Teddy Pendergrass. Patti LaBelle. Daryl Hall & John Oates. Boyz II Men. Philadelphia’s music tradition is a soulful one, rich with pride. From the original studio of iconic music program American Bandstand to music venues featured in blockbuster Hollywood films, venues in Philadelphia showcase the stars of tomorrow and pay tribute to the musicians that have helped build its legacy.
Making music history: Philadelphia’s venerable venues
Opened in 1870, the Trocadero is the only 19th-century Victorian theater still operating in the USA. With a neon red sign and finely aging architecture, the Trocadero has the look and feel of a living landmark (it’s listed on the US Register of Historic Places). Located in the heart of Philadelphia’s Chinatown, the Trocadero regularly features major musical acts. Meanwhile, indie songwriters like Gus Dapperton and up-and-coming hip-hop artists like Saba perform at the Trocadero Balcony, giving audiences the chance to see the stars of tomorrow. Because of the Trocadero’s age, the building feels like it is shaking during frenzied shows. If you’re looking for fun after a concert, Chinatown has many bars and restaurants that stay open late, like Bar-Ly.
See the original filming location of American Bandstand, a groundbreaking music television show that featured performances from ‘50s and ‘60s stars like Chuck Berry and Frankie Lymon. Studio B – one of the first spaces designed for television production in America – is at the Enterprise Center, a business incubator located right off of the 46th Street stop on the Market–Frankford Line. Here, you can check out memorabilia like promo posters, props and other items from the show’s run in Philadelphia from 1952 until its production moved to Los Angeles in 1964.
Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Known for its large productions, the Kimmel Center is one of few venues big enough to host musical legends and superstars like R&B icon Patti LaBelle. A major attraction on what Philadelphians know as the Avenue of the Arts, the Kimmel Center is an integral part of the music and arts scene. In addition to paid ticketed events, the Kimmel Center is popular for its free live music, dancing and entertainment like Sittin’ In, a monthly concert featuring acts like Washington, DC go-go legends Rare Essence. The Kimmel Center is also within walking distance of several Center City bars and restaurants like Abe Fisher.
Theater of Living Arts
Initially hosting independent movie screenings, the Theater of Living Arts has earned a reputation as one of Philadelphia’s most popular small venues. From hot new bands appearing on radio and streaming platforms to legacy acts with decades of music under their belts, the Theater of Living Arts has brought music lovers down Philly’s famous South Street for more than 20 years. For a true Philly night, stop in at Jim’s Steaks and Ishkabibble’s before the show and grab drinks at Fat Tuesday’s afterward.
Up-and-comers: Philly’s hottest new musical haunts
Franklin Music Hall
Previously known as ‘The Electric Factory,’ Franklin Music Hall naturally hosts high-energy concerts. A few blocks off of Seventh Street and near Spring Garden Street, Franklin Music Hall’s unusual layout allows patrons on the second floor to view part of its backstage area. Holding as many as 3000 music fans, the concert hall hosts top acts in rock, electronic and hip-hop, like rising Philly star Tierra Whack.
‘It was all a dream,’ reads a mural; these lyrics from hip-hop legend the Notorious B.I.G. set the scene for Union Transfer’s independent and niche musical acts. The building originally housed a farmers market when it opened in 1889; almost 150 years later, it’s a place for fresh, innovative sounds. It opened as comfortable, intimate venue in 2011. Its location on Spring Garden Street places it in close proximity to other music spaces like Franklin Music Hall and Silk City Diner and Lounge.
Only three years old, The Fillmore has quickly become one of Philadelphia’s go-to venues for great music. Hit makers in genres from hip-hop to country music frequently do shows at the 2500-capacity Fillmore or its smaller adjoining venue, The Foundry. The Fillmore’s location in Fishtown places it across the street from parlor games at SugarHouse Casino. It's a short walk from novel drinking spots like Barcade, which combines classic arcade games with a full service bar. With an appearance in the newest addition to the Rocky film franchise (Creed II), music lovers worldwide will have one more place to search for when they visit Philly.
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