This article from Stereogum actually summarizes it pretty well.
“I can usually tell when something’s happening, more than not, by the increase of phone calls I get from A&R guys,” says Bruce Warren, assistant station manager for WXPN, Philadelphia’s listener-supported radio station. “Last year, every week I got a phone call from someone, indie and major, asking, ‘Who’s the band that I need to see?’ They’re smelling blood.”
Warren has been a Philly Boy Roy for the local scene for a while now. He started at the station as a volunteer 26 years ago, and remembers when the commercial stations finally caved and started spinning local joke-punks the Dead Milkmen in the late ’80s “to get cred.” He’s thin, wearing a red sweater, and prone to speaking in the modulated diction of someone who has spent a lifetime in broadcast. In the corner of his office is a platinum plaque for Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires Of The City.
One of the first things Warren impresses upon me is that the Philadelphia music scene has always been great, and he’s correct. This town has given the world the Roots, Jill Scott, Will Smith, Todd Rundgren, Diplo, Gamble & Huff, and the Philadelphia Sound; Warren even has nice things to say about the Hooters. But six years ago, Warren began to notice a proliferation of new bands, venues, and recording studios in his hometown. The rising buzz inspired him to help create the Key, a section of the WXPN website designed to highlight local talent. It launched in 2010, and nearly every significant band in Philadelphia was featured on the site — and there’s no small amount of significant bands in town these days.
The popularity of unapologetic rock ‘n’ roll has waxed considerably this decade, on both a mainstream and underground level, but it seems like this entire town has taken it upon itself to pick up the slack. From Cayetana to Strand Of Oaks, Modern Baseball to Restorations, Swearin’ to Pissed Jeans, Nothing to Hop Along, Purling Hiss to Sheer Mag, Philadelphia has more exciting young bands in one place than any town in America. If one still has a soft spot for cheap rock thrills, this town can feel like the promised land. (The hip-hop and DJ scenes also boast rising talent, including Ground Up, Chilly Moody, Tianii Victoria, and Tributaries, but that’s a trip for another day.)
“Has it been done before? Absolutely,” says Warren, his eyes moving back and forth rapidly after rattling off a long list of some of his favorite current bands. “But it’s just refreshing, and their take on [rock music] is really exciting, and it’s affecting people. That, to me, is really the most important thing.”
And especially this:
Shit jobs that you don’t need to give a shit about are helpful for any musician, but they’re a way of life in Philadelphia. By all accounts, nearly every coffee shop, bar, record store, print shop, or cool gastro pub was either started or infiltrated by an aging scenester; the old punks are always there to hook you up with the type of job where no one cares if you’re visibly hung over. It’s how one generation of Philadelphia musicians takes care of the next.
“It’s just cheap as hell,” says Hartley. “It’s getting less cheap, but if you compare it to Brooklyn or something, it’s not even close. What that does is, it sort of loosens the noose around the neck of the artist, because you can afford to maybe work at a coffee shop like 35 hours a week. You know you’ll still be scraping by, but that’s kind of the point. With the rest of your time, you go with friends to see shows, and you work on music in your bedroom, and you jam with as many people as you can. It sounds sort of contrived the way I’m putting it, but I definitely lived that, along with everybody else in the band and everybody else that I know who is now a successful musician from Philly. None of them were living out in the ‘burbs working at a cubicle. It’s just not how it works.”
We don’t know what to expect yet, but we’re hopeful. As long as we have time and energy to make art in an environment that’s receptive to it, I think we’ll be pretty happy.