The coronavirus pandemic has stopped the live music business in its tracks and taken away the livelihoods of musicians and music workers everywhere, including Philadelphia.
But along with money, COVID-19 has also denied bands something else they desperately need: a sense of community. Live streams help musicians link up with fans, but it’s trickier for bands to connect with each other as a living, breathing music scene during life in quarantine.
Enter Love From Philly, the virtual music festival that kicked off at 5 p.m. Friday and closed out with DJ sets by Cosmo Baker and RJD2 late Sunday evening.
The fest showcased more than 70 rockers, rappers, singer-songwriters and jazz musicians over three days, building up to closing night headliners the War On Drugs, Man Man, Kurt Vile, Freeway and surprise guest Amos Lee.
On Sunday, Schoolly D played original gangsta 1980s hits such as “Saturday Night” with a full band (and a poor sound mix). John Oates covered the O’Jays “Love Train” from his home in Nashville.
Adam Weiner of Low Cut Connie stripped down to his skivvies in his South Philly rowhouse to perform Madonna’s “Dress You Up” and Prince’s “Little Red Corvette."
All were united in common cause, raising money to support each other and workers at the clubs where they perform as they collectively celebrated a shared Philadelphia musical identity even though they were barred from playing for each other in the flesh.
The impressively executed streaming extravaganza, which featured Philly-connected acts performing from locales as far flung as Sweden — where Eric Bazilian of the Hooters played Sunday, wearing a “Philly vs. Everybody” shirt — was a benefit for 30 Amp Circuit.
That nonprofit is distributing $330 micro-grants directly to musicians and venue workers in need. Including money from corporate sponsors, more than $70,000 was raised over the course of the weekend.
Standouts on Sunday included soulful singer-songwriter Mutlu, whose “The Weight Of The World” conveyed added gravitas in anxious times, and Eric Slick, the Dr. Dog drummer who’s also a distinctive songwriter.
Philadelphia alt-R&B and rock singer Res offered a taste from her underappreciated 2002 debut album How I Do, and still-fierce 1990s rapper Bahamadia.
North Philly rapper Freeway brought the hip-hop portion of the show to a heated conclusion, pulling songs from his 2003 debut Philadelphia Freeway.
The War on Drugs played two songs as a full six-man band, gathered on Zoom from home studios across the United States.
Singer-guitarist Adam Granduciel dedicated “Pain” to South Kensington and “Under the Pressure” to Fishtown club Johnny Brenda’s. Both were delivered in all their slow building, shimmering glory.
After a brief set by Mondo Cozmo featuring the inspirational “Shine,” Vile appeared live from Mount Airy, accompanying himself on guitar on “I Know I Got Religion,” dropping references to City Hall and William Penn’s hat.
He finished a heartfelt cover of the late John Prine’s “Sam Stone,” and shared pithy social distancing optimism in the face of the pandemic. “Holed up,” he said. “We’ll hold up.”