The best way to exemplify “the beat people” in real life, real time, is to first start from the beginning. It all started with the birth of a city called Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Why is Philadelphia, a city so close to our area of South Jersey, and sometimes so taken for granted, one of the most famous and well-known cities in the world? It is a city that most likely people from cities in other countries we have never even heard of are familiar with.
Philadelphia is known for many past achievements and events…the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross house, Independence Hall, etc. but every source never fails to list “music” as one of the top distinctive qualities of Philadelphia. But to understand the musicians that have grown in the Philadelphia music scene, we must first understand the music scene itself. When did it begin? Who were some of the first musicians to gain success there? How has the simplicity of music become more complex over all these years to make the status of being a successful artist change over time? Who can the world-wide, platinum artists who started performing in Philadelphia thank for it all?
In this timeline of Philadelphia’s musical history, musicians and music venues, hopefully, you will have a better understanding….
First of all, you can thank William Penn, the man who founded Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1682. As big as the city is now, according to the historical information on Philadelphia sited on the US History webpage, back when it was founded it only encompassed of what we know today as being between South and Vine Streets, the Delaware River and the Schuylkill River. Immediately though, it grew physically and prestigiously. It was the largest U.S. city for almost 200 years until 1830 when New York City and Los Angeles started to be discovered, and it gained status as a colonial city that was even the capital of the United States for a temporary period of time that followed the American Revolution.
The Curtis Institute of Music is another musical institution that received a lot of appreciation for the Philadelphia music. It was created in 1924 by a woman named Mary Louise Curtis Bok. Still standing strong as a conservatory of music that is located on Locust Street, it is famous for being an institution that focuses on Opera music and orchestration.
But it is 2011, not 1800 anymore. What venues matter now? There are numerous musical venues in Philadelphia that have hosted the stage for artists who have grown to be known worldwide. They are so special to us though because they are venues that give all musicians to be heard from the moment they start out their musical career. Without these venues, hundreds of our favorite artists may not have received the opportunity to be heard.
In the timeline of chronological Philadelphia music and musicians, the first “current” musical venue in Philadelphia to be created was The Manhattan Room, also known as The M-Room. It was created in 1971 as a diner in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia. Still in the same location with same original owners, the diner was transformed in 2004 into a bar, restaurant and most importantly, a venue to stage live music and live DJ’s. It was the first musical site to be created in the Fishtown section.
As a musician, I personally have performed at The Manhattan Room, and I am always surprised to find that others who perform along with me are artists of all musical genres who travel from all over the country just for the purpose of performing in a Philadelphia venue.
Jesse Riddle, a musician who performs around Philadelphia, says the Manhattan Room is one of his favorite places to play a show at.
“The M-Room is a little bit rough around the edges, in a good way,” Riddle said. “It’s got a stage that fits perfectly into the place. It’s in a neighborhood with a bad reputation, that obviously makes it the more fun. It should have changed from a diner to a music venue a long time ago.”
(Below is a video of me performing Lady Gaga’s “You and I” at The Manhattan Room in September) This video shows how much of a change this venue must have gone through to go from just a diner to a music venue with such a large stage and large standing room.
Next came one of Philadelphia’s most famous music scenes, North Star Bar. Established in 1982, it is one of the most favored to watch live shows and likewise perform live shows. Originally created about 30 years ago to host the stage for mostly folk musicians, it has been involuntarily innovated to host the stage for mostly rock scenes.
This bar is a great music scene for both new musicians and nationally known musicians. I personally have a great respect for North Star Bar because although it has had huge artists perform there such as Fallout Boy, Say Anything, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and many others, it just as equally welcomes performers who are just starting out in the music business.
(For example and again to prove my point of personal experience, below is a video of little old me and just my acoustic guitar and cowgirl boots performing an original song “Blind Side” on the same stage as some much bigger musicians…)
In 1988, The Grape Street was a music pub on 4100 Main Street and it was popular for its intimate stage performances ever done in the past 20 years in Philadelphia. However, it was reintroduced to the world in 2010 as The Grape Room, for the purpose of making it up to date with the modern day of contemporary music that keeps changing and changing. Located in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia’s, it hosts the stage for local and national musicians six to seven nights a week. And like the others, it is still one of the most popular bars that is nationally known for being a Philadelphia music venue. Jason Caucci, 26, a prominent guitar-player in the Philadelphia area, has performed at the formerly know Grape Street on various occasions over the past seven years. He says that even though it has been renovated into what is now The Grape Room, it still has the same intimate feel it did as it did before.
“There’s nothing wrong with some modernization,” Caucci said. “A stage is a stage. If the stage is modernized, then hey, maybe the person on it can be without even trying.”
In a review done on yelp.com, The Grape Room was referred to as “THE rock/music club in the heart of Manayunk…that provides a place for musicians and their fans to come together and have an evening of excellent music, great beer, stage diving and moshing….well maybe not the later two items but who knows!?”
In 1994, six years after The Grape Street Pub came MilkBoy. First located in Northern Philadelphia as a music studio and store, it moved in 2005 to Ardmore, Pennsylvania where it became “MilkBoy Coffee,” but still a popular music venue. In 2010, the owners of MilkBoy Coffee took the offer to move to the corner of 11th and Chestnut “bring some life to that part of Philly.” And they did by opening MilkBoy Philly, the current music venue that exists today.
The Fire, located on West Girard Avenue in Philadelphia was created in 2001 and is referred to as an “independent music venue.” The Fire has received a lot of respect and a good reputation in the decade it has been around because not only does it host the stage for professional musicians, but it likewise hosts open mic nights for those artists just starting out. It is known for treating all musicians as professionals, regardless of their status.
According to the bar and grille’s myspace page, dozens of impressive artists and bands have performed at The Fire such as Damien Rice, Jason Mraz, Maroon 5 and many more.
Likewise in the chronological timeline of Philadelphia music history, many musicians are listed who started in Philadelphia and grew to be international musical icons. For example, Chubby Checker, who is famous for “The Twist” that was created in 1959.
http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x4xy0n<br /><a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4xy0n_chubby-checker-the-twist_music” target=”_blank”>Chubby Checker The Twist</a> <i>by <a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/beatnickbandit” target=”_blank”>beatnickbandit</a></i>
Likewise, the Grammy winning Chestnut Brass Company who began in 1977 playing as a Philadelphia street band of brass instruments, have earned international recognition for their music.
Sun Ra who is famous for being a jazz innovator of the Arkestra likewise began in the streets of Philadelphia.
Take note also in my chronological timeline of Philadelphia music of the currently growing Philadelphia musicians who have just begun their musical journey in this area, such as Outside the Box, Zilla Rocca, The Parlor Mob and the many others. They continue to surprise music-lovers everywhere with their original styles, unique genres and out-of-the-ordinary performances…what “the beat people” is all about.