Around this time last year, residents near the train station near Brownsville Road and Old Street Road in Trevose may have heard a lot more noise than usual. They also may have noticed a usually empty lot near it suddenly become populated with tents, a makeshift vending area, expansive stage complete with a professional lighting truss and oversized pipe looming over a drumset, and a hundred or so people listening to the bands playing there. They may have also noticed it disappear just as quickly as it arrived.
The news — good or bad, depending on how people feel about music festivals in their backyard — is that it won’t return this summer. Instead, it’s moving to Philadelphia. This Saturday, the site of the fourth annual S.I.N. Stock takes place at the TLA on South Street.
Named after Strength In Numbers, the hard rock band that hosts the event, the yearly celebration started out as a backyard barbecue in Trevose. The band often plays in Northeast Philadelphia, at venues like Sweeney’s Saloon in Somerton or Curran’s in Tacony, and would hold their own party at the house where they’d practice, featuring themselves and acts they’d shared bills with that year.
“It’s a way of giving back to the fans, friends, family members that come out and support not only us but the other local bands all year long,” explained singer Joe Mac. “You go to a bar, you pay a cover, you’re overpaying for your booze, you know, you’re hanging out, you bring a date, the next thing you know you’re in over $100, and you do that how many times a year for us? Thank you, thank you, thank you, what can we do?”
That led to the bands all chipping in for food and beer, and playing for free all day. It worked for two years, until guitarists Andy Caine and Mike Wilson decided to up the ante by holding the show in the lot behind Caine’s house, which he and other companies use for work.
“It was a full-scale operation,” said Wilson. “We were talking about it, that we had to have a stage. And then the next thing you know, Andy’s asking, ‘Do you have access to a crane?’ “
As fun as the day was, the undertaking — and taking it down the next day so work could resume on Monday — wasn’t something they wanted to replicate. But, the same “Because we can” attitude that got them going in the first place brought them down to the TLA — up on a billboard in Northeast Philly.
This year, eight bands are chipping in to make the event at the TLA free. It runs from 6 p.m. till midnight, with solo acoustic acts in between the features.
“It’s a little different this year — you’re on your own for beverages or food, but the bands’ commitment financially went up, even though we’re giving away a little less. But you still get a class-A show in a venue that’s historical in Philadelphia.” said Mac. “Tons of great acts have preceded us there. We’re just fortunate enough to be there on that stage.”
The band is also grateful to bring so many other musicians they know up there with them. That even includes true up-and-coming bands like the Dead Leeves, a four-piece band comprising junior high and high school students from Northeast Philadelphia.
Dead Leeves will have been around almost a year to the day when S.I.N. Stock rolls around, and has already established itself as a classic rock cover band in the city and Lower Bucks County, even scoring some screen time when Good Day Philadelphia broadcast live from Frankford and Cottman avenues in the Mayfair section of the city.
According to 17-year-old lead singer and guitarist Nicholas Zabrowski, it was bands like Strength in Numbers, along with Great Scott Band, Mike LeCompt and others that helped them get so far so fast.
“We got to play around before we had a full night of music. Bands like Great Scott would let us play between their sets,” he said. “They really groomed us and influenced how we perform.”
When they hit the TLA, they’ll already have exceeded Zabrowski’s goals for the band.
“Growing up, I wanted to play Pennypack Park,” he noted, referring to the free weekly summer concerts that hundreds in the area regularly attend. “But we’re jumping past that. Playing the TLA is awesome, knowing all the bands that have been there before. It’s an extraordinary leap for us.”
S.I.N. Stock takes place at the TLA, 334 South St. in Philadelphia, on Saturday, Aug. 13. For information or free tickets, visit http://www.sinstock.org.