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“Impractical” and “Insane”: The Philly music community weighs in on City Council’s venue bill

Philadelphia City Hall | Wikimedia Commons (Left),  Electic Factory | Photo by John Vettese (Right)
Philadelphia City Hall | Wikimedia Commons (Left), Electric Factory | Photo by John Vettese (Right)

City Council Bill 160016 is, to say the least, problematic.

Last Thursday, Jan. 21, City Council introduced a bill sponsored by 1st District Councilman Mark Squilla that’s generated an outcry from the Philly music community. Rest assured, the legislation has several more steps before it becomes law and it will almost certainly be amended (read: gutted) before it becomes City of Philadelphia law.

Squilla’s bill would amend section 9-703 of Philadelphia Code under “Special Assembly Occupancies,” altering “the application procedures and increasing the fee for a Special Assembly Occupancy license and for Promoter registration, clarifying the role of the Philadelphia Police Department in approvals of licenses…” according to City Council’s bill summary.

Facebook went nuts with a BillyPenn story yesterday, written by Dustin Slaughter, that broke the news. It included a few gems from R5 Productions head honcho, Sean Agnew. Slaughter did his best to break down the unwieldy and, ultimately, misguided language of the 12-page bill: Special Assembly Occupancy licenses would become more expensive ($100 per year to $500 every two years); the Philadelphia Police Department would be involved in the granting of these licenses (read: the police will tell L&I if the venue’s a dump, violent, loud late, etc.); and, perhaps most mystifyingly, venues and promoters could be tasked with collecting the phone numbers and addresses of performers to improve public safety.

Suffice it to say, there’s been an incredible amount of backlash against and press on the bill. Continue reading →

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Finding The Fillmore’s place in the Philadelphia concert landscape

The Fillmore Philly | Photo by Kate McCann | katemccannphotography.com
The Fillmore Philly | Photo by Kate McCann | katemccannphotography.com

Last Thursday marked the official opening of Fillmore Philly, the seventh Fillmore in the LiveNation portfolio, with a sold-out Hall & Oates performance. Tickets were $95. Back in the mid-‘60s, when Bill Graham opened Fillmore West in San Francisco, tickets could go for $3. You could see Sly and the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, essentially a dollar a band on some nights. Well, that was then and this is now – fast forward 50 years later and Disclosure is set to fill the 2,500-capacity main room two nights in a row (10/19-20) for $40 a night.

Their first 40 shows booked, between here and 2016, are as diverse as humanly possible: last Friday, WXPN welcomed Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls and their grand, brash and baroque British rock; this weekend, Adventure Club headlines with bliss-kissed EDM and Brandi Carlile brings her delicious countrified Americana on the 11th. Tove Lo’s brand of playful but substantial pop will see her Queen of the Clouds tour consume Philly on the 17th; and before the month’s over, the main room’ll host moe. and the Cold War Kids. Quite a mix, no? And that doesn’t even broach the 450-capacity Foundry upstairs, where tickets will rarely rise above $20, and lots of smaller, local acts will get gigs.

“We really want to be the venue that can work for any type of artist,” says Ben Weeden, a California-based booking overseer for LiveNation. “We have the best production, the best sight lines, the best band experience.” Weeden is coaching and encouraging talent buyers based out of the Frankford Avenue baby, but clearly he’s been around the block and I wanted to ask him about what the future held for this particular room. Continue reading →