There’s no shortage of opportunities to hear live music in Philadelphia. Philly is one of the best cities around if you’re looking for local or big name live entertainment and shows. While it’s great to go big with Philly staple venues like the Mann Center or the Tower Theater, some nights call for a more intimate space for a first date or a night out with old friends.
There’s no shortage of opportunities to hear live music in Philadelphia. Philly is one of the best cities around if you’re looking for local or big name live entertainment and shows. While it’s great to go big with Philly staple venues like the Mann Center or the Tower Theater, some nights call for a more intimate space for a first date or a night out with old friends. Here are our top picks for the five best hidden gem music venues in Philadelphia ideal for live music.
1. Ortlieb’s Lounge: Music, Beer and Burritos
Named for an old Philadelphia-based brewery, Ortlieb’s is the spot where “local funk, jazz and rock performers provide the soundtrack for burgers, burritos and beer drinking”. Located in Northern Liberties, Ortlieb’s has a capacity of 100, so you’re guaranteed the best seat in the house whether you’re sitting on the banquettes in the dining room or chatting up a friend by the bar. Ortlieb’s offers 10 rotating draft beers and their own signature cocktails, including their meta mixed drink, “The Big O”. If Ortlieb’s sounds familiar, it’s likely because this Philly spot used to be Ortlieb's Jazzhaus, with jazz favorites like Bootsie Barnes, Shirley Scott, and Cecil Payne (just to name a few) featured on their set list. While the ‘Jazzhaus’ version of Ortlieb’s closed in 2010, live music enthusiasts can still take advantage of the venue’s private space through Ortlieb’s regimen of live music six nights a week. Having expanded their musical repertoire since becoming a lounge, attendees can enjoy live rock, jazz, funk, and hip-hop acts. Ortlieb’s also hosts $2 Taco Tuesdays. There’s even a vegan menu, which never hurts. You can find local Philly artists like Mole Street’s own James Everhart lighting up the stage at Ortlieb’s. The bar celebrates its history from the decor on the walls to their serving plates. You can even find the bar’s original tap handle encased in glass behind the bar.
2. Kung-Fu Necktie
Located in Fishtown, Kung Fu Necktie features a wide range of musical genres in their live music selections with local and national indie, metal, hip-hop, DJs, and country music bands. This venue is so unique that you’d be hard pressed to classify it based on the decorum alone. Patrons will find exposed brick walls, dim lighting, red booths elevated on black-and-white checkered landings (the tables repurposed from bowling alley floors), autographed celebrity photos on the walls, and graffiti art inside and outside of the building. Old swords and god-like statues are littered throughout the hallways, along with a sign leading to the stage entrance that reads, “We’ll lead you astray...and you’ll like it”. Pool tables and a Spider-Man pinball machine make for a great waiting-for-your-food distraction. The small space separating the stage from the dance floor allows music-lovers to walk right up to the live band, making for a great live experience. If your group likes to hit multiple bars after a great show in Philadelphia, you can find Front Street Cafe, The International Bar and the Evil Genius Brewery within walking distance of Kung-Fu Necktie.
3. Time: Restaurant, Whiskey Bar and Taproom
Time, conveniently located in Center City, is a swanky 3-in-1 spot with a vast whiskey bar, dining room and access to the upstairs floor. The main dining room hosts all the action, with the live talent seated on a corner stage right next to the dining tables. This makes for a fully immersive music experience, as the dining room holds an intimate number of about 60 people. The decor is simple with dim lighting, accents of Venetian blown glass and teardrop crystals near large bay windows. Earth toned wall hangings populate the walls, making for a simple yet tasteful experience. Tuesday nights entertain open mic jam sessions where you can catch Mole Street Artists like De Tierra Caliente or The Sermon!, along with Mitch Beer and Andy Myers of Blues Junior. The dining room sits about 60 people, so you won’t miss a note from the band as you enjoy your meal. The cocktail bar serves beer, wine, mixed drinks and even absinthe! The dim lighting paired with great music, strong drinks, and great pub food will definitely help you lose track of time in the best way. See what we did there?
4. Boot & Saddle
Boot and Saddle is a western-themed venue located on South Broad of Philadelphia, conveniently located by SEPTA’s Broad Street line. Boot and Saddle sources locally-made eats with a fun menu featuring items like loaded pierogies, ground beef taco dip and popcorn chicken. A cool lasso lantern sits high above the bar across from old etchings mounted on the wall that display images of old prairie life, with the restored tin walls and cowboy murals really selling the authentic old West experience. Boot and Saddle has outdoor seating in the summer, an ideal spot for friends when the weather breaks. Boot and Saddle also offers a great happy hour menu during show time, which only adds to the relaxed vibe of this Philly music venue. You can take advantage of the fun menu or cut right to the chase to the stage in the back room, which has standing room for 150 people.
5. The Locks at Sona in Manayunk
Located on Manayunk’s vibrant Main Street, The Locks was notably revived by members of the Tin Angels of the Philly music scene. Sitting above the Irish pub Sona Pub & Kitchen, The Locks is a listening room set to offer high quality listening that hosts about 125 people. The Locks inherited a great number of musical acts after opening its doors, the result of being owned by members of the Tin Angels and being surrounded by live music venues that have since gone out of business. In addition, The Locks casts a wide musical net, welcoming newer singer-songwriters alongside more established acts. The Locks’ 125-capacity listening room, which offers cabaret seating and standing room, makes it ideal for an unforgettable, intimate live show.
The music venues in Philadelphia are so unique that even the most selective music lover can find a favorite spot. You can’t go wrong with these spots if you’re looking for awesome live music in Philadelphia.
Check out Mole Street Artists to see some of our favorite local talent performing around Philly!