“Welcome to Philthy” by Izzy Cihak
Any New York rockers who have made it down to the City of Brotherly Love in the past couple years may have noticed a scene resembling a cross between Penelope Spheeris’ Suburbia and The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. Guys and girls clad in tattoos, skintight denim, and leather jackets chant the work of Johnny Thunders as if it were The Stones. If you haven’t had the chance to witness this beautiful oddity yet and you want to see if for yourself, here’s a quick summary of who you should listen for, where you should be headed, and what you’ve recently missed. Welcome to Philthy.
The Bands You Need to Know
Although they can regularly be found rocking Philadelphia’s grimiest venues, Haley’s sound is fit to fill arenas. Former Trashlight Vision guitarist Steve Haley has put together a new band and they’re turning out anthemic rock tracks that are as brassy as they are addictive. Their sound, which blends the progressive with the accessible, would have them equally suited for opening gigs for Specimen or Sabbath.
Percocettes are unquestionably the sassiest band in the City of Sisterly Affection. Their sound brings together garage, rockabilly, and punk and coats it with a thick layer of power pop bubblegum, making their tunes both suitable for kicking and shaking asses. After one listen and a glimpse of frontwoman Cole Della Zucca from Joan Jett and the band is sure to have a three-record deal with Blackheart Records.
Tearing through infectious trash punk in black denim and several hundred thousand dollars of ink, Sorry and the Sinatras embody the phrase “badass” quite unlike any other Philly band. During downtime from his dayjob as bassist for the Wildhearts, Scott Sorry recruited Trashlight Vision’s former rhythm section (Roger Segal and Lenny Thomas) and started Philly’s purest punk band; they have the catchiness of the Dolls, the attitude of 1977, and the riffs to be the biggest band in Sweden.
The Places You Should Be
951 Frankford Avenue
This former poser punk hangout has recently been transformed to a space for the coolest indie shows and every kind of dance party on the planet.
1356 N Front Street
The El Bar is likely one of the only venues in the country that allows bands to actually play a hole in a wall. The venue regularly attracts the glam, rockabilly, and every kind-of-punk crowds for intimate performances of the kind of wonderfully decadent music that you could never find in Center City. Also, every night includes at least one sing-along of “Chinese Rocks” so don’t be shy.
1132 South 9th Street
Somehow, a South Philly electronics store has been transformed into something resembling a post-Apocalyptic coffee house that plays home to the East Coast’s grimiest punks and sleaziest rockers. The all-ages environment has managed to attract an array of generations, giving the venue the feel of an indoor block party… if The Bully’s regularly frequented your block.
5013 Baltimore Avenue
Danger Danger Gallery is Philadelphia’s last great house venue. On the cusp of civilization in West Philadelphia, the space serves, at times as the living area for local hipsters, at times as an art gallery, and at times a place for the sweatiest, punkest shows in the city.
The First Unitarian Church
2125 Chestnut Street
There’s still something badass about sweaty nights in church basements, which is why “The Church” (as it is affectionately known by locals) will likely remain the city’s most “indie” venue for several more decades to come.
1201 Frankford Avenue
Despite the fact that Johnny Brenda’s is a haven for every kind of hipsterism, it also proves to be the city’s most relevant venue, hosting the bands that 30 years from now will have music snobs wondering “How were they not the biggest band in the world?” (see: The Brunettes, The Long Blondes, Sons & Daughters).
56 South Second Street
Although it’s now surrounded by establishments that attract the kind of people who wear cargo shorts, this classic Olde City dive remains unchanged. The beer is always cheap and the venue somehow manages to pull some of the nation’s biggest touring acts into the barely-200-capacity bar.
1250 North Front Street
Watch Sonny Chiba films while checking out the world’s hippest bands or swing by for weekend dance parties comprised of all of the city’s art school grads.
15 W Girard Avenue
NYC’s favorite platinum, Miss Guy, used to be a regular here, spinning the world’s greatest music, from Kiss to the Gossip. When not being used for leather-and-ink-clad dance parties, the M Room is hosting bands with too much Rock’N’Roll for the city’s hipster hangouts.
2639 Poplar Street
After checking out Picasso’s or just running the Rocky steps at the Art Museum, take a short trip to North Star for Philly’s best happy hour and one of the city’s coolest venues. The venue has housed the bombastic stage shows of Monster Magnet, the street sleaze of Slunt, and even the world’s greatest Thanksgiving party hosted by The Sounds and Shiny Toy Guns.
The Shows You Wish You Would’ve Been at in 2009
Scott Weiland @ The TLA (1/23)
Although this past year has found Scott Weiland more interested in The Smiths and delta blues than the glamorous excesses he used to partake in, he has maintained his glorious swagger and proven to be more than competent at sounds that would likely disgust anyone hoping for an earful of arena rock.
Semi Precious Weapons @ The Khyber (2/02)
“There’s nothing hotter than a borderline tranny puking… that’s what I’ve always said” spat platinum diva Justin Tranter after working himself up into a lather inbetween numbers like “Kunt” and “Magnetic Baby.” The band’s crass brand of glam turned the Old City dive into a glittering paradise of decadence and Tranter proved that he may just be the reigning queen of NYC Rock’N’Roll.
The Pretenders @ The Electric Factory (2/06)
S&M, genderfucking, and skintight vinyl are back in The Pretenders’ repertoir. For their last Philly appearance, Chrissie and her boys gave the City of Brotherly love a set of grainy Southern ballads and brash, mod-abilly dance numbers, making the chanteuse just about as “punk” as is possible at 57.
Von Bondies @ The Khyber (2/18)
The Khyber had the Von Bondies right back to where they belong: standing in front of a coincidentally poignant garage door, playing a sweaty dive with continuously malfunctioning equipment. Anthemic power pop like “Chancer” gave the band’s live show a newfound chantability and classics like “Nite Train” ensured that the group hadn’t lost their elegantly grimey past. The band’s greatest accomplishment, however, was closing the set with the performance of a network television theme song that had all of the raw adrenaline of “No Fun.”
Sex Slaves @ Connie’s Ric-Rac (3/07)
Fire Breathing and AC/DC covers rarely disappoint fans of any kind of rock. For the longest set of their career NYC’s Sex Slaves pulled out all the stops from rarities and unreleased tracks to their own rendition of The Beatles’ “Help” to close out the night. John Lennon probably never intended for his music to be the soundtrack to scantily-clad, makeshift go-go dancers groping each other, but I have the feeling he would’ve been quite proud to know that it was.
Butch Walker @ The TLA (3/15)
Despite abandoning the world of sleazy power pop for a singer/songwriter aesthetic, Butch’s gigs are just as brash as ever. Whether he’s making his way into the audience to incite a riotous sing-along or covering Lita Ford tunes, Butch is still a long way from abandoning the antics that should accompany every Rock’N’Roll gig.
Morrissey @ The Academy of Music (3/22)
Dozens upon dozens of fabulous bois and girls (okay, maybe not so many of the latter) rushed the stage of the country’s oldest functioning opera house in hopes of getting a handful of the least likely spawn of Johnny Thunders without slipping in the charisma oozed upon the stage. Tears were shed, clothes discarded, and bodies flew through the air. Being raised on Pasolini and “Personality Crisis” clearly came full-circle for this charming man.
Primal Scream @ The Trocadero (3/26)
Sleaze has always sounded so much more elegant with an accent. These glamorous Scottish blokes kicked through a set of songs about killing hippies, “Swastika Eyes,” and “Get[ting] Your Rocks Off” with a sleek sass this side of the pond is yet to pull-off.
Living Things @ Johnny Brenda’s (4/30)
St. Louis’ Living Things have managed to turn protest songs into chic garage disco anthems and on this night, under a mirror ball, the band let their politics riotously hail onto an unsuspecting audience, all while looking as decadently chic as runway models fresh from a bathroom trip.
New York Dolls @ The Trocadero (6/18)
36 years after their debut album and still, no one can blend uptown class with downtown trash quite like the New York Dolls. Although their latest release is far more polished than anything their fans are used to, David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain continue to prove every night their brand of sass just improves with age.