Bacon Brothers carry on Philadelphia legacy with music - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
The Bacon Brothers: Kevin (left) and Michael | photo courtesy of the artist

Kevin Bacon fondly remembers music being a central part of his upbringing in Philadelphia. He and his brother, Michael, spent time playing music with friends, and grew up among the sounds of folk, soul and rock music in the city.

“People have often asked us, ‘What was it like to grow up in a music town?’” Bacon said. “We never had anything to compare it to. It’s not really until you leave that you realize that it has this great history.”

Now, Kevin and Michael are returning to their hometown to play a show at Union Transfer this Thursday to benefit the construction of the Reading Viaduct Project—the planned green space and elevated park using the abandoned railway line in the Callowhill Neighborhood—with the Friends of the Railpark organization. Joining them will be Rob Grote of The Districts.

For the Bacon Brothers, donating their talents to the benefit of revitalizing Philadelphia comes naturally. After all, their father, Edmund Bacon, served as Executive Director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission from 1949 to 1970, playing a major role in the creation of LOVE Park and other urban campaigns. So when the chance to perform and in Philly and play a role in something permanent in the city’s infrastructure, the brothers jumped at the idea.

“Somebody alerted me that they were planning on getting this project off the ground in Philly, so I reached out and went down and took a tour, because I love that city, and obviously it was very important to [my dad],” Bacon said. “I was really taken with how cool this could be for the neighborhood and for the city. I’m a big supporter of public spaces for people, so they asked my brother if I would be willing to play a show.”

Though their father had a strong influence, the younger Bacons didn’t see themselves following in his footsteps into civic development as a profession. Michael is an Emmy Award-winning musician and composer, and Kevin is … well … Kevin Bacon. However, the apples never fell too far from the tree of city planning.

“You know, it’s funny—there was never any part of me that thought that I would go into what my dad did,” Bacon said. “I never really had much interest in it. It was so much a part of his life, and it really flowed through his veins, that city and cities in general. And I think it just kind of affected me in a way that I wasn’t really aware of.”

After his upbringing in Philadelphia, Bacon moved to New York, so he has a strong appreciation for cities and communal spaces. So, benefitting another new park in Philadelphia was a no brainer.

“It’s important that we have places to go to commune with both each other and nature,” he said. “I think it’s a really big part of our physical and mental health as urban dwellers. My dad was a big supporter of parks and outdoor spaces for people to discover and enjoy city life, and that just kind of filtered down through me whether I wanted it to or not.”

Another major influence in Bacon’s upbringing was his older brother’s musical influence. Michael, nine years Kevin’s senior, has been playing music for as long as he can remember. And, as little brothers tend to do, Bacon thought that Michael’s musical ability was just about the coolest thing in the world.

“I grew up with that, seeing him writing songs and playing music,” he remembered. “And, like anything else your older brother does, you’re kind of enamored with that. So, even though I knew I wanted to be an actor when I was really young, I started writing songs when I was in my early teens, and then [Michael] would help me with the songs and help me structure them and put them together, turning them into something that was more than just a melody and lyrics in my head.”

The brothers have been writing and playing music together for more than 20 years, and it’s taken them all over world. But, like many other things in the brothers’ lives, it started in Philadelphia.

“It was actually an old friend of mine from Philadelphia named Harry Spivak who heard our demos and said, ‘Why don’t you come down to Philadelphia and I’ll promote a show?’ One night at the TLA. We’ll call it a Bacon Brothers show,’” he said. “We put together a four-piece acoustic set and came down to play our first show.”

This was in the early ‘90s. By this point, both brothers were firmly established in their careers. As he put it, neither of them were “bucking for a new career.” But they took the opportunity to play a show, and have enjoyed the chance to come play shows together when opportunity strikes.

“In a weird way, the band has been leading us rather than us leading it,” he says. “People call us up and say, ‘Hey, how about doing a show?’ and we do. And it turned into, like, seven CD’s. We’ve played all over the country. We’ve played all over the world, actually.”

As of now, the Friends of the Rail Park has raised more than $5 million for the first phase of construction, and hopes to break ground on the project in 2016. The Bacon Brothers performance on Thursday night at Union Transfer will contribute to the cause. For tickets and more information on the show, head to the XPN Concert Calendar.

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