It’s a concert, it’s a comedy show, it’s a branding extravaganza in which an absurd nightly block of programming on cable television’s Cartoon Network is celebrating itself with a three-day festival in Philadelphia.
It’s the inaugural Adult Swim Block Party, calling the Fillmore campus of entertainment venues Friday, including Fillmore Philadelphia, Punchline Philly, Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia and other Half Philly brewpubs.
What it meant on a sultry Friday in Fishtown was a knockout headlining set by hard-hitting hip-hop duo Run the Jewels at the Fillmore, stand-up comics at Punchline, and Brandt shenanigans in the other half’s beer garden, which created a Special Adult Swim Pale Ale for the occasion.
Giant inflatable characters from the hit Adult Swim show like Rick and Morty, which chronicle the interdimensional journey of a mad scientist and his grandson, grace the grounds. Air Dancer Tube Main –
Those gumby-like things that shoot up into the sky outside a used car dealership — portray adult swim characters like the talk show superhero Space Ghost.
A Wendy’s truck served a green dessert called Pickle Rick Frosty with fried pickles on top. (Weird, but not terrible.) Humpty’s Dumplings and Dr. Philly food trucks like Wootz’s Wonderball were parked behind the Fillmore.
Clips aired from animated shows such as Tuca and Bertie, about two bird ladies who share an apartment, upstairs at the Foundry, the Fillmore’s small, secondary venue, which offers air-conditioned respite from the heat.
On Saturday and Sunday, panels premiering Adult Swim content, including clips from the upcoming Aqua Teen Hunger Force film, will be staged at Punchline Philly during the day.
There was no music at the Brooklyn Bowl on Friday. But the action was about to begin there, with acts like former Philadelphia DJ-producer RJD2 set to play the set late on Saturday, and Philly bands Hop Along and Spirit of the Beehive on Sunday afternoon.
At the Fillmore, Philly rapper Tierra Whack was titled Saturday, followed by Deathcloak on Sunday, the real-life band, led by Brendan Smith, creator of the animated show Metalocalypse, whose limited-edition T-shirts were the most iconic item. Merch Stand.
Friday’s comedy was a mixed bag. On the late night set, Maddie Smith made a good musical joke: “My mom loves the Grateful Dead — you know, that band looks like they’re heating up, and then the show’s over.” Shane Torres was mildly charming.
I didn’t stick around for long, and instead kept constant reminders from the hosts that a two-drink minimum is the punchline in Philly. This seemed even more troubling after a margarita at the cost of Fillmore… wait for it… $26!
Delaney Macklemore, 32, rides Wendy’s Dipping Robot attraction, which acted as a human claw machine, outside the brewpub beer garden.
Macklemore, who lives in Corvallis, Ore., traveled to Philadelphia to see Run the Jewels and reunite with her brothers who lived in different parts of the country.
“I’m so excited to be here,” she said, holding her prize statue of Rick and Morty. “It’s the ultimate claw machine.”
She said she wasn’t a fan of the show, “but I date Rick and Morty guys.” Her program of choice is The Eric Andre Show, “which is crazy and unbelievable and wonderful and should be the reigning king of late night television.”
Jill King, senior vice president of Adult Swim marketing, said Friday that 70% of attendees were expected to come from the Philadelphia area. Much of the rest will be coming from up and down the eastern seaboard.
Seeing the Block Party in action confirmed that the company had made the “right decision” in choosing the Fillmore campus.
“It is small, but it gives us enough different types of places and different ways to bring our brand to life,” she said. “The festival plans to be a summer staple for Philadelphia in particular,” King said, “as long as people show up this weekend.” To encourage this, a cheap $10 ticket has been added that only gives access to the attractions of the Outer Block Party. Tickets for individual events — or full day passes, which cost $165 — are otherwise required.
The initial thinking, King said, was to expand the celebration at the Mann Center as soon as the following year. But seeing the crowds in Fishtown, King felt that “it feels natural to do so here. We want to grow, but we can grow slowly. It usually takes three years for a festival to start.”
For Run the Jewels, Fillmore was packed. Backed by Trackstar DJs, rappers Killer Mike and El-P came out swinging at 9 p.m. as the room exploded with energy.
“RT&J, we’re the new PB&J,” Mike – full name: Michael Render – rapped at the opening of “Legend Has It”, claiming that his group had achieved classic status.
He listed rap groups that had released four great albums – EPMD, UGK and The Roots – along with RTJ. Based on the taut, rock-out, 70-minute set, it was hard to argue with their claim of being “in the world’s best rap group”.
The heirs to Public Enemy’s brand of bracing agit-rap addressed racist violence in America on “Walking in the Snow” and revealed that they were in Roe v. Where do you stand in the Supreme Court, overturning Wade? “Every single woman in this room is worth her beautiful weight in gold,” Mike said. “So let’s respect their right to rule them – ourselves.”
Mike and El-P – full name: Jaime Mellin – have a sympatico style as rappers, and their performances and a hip-hop dude in between play banter like a movie. They seemed especially happy that they were leading a festival that celebrates beauty with their looks. “Adult swim,” said L-P. “Thank you for so many hours of stone-pelting, idiot, staring at TV all night!”
The Adult Swim Block Party continues at 10:30 p.m. Saturday and 10:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Fillmore Campus, 29 E. Allen St., Philadelphia. Schedule and ticket information at adultswimfestival.com