In its fourth consecutive year, Bloktoberfest, a free festival started in 2009 by the South of South Neighborhood Association, has solidified itself as one of the city’s best annual events—free or otherwise. Spending its second straight year on South Street West (between Broad and 18th), the two-stage festival hosted a dozen bands and more than two dozen craft beers on the packed street. Food trucks were on hand as well, keeping the attendees full along with the participating restaurants that permanently occupy the strip.
Year after year, Bloktoberfest has been a smoothly-run and very fun festival with great music, especially of the local variety. This year, the organizers put together an all-local lineup, headlined by Toy Soldiers, one of the best bands in town. The five-piece rock and rollers put on a great show as the beautiful autumn day began to cool down, pulling songs from their just-finished LP to get the crowd dancing.
Toy Soldiers followed some great talent on the main stage, placed in the lot beside the Jamaican Jerk Hut, starting off with the jazzy vibes of The Philadelphia Clef Club Student Ensemble. They talented students were followed by Modern Inventors, a very new and very good project based around the collaboration of Josh Benus and Matt Kass. Next up was Ali Wadsworth, a soulful singer with a breathtaking voice and a backing band more than qualified to share the stage with her. Assigned the difficult task of following up Ms. Wadsworth was Grandchildren, an experimental West Philly outfit who held their own and struck the perfect mood for the sunset.
Bloktoberfest’s side stage, parked at the intersection of 16th and South, can’t be ignored either. The organizers had the smarts to put the funkiest acts on this stage, highlighted by New Pony, a band that always lays down the funk (and did incredible justice to Galactic’s “Heart of Steel”). The Doge, Tall Trees, The Revival, and Philly Gumbo also got their turn on the stage, which was strategically placed right beside the Pumpkin Beer and Cider station (with more stations lined down the street) and always had a crowd dancing.
If Bloktoberfest has any problem, it’s that too many people know how much fun it is. Year after year, the crowds get bigger and bigger, and we’re all powerless in widening the street. Of course, this sounds more like one of those good problems, and it’s one that was handled very well. The quantity of food and beer station options keeps the lines spread out and down to a minimum, even at the festival’s busiest times. The festival’s partnership with Bella Vista Distributors was again successful, enabling the lengthy and delicious beer list and preventing the tragedy of running out of beer.
The Sunday after Bloktoberfest isn’t always pretty. As the hangover from all those high-ABV beers sets in, so does the realization that the next party this fun doesn’t happen for another 354 days. But comfort can be found in the confidence that this festival will be back next fall, with the same elite level of beer, food, music and planning at what has become a premiere event in Philadelphia.