So you think you can rock, twang, spit, bounce, blow, groove, or praise?
David Oh wants to hear it.
The Philadelphia councilman-at-large has launched PHL Live Center Stage, a music initiative with a battle of the bands at its heart. Local, emerging talent can submit music to a panel of judges, who will determine a shortlist in 10 genres: rock, hip-hop, jazz, classical, gospel, country, folk, world, pop, and R&B.
Those finalists will perform in October and November at participating venues, including World Cafe Live, Milkboy, Relish, Underground Arts, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral. The final winners will be decided at an ultimate performance in December at the Trocadero.
“PHL Live is an effort to increase economic growth and opportunity in Philadelphia,” said Oh, who tied the health of the city’s music scene to that of other economic sectors such as technology and health care.
“A lot of the folks who are able to fill the space in computer, technology, and medicine, they are able to work almost anywhere,” said Oh. “When they choose to be in a specific location, they are choosing a quality of life, which includes intellectual stimulation and opportunities for their children.”
PHL Live is the center of Oh’s efforts to bolster the arts sector. He plans to introduce two bills this fall that will ease parking restrictions at music venues where musicians need to load and unload equipment, and encourage organizers of large city-sponsored concerts to hire locally. He also would like to allow music venues to stay open later, for which he will need support in Harrisburg.
The talent search initiative is designed to be a platform to help unrecognized talent gain support and recognition. In addition to cash and recording prizes, PHL Live will provide free industry consultations and networking opportunities.
“We provide a platform where we gonna help people that want to help themselves,” said rapper Chill Moody of West Philadelphia, who is acting as an ambassador for PHL Live. “The first step is submitting, which shows you care enough to get involved in this.”
Another local artist who is now emerging into pop-star status is GoGo Morrow, who grew up in Philadelphia listening to her father’s old R&B records.
“A lot of that music came from our very own city — right on Broad Street, Philadelphia International Records,” said Morrow. “Over the years it shifted. We now travel outside our city to get notoriety when, really, people used to travel here.”
PHL Live is a work in progress. The website where artists can submit work will launch Aug.15, but precise performance dates are still to be determined. The final winners will receive cash prizes, but the amount is still not known, and a title sponsor is still being sought. Oh said no city funds will be used in this event.
Nevertheless, Oh is laying the groundwork to make PHL Live an annual event.
“Philadelphia is the mecca, but we don’t see it that way,” said Grammy-winning producer Carvin Haggins of Philadelphia.. “We don’t provide the platforms for young artists who are struggling to be the next Will Smith, Jill Scott, Patti LaBelle. When I heard about PHL Live, I was excited because it’s giving a platform.”