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Philly had its own house at SXSW this year

We chat with one of Amplify Philly’s organizers, Dave Silver.
Low Cut Connie rocks the stage at Amplify Philly 2018 at SXSW. | Provided
Low Cut Connie rocks the stage at Amplify Philly 2018 at SXSW. Provided

Amplify Philly celebrated its third year at SXSW by taking things to the next level: having their first-ever Amplify Philly House.

The activation took place at a two-story restaurant on 6th Street—the heart of the action for SXSW in Austin— for two jam-packed days (and nights) of programming on March 11 and March 12.

“I’ve been planning since June so, it’s six to eight months of intensive planning,” says Dave Silver, co-founder of REC Philly and Amplify Philly organizer. “The bulk of it is fundraising. Talking to different companies and hearing a lot of no’s over and over again from those who don’t understand the impact of SXSW.”

Silver spearheaded much of planning on the music side as well, booking artists to perform at the Amplify Philly House concert on March 12.

“It was the best concert I’ve ever booked, without a doubt,” he says. “I was really passionate about getting Hard Work Movement on the bill this year. They sold out Johnny Brenda’s two or three times and I really wanted to get them this opportunity.”

Ill Fated Natives is another group that was high on Silver’s wishlist lineup.

“They are so good. They just need to get in front of a crowd. They’ve also played shows together with Hard Work Movement and it’s beautiful seeing them perform together,” he says.

At SXSW, one never knows who’s in the crowd hearing your band play and up and coming acts are able to get in front of people they wouldn’t be playing to normally. For Ill Fated Natives, La Colombe CEO, Todd Carmichael, became a big fan of the band.

“The same day he spoke at our fireside chat was our concert, and he was in the front row,” Silver says. “When Ill Fated Natives  took the stage, he was rocking out. Here is someone who is so influential in our community and he is falling in love with local artists he didn’t know before. That was probably the top experience of the whole trip for me.”

The artist lineup also included headliner Low Cut Connie, a Philly-based band beloved by Sir Elton John himself, as well as Ceramic Animal, Ivy Sole, Son Little, Zeek Burse and Vita & the Woolf.

In terms of startups, Amplify Philly did something a little different this year.

“Last year the mayor came down to SXSW  with us and the one critique he had was the lack of diversity there,” Silver says. “If Philly was going to go down here, Philly has to bring the diversity down, too.”

So instead of allocating money to send the mayor and his team down again, funds were utilized to send four entrepreneurs of color to Austin.

“That meant a lot to me and the initiative because it was a better representation of what our city looks like,” Silver says.

Other event highlights include an actual “pitch elevator” built by Comcast LIFT Labs going between the two floors of the restaurant. There were 13 television screens broadcasting Philly-centric content like our epic Super Bowl win as well as clips from Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

And of course, anyone who came to the Amplify Philly House got to feast on Tastykakes and Tony Luke’s cheesesteaks as they sipped on La Colombe Coffee.

“It was unclear as to how we were going to make it happen in the beginning,” says Silver. “We get fundraising from 20-25 companies, whereas some organizations get one or two big checks. It says a lot about the character of our city—our determination to keep going. If it weren’t for our community partners, it wouldn’t have happened.”

It all worked out in the end, however, and according to Silver, the Amplify Philly House was “pulled off flawlessly.”

Note: The above image of Todd Carmichael and Ill Fated Natives was taken by Michael McGovern.