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Tag Archives: Philadelpia

There’s the Philadelphia you pretend to enjoy with your old relatives on a sunny spring day— the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the U.S. Mint, the Rocky Stairs at the art museum— and then there’s the Philadelphia that you actually enjoy any time of the year— South Street. Bars, greasy spoons, sneaker stores, record stores, pawn shops, sex stores, manholes bursting with steam, Jim’s Steaks, and a vast stew of “real” culture, all sharing walls with one another. Picture a strip mall run by the outcasts, the Asian club, and the basketball team from your high school. With so many stores and eateries to take in, it’s easy for you to walk by 334 South St., which, to the naked eye, seems like another shop, but to the appreciator of music is none other than the best venue in Philly— The Theatre of the Living Arts.

Marked off only by a small marquee, the TLA looks more like a quaint, local movie theater than a place to go see a rock show, with good reason– it used to function as a single-screen film house. But, today, it’s where many artists come to perform when their tour schedule hits the city of brotherly love. And we’re not talking obscure bands that only play Williamsburg basements and sell their albums exclusively on cassette tapes– we’re talking respected and well-loved, but not quite platinum-selling bands of the indie, alternative, r&b, punk, and rap genres– Band of Horses, Ben Gibbard, The Jayhawks, Raphael Saadiq, The Dead Kennedys, and Childish Gambino– as well as popular comedians like Michael Ian Black and Demetri Martin, to name just a fraction of the people who have graced the TLA’s stage in the past.

The TLA is the perfect combination of dimly-lit-gritty-rock-venue atmosphere and state-of-the-art sound-and-light-equipment-venue atmosphere; you feel the underground nature of it while seeing and hearing a professional-level concert. Sometimes, the venue provides the audience with seats, but most of the time, the 1,000-capacity theatre is all standing-room. And for those who wish, there is a seated balcony area equipped with bar service and little TVs that show a live feed of the concert you’re seeing. The best part? Tickets for a TLA show are almost always under $20.

Perhaps the most charming thing about the TLA is the sentimental value it brings artists who go on to huge success. The Strokes, Mumford & Sons, The Black Keys— these bands all played there before their audiences could not be contained by its intimate space. The late Amy Winehouse was scheduled to play the TLA before her success caused her show to be rescheduled to a bigger venue nearby. Even after playing venues and festivals all over the states and foreign countries, folk rocker Ben Kweller still calls the TLA one of his “favorite venues in the whole world,” (watch the video here, @1:21). It makes sense– with the combination of its small size, great bands, good sound, and reasonable pricing, you can never see a bad show at Philadelphia’s beloved South Street staple, the Theatre of the Living Arts.

Aaron Pinto


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