‘Homegrown’ Philly underground nightlife scene takes off amid pandemic

Homegrown Network recently hosted a holiday party at Kung Fu Necktie.
Brianna Zepp

Philadelphia is home to an incredibly vibrant pool of independent artists, most of whom reside in the underground DIY-scene.

Almost two years ago when COVID-19 struck, it dealt a brutal blow to performers, artists and venues across the country. A number of independent creatives across Philly have turned lemons into lemonade, finding opportunity under the umbrella of the Homegrown Network.

“Before the pandemic, I came up with this idea of the ‘Homegrown’ brand and I didn’t have the ‘network’ on it,” explained 28-year-old Homegrown Network CEO, DJ and producer Hashland.

He explained that he had been hosting shows before the pandemic, but the 2020 shutdown wholly stunted the sense of community that nightlife provided. To fill the void, Hashland created a Discord channel to stay connected to people involved in the scene. “I had to find out how to build a space for everyone to connect,” he said.

“To me – Homegrown is a creative family,” said Valencia, a 26-year -old dancer and artist. She expressed that, after a falling out with her old producer, Hashland helped her out and in her words “that changed everything.”

The parties and events that Homegrown Network throws have elements of everything — some parties are straight up DJ-sets, then others are a hybrid of DJ-sets, artist performances and fashion shows. This combination of art and fashion reflects the diverse build of Homegrown

“We’re all completely different. It’s definitely underground. There’s definitely people that are more Kawaii and hip-hop vibes, and Brianna def has high fashion,” explains Valencia.

She’s referring to Cookiee Kawaii, a New Jersey-based musician whose unique style and brand of club music have certainly influenced the underground scene. When Valencia is referring to Brianna, she means model, fashion photographer and founder of 215Fashion Brianna Zepp, who’s the resident photographer and event planner for Homegrown.

Brianna Zepp

Zepp began nightlife photography back in April 2021 at the Where The Wild Things Are Rave in Fairmount Park, but now is shooting multiple events a week while curating fashion shows. Zepp can be found scurrying around during Hashland’s performances, functioning as a promoter and photographer whether it be at Kung–Fu Necktie or St. Lazarus Bar.

“In 2017 I met Hash as a DJ, but since reconnecting with him in April and May, I’ve just realized all these things that he does,” she explained.

Zepp, Valencia, and local DJ Outer Grace are all part of the Homegrown Network and all point to Hashland’s willingness to give people chances as a focal point for all of their growth. “He shares opportunities with other people and he makes sure that they get paid, they get promoted and they’re on flyers, and that was just something that I really support,” said Zepp.

“Even though Hash is the CEO of the Homegrown Network, we all have equal say,” expressed Outer Grace, a 23-year-old Temple student and DJ. “It’s really cool because in this type of work things are male dominated.”

Homegrown events often feature a diverse lineup of men, women and non-binary artists and DJs. “I get tired of seeing lineups of DJs and performers that are all men, there are all sorts of women DJs doing better stuff that deserve a spotlight!” Grace exclaimed.

From Zepp, who’s a single mother with an accounting fegree, to Valencia, a stripper and organizer for Stilettos Inc — a mutual aid group for strippers, to Outer Grace, a DJ focused on women, non-binary, and members of the LGBT community, there is true diversity baked into the foundation of Homegrown Network.

“I feel like the aesthetic of Homegrown is a ‘come as you are’ thing. We all have different aesthetics but it just works. We’re all completely different,” explained Valencia.

It’s truly an eclectic bunch when you attend a Homegrown event. At the Homegrown Holiday Event at Kung Fu Necktie, there were rappers and their crews, business casual professional types, ravers, and everything between. Anyone whose accepting is accepted.

Brianna Zepp

Hashland and his girlfriend Kat, who’s a DJ known as Electric Honey, are a power couple in the midst of this burgeoning collective of artists and creatives. In 2021, the Homegrown Network hosted two-to-four events on a weekly basis providing opportunities for rappers to perform; models to walk the runway; and party goers to enjoy something special.

On top of their collective efforts as Homegrown Network, Brianna Zepp hosts fashion shows; Outer Grace curates parties independently; and Valencia is an organizer for the annual Stripper Strike.

Both independently and as a collective, members of the vaguely labeled DIY-scene are flourishing in the Philadelphia underground.

“I just love bringing people together to be honest,” Hashland said. “I love taking one type of artist and combining it with another type of artist.”