Complete coverage of the West Oak Lane Jazz & Arts Festival

Sunday, 11:11 p.m

By a little after 10 p.m. Sunday night most of the festival goers had cleared out and Lieutenant Michael Kopecki was shaking hands with fellow officers and dismissing many of them for the night.

By his account, it was a good three days. In total 400 police were on the job for that time, about 60 per tour, Kopecki said. 60,000 is the attendance number being tossed around tonight, I’ll try to confirm that tomorrow.

The worst it got, the “Lieut” said, a few drunks were asked to leave, young people tried to do a flash mob once or twice but nothing full developed (see the slideshow for Bas Slabbers’ shots of that) and only 4 people were removed for disorderly conduct. No one, police or civilian was hurt, Kopecki said.

He was visibly lighter of heart and mind than the night before.

“No news is good news,” he said smiling.

Walking away from the festival, as neon shirted workers cleared Ogontz Avenue of trash, stage crews packed up lights and cords and vendors gathered their wears, it seemed every street within five or ten blocks of the festival wanted to hold on to that outdoor togetherness.

Cookouts lingered into the night and the many roadside enterprises that cropped up in front yards and church yards and corners around the festival had turned into social gatherings as well.

L&I busted a young man on Ogontz Avenue for doing just this kind of thing with Coca-Cola today. Bas caught that one too. 

In fact, he and many of our reporters have some highlights they’d like to share this week, with photos. Watch for the first batch Monday.

Until then, the live blog for the West Oak Lane Jazz Festival is officially signing off.

Upload your festival photos above, or see below to see how else you can submit photos to us.


Sunday, 8:28 p.m

Chaka Khan is finishing her set now. It was a good one. People sang along… loudly, and to nearly every song.

The streets on all sides of the stage were packed. She said it reminded her of a great big Chicago block party.

But if I had to guess I would say it was a bit more crowded for the Jeffrey Osbourne show last night, though there wasn’t nearly as much singing along. 

She’s wrapping things up now with “Every Woman.” I swear I hear some guys singing too. A bit more to come….



Sunday, 6:55 p.m

A little while ago couples were salsa dancing in the crowd to Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra. Joseph and Christina Garcia were among them (pictured). They were impressed with their first visit to the festival. They liked how different styles of music can play at either end of the grounds.

“It’s a whole different extreme,” Christina said.

But what really brought them out was the music of the salsa legend.

“We’ve been dancing for years so we knew who Eddie was,” Christina said. “So as soon as someone said Eddie was going to be here, we were here.”

Now, at the other end of the festival another legend, Chaka Khan was getting ready to take the stage.

While she was setting up, a man in a mobility chair with a prosthetic leg laying across the back came rushing into the middle of the crowd. He was talking on a PA system the whole way, repeating the same message.

“Please make a hole, please make a hole,” he said. “I have no licence, no insurance, if anybody gets hit it with be a hit-and-run.”

When he couldn’t go any further he started up his own portable karoke machine and sang for the crowd.  

Sunday, 4:34 p.m

I asked photographer Jenny Swigoda to get a sense of what the festival means to people who come here every year, and to residents who live very close by. What she came up with was this beautiful audio slideshow above (I’ll post it below later.)

If you want a sense of what people here have been saying, watch Jenny’s slideshow. Not only does it ring true, but it’s a great show to boot.


Guest blogger Erica David, who lives within listening distance to the festival, offered to take over the blog for a few hours on this Father’s Day. Much obliged Erica. She has been scouring the festival looking for treasures…

Sunday, 3:14 p.m by Erica David

Overall there are no surprises in the officially sponsored Arts & Crafts marketplace at the jazz fest. The vendors are appropriately soulful and if you are looking for a way to commune with African-American heroes living (Obama) or dead (Billie Holiday) through merchandise there’s plenty of opportunity.

It’s maybe the unofficial stands cropping up on people’s stoops that provide an element of danger and excitement…. the homemade $2 soaps… the Fayva brand shoes that look like they came right out of someone’s closet… because really when was the last time anyone saw a Fayva? It’s like Tab cola, folks, just disappeared in the mid-80’s.

Well, I’m off. There’s an Angela Davis t-shirt with my name written all over it… well, actually it’s her name, but you know what I mean.

PLUS, A NOTE TO THE EDITORI’m calling you out, Pat. Only a vegan names something “Meat Alley.” You may as well have just called it Slaughterhouse Row. I’m proposing Beef Boulevard — less accurate perhaps, but there’s alliteration and I’m a sucker for alliteration.


Sunday, 12:45 p.m by Erica David

I have a few requirements when it comes to festival food and so far WOLJAF is holding up its end of the bargain with a chicken-on-a-stick vendor and someone selling a “Fancy Brigade” style drink.

Now when I say “Fancy Brigade” I don’t mean actual Mummers, I just mean that it’s a showy beverage, packaged with glitz and verve and that when I sip it through my straw I hear string bands—no mean feat given that I am at a jazz festival.

I’m talking about Coco Bongo’s, the tiki hut serving cleverly packaged drinks in carved coconuts. It calls itself the “Home of the Monkey Nut,” which sounds like the type of thing you shouldn’t say in polite company, but if you’re selling a pina colada in a coconut carved into the shape of a monkey pirate, I guess it’s simply truth in advertising.


Saturday, 8:58 p.m

About ten minutes ago a wall of about 40 beefy, blue shirted police and security personnel made a slow push through the most crowded sections of the festival.

I spoke to Sabrina Holloway of OARC about it and she said the strategy seems to be to keep people moving along and make sure they don’t congregate too long in one place as it gets late.

Lieutenant Michael Kopecki of the 14th District was in charge. I talked with him earlier and he said his biggest headache in the festival is getting people to move along, especially the younger attendees, after things start to slow down.

Now the crowd is significantly thinner than when Jeffrey Osbourne was playing an hour ago. Some parents that I talked to appreciated the strategy of getting the more popular R&B out of the way earlier and then switching to pure jazz at the Relish stage for the older crowd as the night goes on.

Nice as the festival is, Kopecki said he kind of wished the acts would come to an end at 6 p.m. so he wouldn’t have to worry so much.

Right now the light is dim, the clouds above are pink with horizon light, and people near me are laughing as the deep melody of TCIII rings out from the small Relish stage.

After the police involved shooting that occurred not far from here Friday, here’s to a quite night for you, Mike.

Saturday, 7:51 p.m

Last year the Inquirer wrote a big article complaining about anemic attendance at this festival. I don’t know about that, but if you just saw Jeffrey Osbourne perform here then you were part of a crowd the size of which I haven’t seen since the last time I saw the Phils play.

If you can fit more people in this three block section of Ogontz I don’t know how you’d do it. 

So, yeah, crowded is the word right about now.

Like last night, there are now a lot of teens here, mostly hanging out with each other. I just met a group of four young women who told me they drove here all the way from New Jersey.

“And we didn’t even bring chairs, can you imagine?” said Kiesha Watson. They were sitting on the sidewalk.

For each of them, it’s their first festival like this. Pamela Carraway is the one who found out about it – on Facebook, she said. But they make a good point about the chairs.

“We were expecting grass or something,” Watson said.

If you come here without something to sit on, you’ll certainly feel it. I can attest to that. 

Saturday, 4:09 p.m

Now it’s getting crowded and HOT.

Still, Carnivore Corridor (aka: Meat Alley, aka: The food vendors on 72nd Avenue) is as crowded as ever, despite the extra heat there from friers and grills and coolers and the generators needed there to run it all. 

(To be fair, several of these vendors sell salads, one sells roasted corn and a number of them sell some quite refreshing looking fruit punches and lemonades, even for a vegan.)

To beat the heat, there is a water ice stand on Ogontz near 72nd, a grass covered smoothie hut right across the street from that, and Sweets by Sonya, my wi-fi hot spot in Ogontz Plaza, has a hopping little water ice cooler right about now – ice cream too.

You’ll find water vendors, unofficial ones I expect, roaming the festival as well. I just passed three children tugging a cooler and singing “ice cold water for one dollar” in lovely harmony.

The Philadelphia Fire Department has set up a cooling station, a tent that mists cool water down on you, at 72nd and Ogontz, which seems pretty popular, especially with those young enough to still want to play in this kind of weather.

There are also paramedics roaming the festival on Segways to keep special watch on the crowds now forming near the larger acts. And they maintain an emergency center in the store where Coffee and Cornbread used to be on 72nd.

While we’re on the subject of hydration. To take care of the other end of that process there is a porta-potty gallery on Tulpehocken Street right near Ogontz. Don’t expect too many of the businesses to open up their bathrooms to you if you’re just a browser.

Saturday, 2:37 p.m

After a walk down Meat Alley, the festival’s nod to all things fried and fleshy on 72nd Avenue where it hits Ogontz, I just downed a vegan bbq black bean veggie burger at Green Soul.

I’m not a messy sandwich kind of guy, but as a vegan, I’ll tell you, this was a welcome meal.  The critic in me would note that it was a bit crumbly, you’ll need a fork to finish it. But the bbq sauce was sweet and tangy without being overwhelming, which is something I rarely find.

And the surroundings can make the earth minded comfortable too.

Reclaimed wood and bamboo paneling and a hostess named Kim Bynum who just asked a customer this exact set of questions when he came in:

“How are you doing? Did you leave yourself enough time this morning so you didn’t have to compromise on your meal?”

He hadn’t, and presumably that’s why he was in Green Soul.

But don’t worry Green Soul doesn’t want to convert you to my way of eating. In fact most of their meals, like mango jerk salmon salad or bbq pulled chicken sandwich have that meaty center that so many, alas, still desire. It’s just a lighter version.

“That idea is part of the concept, to eat good and fast. You often don’t have time to do that on the run,” Kim Bynum said.

Bynum is part of a partnership that owns Green Soul, it includes her husband Robert and his brother Benjamin among others, who are behind Relish.

FYI: Expect blogger Erica David to talk about some details from Meat Alley (unofficial name) later today or early next week.


Saturday, 12:25 p.m

Crowds are still pretty sparse so far this saturday morning. And it’s starting to get HOT. I’ve seen more than few people using their umbrellas as sunshades as they browse the vendors. 

I also saw blogger Erica David. Expect an update on the shopping a eating treasures here sometime later today.

Saturday, 11:28 a.m

The Central High School Jazz Band is playing at the OARC stage now. They had a bit a delay from their scheduled 10:15  start because of some power troubles on the stage. It was okay, it allowed a chance for more of a crowd to form.

Look for the story and audio slideshow on the Central band and their performance coming up early next week from Nicholas Deroose and Christina Trinh of Philadelphia Neighborhoods. They are with the band right now.

Meantime, photographer Jenny Swigoda is here taking shots of the wild, the wonderful and anything with kids, I asked, plus Segways – a lot of them are scooting around here, and some of the impromptu corner parties and cookouts that seem to crop up all around this festival.

Stay tuned….

Saturday, 11:12 a.m

Folks, it turns out my last post was not true in one respect. Once I left my “hot spot” at Sweets by Sonya (delicious doughnuts by the way), I found several hundred people camped out in lawn chairs in the Relish parking lot listening to the latin sounds of Edgardo Cintron. Trust me, you could dance to it. (Look for the photo in the slideshow above).


Friday, 9:16 p.m

The last performer of the night just finished about a half hour ago and police have been calmly trying to move people along.

For some reason they are asking people to walk on the sidewalk of a closed road between the tents for vendors, which are in the middle of the road, and the big stage, which is also in the middle of the road.

Their flashers are going but the mood is calm, the air is cool and people seem pretty relaxed.

Jazz still plays from around where the restaurant Relish is, and there still seems a fairly steady flow of people past the vendor tents.

I’m gonna call it quits. A young woman and her mother just told me I should not have my Mac out with all these kids around. Probably smart.


Friday, 8:26 p.m

Flash Mob!  

We just had one. Or the beginning of one, until a group of cops from the 14th district broke it up.

Photographer Bas Slabbers got a great shot – I’ll load it in the slideshow, but at the moment you should see it to the right.

Jack Kitchen, OARC executive director, says last year was when flash mobs started becoming a problem, not just here but in general. Except for that, officials from the 14th told me a few days ago this festival tends to be quiet.


Friday, 7:57 p.m

Chrisette Michelle is belting out a thumpy ballad on the Brown’s Shoprite stage here and things on my curbside seat at Ogontz Plaza are starting to get interesting.

The sun is just setting over the top of the buildings, the weather is perfect and what many, and me too, would call “the younger crowd” is starting to show up in quantity. You might call it a flow, there are so many.

Note to self: take a picture of these shoes. Teetering, towering – you might call some of them a second floor.


Friday, 7:26 p.m

Charissa the Violin Diva is the 2011 winner of the Rising Star Talent Search for the West Oak lane Jazz Festival. She just got the big check for $5000 a few minutes ago – she plays a hot pink electric violin.

Maybe it’s my college drinking days coming back to me but I swear I heard a little “Devil Went Down to Georgia” in the set. Could be just me.

Our ever energetic photographer Bas Slabbers might have uncovered her secret, I mean besides all those musical chops – he has a few pics of her lobbying audience members to text their vote for her.

Check out Jeanette Wood’s profile of each of the talent show finalists here. Charissa will be playing her victory set on Sunday at 1:15 p.m.


Friday, 3:26 p.m.  End of an era for the Jazz Fest

Earlier this week I was at a gala opener hosted by the restaurant Relish for the West Oak Lane Jazz Festival, a free community event that has become known for its community impact and its dependence on high levels of state subsidy. Here, after the party had been rolling for a while supporters learned that things were soon going to change – and big.

On the stage typically reserved for live jazz and political announcements, Mayor Michael Nutter, City Councilwoman Marion Tasco, Urban Affairs Coalition President Sharmain Matlock-Turner, Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation executive director Jack Kitchen and Jazz Fest co-organizer Rick White, joined State Rep. Dwight Evans to officially open the festival for the year.

Among their announcements – next year, because state money is drying up, the Jazz Fest will have a totally new look.

“The festival has to evolve into something different,” said White.

He made it clear why – the money directed to it by Evans each year will not be coming in anymore. Presumably this is due to Evans’ loss of chairmanship on the House Appropriations Committee, which controls state funds, though no one actually said as much.

In many ways the whole scene could be called ‘the house the Dwight built.’ Relish, the high end restaurant with reasonable prices, the jazz fest, a three-day, world-class event, and a sea of posterized photo enlargements documenting neighborhood revitalization going back 31 years – all projects of Evans and OARC.

“It’s welcome to everybody and it’s free,” the man of the hour said smiling widely.

Ask the former state Appropriations Chair how he can justify taking $821 thousand dollars of tax revenue from across the state and funneling it into one neighborhood for a big music party and he’ll tell you you’re missing the point. The jazz fest is not about music, it’s about community building, he’d say, and it fits in with a grand scheme of neighborhood services that stretches from grade school to high school through charter schools, many of which Evans had a hand in starting, to senior care, to commercial and residential renovation, to business development.

Evans swept his large hand in an arc over the spread of posters hung on the Relish walls. “You see the impact. It’s there,” he said.

But even with the loss of funding things will continue. OARC the CDC that Evans started 28 years ago, which runs the Jazz Fest, Relish and so much else in West Oak Lane, will press on. The festival will become “self sustaining,” organizers said.

“We’re going to take this festival through the city,” said White.

And since the festival is primarily an effort to market West Oak Lane as a great place to be, a traveling one could be even better at getting the word out. Or at least that’s the hope.

The plan is to keep calling it the West Oak Lane Jazz Festival, but emphasize the subtitle: “Philadelphia’s Arts and Culture Festival.” Smaller versions will go up in other city neighborhoods as a ticketed events.

If you think the plan sounds shaky, absent the state backing, you could have some notable opponents. Here is what Mayor Nutter had to say about the festival ten minutes before the new plan was made public:

“It’s tremendously exciting, this is the kind of festival we would like to see in every part of Philadelphia.”

Friday, 2:55 p.m.

The eighth annual West Oak Lane Jazz & Arts Festival begins today. The free three-day musical event features indoor and outdoor performances along Ogontz Avenue between the 7100 and 7400 blocks. The street party started at noon today, and stage performances will begin at 5:45 p.m.

Our live blogging coverage begins right here—with your help. We want to see what you see at the festival—performances, musicians, street scenes, young people, old people, highlights (and low points). Please share your photos and enhance NewsWorks coverage of the event.



Four ways to submit your photos:

In the photo gallery: Submit directly to the slide show above.
On Twitter: Tweet your pictures to us @NewsWorksWHYY.
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