The indie music festival Kat Kat Phest IV will take place Sunday through Jan. 1 at venues such as Kung Fu Necktie, Everybody Hits, and Cha Cha Razzi. It's also the end of Kat Kat Phest and of its hosting organism, the Philadelphia Kat Kat recording label. But why?
"I'm turning 30," says DIY show booker and promoter Ruben Anree' Polo. "I don't want to say that I'm definitely doing something. If I don't do anything, it's cool. Leave it on a good note."
Kat Kat Phest is/was a massive celebration to close out another year of great shows held in basements, lofts, repurposed kitchens, and former warehouses by people actively shaping a scene they love.
Polo has worked feverishly on Kat Kat Phest since 2012. On Kat Kat's Facebook page, you can watch him coordinate places to crash for touring bands and nail down venues late in the game. (As of this writing, there was still no venue for the final, final show, now labeled TBA.)
In the last two years, the fest has expanded to six days while drawing in more and more touring bands from farther and farther away, seeking to showcase the full spectrum of the DIY scene in punk, hard-core, and indie rock.
P.J. Carroll (guitarist/vocals) of local band Clique says, half-jokingly, "I hope it's just a bluff. Ruben says this all the time."
Dan Anderson founded Kat Kat in 2011 and handled the business side of the label, putting out a mix of vinyl and/or cassette releases with a few digital-only releases thrown in, while Polo handled shows for label and nonlabel bands. The two operated on the same inspiration: getting more exposure for friends in bands they believed in.
"When I see a DIY show, I won't know half of the bands on the bill, but I'm going to support my friends who are playing, and people I've never met before," says Rachel Dispenza, whose band Coping Skills will play Wednesday night at Everybody Hits. She has been helping Polo run and book shows since shortly after she moved to Philadelphia in 2012. "You go to the Electric Factory, it's because you know and love the artist, and a lot of people may not even show up early to see the opener you never heard of. It's not based on community, I guess." Dispenza says she values the intimacy of stage-free DIY shows and talking with bands immediately after their sets.
Kat Kat Phest started in 2012, when Polo realized he was booking a whole lot of touring bands very closely together. Why not make it a festival? Kat Kat Phest became a way to reward hardworking local bands who brought in crowds - and to get folks to check out unknown touring bands placed in the middle of show lineups ("There's no such thing as a smaller act," Polo says). Newcomers will find themselves on the same bill as much better-known acts. Clique plays Sunday at Kung Fu Necktie on the same bill with Mumblr. Dispenza's six-month-old Coping Skills plays at Everybody Hits on the same bill as Alex G. And Shannen Moser plays Thursday night at Everybody Hits ahead of Creepoid.
Though the venues are mostly DIY spots, including a batting cage and two DIY houses, the fest has featured places - such as Kung Fu Necktie this year - that represent those first steps out of the basement for musicians wanting to follow the trajectory of bands like Modern Baseball and Hop Along.
But it all goes back to cheering on people you meet through the scene.
"Our show is stacked with a bunch of our friends: Marietta, Mumblr, people from out of town," says Travis Arterburn of Clique. "Jenk is playing - Ruben's band. It's going to be mostly friends."
And it all comes back to Polo.
"Whatever he's attached to at the time, I trust the guy," says Scotty Stitzer, who plays drums for Mumblr. "I know that he thinks about the bands, and that's why I'd do anything if he asks."
Kat Kat Phest IV