An annual counterculture music festival like no other.


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Human BBQ XXXV annual music festival
Pi Lambda Phi House
3914 Spruce St.

This past Saturday, April. 6, 2013, the annual Human Barbecue marked its 35th year at West Philadelphia’s Pi Lambda Phi house, a fraternity just adjacent to UPenn’s campus. You may not be able to gather this from the event’s name, but the Human Barbecue is an all-day music festival featuring primarily local indie and punk rock bands. Granted, they do have an ongoing barbecue, but eating the food and putting it on the grill is the only role humans play in the barbecue.

I arrived at Pi Lam at about 4p.m for my second time as a spectator of this grand event. The first experience participating in the festival was three years ago. At the time, I was just a kid from the suburbs, who believed traveling all the way into the city for a concert was a momentous occasion. Little did I know I’d soon live and study within walking distance of that very venue. But enough about me—the day was full of music. Eighteen bands alternated between the basement and the first floor of the house, with each band playing a half an hour set.

For those who are not accustomed to listening to the sounds of unrefined rock music reverberating off of the walls of small rooms for several hours nonstop, the experience can be a bit—I recommend earplugs. In hind sight, with so many bands featured in the festival it’s easy to blend the evenings line-up, however, each act was well defined through their individual styles. With genres ranging from indie-pop to math-rock and experimental groups such as, Laser Background, Oh Adeona (who played their first show in 6 years), and Banned Books, there was something for everybody. One West Philly indie rock ensemble, Ghost Light, particularly seemed to enchant the crowd, and impelled them to react in the form of a peculiar dance.

Norwegian Arms and Delicate Steve could be considered the co-headliners for the event. Both have a dedicated fan base and can attribute a great deal of their popularity to festivals of this nature, where people, not ordinarily inclined to listen to these genres, may be subjected to hearing their music because of the bands’ inclusion among more familiar acts. Norwegian Arms plays folk influenced, light hearted pop with prominent mandolin, and vocals by front man Brendan Mulvihill. Delicate Steve, however, pleased audience members in a very different way, with their high-pitched guitars and soft but fast drum beats.
While the festival ended by midnight, many of the bands that played earlier in the evening, generally found playing a rock show in the daytime to be “weird.” But I believe that the enjoyment of music is not affected by the time, day, or location, and I’m guessing that many of the festivals attendees would agree.
When I asked Mike Giannone, first time attendee and member of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity, about his opinion on the fraternity’s nickname, the Punk Frat, he said, “I have no problem with that. Punk is awesome!”

An anonymous show-goer gave me his summary of the event: “The music is fantastic. It’s great getting to know people you didn’t know.” You too can join the fun, become familiar with local bands, and meet new people at next years’ 36th Human Barbecue.

Nick Sukiennik is a sophomore Chemical Engineering Major at Drexel University.

Article image of band, Laser Background, taken by Nick Sukiennik.
Other images courtesy of Norwegian Arms