Philadelphia Music Scene
Lauren Wells | April 28, 2014
Philadelphia’s rich musical history has played host to iconic musicians like Billie Holiday (an infamous jazz singer-songwriter), singer Frankie Avalon, and R&B soul group Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. 1950s Philadelphia was a playground for artists like rock and roll singer-songwriter Ernest Evans, singer Fabian Forte, and rock and roll singer Bobby Rydell. Grammy Award-winning R&B singer Patti LaBelle, known for her hits like “Lady Marmalade,” “On My Own,” “Stir it Up,” and “If Only You Knew,” also emerged from Philly in the 1950s. During the mid 1960s, Jim Croce honed his folk singing and songwriting with successful tracks like “Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues” and “Time in a Bottle.” Pop rock group Hall & Oates, known for “Rich Girl,” “Private Eyes,” and “Maneater,” kicked off Philly’s 1970s music scene with artists like disco soul group Sister Sledge, and rock singer-songwriter Joan Jett (known for “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and “Bad Reputation”). During the 1980s, the alternative hip hop band The Roots formed in the city, going on to headline festivals and eventually serve as Jimmy Fallon’s house band for his nighttime talk shows. R&B singing group Boyz II Men also got their start during the late 1980s, using Philly as a springboard for their musical success. Alternative rock band Bloodhound Gang, blues rock act G. Love and Special Sauce, and psychedelic rock band Dr. Dog all got their start during the 1990s as well before beginning successful careers. The millennium brought out bands like hip hop rap group Chiddy Bang and alternative hardcore band Circa Survive. With a diverse array of artists emerging from Philadelphia, it’s no wonder that Philadelphians take advantage of all the impressive venues the city has to offer.
The Boot & Saddle, run by R5 Productions, is located on Broad Street and offers a variety of live music for a 150-capacity crowd. A dual music venue and 60-seat restaurant, the Boot & Saddle features a full-service bar and a crisp sound system. On any given night, expect to experience the musical stylings of We Are Scientists, Juana Molina, Bobby Bare Jr., Kwesi K, New Madrid, Avers, Woods, Steve Gunn, You Do You, Connan Mockasin, and Say Hi Big Scary.
At World Cafe Live, acts like Los Amigos Invisibles, Dave Barnes, Todd Park Mohr (of Big Head Todd), Nir Felder, and Nina Persson of the Cardigans perform to Philadelphians. A great live music showcase, the three-tiered venue encourages intimate performances and offers a variety of live programming throughout the year.
The Theatre of the Living Arts, known as the TLA, is a former movie theatre turned music venue. Opened in 1908 in Philly’s Queen Village neighborhood, the TLA is well-known for its impressive acoustics. The 1,000-capacity music venue hosts acts like Boy George, Kid Ink, Chuck Ragan & the Camaraderie, the White Buffalo, Riff Raff, Tech N9ne, Silverstein, and Blessthefall.
The Trocadero Theatre opened in 1870 as a vaudeville and burlesque house. The 2,200-capacity venue was remodeled during the 1980s and has since become a concert-lover’s paradise. Future, Chiodos, Against Me!, Tony Molina, The Faint, One OK Rock, and La Roux are among the many acts that come through the Trocadero.
Built in 1989, Union Transfer has hosted acts like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Black Lips, Polica, M83, Diplo, Frank Ocean, The Tallest Man on Earth, Best Coast, and Cock Sparrer. Located in the Callowhill neighborhood, Union Transfer was originally a farmer’s market before undergoing renovations to make it a tire shop, trust company, spaghetti warehouse, and finally a successful concert venue.
The Electric Factory, originally opened in 1968, hosts acts like Christina Perri, Carl Cox, Elbow, Passenger, Within Temptation, Say Anything, and Bill Maher. Going strong for over 40 years, the venue is a converted warehouse turned live music haven. The 2,500-3,000-capacity venue offers ideal views of performers like Yellowcard, Underoath, The Fray, The Starting Line, The Disco Biscuits, and Lamb of God.
Philly’s Wells Fargo Center hosts popular names like Miley Cyrus, Fleetwood Mac, Queen, Adam Lambert, Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, Eric Church, and Lady Gaga, among many others. The 21,315-capacity arena hosts a variety of sporting events as well, as it is home to the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, the NCAA’s Villanova Wildcats, the AFL’s Philadelphia Soul, and the NLL’s Philadelphia Wings.
The Keswick Theatre, built in 1928, is a 1,300-capacity venue owned by AEG Live. An official historical landmark, the Keswick is located in Glenside, a suburb of Philly. Talent like David Bromberg Big Band, Jenny McCarthy, Zendaya, The Fab Faux, The Mavericks, Eels, and Jamie Cullum come through the Keswick, so keep an eye out for a unique night of entertainment.
Formed in 1992, the Tin Angel is an acoustic cafe housed on the second floor of Serrano, an international fare restaurant. The restaurant has been going strong since 1985 and with the addition of the Tin Angel, Philadelphians have a place to enjoy food and quality entertainment in one convenient location.
The 1,851-capacity Forrest Theatre opened in 1928 under the management of the Shubert Organization. Designed by Herbert J. Krapp, the Forrest Theatre offers a varied program that includes Broadway musicals, comedies, plays, dance recitals, and live concerts.
Associated with the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Merriam Theatre is a popular stop for Broadway shows. Located in the Avenue of the Arts cultural district, the Merriam Theatre is a 1,870-capacity venue that was opened in 1918. Another one of Herbert J. Krapp’s buildings, the Merriam has hosted icons like Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn, Sammy Davis Jr., Angela Lansbury, and Laurence Olivier.
Another Kimmel Center venue, Verizon Hall is home to the Philadelphia Orchestra as well as Peter Nero and the Philly Pops. The large performing arts venue is a 2,500-capacity space that opened in 2001 and has since hosted a variety of classical, jazz, and world pop artists. The associated Perelman Theater is a smaller 650-capacity venue with an adjustable stage that easily accommodates different types of performances. Also affiliated with the Kimmel Center, the Academy of Music was built in 1855 and is home to the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Opera Company of Philadelphia.
If you want to check out acts like Jack Johnson, R5, Lana Del Rey, Queens of the Stone Age, New Edition, Josh Groban, Diana Ross, and Phish, the Mann Center for the Performing Arts has you covered. The 14,000-capacity venue is owned by the City of Philadelphia, and was opened in 1935. The nonprofit performing arts center has hosted Tony Bennett, Mary J. Blige, Roger Daltrey, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Bon Ivor, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among many other icons.
Underground Arts, a 12,000-square-foot concert venue, hosts comedy shows, poetry readings, dance recitals, concerts, art installations, and film screenings. An outlet for emerging experimental artists, Underground Arts is located in Philadelphia’s Loft District.
The Prince Music Theater was founded in 1984 and features a 446-capacity Mainstage and a 160-capacity Black Box area. Hosting opera performances, musical theatre, and other types of experimental performances, the Prince has booked acts like Justin Nozuka, Rickie Lee Jones, Bridget Everett, Cloud Cult, and the English Beat.
The Liacouras Center at Temple University is a 10,206-capacity venue that is home to Temple’s basketball and volleyball teams. In addition to hosting sporting events, the venue also provides a convenient location for music lovers to enjoy a show. Acts like 50 Cent, Bassnectar, Kelly Clarkson, Fat Joe, Bob Dylan, Kid Cudi, John Mayer, Green Day, Alicia Keys, Maroon 5, Muse, and Natalie Merchant have all performed at the Liacouras Center over the years.
Home to the MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies, Citizens Bank Park has hosted Jimmy Buffett, The Eagles, the Dixie Chicks, Keith Urban, Billy Joel, Elton John, Roger Waters, The Police, Pink Floyd, Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, and Bruce Springsteen. A classic ballpark in every sense, Citizens Bank Park has a variety of food vendors and Phillies’ accolades adorning the venue.
Lincoln Financial Field opened in 2003 and has since become known as “The Linc” among the Philadelphia community. The 68,532-capacity venue is owned by the City of Philadelphia and hosts acts like Luke Bryan and One Direction.
Walnut Street Theatre has hosted big names like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, so keep an eye out for your favorite musicians coming through the arena. The venue primarily hosts sporting events, as it is home to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and the AAC’s Temple Owls.
The 40th Street Summer Series is a family-friendly summer concert series that hosts fire artists, face painters, balloon artists, and musicians like trumpet-composer Steven Bernstein, a 12-piece ukulele orchestra, and Spaceship Aloha. Another summer concert series, the 104.5 Summer Block Party hosts acts like Metric, Royal Teeth, and the Cold War Kids. The best part? The concerts are free and allow you to explore the Piazza at Schmidts while you take in the sights and sounds of Philly. The multi-day Wawa Welcome America festival is held around the 4th of July each year in an effort to celebrate America’s birthday in America’s birthplace. With plenty of free events, impressive fireworks, and music from artists like the Roots, Welcome America has been a Philly mainstay since 1993. The Made In America Music Festival is sponsored by Anheuser-Busch and was founded by Jay-Z and Steve Stoute in 2012. Held every Labor Day weekend, the festival features hip hop, rock, pop, R&B, and EDM music. The festival takes place at Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where acts like Pearl Jam, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Phoenix, Imagine Dragons, Calvin Harris, Nine Inch Nails, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa, Solange, Skrillex, passion Pit, Gary Clark Jr., Janelle Monae, Drake, and Santigold take the stage. The XPoNential Music Festival is a three-day summer music festival featuring musicians like Jenny Lewis, Dawes, Beck, Band of Horses, the Districts, and Ryan Adams. Hosted by the Susquehanna Bank Center, the festival is held every July. Going strong for over fifty years, the Philadelphia Folk Festival features musicians like Caravan of Thieves, Luella & the Sun, Star & Micey, and Richard Thompson Electric Trio. Held in August, the festival takes place at Old Pool Farm and offers tent and vehicle camping options for the two-day event. The Liberty Music Festival, hosted on a 164-acre plot of land, has had lineups that included Royal Benson, Duck Duck Goose, 44 Mag, Double Deuce, Clouds, Pitch Blak Brass Band, Eugene Beauty, and Treehouse. Presented by JibberJazz Productions, Some Kind of Jam, Meeting of the Minds, and Madsummer Meltdown all take place on a 60-acre fairground in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania. Some Kind of Jam is a weekend-long camping and music festival that brings in food and arts vendors, kid-friendly activities, fire and light shows, yoga workshops, parades, and three stages of solo performers and bands from all types of genres (primarily jam, folk, funk, bluegrass, Blues, Rock & Roll, and Americana are represented). Held in June, Madsummer Meltdown offers a similar set of programming, complete with nature trails, trout fishing waters, camping options, and food drives for those of you feeling philanthropic. JibberJazz produces these festivals in an effort to expose national and regional acts by strategically planning a diverse genre-bending lineup each year. Held in Scranton, the Peach Music Festival features a lineup that includes artists like The Allman brothers Band, Trey Anastasio Band Gov’t Mule, Bob Weir & Rat Dog, and Tedeschi Trucks Band.