Upandovr: The Best Kept Secret of Philadelphia’s DIY Music Scene
By Kelly Liu
Upandovr started out as an idea. Nick and Leo, the founders of the platform, often describe it as a dot — a dot that connects to other, ever-expanding dots; a network of skills, people, and opportunities. At the end of the day, something that acts as a spark for Philadelphia-based DIY and indie artists, working to propel them to “their next level, whatever that may be,” Nick tells me. Live sessions, interviews, assets — in whatever form they need, too, all free of cost.
AnnonXL, an artist who worked with Upandovr on the promotional video for his upcoming release, describes the pair as “angels.” During their initial meeting, Nick and Leo sent over a three-page breakdown of AnnonXL’s stats and information. Nick works in marketing during the day, so bringing that type of analytical knowledge from work into Upandovr comes naturally. Leo’s daytime job, on the other hand, is in mental health and homelessness.
“Whenever we start with an artist, we have a briefing process,” Nick explains. They would discuss goals and strategy and, most importantly, develop an authentic, non-transactional relationship. “We want to be someone that’s in your corner,” he elaborates. The duo’s people-centered approach is the reason why the relationships they build go beyond business. Instead, they create a community. That’s why on March 16th, AnnonXL tagged along in Nick’s van to the drive-in radio concert for Philadelphia-based rapper Tawobi. “I had become a fan,” AnnonXL told me.
Due to connection difficulties caused by weather conditions, the drive-in concert turned into a live van session instead, where Tawobi performed tracks from his latest release F.A.T.E. Neon lights from a circle ring light glowed up the car, illuminating a relatively deserted, nighttime parking lot at Fairmount Park. A blownup, human-sized elephant peeks in from the trunk (a prop that appeared in an early promotional video for Tawobi’s music). The van session marked the latest in a series of Upandovr’s musicale undertakings, one of the platform’s main initiatives: live performances filmed with creativity and heart.
In the midst of the pandemic, musicale is a way to bring back the atmosphere of intimate live concerts. “Nick and I used to go to concerts probably once a weekend, at least,” Leo explains. “And even if we didn’t have something planned out, we’d get home from work and just go on Bandsintown or something like that, and just start playing artists that we hadn’t heard of.”
“It always felt like Philly was a city where there was an abundance of artists, but there wasn’t any Philly-centric outlet that would specifically highlight them,” Leo elaborates. “We’re bringing awareness to Philly as a music scene in and of itself. Like, there’s an awesome music scene out in Minneapolis, and I always felt like they were a city that really rallied around their own. And it felt like Philly, not that we don’t, but just that there weren’t those outlets to draw attention to.” So far, Upandovr has shot countless musicale videos and worked with over a dozen artists, the first of which was Pleb Mahogany, a singer-songwriter based out of Westchester. He was the first one to take a chance on them.
Nick and Leo used to reach out to artists proactively; now, artists frequently reach out to them, after hearing about Upandovr through word of mouth. Philadelphia’s DIY scene has always been this way: tight-knit, permeable, collaborative. “We’re placing a bet on building relationships first and investing into the community,” says Nick. “And I think hopefully, in the future, we’ll find ways to maybe ask the community to help contribute back. But I think in a way, that’s more of like, telling people to come to events or something like that. That’s going to be our longer plan. But at the end of the day, right now, we’re still in relationship-building mode. And we never want to be people that prioritize a thousand views. We’d rather have five full relationships.” They have been supporting artists through Upandovr for over a year. For them, it is simply a way to give back to the community. Every connection, interview, or footage counts. There is no rush.
“We’re just two people, so we take our time,” says Leo.