Philadelphia is a great city to live in if you’re a music fan. The Philly music scene is home to many great bands and plenty of music venues. From small, intimate clubs and bars to large-scale arenas and amphitheaters, Philly is a perfect fit for any musical act that comes through. It’s hard for me to narrow down a definitive list of the “best” concert venues since they vary so greatly that some are hardly comparable, but these are my personal favorites.
10. First Unitarian Church — The First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, or “The Church,” is definitely one of Philly’s more interesting concert venues. Located in the basement of an actual functioning church on Chestnut Street, The Church is home to a lot of punk and indie bands that come through. The venue is run by R5 Productions, who also coordinates events at PhilaMOCA and the larger Union Transfer. The Church may not fit tons of people, but it has character and the sound there is always fantastic.
9. Trocadero Theatre — Located right around Chinatown in Center City, Philadelphia, the historic Trocadero Theatre is a great venue to see any kind of show. They host concerts, comedy shows, vaudeville, opera, burlesque shows and more. The sound quality is great and the building itself is large enough to accommodate many fans with its seated area, standing room and balcony.
8. PhilaMOCA — The Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art, or PhilaMOCA for short, is a neat little showroom in Center City, on 12th and Spring Garden streets. Many indie singers make their way through the small venue, as the intimate nature of the room provides the perfect setting for solo acts or small bands.
7. Electric Factory — The Electric Factory is a staple of Philly music culture; if you’re a big music fan, I’m sure you’ll make your way there sooner or later. The building is quite literally a converted electric factory opened for a hot second from 1968 to 1973 and then reincarnated in 1994. It’s a large warehouse with a balcony that fits around 2,500-3,000 people. I’ve seen some of my favorite concerts there but I’ve also seen some of the most disappointing; I think the venue lends itself well to bands who can pack the room with energetic fans. Some bands, however, should consider playing at a more intimate venue.
6. Johnny Brenda’s — Johnny Brenda’s is a nice little, hipster bar located in the hugely gentrified Fishtown. They have craft beers, good food and of course, live music. Many indie rock groups make stops at this venue because of its great sound, food and atmosphere.
5. World Cafe Live — Being a Drexel student, it’s hard not to love World Cafe Live for geographical reasons alone. It’s located on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus, just a short walk from our own. They have two stages, one upstairs and a larger one downstairs. They also have the unbeatable Free At Noon concert series, where they host a band every Friday at noon — and admission is free! I managed to catch a few awesome free shows last year, including Django Django and Ra Ra Riot. They also have free open mic nights at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of each month. Many cool bands make stops there; it’s definitely worth your time to check it out.
4. Mann Center for the Performing Arts — The Mann is a lovely outdoor amphitheater located in Fairmount Park. Along with serving as the summer home for the Philadelphia Orchestra, they also host large-scale concerts all summer long, featuring some of the bigger names in music. It’s similar in structure to Camden’s BB&T Pavilion (formerly the Susquehanna Bank Center), so if you like those outdoorsy vibes, you’ll definitely like the Mann.
3. The Fillmore Philadelphia — Philly’s newest large-scale concert venue, the Fillmore Philadelphia — modeled after the original Fillmore Auditorium — is a true delight for any type of concert. Since it opened, I have already managed to see many different shows there, and I loved each one. Security there is tight, so if you’re looking for a rowdy crowd full of crowd-surfing and other debauchery, you may want to look elsewhere. What the Fillmore does have is class. From the big, red curtains to the grand chandeliers, there’s no question that lots of money went into making this venue look as regal as the original Fillmore. The sound there is surprisingly amazing (I say “surprisingly” because it’s hard to make a room as large as the Fillmore sound great without also being very loud).
2. Union Transfer — Formerly known as the Spaghetti Factory, Union Transfer is one of Philly’s most popular clubs. It’s located on Spring Garden Street in Center City, and its concert calendar is always full of big names in the alternative and indie rock scenes. There are also a lot of more hardcore and punk bands that come through, as well as more stripped down singer-songwriters. The room has a movable stage to accommodate different sized crowds, which is nice because no matter the show, the room always looks full. It’s probably my most frequently attended venue, and I don’t think I’ll be getting sick of it anytime soon.
1. Tower Theater — Every time I see a concert at the Tower, I have to stop and admire how great of a venue it is. The theater is aesthetically beautiful, both inside and out, and the sound quality is perfection. It’s got a wonderful balcony, seating and standing room. It’s located in Upper Darby, right near the 69th Street Transportation Center. It’s definitely worth the subway ride if you are ever considering making your way out there.