Radio 104.5 gets the summer block party ball rolling in Philly | The Triangle
Arts & Entertainment

Radio 104.5 gets the summer block party ball rolling in Philly

As Philly’s local alternative rock station, Radio 104.5 offers a melodic fusion of the genres. It mixes hits by rock icons like Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters with singles from more recent indie bands such as Of Monsters and Men, Foster the People, and Gotye. Indeed, the DJs — Wendy, Stephen, Johnny and Kade — do not discriminate in their selections, each playing a sound characteristic of the station’s style yet diverse enough for unique daily playlists.

Unlike most other stations, Radio 104.5 features special segments such as the “New Music Show,” which plays the newest tracks from rising artists Sunday nights at 9 p.m., and “Stripped Down,” which plays “unplugged” and acoustic tracks Sundays from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. In addition, the station holds “Studio Sessions” in which artists in any range of fame are invited to perform live for a small, specially selected audience. In fact, Radio 104.5 sponsors a multitude of concerts, including its famous Saturday Summer Block Parties and its upcoming 5th Birthday Show, which will include performances by Incubus, Cake, and Angels and Airwaves.

I have been an avid spokesperson for these shows since they started three years ago. They are completely free, which is a reason in itself to attend (what college student turns down free offers?), and they occur at least one Saturday per month. They take place at The Piazza at Schmidt’s in Northern Liberties, which includes a converted brewery and adjacent buildings that now accommodate commercial space and apartments. The complex surrounds an open-air courtyard,  a setup that offers viewers a different experience than other venues around the city. Restaurants and storefronts line the edges of the square, accompanied by promotional booths of the event’s sponsors: Miller Lite, Vitamin Water, Sun East Federal Credit Union, McDonald’s, The Ski Bum and Vita Coco. Visitors are encouraged to enter raffles and sample products at the sponsors’ booths.

Neon Trees, Eve 6, and Darry Miller & the Veil kicked off the series in the festive spirit of Cinco de Mayo. Though the crowd did not meet the numbers of some previous block parties — granted, it’s difficult to compare with the August 2011 lineup of The Airborne Toxic Event, The Naked and Famous, and Panic Years —attendees were not lacking any of the passion typically associated with these shows. The holiday celebrations could have contributed to the rowdiness, but the crowd was definitely encouraged by the high-energy performances.

Darry Miller & the Veil opened to an eager crowd. Though their music contains more of a pop influence than most bands played on Radio 104.5, their sound resembles that of a previous block party performer, Find Vienna. In any case, they succeeded in revving the audience into an excited state for the next performer, Eve 6.

Members Max Collins (bass, lead vocals), Jon Siebels (guitar, backing vocals) and Tony Fagenson (drums, backing vocals) emerged onto the music scene in 1998 with the premiere single “Inside Out” from their self-titled debut album. This was followed by “Here’s to the Night” in 2001 from their second album, “Horrorscope,” and after a short hiatus and disbandment, the band reunited and released its newest single, “Victoria,” which is frequently played on Radio 104.5, from their most recent album, “Speak in Code.” Needless to say, listeners were engaged for the entire set until headliner Neon Trees took the stage.

Neon Trees, the Provo, Utah, natives that first gained attention in 2008 after opening for The Killers, made a name for themselves in 2010 with the release of “Animal” from their debut album, “Habits.” The song reached No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and received frequent airtime on Radio 104.5 and other stations of varying styles. Now, Tyler Glenn (lead vocals and keyboards), Chris Allen (guitar and vocals), Branden Campbell (bass guitar and vocals), and Elaine Bradley (drums and vocals) are enjoying positive feedback for their 2011 single “Everybody Talks” from “Picture Show.”

While Darry Miller & the Veil and Eve 6 vitalized the crowd, Neon Trees reached the crowning point. The mosh pit was rough but manageable for the two previous bands. For Neon Trees, most of the standing area transformed into a writhing entanglement of music lovers. Indeed, it made for quality bonding time with strangers if you embraced the situation — but if not handled correctly, it could be a bit awkward. Either way, the audience embodied the pep of the beat and undeniably enjoyed the show.

If this block party is any indication of those to come, it will certainly be an entertaining summer. The next is scheduled for June 2 with Switchfoot and Ballyhoo!  followed by two block parties in July: the first on the July 7 with The Dirty Heads and Steppin’ Razor and the second on July 28 with Of Monsters and Men and JJAMZ. The final show will be on Sept. 8 with artists yet to be confirmed. It seems unwarranted to say that they are leaving the best for last considering the talent of the aforementioned bands. Really, that just provokes even more anticipation.