This is has been a terrible last seven days as far as beloved Philadelphia music icons go. Along with the passing of jazz lion, North Philly-born pianist and Coltrane collaborator McCoy Tyner, we’re only now just finding out how sick South Philadelphia jazz guitarist Pat Martino is, and how much he needs our help.
Yet, in terms of people closer in chronological age and impact to the lives of rock out and rap up Philadelphia, the passing of Bryan Dilworth is devastating. Quite frankly, though he died on Sunday and the community caught wind of his death on Monday morning, I haven’t been able to write this until tonight and not because he – Philly’s longtime booking magnate, promoter and influencer – and I were best buds who kept in touch daily.
We bumped each other and it was always a delight. He was a fun phone chat and a bit of a cautious gossip when opportunities arose. He was once a neighbor of mine whose South Philly house I nearly bought before he moved his wife, Kristin Thomson and son Riley to the burbs. I found dozens and dozens of emails between he and I discussing everything from bands to food.
Mostly, what Philly lost when it lost Bryan Dilworth was a tireless champion for independent rock and hip hop in its travels through the mainstream booking world.
In his 30 plus years in the biz, Dilworth booked for everyone and everything – including his own Bonfire concert company – such as the Khyber, Electric Factory Concerts, Live Nation Philadelphia, Larry Magid Presents and, most presently, for Philly’s office of the international powerhouse, AEG Presents. Just last week, AEG underwent a seismic shift when Live Nation replaced AEG/Bowery Presents and took over The Mann for year-round bookings. I had Dilworth on my list to email for March 10 in which to discuss Philly’s live music landscape. I can’t tell you how many times we had these chats. You can Google them. Look his and my name up. Even places that didn’t happen or opportunities that didn’t pan out (and they shall remain nameless), Dilworth was there and ready to go, ready to mix it up.
Dilworth booked every room in town, and knew every band. He was generous with his opinions and time. Larry Magid always treated him, in my eyes, like a son, like the future of Philly live music. Which he was.
One story that Bryan never wanted me to tell that I will now reveal is that when Connie’s Ric Rac in the Italian Market was just getting started with live bands, they had nothing by way of lighting or sound equipment. Dilworth had nothing to do with booking the punk rock 9th Street room, but, for some reason, it became a point of conversation between he and I as Connie’s was our neighbor. Not long after these chats, Connie’s got a boatload of light, sound and staging equipment. Dilworth got it all for them – and he insisted to me, please, that it all be off-the-record. He just wanted to see Connie’s Ric Rac succeed – become a development room for up and coming bands, and yet another place in this city for bands and audiences to meet.
Sorry, Bryan. I’m diming you out and sharing your good deed. And this is hardly the only one. I can’t tell you how many times a band I was writing about told me they got a place to stay from Dilworth or how many times he pressed a CD or tape into my hand from a local he thought I should hear. When rooms that weren’t his opened, Dilworth rarely groused, but, saw it all as an expansion of the marketplace for artists and audiences. Plus, he loved to listen. He had great ears.