On a humid day in September, fans outside the Project Pabst Citywide Festival in Philadelphia turned their heads to a stretch of ominous clouds in the sky. Rain was in the forecast, but it would do little to threaten a jam-packed day of live music at the Electric Factory. Featuring an outdoor festival with several much-needed beer tents on a rare, 85-degree September day, this year's Project Pabst Festival echoed why Philly is the City of Brotherly Love: drinks, good music, games, and most importantly, people bonding over a similar passion.
The day kicked off with Philly's very own Thin Lips, whose punk rock roots planted the seed for the remainder of the day's acts. East Coast bands Lionize, Speedy Ortiz, The Coathangers and Big Thief kept the energy moving through the afternoon, revving up a crowd slicked in sweat and PBR in and out of the Electric Factory's confines. Electronic artist Madame Gandhi, who's toured with fellow electronic queen M.I.A., and Philly products Nothing were the final openers to rock the stage.
The rain followed the forceful pounding of Nothing and began to pick up as the band wrapped their set. It wouldn't damper the festivities, however, as the crowd began to pack in for The Menzingers. A staple in the ever-growing Philly music circuit, The Menzingers have continued their upward trajectory (they're currently on tour with Sublime with Rome and The Offspring) since forming in Scranton, PA in 2006. The foursome picked songs new and old from their catalogue, roaring to the stage with "Tellin' Lies" from their most recent release, After the Party, and following it with the fan-favorite "I Don't Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore" off of 2014's Rented World.
There was never a lull as the band ripped through more than 20 songs over their 90-minute set. The crowd bobbed with each word members Greg Barnett and Tom May sang, from the self-doubting refrain of "I will fuck this up/I fucking know it" from "The Obituaries" to the anthemic chant of "Sha la la la Jersey Girls/they're always total heartbreakers" off of After the Party's lead single, "Lookers".
In between booming tracks "Thick as Thieves" and "Good Things", The Menzingers captivated the crowd with their knack for the sentimental, performing songs like "Where Your Heartache Exists" and mainstay "My Friend Kyle", to which May had a special introduction for. "This one's for anyone who couldn't make it," May said, a fitting tribute for a late friend the song is named after.
As The Menzingers led an encore of "Livin' Aint Easy" (stating they've never played it live before) and the bopping "In Remission", the crowd quickly filed to the bar to grab another round before New York product Action Bronson put a bow on the night. The larger-than-life rapper affectionately known as Bam Bam took his time getting up on stage, perhaps a tactful move to keep the crowd on its feet. His presence was immediately felt as he casually walked on stage with iPhone and microphone, sampling beats with the touch of his hand and spitting songs from his recent LP, Blue Chips 7000.
Bronson kept it light with the crowd, cracking jokes and signing autographs at items thrown at him. Whether a copy of his book, "Fuck, That's Delicious" to a fan's sweatshirt, the "Baby Blue" rapper put his mark down with a red Sharpie before handing the items back to the crowd. "Make sure to support your local bookstore," Bronson said as he handed the book back.
Fiddling with his phone was Bronson's key joke of the night, poking fun at himself when he would start the wrong song. After a series of wrong samples, he laughingly threw his phone across stage as the crowd laughed along. "I bet you I don't fuck up this time," he joked.
"One thing I like to do is turn people on to new music," Bronson claimed mid-set. He then bounced into a brand new beat, explaining he pulled the sample from an Ethiopian-rooted track from the '70s. "Damn, that's gonna make a fire rap song," he said as the beat ended.
Bam Bam pulled most of his material from Blue Chips 7000 in an effort to familiarize the crowd with his new music. He rocked side-to-side on "Hot Pepper" and "Let It Rain" before walking off the stage 40 minutes into his set. "I must have gotten my timing wrong," Bronson said upon his return. He would then play several major tracks, including "Terry" and "Actin' Crazy" from 2015's Mr. Wonderful.
Fitting with his massive personality, Bronson had a statement for the crowd. "I don't care about a hit single. I came to deliver you bars," he yelled. Bronson's final attack on the mic came in a passionate performance of "Durag vs. Headband", screaming the refrain along with the crowd, "And when I die, make sure you spread my blood on a BMW". He would play out to Biz Markie's "Just a Friend" as the crowd made its way into the Philadelphia night.
Philly's Project Pabst Festival was the latest in the organization's series of shows across the U.S. The festival previously hit Denver and Portland, OR this summer. It's fourth and final stop this year will be at Atlanta's East Village on Oct. 7 and will feature headliners Iggy Pop and Dinosaur Jr.