A musical evening for all ages at Smith Playground

     Walter Martin Performs at Smith Memorial KidChella Fest 2014. (Courtesy of Jeff Bogle)

    Walter Martin Performs at Smith Memorial KidChella Fest 2014. (Courtesy of Jeff Bogle)

    Philly has played host to more than a few memorable music festivals over the years (remember Live Aid and that raucous Lollapalooza at the old JFK Stadium site?) but not many have taken special care to curate sounds suited for ears of all ages.

    WXPN’s Kids Corner, the crown jewel of kiddie music presentation here in town, generally hosts a pair of daytime festivals each year, bringing some of the most talented family musicians from around the country into Philly for a few hours of indie kid’s music bliss, but that’s been about it for families looking for a musical experience more substantial than one lone band playing for 45 minutes.

    The Smith Memorial Playground has added to the Philadelphia family music calendar with their annual Kidchella family music festival. The two-hour event takes that same Kids Corner idea of rounding up some national kindie rock bands for a single event, and puts it outdoors, on a beautiful Friday summer evening, with picnic blankets and food trucks and swings and one epic wooden slide.

    Last year, the good people at the Smith reached out to me for help in booking a prominent kindie band or two for what would be the first music festival on the grounds of the historical building in Fairmont Park. That July evening proved magical, as Mother Nature bequeathed to us a comfortable 70-degree summer night and the bands — Brady Rymer, The Not-Its and Walter Martin (of The Walkmen) — put on a stellar show for a sold out crowd in front of the stately Smith Playhouse.

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    As Walter Martin, who was playing one of his first-ever solo concerts, closed the evening by sweetly singing little ones off to dreamland, the elegant soft yellow lights flicked on in between the stately pillars behind him. I’d like to think that everyone still spread out on their blankets quickly realized they’d witnessed the start of something very special.

    Buoyed by the runaway success of version 1.0, the Smith asked me to find three great bands to do it all again, only this time in the playground itself so kids could play and run and dance and listen, in an amalgamation of energy only found in bright-eyed youth, and so that the crowd had the space to grow to three times its 2014 size.

    On Friday, July 24 from 6 to 8 p.m., Shine and the Moonbeams will bring their neo-soul and R&B rhythms down from Harlem, The Alphabet Rockers will come all the way from San Francisco to beat box and rap for the kids, and Play Date (featuring singer Greg Attonito from NJ’s legendary punk band The Bouncing Souls) will have every kid and adult bouncing.

    Assuming Mother Nature is kind to us for a second straight year, Kidchella 2015 will be another new gem in Philadelphia’s rich live music history.

    Kidchella tickets are free for Smith Memorial Playground members or $10 per person for non-members. 

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