Made In America has the backing of Jay Z, The Roots Picnic has Questlove’s curation skills, but what about a showcase for the up-and-coming local acts? And what about something for the neighborhoods?
Sonya McDuffie noticed the void. So Saturday, her company, Black Maverick Entertainment, is hosting the New Energy Live Music Festival at Stinger Square in Grays Ferry. It’s bringing together more than a dozen local hip hop and R&B acts to one stage on one day, and she hopes it will become an annual tradition extended to multiple neighborhoods for showcasing young, local talent.
“It’s going to be for the community,” McDuffie said. “It’s going to be for these particular artists to get their shine on.”
McDuffie is the CEO of Black Maverick Entertainment and event production manager of the Philly Hip Hop Awards. She got the idea at SXSW in 2016, where she hosted a small show featuring Flex Squad, Main Girl and Big Gov.
Over the last several months, McDuffie started organizing smaller shows as part of a New Energy Live Music series at venues like the Barbary. She wanted it to culminate with a major festival where lesser-known local acts could conceivably get an audience of several hundred people rather than a few dozen who could fit into a small club.
The show begins at noon with a performance by Lil King, a 9-year-old R&B singer. Other acts — all local — include Dell-P, Shawn Smith, Aviance, Jazz Fresh and Normal Gene. The show is free, thanks to sponsorships from companies and people like Councilman Mark Squilla, who provided McDuffie her first sponsorship.
“He gave me $500,” she said. “That felt like $500,000.”
She’s expecting a few hundred to come to Stinger Square for the festival this weekend. If the event is successful, McDuffie would like to have the festival spread to areas like Manayunk and South Street, and incorporate other genres. Dell-P said it’s unusual to have this many young, local artists performing in this type of atmosphere.
“This,” he said, “is needed annually.”