The historical grounds of Fort Mifflin will be transformed this weekend by transfixing visual projections and captivating kick drums, as the landmark hosts the second annual Making Time ∞ Festival. It’s quickly becoming Philly’s marquee electronic music event.
Internationally renowned performers like Fourtet, Bicep, John Talabot, Sherelle, and Floating Points will perform alongside a wide-ranging group of artists, including many local acts.
“I’ve had many transcendental experiences on the dance floor over the years, incredible experiences that I’ll never forget,” Making Time founder David Pianka, better known as DJ Dave P, told Billy Penn. “I want to create those experiences for other people.”
It’s the second year the festival is taking place at the centuries-old fort that sits just east of Philadelphia International Airport. The Revolutionary Era structure and conjoined museum will be cast in a whole new light through installments by the Klip Collective, a visual art shop headquartered in Philly.
The story behind the festival is a winding tale through the development of Philly’s underground electronic scene, including the setbacks of COVID and the triumphal return of raves and warehouse parties that have once again begun to fill Philly nights with music.
From ‘alternative’ club experience to blockbuster festival
The Philly-based promoter has been running Making Time as a “club alternative” since Memorial Day Weekend in 2000.
It first kicked off as a dance event for people who liked indie rock, 60s soul and funk, and Britpop. The selections ran counter to the trance and progressive house music that pervaded early 2000s clubs. “Making Time,” a song by the English psych rock band The Creation, gave the event series its name.
As Pianka progressed deeper into DJ culture, the music at the events continued to evolve — until it came full circle to highlighting underground electronic cuts.
“Now I’m the one doing electronic music events,” he said, chuckling at the irony.
The idea to turn the party into a festival was truly sparked in 2010, when Dave P and his compatriots celebrated a decade of parties. LCD Soundsystem played the anniversary gig, held at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, and the 5,000-person crowd was Making Time’s biggest ever.
That led to plans for a 2013 music fest there. It was called off after officials at the PIDC, the public-private economic development corporation in charge of development and events at the Navy Yard, came out against the idea.
“At the time, I got pretty discouraged,” Pianka said. Five years later, he heard the director of the PIDC had changed. He got the official stamp of approval, and began planning a new festival to take place in September 2020.
Fate intervened, in the form of a pandemic.
Pianka circled back in 2021 to try again, but the Navy Yard had too many COVID-related concerns. That’s how the first Making Time Festival, which took place in September 2021, ended up at Fort Mifflin.
Navigating Philly’s dance scene during COVID
Juliana Concepcion, a South Philly native who produces and DJs as Jewelssea, first started spinning in 2018, playing house parties alongside indie bands. She worked her way into the electronic scene over the next few years, until it all came to an abrupt halt. March 13, 2020, was the last show she played.
“The first year of lockdown, I did not pick up my DJ controller once,” Concepcion told Billy Penn. “I just hit a wall.”
The network of promoters, performers, and supporters she ran with dispersed without dissolving, biding their time until it was safe enough to get back out there again — an excruciating waiting game.
During the summer of 2021, things started to come back — and it seemed like the months of (social) distance for the underground scene made hearts grow fonder.
Concepcion recalled a June 2021 rave with over 1,000 attendees. It was shut down right before her set began, but the crowd wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“My friends were like, ‘You’re gonna be playing at a skatepark,'” she said. They relocated nearby, and the show went on.
A Jewelssea fan had a car with subwoofers and blue lights in it, she said, and he offered to let her play the set out of it. “It was really hilarious, actually, but I think that was just a crazy moment, right out of lockdown,” Concepcion said.
Enthusiasm was at an all time high, and the “explosive” return to performing has helped boost Jewelssea’s young career.
DJ Dave P remembers that period similarly. He hosted the first in-person Making Time event in over a year that June, throwing down at Moshulu, the ship deck restaurant docked in Penn’s Landing.
“I think we ended up having almost 1,500 people on that boat,” Pianka reminisced. “It was so great, and that was a true celebration of things opening up in Philadelphia.”
And the first Making Time Festival might never have happened without COVID’s forced break.
“I had so much time … I wasn’t able to play, I wasn’t DJing, I wasn’t doing parties” Pianka said. “I had time and space mentally to really be creative and really strategize.”
This year, he’s pulling out all the stops as part of his “transcendental plan” to boogie down. Safety in light of the pandemic will still dictate festival policy, but COVID concerns are less pressing compared to a year ago. “It’s been a long, gradual process, but I think people are there,” he said.
What to look forward to at Making Time ∞ Festival 2022
Besides big names like Fourtet, Floating Points, AceMo, and Sofia Kourtesis, this weekend’s event will offer over 24 hours of music over two days, with multiple stages spread across the grounds of Fort Mifflin.
The ambient-only “Chill Out Zone” can serve as a calm down from the “Futuristic Zone,” which will showcase experimental artists. Concepcion is set to perform on Sunday’s Lot Radio Stage, where Philly-based artists will have their performances broadcasted live by The Lot Radio, the NYC-based online radio station that specializes in underground electronic programs.
She’s excited to perform at such a special festival for locals while putting on for Philly by being live streamed for a worldwide audience.
“It’s really cool that we get to have this festival because there’s so much dance music in the city, such a large network — through the underground scene — of warehouse parties and raves,” she said.
Pianka, having curated the lineup, agonized when asked what he was looking forward to most. But his all-time favorite DJ John Talabot is doing two sets on Sunday.
When it comes down to it, the goal remains the same as it did back in 2000: give people space to get lost in sound.
“It’s a combination of the music, the visuals, the lights,” Pianka explained. “All those things culminate into what is essentially an experience where you lose yourself.”