This lawyer had a simple mission: 'Create a music festival that highlights Philadelphia music, food and beer'

Cayetana is the Friday night headliner at the inaugural two-day Philly Music Festival at the World Cafe Live. (Left to right) Allegra Anka, Augusta Koch and Kelly Olsen.

By day, Greg Seltzer is a Philadelphia lawyer, a business attorney who helps fledgling companies get off the ground.

By night — or really, all the time — the 40-year-old is a music geek. The impassioned fan sits on the board of the Mann Center, wrote a book about music and historical events in 1965, and is a faithful booster of the local scene.

Five years ago, Seltzer had a start-up idea of his own: “Create a music festival that highlights Philadelphia music, food and beer,” keeping the line-up hyper-local without exception, while operating a nonprofit.

Now, he’s starting the Philly Music Festival, which debuts this Friday and Saturday at the World Cafe Live with headliners Strand Of Oaks, Cayetana, Steve Gunn, and Work Drugs.

The Huntington Valley native and Penn State and Temple Law school grad whose first ever concert was a Neil Diamond show at the Spectrum with his mother in the mid-1980s initially pitched the idea to The Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

The Fairmount Park amphitheater was immediately sold, but the responsible businessman in Seltzer — he’s also a CPA — realized the numbers weren’t adding up, and the fest would lose money if he couldn’t draw 12,000 fans the first year.

So Seltzer started over small, enlisting World Cafe Live owner Hal Real as a partner, and convincing the club owner to only pour local brews like Saint Benjamin, 2SP and Yards at the fest, which will monopolize the building’s upstairs and downstairs venues.  He’s brought in local food partners like Federal Donuts and Insomnia Cookies, and food trucks will be parked outside by the WCL’s 31st Street entrance.

The impressive 22-act lineup showcases the depth of the scene across genres, even though wish-list acts Sheer Mag, Waxahatchee, and The Districts were on the road and unavailable this year.  If it ends up in the black, money will go to Philly music- and arts-related entities like Live Connections and Settlement Music School.

Seltzer established the PMF as a nonprofit because if he took his 20 percent promoter’s cut, he wouldn’t be able to pay standard industry rates. “I think the venues and the musicians need to make money,” says Seltzer, who lives in Narberth with his wife and two children. “I want to see the music scene in Philadelphia grow.  Call it charitable if you want, it’s really just me donating my time. And, frankly, it’s a lot of fun.”

Here are 10 acts to catch, in chronological order. The full schedule is here.


Camera icon Michael Bryant
Tim Showalter, the Philadelphia rocker who records as Strand Of Oaks, will headline the Philly Music Festival on Saturday.

Kississippi. Indie-folk quintet fronted by singer-guitarist Zoe Reynolds, who captured attention with 2015’s quietly haunting, possibly prophetically titled, We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed.  Upstairs at 7 p.m. Friday.

Harmony Woods. It doesn’t get much more (suburban) Philly than “Jenkintown-Wyncote,” on Harmony Woods’ inaccurately titled Nothing Special that may be the greatest regional-rail love song ever written. Upstairs at 8 p.m. Friday.

Skull Eclipses. The debut live performance by Philly rapper/producer Lushlife and Austin producer Botany, whose spooky first collaboration “Totality Piece” featured indie harp heroine Mary Lattimore, was timed to the solar eclipse.   Upstairs at 10 p.m. Friday.

Cayetana. Philly rock trio of guitarist Augusta Koch, bassist Allegra Anka, and drummer Kelly Olsen, who affirmed their status as standouts act on the extremely healthy indie scene with this spring’s New Kind Of Normal. Downstairs at 11:30 p.m. Friday.

Shannen Moser. Forlorn folk-country sounds from Berks County native Moser, whose acoustic gems on this year’s Oh, My Heart recall such rootsy Midwestern sad song singers as Will Oldham and Freakwater. Upstairs at 6:40 on Saturday.

Deadfellow. Local comer Hayden Sammak, whose new album Mesacalifornia: A California Dream puts a melancholy spin on a Pet Sounds obsession.  Downstairs at 8:30 Saturday.

New Sound Brass. Philly’s answer to the New Orleans second line tradition are party starters who blow their horns on everything from Black Sabbath to “When The Saints Go Marching In.” Upstairs at 10:20 on Saturday.

Ivy Sole. Charlotte, N.C. raised Ivy Sole is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who’s made a name for herself with “Life,” the lead single from her 2017 six-song EP East. Upstairs at 9 on Saturday.

Steve Gunn.  The Lansdowne-raised guitarist who’s built a reputation as a transfixing player who incorporates the influence of acoustic players like Philadelphia legend Jack Rose into a rock context. Downstairs at 10 on Saturday.

Strand Of Oaks. Mount Airy long-haired rocker Timothy Showalter, who followed up 2014’s cathartic breakthrough HEAL with this year’s formidable Hard Love, closes out the fest. Downstairs at 11:20 on Saturday.



Philly Music Fest

    • 6 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. Saturday, World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St.

    • Tickets: $30 Friday; $40 Saturday; $65 two day pass; $125 VIP pass.