of shows. DangerDanger house seems to have pre-emptively shut themselves down to avoid a widely expected crackdown from Licenses and2nd.jpg Inspection on West Philly house shows (don’t get it twisted).

The reason for the heat is pretty simple — people got so caught up in the forward momentum of the scene that they forgot house shows are quasi-legal. The first rule of house shows has proven to be “you do not advertise house shows on the damn internet where ‘concerned citizens’ or ‘people who own minivans’ may notice.” Old people are starting to get the drift of “Web 2.0” and they are figuring out that what they thought were sporadic house parties are actually the systemic mechanics of a scene. And you know how much old people hate it when young people enjoy themselves (perhaps the organizing principle of house shows). The temptation to maximize the power of free internet advertising is obviously great, but West Philly’s bohemian charm has long since moved from being a quaint point of attractiveness for yuppies to being a nuisance for real estate speculators and the new bougie populace.

Take your shows out of the Philebrity listings, take your myspace address off of your fliers. Don’t, under any circumstances book national touring acts sure to attract the attention of hundreds and hundreds of people. Don’t give interviews, but if you do, be sure to tell them your name is Jesse Christ. Find, as they say, “a new way.”

I’m sure this pedantic diatribe provides very little useful information to those who have felt the pinch, but to those who haven’t, duck and cover before you get got. There are plenty of spots that are still up and running, either because of luck or appropriate info security. Just because there’s a festival getting its dick petted by Pitchfork doesn’t mean house shows have become obsolete, quite the opposite. The festival is an obvious exception, not the norm. It’s a consolidation of talent and a fine achievement but 3rd.jpgit’s not sustainable. As I said above, there just aren’t enough fans. Bands like Normal Love aren’t getting paid this week because the market just isn’t there to feed too many bands with Philly money. We need the house shows because they are the proverbial apiaries of the scene. And we need the house shows because, well, c’mon guys, I need this.
P.S. I am sad to report another departure from the Philly scene. As some of you probably know, the innovative king of throwback nights, Paradise at Key West will be shuttering the fog machines at the end of May. After much deliberation, (and many Guinesses) Mike T. decided to shut the night down rather than turn it into a monthly. I am planning to DJ there once more before it closes and I know the same goes for many past guests and residents including Ron Morelli, Operant77, Stepchild and others. Make sure you hit it up one last time, Thursdays at Key West.

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