Philadelphia’s punk scene has been gaining momentum for the past few years with an endless amount of house shows and new bands oozing up through the cracks. 2014 saw a photograph of the now-retired Golden Tea House hosting The Menzingers in the New York Times and the headline “Philadelphia Has the Best Punk Scene in the Country Right Now” in Noisey. Only two months into the new year, it is not hard to argue that it has gotten even better.
As a young self-proclaimed punk attending Catholic school, I made the decision to go to college in Philly so I’d be able to see more shows like Motion City Soundtrack or blink-182 without being bogged down by school nights. After a while of going to bigger shows at ‘legitimate’ venues, I began to learn about house shows going on at the “The IHOP Estate,” where I first fell in love with the random assortment and placement of beer cans leading up to graffiti-stained area where the bands played. After seeing bands like Girl Scouts or Marietta there, my friends and I were instantly hooked and started actively trying to find out about what was up in Philly.
Through a friend’s recommendation we began listening to Algernon Cadwallader, a band that found their expertise in making mismatched, sporadic music sound like the most fun you’ve ever had. So in summer 2012 when we saw they were headlining a bill with Joyce Manor, Tigers Jaw, and Kite Party at First Unitarian Church, we knew we had to be there. It may have been the wet pool of one hundred degree air that filled that room making me loopy, but when those three goofballs stepped on stage to share their raw, unfiltered noodly punk with the packed room, it was like watching some sort of sonic exchange of joy. These three guys were up there pouring their hearts out for no reason but to have fun with their friends, and they made it apparent in every crooked smile and off note holler. With bodies, beer, and champagne flying, Algernon Cadwallader’s set left me confused and infatuated with the unadulterated, communal experience that I had been a part of. This was not music that was meant to be played to a crowd, this was music that was meant to be shared in a friendly atmosphere.
After being on the other end of shows like these for awhile, my friends and I got inspired and hosted Little Big League and Placeholder on separate occasions for shows in our own crappy basement. About five months after we hosted them, I saw Little Big League written up on Pitchfork, and another year after that I found myself working the door at their sold-out show at The Fire as part of their tour with The Hotelier, Prawn, and Foxing. Pop-punk standouts Modern Baseball, among an increasing amount of other bands, share that story. The band gigged house shows hard and hosted a bunch of their own before their bigger breakthrough came with reviews on national outlets and a tour supporting The Wonder Years. Now, they are at the point where they can sell out the TLA and then still be down to play the church a few months later as part of a split EP for charity.
These nationally-recognized bands and venues are leading the charge in making the case that Philadelphia is a hotbed for creative output on a wide spectrum of punk music. Golden Tea House especially helped draw attention to the scene by hosting some of those acts, including The Menzingers, Spraynard, and Paint It Black, for shows in the confined space. Many touring acts, including Ohio’s The Sidekicks and California’s Punch, also had the opportunity to take part in the local scene by playing in the hallowed West Philly kitchen.
The end of 2014 wrapped up nicely, from Kat Kat Phest‘s multiple stacked lineups, to the secret Mewithoutyou show at the church with The Districts and Lithuania, to Hop Along‘s New Year’s Eve show with Thin Lips and Roses at Johnny Brenda’s, there was every reason to celebrate Philadelphia musicians. Even in the short time since then, there has been no slowing down on the punk rock front. The house show scene is rocking in the wake of Golden Tea’s closing, labels like Jade Tree continue to foster the scene’s authenticity, and most importantly the DIY spirit has remained alive and well with the incessant need to be crammed into a dimly lit room with a fun atmosphere and good music.
Below, check out tunes from what should be some of Philly’s most exciting bands to watch in the coming year.
Dogs On Acid – Members of Algernon Cadwallader & Snowing, Debut LP due out this Summer
The Chelsea Kills – New album due out late Spring/Summer
Hurry – Released Everything/Nothing back in October
Grower – Hardcore punk band with new album in the works
Featured Image by Danielle Kocher via Flickr.