For the past three years, Philadelphia’s Radio 104.5 has been putting on some of the best block parties for the “City of Brotherly Love.” Bands such as New Found Glory, Metric, Panic! at the Disco, Matt & Kim, Tegan & Sara and of course twenty-one pilots have proudly graced the stage for audiences. The best part? These events are free and open to anyone. Held at the Piazza at Schmidt’s (2nd St & Germantown, Ave) the 80,000 square-foot open air plaza holds free events year-round. I have been to Winter Jam before numerous times but this was my first time shooting it.

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After anxiously waiting, the first act was about to come on. An Honest Year, who hail from Norristown, PA and were the winners of the Radio 104.5 contest to play the opening slot. The snow had already begun to come down pretty hard as they took the stage. If you were watching from the back, you would be close to zero visibility. Overall, the band did a fantastic job getting the audience warmed up.

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The second band on the bill was MS MR. They have been making waves since the release of ‘Secondhand Rapture‘ (Columbia Records)’ and have scored a huge following since. The band draws upon classic pop, retro soul and trip-hop elements into their sound while still letting enough room for front woman Lizzy Plapinger to reveal the emotional vulnerability in the music.

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As New Politics came on, the snow fall began to hit even harder. That didn’t deter the Danish trio from putting on one of the most energetic performances of the day. Lead singer, David Boyd, fed off of the crowd’s energy as he jumped into the audience, climbed the rafters and hung off things he really shouldn’t while guitarist Søren Hansen came down to the audience to shred before jumping in the crowd at the end of the set. Clouds of steam rose out from audiences.

The band had a great year in 2013 since the release of their sophomore album ‘A Bad Girl in Harlem’ (RCA Records) touring with Fall Out Boy and P!NK, but I have a feeling this year will be the year they will become a household name. With a string of already SOLD OUT shows on their current “Harlem U.S.A.” tour and a supporting slot with Fall Out Boy and Paramore’s “Monumentour” 2014 will definitely be their breakout year.

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The crowd waited anxiously for Switchfoot to hit the stage. Hailing from southern California, the sub freezing temperatures didn’t damper their performance at all. Instead it did the opposite. They opened with their biggest and best known hit “Meant to Live.” The crowd came to life and belted out every note. A surprised Jon Foreman commented that the ‘crowd was crazy for coming out in the freezing temperatures’ and that he’s from California but “today he wanted to be a Philadelphian” and from that point on, he would spend half their set up on the barricades with the audience.

The band was definitely enjoying themselves at the show. With positive reaction to their second song “Who We Are” off their recent release, ‘Fading West’ (Atlantic Records) to their cover of the Beastie Boys “Sabotage”, the frontman sounded pitch perfect and was full of optimistic energy considering his recent surfing injury. They closed their set with another one of their major hits “Dare You to Move.” To me, their performance was perfect. It left me wanting more and it was bittersweet to see them walk off the stage and back on to their (warm) bus.

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Finally, I have bared witness to many acts make their break from opener to headliner in the years I’ve been photographing bands and there’s no better example than Ohio’s twenty-one pilots. I have seen the duo perform as openers for acts such as Neon Trees and Circa Survive in the past and it was great to see them gain such an incredible following since the release of their debut ‘Vessel’ (Fuel By Ramen). The band came on later than I had hoped as the sun was starting to go down and the temperature dropped immensely. On the plus side, the snow stopped. Dawning ski-masks, frontman Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun entered the stage to a deafening roar from the audience. It was difficult to keep track of Tyler as he bounced around the entire stage as he switched between instruments during their set. He even surprised audiences with singing “Holding on to You” up on the balcony of one of building’s residence. They finished their set with an epic drum off on top of the audiences to “Trees.”

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Winter Jam has a tendency to surprise a lot of the acts with the audience’s tenacity to come out and enjoy live music regardless of weather conditions. It’s a great reminder that music is not dead regardless of whatever scene you subscribe to and that people will do anything for their love of music. Music is the universal religion that brings people together.

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I was glad I came today. Shooting in harsh conditions was a great learning experience. Was is crazy? Yes. Would I ever do it again? Definitely!

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