The Key's Year-End Mania: Bryne Yancey's Top Five Shows in Non-Traditional Venues
photo by Rachel Del Sordo

Year-End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2014 awesome. In this installment, contributing writer Bryne Yancey shares five amazing shows from the Philly DIY underground.

Talk to just about any out-of-towner at a show in Philadelphia, and the topic of this city’s music scene, venue quality, and sheer frequency of things happening will likely arise. We’re pretty lucky here and it’s easy to take that for granted. Philly’s scene is so well-guided and expertly cultivated and curated, thanks in large part to the steady hands of promoters like R5 Productions, but also the tightly-knit DIY community who put on shows in kitchens, basements, lofts and art galleries all over town. Maybe it’s Philadelphia’s inherent blue-collared ingenuity seeping through the fuck-you-do-it-yourself punk sphere. Maybe it’s Pennsylvania’s draconian liquor laws that have inadvertently created a need for these all-age spaces. Maybe Philly is just more punk than other cities. Whatever the cause, it’s telling that many touring bands would prefer playing these unconventional spaces here over another bar, and the health of these spaces affords us fans a lot of cool opportunities to experience live music on a very intimate level. I saw a lot of DIY shows in 2014, but these were the five best ones I saw, in no particular order.

1. Antarctigo Vespucci / Hard Girls / Albondigas / Podacter – 11/14/14 at Golden Tea House

On the outside, Golden Tea House appears to be an average rowhome on an average street tucked away west of Drexel’s campus. But several nights a week, year-round, its kitchen plays host to shows stacked both with great local bands and national touring acts. Jeff Rosenstock had played GTH many times before, both as a solo act and as the leader of Bomb The Music Industry!, but this was Antarctigo Vespucci’s—also featuring Chris Farren of Fake Problems—first go-round on the kitchen floor. Their set was full of dancing, screaming, and uh, a lot of boxed wine. Hard Girls, meanwhile, released the best punk record of 2014 in A Thousand Surfaces and their set provided a sort of raucous stomp that I didn’t expect. At times it felt like the floor was a spirited stomp short of caving in.

2. California X / Hound / Low Charge – 03/15/14 at Glitoria

Glitoria, which sadly seems to be no more, was one of the more unique DIY spaces in Philly. Set inside a gigantic loft in Walnut Hill, one had to scale a tall spiral staircase to enter the room. Once in, it sort of felt like a cavernous garage that people happened to live in. Cars were parked just a few feet from where the bands played. Entrepreneurial punks were selling warm shots of well whiskey and canned beers for a dollar each. It was the best. Even better were some of the bands they hosted, including Amherst, MA’s California X, whose brand of melodic, heavy, denim-jacket-and-long-hair rock fit in perfectly with the hazy riffing of locals Hound and the frenetic hardcore of Low Charge.

3. Bad Doctors / Hot Guts / Psychic Teens – 08/22/14 at The Pharmacy

Unlike Golden Tea House or Glitoria, The Pharmacy is a legitimate business (as far as I know). But to call the Point Breeze coffee shop a traditional venue would be a stretch—shows there are BYOB (and usually there’s a keg), and the promoters often bring pizza for the attendees in lieu of the shop’s daytime fare. The space also encounters many of the problems DIY spaces deal with—neighbors annoyed by the noise or the punks loitering on their block, drinking on the sidewalk, et al. I’ve never been to a show there where the cops didn’t show up at some point. Still, it’s a fun place to see a band, and their loud-as-hell PA perfectly suited the goth post-punk talents of Bad Doctors, Hot Guts and Psychic Teens.

4. White Lung / Pop. 1280 – 06/24/14 at Golden Tea House

I’ll just go ahead and quote myself here, which isn’t a weird or uncomfortable thing to do at all:

“[White Lung’s] Deep Fantasy is an important feminist punk record that tackles sexuality, body dysmorphia, rape, and antiquated gender roles in a very compelling, direct way that is sorely needed in our scene. And in a live setting, these topics seem to carry even more weight. There’s something to be said about experiencing a ‘release’ at a show, with otherwise well-adjusted people freely and openly allowing their pent-up energy and aggression to wildly and enthusiastically exit their bodies. In that respect, White Lung are liberators and empowerers for this generation of marginalized, overly and reluctantly sexualized, dehumanized people in the punk scene.”

5. The Menzingers / The Holy Mess / Nona – 04/22/14 at Golden Tea House

GTH announced this show the day it was happening, serving as both a record release show for the Menzingers’ Rented World and a long-overdue introduction of the band to the venue. Kids showed up (and were shooed away) as early as 3 p.m. Dozens and dozens of them hung out in front of the house before the doors opened (a big no-no). Members of The Guild, who put on the show, wore suits. It was one of those nights that seemingly can only happen here. It wasn’t the best (or most audible) set the Menzingers had ever played in Philadelphia, but it was by far the most fun.

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