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Best Places to Check Out Live Music in Philadelphia



The power of live music: it's creative, it's inspiring, and it just makes people feel good. Experiencing a live show is something that can bring people together. It's also a terrific way to see and hear terrific and talented musicians. Finding a venue to do just that is, fortunately, easy to do in the City of Brotherly Love. There are a host of great Philadelphia night clubs offering all kinds of live music experiences. If listening to bands and vocalists show off their skills is how you like to spend an evening, you'll find that Philadelphia does things right. Tap into the venues that 10Best readers favor most, places like the awesome Ortlieb's Jazzhaus.  You can get a taste of other city offerings by visiting places like the Khyber Pass, which is known for its Rock music. While many venues on the local music scene are clustered in the Center City area, know that terrific places to hear live music can be found throughout many of Philadelphia's neighborhoods. These venues open your eyes and ears to great new talent, re-energize you with favorite bands from our area and beyond, or just simply keep you entertained and interested when you're in the mood for a night out.


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Electric Factory
Photo courtesy of Electric Factory


Though Electric Factory has been one of the nation's leading indoor music venues for 40 years, it hasn't even begun to lose its relevance. Hosting some of the best musical touring acts from a range of genres, the medium-sized venue is usually open to all ages, with the upstairs bar level limited to 21 and up. It's a quick cab ride from almost anywhere in the city, though paid parking is plentiful. Acts include rap, electronic, heavy metal, pop, rock and grunge. It's standing room only here, with capacity at roughly 2,500. There is a floor area with a second story balcony as well from which to view the many great acts that play here.

Recommended for Live Music because: The Electric Factory has been rocking the Philadelphia area in one way or another for years. The vibe here is great.

Sharon's expert tip: If you're able to buy a ticket in person at the box office, you'll save yourself a bucketload of money by avoiding all of the extra ticketing fees charged by Live Nation.

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The legendary Tower Theater has been a Philly mainstay (though actually located just west of the city in Upper Darby) since the early 70s; 1972 to be exact. It began its humble days a movie theater, fell into hard times, and was then severely damaged in a fire. After refurbishments were made, the venue booked and promoted its first concert here and the rave reviews poured in for years and years. Many recognizable names and personalities have played within its historic walls, including Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Lou Reed, Dave Mason and David Bowie. These days, you can catch the likes of Arcade Fire and Neutral Milk hotel, along with comedy shows and other events.

Recommended for Live Music because: There's not a bad seat in the house of this classic just-out-of-the-city, acoustically-excellent venue.

Sharon's expert tip: It's easy to take public transportation to the Tower Theater.

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Stepping into this attractive nightlife venue transports one into a foot-tapping world of dueling pianos. live music, dancing, sing-along fun. The place itself touts itself as part concert, part bar, but all fun. Its entertainment taken to a whole new level. Folks can enjoy songs they know all of the words to, they can sing along with friends, or they can simply sit back and take it all in. Grab a drink or two from the bar, and be sure to check out their delicious drink specialties, complete with great names like Pink Paradise, Sex on the Moon and the Swizzle-Dizzle. This place is perfect for kicking the night up a notch.

Recommended for Live Music because: Live music has never been so fun as at Howl at the Moon. Dance, sing, listen and enjoy the fun.

Sharon's expert tip: The drinks here are as fun as the vibe, so don't miss out. Try the variety that suits your mood.

Read more about Howl at the Moon →


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Johnny Brenda's


Johnny Brenda's wears many hats. It is at once a bar, restaurant and, most importantly, a showcase for local musical talent. A world-class sound system and a balcony overlooking the stage makes playing at this venue a must for burgeoning indie bands. Johnny Brenda's has played host to the likes of the Walkmen, Tokyo Police Club and Thurston Moore and is constantly putting on shows. Be sure to stop by early to sample some of the surprisingly flavorful dishes whipped up by the kitchen. Concert goers also should be aware that ticket purchases are cash-only and must be made at the bar.

Recommended for Live Music because: Located at the end of Fishtown, Johnny Brenda's is a nice escape from Center City.

Sharon's expert tip: Notice that the food is mainly locally-sourced here, as they have a lot of local pride in the neighborhood.

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Philly's premiere small concert venue, the Theatre of the Living Arts has room for 1,000, providing a more intimate alternative in Philly's music scene. The TLA, as it's affectionately known, began as an art-house movie theater in the 70s and 80s, but now books music almost every night of the week. It was voted one of the best concert venues in the country by Complex magazine thanks to its terrific acoustics. Shows can sell out, as they do not offer a large capacity for seating, but the intimacy of the setting is what often charms many of the people who swear by the place.

Recommended for Live Music because: The TLA has been around in one form or another for ages, and offers an intimate setting in which to check out bands and events.

Sharon's expert tip: The venue is located on South Street, which is a great place to walk around before the show.

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Chris' Jazz Cafe


A regional favorite, Chris' Jazz Caf� has been included on Downbeat magazine's list of "100 Great Venues Around the World to Hear Jazz." Scheduled performers include both up-and-coming and established talent. The decor is old-ish and minimal, more so that patrons get the feel of days gone by. The acts here feature piano players, Blues groups, traditional jazz acts, Latino influences, vocalists, or even pop funk gigs. In addition to great music, you can enjoy full-service dining as well. The lunch menu has a number of salad and sandwich options, and the dinner menu features American favorites such as crab cakes, pasta dishes, and steaks.

Recommended for Live Music because: A jazz cafe is in itself worthy of mentioning. This place offers jazz, food and drink in a classy setting.

Sharon's expert tip: Be sure to try the food here, as it is quite good.

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Once called the Arch Street Opera House, this super-historic (since 1870) building now houses The Trocadero Theatre, a rock club which books metal, industrial, punk, electronic, indie-rock and more. The theater is standing only, with some bench seating available in their more intimate balcony area. Movie Monday's at the Trocadero put their more intimate balcony to use. This is a great venue for anyone looking for a more intimate setting to see metal bands especially, which don't often get booked at other city venues. Crowds here tend to be smaller, leaving you room to dance should you be moved to do so.

Recommended for Live Music because: Catch an indie film or a great local band at this longtime Center City venue.

Sharon's expert tip: Validate your parking from the Gallery garage for a nice little discount.

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Okay, it's technically not in Philly, but it's close enough, especially if making the trek across the Delaware River brings you to a 25,000-seat outdoor amphitheater in the summer (a cozy 7,000 fit inside in the winter months). Hosting huge rock and pop acts, the Susquehanna Bank Center is one of Philly's staples for catching the latest and greatest. You can gets seats on the lawn and bring your own blanket for a great warm-weather activity. The views of the Philadelphia skyline and the sunset at times can be a real treat. If seeing a larger group in an outdoor setting near the city sounds good to you, this place is worth checking out.

Recommended for Live Music because: Susquehanna Bank Center offers fans of bigger groups a chance to see them in a comfortable, outdoor setting.

Sharon's expert tip: Parking will often set you back $30, so consider taking the nearby PATCO line or the ferry across from Center City.

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This newish Philadelphia music venue has already become a staple in the indie-rock scene, hosting touring bands and local groups alike. Located in an historic building in the Eraserhood neighborhood with three full bars, snacks and ice cream in the summer, this club is as hospitable as it is rockin'. It features acts that cater to a variety of likes and age groups. Sit at the bar, view the musical groups from the upstairs balcony (which is 21+) and wraps around the place for different views of the bands, or rock it like a champ down on the spacious floor area.

Recommended for Live Music because: Touted as one of the best newer music venues in the city, it's also one that's perfect for fans of almost all ages.

Sharon's expert tip: Park on nearby streets, or there's a paid lot in back of the building.

Read more about Union Transfer →


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University City
World Cafe Live
Photo courtesy of World Cafe Live


A listening room that caters to serious music fans, World Cafe Live books an impressive variety of talent from week to week, including national acts like Shawn Mullins, Suzanne Vega, KRS-One and Rickie Lee Jones as well as Philly faves like MJ Project and The Roddies. The upstairs cafe-bar is open throughout the week and often features live acts of its own. There, the menu runs from steamed mussels and homemade chips to burgers and Maryland crabcakes. Music lovers can check out the schedule here to see a specific individual or group, or visit on impulse to enjoy something different or new.

Recommended for Live Music because: When in Philadelphia, music fans know to check out World Cafe's lineup for some serious talent.

Sharon's expert tip: Grab your tickets in advance for popular shows.

Read more about World Cafe Live →


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