Philadelphia has a music scene as diverse as its residents: Everything from prolific rappers and hip-hop artists to the next big indie rock bands of our time.
You’ve got performers like Chynna, the 20-year-old Philly-born artist who has rapped alongside the A$AP Mob; we’ve seen pop singers like GoGo Morrow sing backup for Lady Gaga on her Monster Ball Tour. Then there’s indie bands who shred in bars and basements, while classical artists like Andrea Levine have performed with some of the best orchestras in the country.
Billy Penn is recognizing these people and some of their peers as outstanding young musicians as this month’s version of Who’s Next. They’re the next generation of music stars representing Philadelphia.
We plan to continue featuring some of the city’s best young leaders. We have some ideas, but your feedback is essential — please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Who’s Next” in the subject line to suggest other topics or nominations you’d like us to consider.
Here’s Who’s Next in Philadelphia’s music scene:
1. A Day Without Love
What they do: Mellow acoustic and energetic, grunge rock
Who’s Next Because: Started as a solo act by frontman Brian Walker during his college years, A Day Without Love took on the shape of a full rock band when Walker collaborated with Philadelphia producer Jake Detwiler in 2013. The resulting debut EP, “Island,” was a sharp contrast from the mellow acoustic musings that Walker had leaned on in the past — it was aggressive, grungy, and energetic. Since then, A Day Without Love has seen a rotating cast of musicians surround the singer/songwriter for a handful of short releases (“Confessions of the Innocent Mind” single and “A Day Without Oscar” split EP, both in 2014). Walker, 26, has recently released his last EP titled “Young Professionals,” a collaboration with an old college friend. A Day Without Love is currently seeking new members, while playing and touring in the east coast regional area while writing LP1.
2. Acres of Diamonds
What they do: Indie rock
Who’s Next Because: Formed in 2007, Philadelphia’s Acres of Diamonds makes indie music with a “supernal woof, casting songs in golds and grays.” Their new — as-yet-untitled — album will be released this October with a record release show scheduled for Ortlieb’s on October 17th. The indie rock band with female lead Gwen Rooker has been called “a pretty gorgeous, brooding affair” by Philebrity. City Paper once wrote “Philly sextet Acres of Diamonds seems the product of a bygone era. The vulnerability of its self-titled EP, released last summer on Bandcamp, can be chilling; its swell-to-hope crescendos, breathtaking. It might not be fashionable, but that’s not the point; when was the last time you heard music this honest?” Four other members besides Davis — Peter English, Nate Flanigan, and Sarah Davis — round out the group.
3. Bear and Walrus
What they do: Chiptune music, AKA entirely instrumental with custom-built electronics
Who’s Next Because: Formed in Philly in 2002, Bear and Walrus consists of Chad Clikeman, 35, and Zachary Reese, 31, who together created an entirely instrumental band. With Reese on bass and Clikeman on keys, the two also play a genre of music called “chiptune,” which incorporates custom-built electronics into the music. In order to do this, the two have modified old video and computer hardware to utilize built-in sound chips that produce a uniquely mellow shoe-gazey sound with a bit of jazz influence. The person who nominated Bear and Walrus described the group as such: “They’re weird and different and have been a consistently good show the entire time I’ve lived in Philly.”
4. The Chairman Dances
Disclosure: Lead vocalist Eric Krewson is the brother of Billy Penn Editor Chris Krewson.
What they do: Indie pop
Who’s Next Because: Philly indie pop band The Chairman Dances teamed up with Daniel Smith (who’s worked with indie legend Sufjan Stevens) to record their newest release, Samantha Says, an EP characterized by catchy, gender-bending pop. The release of the EP follows less than a year after their 2014 LP, “The Death of Samuel Miller” (Grizzly Records), and establishes the group as musical storytellers through their integration of rock and orchestral arrangements that add color and tone to a narrative voice. WXPN dubbed the five-person group of Philly twentysomethings as “indie rock literati” because of their approach to songwriting. Since the June 2014 release of “The Death of Samuel Miller,” the group has toured the northeast, opening for Liam Finn, Work Drugs, and Spottiswoode and His Enemies. The Chairman Dances’ new EP “Samantha Says” can be found here.
What she does: Rap/ hip-hop
Who’s Next Because: This 20-year-old singer and model from Philly is a hip-hop artist and DJ. Featured last year in Complex for her new single “Glen Coco,” Chynna has been mentioned as a young up-and-comer who’s already been affiliated with the A$AP Mob and has worked in the studio with Hudson Mohawke, A$AP Ty Beats and Darq E Freaker. Glen Coco (yes, a play on the Mean Girls character) comes after Chynna dropped “Selfie” in 2013. Check out Chynna’s work with the A$AP Mob here.
6. Mike Connor
What he does: Music/ comedy fusion
Who’s Next Because: After growing up in Penndel, Connor became a founding member of comedy troupe “The N Crowd” when he came to Philadelphia after graduating from college. He’s now the emcee of The Philadelphia Spinners, the city’s competitive, professional Ultimate Frisbee team, and he produced three albums when he was once part of the musical-comedy due “The Hopper Brothers. He’s currently working on a new album, and the person who nominated Connor described him as “a creative and humorous musician who has been putting out music for the better part of 10 years.”
7. Ashley Cubbler
What she does: Indie
Who’s Next Because: After attending the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Cubbler joined the band Birdwatcher. From there, she formed her own band with songwriting partner Luke Pigott called September, and has been performing at a DIY music festival in Shoemakersville, PA called Cabinstock every Labor Day for the past few years. She’s also played a number of indie venues in Philadelphia, and has worked alongside The Chairman Dances, another (previously mentioned) indie band in the Philly area. The person who nominated Cubbler described her as “an amazing musician in multiple groups I respect, and is also connected to many other musicians and artists producing great work in Philadelphia.”
8. DJ Royale
What he does: DJ
Who’s Next Because: DJ Royale, AKA 29-year-old Jordan Poole, has been a resident of Philadelphia for the past 11 years and is a 2008 graduate of Temple University’s Film & Media Arts program. From high-end bottle service clubs to eccentric corner bars, Royale has established himself as a musically-diverse DJ. He’s competed in high-profile DJ battles and was featured as a Top 10 finalist in 2013 on VH1’s “Master of The Mix.” After having a decade of experience hosting his own parties, he’s looking to use his music as a tool for social change. The Mural Arts program recently hired him to educate underserved teens on music, DJing and entrepreneurship. In 2015, Jordan was selected to be a member of the NLC Philly chapter, a progressive leadership program, and recently joined the board of delegates at The International House of Philly.
9. Gilbere Forté
What he does: Hip-hop
Who’s Next Because: This Philadelphia rapper, producer and emcee has been interested in the production of hip-hop since his middle school years, and later — while studying business at Temple University — interned at Studio 609 with production duo Dre and Vidal who produced the likes of Destiny’s Child and Ludacris. Forte, 27, ended up leaving Temple University to pursue music alongside fellow Temple-grad Raak. The duo released two mixtapes that led to collaborations with Stromae, Kanye West and Diplo. His current EP, PRAY, can be found here. His new album will be released independently in January 2016.
10. Davey Hiester
What he does: Classical, baroque composition
Who’s Next Because: A teenage composer and instrumentalist, Hiester was nominated for Who’s Next because of his significant accomplishments as a classical and baroque composer and musician — especially for his young age. Hiester recently toured Italy with the Philadelphia All-City Orchestra while playing bassoon and contrabassoon, and in 2013, he was named an emerging composer by the Tribeca New Music Festival. He’s attended the Walden School Young Musicians Program, and is a serious pianist and clarinetist. Check out some of his compositions here.
11. Judah Kim
What he does: Rock/ funk
Who’s Next Because: This Philadelphia solo artist plays a unique blend of British invasion, indie rock, funk, ethereal, cinematic, classical and country music. Kim once served as the songwriter for the band Stonethrown, but has since released an EP of solo material called “My Favorite Shuffle,” which includes five songs that each sound like a bit of a different genre. The person who nominated Kim, 33, called him “the area’s most eclectic and catchy songwriter and performer… He’s got great tone and rhythm, like a hodgepodge of The Strokes, Muse and Radiohead with fantastic lyrics.”
12. Andrea Levine
What she does: Violinist
Who’s Next Because: Philly-based Andrea Levine is a professional violinist who actively performs in a variety of styles of music. She performs throughout Philadelphia as a wedding musician and runs a wedding-music business, Miss Musique, that has been named “Best of” on The Knot for several years. She’s a member of the faculty of Settlement Music School, teaching violin and chamber music at the school’s Mary Louise Curtis and Wynnefield Branches, and was a featured performer at a faculty recital in May 2014, playing Schoenberg on a program of 20th and 21st century works. Over the years, Levine, 29, has performed with artists like Rod Stewart, Carlos Santana, Michael Bublé, Josh Groban, Matthew Morrison, The Roots, NAS, Busta Rhymes, Janelle Monae and The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. She also performs with major Philadelphia-area orchestras including the Philly Pops, the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra, the Delaware Symphony, Harrisburg Symphony and Allentown Symphony.
13. GoGo Morrow
What they do: R&B and pop musician/ writer/ performer
Who’s Next Because: Born and raised in Philly, Morrow, 25, began singing in church and, at age 10, joined the Prince Music Theater’s Rainbow Company where she honed her theatrical skills over the next seven years. She went on to Millersville University to study music business and, while there, worked as an intern for Philadelphia International Records. After that, Morrow secured spent two years as a background singer and dancer for Lady GaGa on the Emmy-award winning “Monster Ball” Tour. Since then, she’s been a solo act, opening for artists like Rick Ross and Kendrick Lamar. She’s played the WaWa Welcome America Festival and the Made in America Festival, and is currently working on a new album. Other highlights include a 2014 Danity Kane tour, a sold-out headlining concert at the TLA, headlining the national LGBT 50th Anniversary Concert, being featured in a Fox documentary and releasing seven singles on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora and Amazon Music.
14. Steady Hands
What they do: Folk rock/ bar punk
Who’s Next Because: Steady Hands began in 2012 as a solo project by Philly musician Sean Huber by playing bars and basements in the city. Later that year, the band first released an EP later that year called “Not Many Of Us Left,” in which Huber and a group of friends joined him in the studio. After that, Huber toured solo around the country to prepare the EP release called “The Libtertines,” put out in 2013 through indie label Lame-O Records. The full band continued to tour around the country through 2014 when the third EP “Brandy Of The Damned” was released. This folk punk bar band that was born in New Jersey and bred in Philly this year dropped an EP called “Tropical Depression.” You can listen to the EP here.
15. Stella Ruze
What they do: Rock
Who’s Next Because: Stella Ruze has years of experience performing gigs in bars and parties across Philadelphia while lead vocalist Brendan Johnson sings and trumpet calls linger. Their performances are highlighted by steady guitar grooves and fiery interplay between trumpet and keyboard, and choruses bring the entire band together in four and five-part harmonies. Here’s what the person who nominated Stella Ruze said: “They are going to be the next great band to come out of Philly. Totally unique and modern sound that is complex yet approachable. They sound like The Lumineers meet Trombone Shorty.” The band can be seen monthly at JD McGillicuddys in Manayunk, and plans to begin recording a debut EP shortly.
16. Mike Taylor
What they do: Alternative pop
Who’s Next Because: This Philly-born pop artist was once known as TuPhace, but now reps Philly when he performs with stars in Los Angeles. Taylor was one half of the “Mo Money Mo Problems” group at Silk City with DJ Sammy Slice. He is now featured on Afrojack’s new single “Summer Thing,” which comes after being the featured vocalist on Arno Cost and Norman Doray’s single “Rising Love.” His latest own single “Body High” is a summer jam, and the video features local Philly talents and residents. He draws inspiration from everyone from The Roots to Paul Simon to social thinkers like Malcolm Gladwell. He’s described as having “Peter Gabriel-esque vocals, anthemic choruses and uptempo danceable beats that are enriched with nostalgia.”
Want to listen to the music of all these great musicians? Here’s the YouTube playlist: