Last week I had the pleasure to experience two smaller venues for the first time. The Pharmacy was hosting a one year birthday bash for Freally Baked Goods, a great little vegan bakery company. And I went to Lava Space to hear Try The Pie along along with other bands. The venues have similarities such as being small, a space used for other purposes, and hosting a long list of bands in one night.
Let’s start with the Pharmacy. The Pharmacy is a great little Point Breeze coffee shop that focuses on quality and freshness. It’s a pretty small building with steps leading into the cafe area, with a few bright blue booths and round tables. Typically, you enter and pay a few bucks for a show, this one was only $5. Then, as you walk into the next darker room, live music slaps you across the face. And I’m not exaggerating, shows here are very loud, most likely related to the size of the space.
When I entered, the psychedelic rock band–Sacagawea and the Hunters were playing and I fell in love with their funky electric guitar work. It felt very Jimi Hendrix-esque, so they were a great treat to walk into. While there, I also had the pleasure of trying a Freally Baked Goods cookie, and it was delicious! (Note: I have attempted my own vegan baking and failed many times, so I was extra impressed.)
Attending a show at The Pharmacy is a very different experience than going to a more up-scale joint. This place is much smaller and more underground than places like World Cafe Live or Johnny Brenda’s. At spots like The Pharmacy and Lava Space, you get the opportunity to experience raw talent in an intimate setting where you can let loose and enjoy good music.
Lava Space (Lava for short) provides a similar experience to The Pharmacy. By day, Lava is a community space situated in the Belmont neighborhood of West Philly. They use the space as a community library, kitchen, and concert venue, among other uses. The diverse roles the space plays makes it quite an interesting venue for a concert. On the inside, it feels like a long West Philly row home, with books that line the left wall and stringed fairy lights hanging from the ceiling. The space feels very loved and homemade, but just like many of our homes, it’s not the cleanest or most updated space i.e. the bathrooms. The venue is about the same size as the Pharmacy, except there is no separation of music and sitting spaces, it is just one large open room.
Some of my favorite aspects about attending a show at Lava are the character and vibes of the venue. The wall that isn’t lined with bookcases is beautiful exposed brick. There is also lovely wooden floors throughout. The bathroom walls are covered in rad graffiti that are more clever than a string of curse words. The overall vibes of the place are very free-spirited. In between the half hour sets, a decent DJ played a few tracks and many people let loose on the dance floor. Overall, concerts here are inexpensive, BYOB, you get to be close to the artists, and the sound is pretty good.
If you are looking to attend a concert where you experience a multitude of rocking underground artists and don’t mind a little grime, then these venues are perfect for you!