Philadelphia Phil, the Philadelphia-born, now Indy-based multi-instrumentalist who sometimes goes by his government name Philip Henry Christopher, first became aware of the Playing for Change movement when he saw the video that launched it all: a performance of "Stand By Me" by a Santa Monica street performer, Roger Ridley.
He's followed it since then, as it's grown into a world-wide initiative that saw videographer Mark Johnson traveling around the world to tape street musicians singing the same song — and eventually expanded into a foundation devoted bringing "peace to the world through music" by recording and sharing music, organizing tours with those same musicians and putting together benefit shows to raise money for music education.
Saturday's Playing for Change Day might be seen as the culmination of those efforts: A fundraising concert taking place on the streets of cities around the world, it aims to raise funds for music education and, in the process, connect peace-minded musicians from around the planet to mobilize their resources for a common cause.
Indianapolis wasn't on the Playing for Change radar until less than month ago, when Phil fielded an e-mail from the Playing for Change Foundation. Within a day, he and cohorts from the Indianapolis Acoustic Music Meetup contacted the foundation with a plan to stage performers up and down Mass Ave.
"That week we went into overdrive, contacting musicians, artists, designers, business owners: anyone who would listen," Phil says of the planning process. "The response was outstanding, with a broad cross-section of the community stepping up to help out."
Phil will play a couple sets during Playing for Change Day at a tent outside the Art Bank; other performers will play, busker-style, outside Starbucks and Global Gifts on Mass Ave. Phil's band Mumbai Taxi is bringing in a couple very special collaborators: Trinidadian recording artist Sharlene Boodram and reggae toaster Kwanzaa Popps.
"Indianapolis needs music on the streets, needs the human connections to be made innocently, without the trappings of ego, celebrity, or industry," Phil said when asked why he brought Playing for Change to Indy. "Just honest music to lift hearts in that organic way it has since we first walked upright. Hopefully, Playing For Change Day Indianapolis will be the start of our city reconnecting through music this way."
Phil hopes to raise one percent of the total global goal of $250,000, or $2500, during the festival. Individuals can contribute directly at any time via the show's Playing for Change Day donation page.