Arts / Business / Events / Startups

Amplify Philly is heading down to SXSW for its first activation since the pandemic’s start

The Amplify Philly House, which drew more than 3,500 people in 2019, is setting up shop again in Austin's downtown. "I'm excited to be back and able to activate," co-organizer Dave Silver said.

Amplify Philly at SXSW in 2019. (Courtesy photo)
In March 2020, one major sign that the incoming COVID-19 virus was going to change everyday life came in the form of South by Southwest’s cancelation.

The news rocked Amplify Philly, a group led by Michelle Freeman of Witty Gritty and Dave Silver of REC Philly that organizes Philly’s presence at the Austin festival. Though it started in 2016, the org really found its footing in 2019, when more than 3,500 people came through the Amplify Philly House, a three-day event series at Pour Choices on Austin’s Sixth Street. It’s also the year the org became its own nonprofit.

“I continue to realize that the best way for Philadelphians to build authentic relationships with each other is to send them halfway across the country and put them in a house that celebrates our great city,” Silver said at the time. The other goal? Show non-Philly residents attending SXSW how great Philly is.

When the pandemic shut down the weeklong tech, arts and music fest in 2020, Amplify and thousands of others would-be attendees and organizers had to pivot. Amplify hosted virtual programing in 2020 and the overall festival did, too, in 2021.

Last year, Silver and Freeman did attend SXSW in person, but didn’t host official Amplify events. They were there to scope out how the festival worked, now that it was past the most intense parts of the pandemic, they told In 2022, the organization also took over the B.PHL innovation festival, bringing the Amplify mission of celebrating Philadelphia’s talents and industries to those who already live here.

With this additional programming in hand, they head into 2023 with a better idea of the org’s strengths.

“This is an interesting year for us. We’re all sitting in what feels like a more solidified organization,” Freeman said. “We created this in 2019, and the pandemic threw us off. And now we feel like were making a lot of traction with B.PHL arrangement. … It finally feels like we can really look and see what opportunities are out there.”

The org’s 2023 SXSW plans include setting up the Amplify Philly House at 213 W. Fourth St. over the course of two days and two nights, March 12 and 13, to host all of its official festival programming. You can expect daytime programming to include breakfast meetups, both local and nationally recognized speakers, and exhibiting businesses at the house. Night time programming includes a happy hour for alumni of Philly colleges, and one for anyone with connections to Philly. There will also be Philly-themed music showcases.

Amplify will also have a presence at SXSW’s Creative Industries Expo, where much of the startup-focused programming for the festival will be.

Amplify is hosting a send-off gathering at Indy Hall on Feb. 23 for anyone interested in learning the specifics of attending SXSW or the programming offered by Amplify during the festival. Anyone who might be attending, speaking, sponsoring, partnering, performing or tabling as an exhibitor is encouraged to attend.

“I’m excited to be back and being able to activate,” Silver said. “It’s the same Amplify energy that we’ve been able to elevate in years past. I’m looking forward to bringing everyone back together in the same room.”

Companies: Witty Gritty / REC Philly
People: Dave Silver / Michelle Freeman
Projects: Amplify Philly

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