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What a special night in Philadelphia last Thursday @dellmusiccenter. Thank you @futureislands @hopalongtheband @strandofoaks and @hownowkarlblau for making the world a little better. ❤️ �÷: @icimageworks

A post shared by Connor Barwin (@connorbarwin98) on

This past Thursday, Make The World Better Foundation presented a stacked lineup of artists performing at Strawberry Mansion’s Dell Music Center for the benefit of the foundation. Founded by former Philly Eagle Connor Barwin and co-founder Jeff Tubbs, MWTB fundraises to provide Philadelphia communities with public spaces, including gardens, media labs, and playgrounds. Community stood at the center of the night, as the lineup included three artists with Philadelphia ties, and the audience buzzed with just as many Eagles fans as there were local music obsessives (with plenty of overlap).

Karl Blau at the Make The World Better Foundation benefit | photo by Stacey Salter Moore | @icimageworks | via instagram.com/connorbarwin98

A recent Germantown transplant, Karl Blau opened the night with a set of solo guitar folk, donning a blue sombrero and welcoming the early crowd with his smooth voice and skillful acoustic licks. Strand Of Oaks followed, playing hits from their recent release Eraserland. Opening with “Weird Ways,” an epic rock jam, the crowd instantly was captured by the warm electricity of Timothy Showalter’s voice, coupled with the fuzzy glow of his guitar. Breaking out into a solo, it becomes the kind of song you wish would never end. Their song “Ruby” was especially fitting, as Hop Along drummer Mark Quinlan later revealed his daughter Ruby was sidestage. Midway through their set, Showalter announced this would be one of his last sets as a Philly resident, sadly. They wrapped up with “Forever Chords,” the final track from Eraserland, a ten minute slow jam that drew their set to a solemn close.

Strand of Oaks at the Make The World Better Foundation benefit | photo by Stacey Salter Moore | @icimageworks | via instagram.com/connorbarwin98

Shortly after, Hop Along took the stage, opening with “Waitress,” the lead single off their 2015 album Painted Shut, sharply contrasting the relaxed atmosphere Strand of Oaks’ set provided with high energy guitars and Quinlan’s growling voice. Their set consisted of a medley of early and recent hits, playing plenty of songs from their 2018 album Bark Your Head Off, Dog, as well as “Tibetan Pop Stars” and “Diamond Mine” from their debut album Get Disowned, the latter a rare live gem. Midway through, they also included a folk-rock cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere,” and later expertly transitioned from their sing “Well-dressed” to The Cranberries’ “Zombie.” Although all too short, it was a tight set from a Philly favorite.

Hop Along at the Make The World Better Foundation benefit | photo by Stacey Salter Moore | @icimageworks | via instagram.com/connorbarwin98

The headliner Future Islands entered to a rabid crowd, frontman Samuel Herring launching right in to “Hit The Coast,” an as of yet unreleased song from their upcoming album. Their set was also in sharp relief to the other bands of the night, built around synths and percussion rather than guitar, and got the crowd moving more than anything. Meanwhile, Herring reflected this with his stellar, of at times dorky, moves onstage, digging into the sound of his band and emphasizing every syllable by pounding on his chest or grasping into the air. As he creeped and sauntered across the stage, he would often switch into what could best be described as a “monstrous growl,” then on a dime crooning out his chorus. Although it had been a long night of amazing music, Future Islands kept the energy up with plenty of dance hits from their recent albums Singles and The Far Field, as well as plenty of unreleased tracks that have been solely performed live so far. Their biggest hit, “Seasons (Waiting On You),” arrived late in their set, with a huge reaction from the audience, which Herring declared was celebrating five years since its release. Although the lineup was characterized by an eclectic mix of local and outsider artists, not a soul seemed to mind among the audience, given the ecstatic attention given to each act throughout the night.

Future Islands at the Make The World Better Foundation benefit | photo by Stacey Salter Moore | @icimageworks | via instagram.com/connorbarwin98

You can learn more about the Make The World Better Foundation at mtwb.org including links to donate and volunteer, and info for future events.

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