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The Make the World Better Benefit Concert featuring Alex G & Alvvays is on Sunday, August 26, at 7 pm at Dell Music Center. Tickets are $45 for the show and $50 for the pre-show tailgate event.

Learn more about Make the World Better Foundation here!


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Alex G - Immunity (Official Video)

The Citizen Recommends: Alex G Concert to Benefit Make the World Better

Former Eagle Connor Barwin’s annual fundraiser to rebuild city parks features the Philly-born singer songwriter, a tailgate party with special guests and a chance to rock out for good

The Citizen Recommends: Alex G Concert to Benefit Make the World Better

Former Eagle Connor Barwin’s annual fundraiser to rebuild city parks features the Philly-born singer songwriter, a tailgate party with special guests and a chance to rock out for good

When Connor Barwin was a defensive lineman for The Eagles in the mid-2010s, he used to ride his bike to practice, past the much-loved but much-neglected Ralph Brooks Park in South Philadelphia. Eventually — as is the wont of our city’s most civic-minded former Eagle — Barwin started to wonder how he might be able to help Ralph Brooks be the best park it could be for its neighbors.

And so was born Make the World Better, Barwin’s now 8-year-old foundation that has renovated three city parks, in partnership with neighbors, and is finishing up its fourth — and biggest — rehab, Gray’s Ferry’s Vare Recreation Center. Barwin and the team at MTWB — now run by former first son Jesse Rendell — have spent the last year demolishing and building a new rec center for Vare, at 2600 Morris Street. The $20 million project, mostly funded through the City’s Rebuild program, should be completed in the fall.

“You can see what the future looks like at Vare, which is exciting for everyone involved, especially the people in the neighborhood,” Barwin says. Meanwhile, MTWB is in the process of picking its next park project in Philly, by talking to community leaders, the City and other stakeholders.“For us, it’s always about finding the project where we think we can have the biggest impact.”

On August 26, MTWB will host its annual benefit concert at the Dell Music Center, with Philly (and Barwin) fave Alex G, the stage name for Alex Giannascoli, a singer-songwriter known for his lo-fi pop. (This is how Pitchfork — which gave three of Giannascoli’s albums their highest accolade, Best New Album — describes Alex G: “His songwriting is detailed but stubbornly opaque, swathed in a fuzz as thick and soft as dryer lint. This unassuming style…bleeds together DIY rock and homemade folk with snatches of country, industrial, or electronic.”)

Alex G will take the stage after the night’s opener, Toronto’s Alvvays (also a Pitchfork fave), with whom he is co-headlining eight shows this summer. A pre-show tailgate party — where you’re likely to rub elbows with current and former Eagles — will include food from Federal Donuts & Goldie, cocktails by Stateside Vodka and beer by Human Robot Brewery, and a live Carl Landry Record Club Podcast, hosted by Spike Eskin and Mutlu. (Buy tickets for the show here and tailgate here before they sell out.)

Funds raised at last year’s concert went to complete the work at Vare, which MTWB first started in 2019, two years after the center briefly closed because of structural issues. Despite being held together with chains and beams, it remained a center of neighborhood life: There’s a public pool (outside the scope of MTWB’s work); a vibrant gymnastics program; a football team; soccer team; out-of-school and adult programs. Honoring that, MTWB included a research and archiving project to preserve and share the history of Vare as part of its planning process.

At $20 million, Vare was a vastly larger project than any MTWB had taken on before. The first project was a $750,000 renovation of Brooks’ basketball court and neighboring lots, with a community garden and mural. After Brooks, MTWB renovated Waterloo Playground in West Kensington; and the eight-acre Smith Playground at 24th and Snyder, with a revamped rec center and playing fields, for about $2 million.

The process, though, was the same as it was when Barwin first began this work. Before any plans are drawn, Barwin and the MTWB team meet regularly with community members, to understand how the rec center is used, who uses it, and how it could be improved to better serve the neighborhood. That means, often, Barwin folding his giant frame into rickety old chairs at community meetings, crouching down to play with children, hosting brainstorming sessions, cookouts, knocking on doors.

Since he began MTWB, Barwin has retired from football, had two children, begun a job as Director of Player Development with the Eagles, earned an MBA, and partnered with his Wharton classmates to buy an Italian basketball team. He is still a proud citizen of his adopted city, and he still takes time to engage with the communities whose parks he is helping to shape. “I still know the people at Vare, like I knew people at Waterloo and Smith,” he says. “And we at MTWB are never really done. We build relationships with neighborhoods and communities and the people there, and we’re always part of that.”

Barwin, left, with Alex G, center, and former defensive end Bryan Braman, right.

These days, Rendell oversees the day-to-day operation of MTWB with what Barwin describes as an “honest and authentic” approach to managing the staff and communicating with the community. Like Barwin, who spent his Michigan childhood in parks and on fields, Rendell has said that he, too, was shaped by the countless hours he spent at his local recreation center, McDevitt, in East Falls. The two also share a love of music — Rendell even spent a few years playing bass in a local punk rock band.

Barwin, long a Philly indie rock fan, says he met Alex G at the musician’s first Union Transfer show in 2014, and has been wanting to get him for the benefit concert for years. “I’m super excited for him,” he says. Besides Japanese Breakfast, who got their start here, past MTWB concerts have featured locals-turned-national sensation War On Drugs. Philly-turned-Los Angeles band Mt. Joy, is donating proceeds of a show on August 12 to MTWB, and another local band, has reached out to do the same — connecting two of Barwin’s favorite things in Philly.

“We’re in the middle of sports and music, which in Philly are the best in the country,” he says.

Sunday, August 26, 7pm, $45 for show and $50 for pre-show tailgate, Dell Music Center, 2400 Strawberry Mansion Drive.


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