Philadelphia has an art-and-music-loving reputation, making it one of the best cities to get out there and catch a live show. Rock out to famous touring acts at bigger, long-standing music halls, or spot a rising rookie performer in an intimate dive setting. Philly’s vibrant music scene runs the gamut and there is truly a show and a unique venue for every type of concert-goer.
Franklin Music Hall
Known formally as the Electric Factory (the venue is actually used to be one), this large Spring Garden concert space has been on the Philly music scene for decades; it’s under a new name and management now, but the show must go on—and it definitely has. With its 3,000-person-capacity room (standing admission and some balcony seats), Franklin Music Hall attracts national high-profile acts like Wu-Tang Clan, Citizen Cope, and Jawbreaker. While the venue does sometimes suffer from overcrowding, drink prices at the bar are fairly reasonable, which many Philadelphia venues can’t say for themselves. For travel convenience, there’s also an on-site paid parking lot.
Center City’s MilkBoy is a live music café (plus bar and restaurant) that has deep roots in the music business — it’s the industry brainchild of Tommy Joyner and Jamie Lokoff who started the famous MilkBoy recording studio. While The Roots likely aren’t performing here, the two-story spot still has an admirable lineup of rising artists, homegrown and otherwise. Head upstairs, where you’ll find the performance stage and laid-back vibes; post-show, have yourself an encore at the big downstairs bar with a beer menu that’s almost as impressive as the talent.
The Fillmore Philadelphia
This former Fishtown metal factory is one of Philly’s newer concert venues (it opened in 2015) but big names in rock/pop/country have been performing on the wide oak stage since, including Brothers Osborne, Kacey Musgraves, and Flogging Molly. With rustic brick architecture, original graffiti, and glittering chandeliers, The Fillmore is actually two trendy venues in one: the spacious main hall allows 2,500 standing room visitors (with some seating) and great views of the stage from every spot; upstairs, The Foundry has a smaller (but still decent-sized) stage with lounge seating and plush sofas.
Bob & Barbara's Lounge
One of Philly’s most iconic dive bars since 1969, this worn-in venue on South Street is still run by its original owners and is powered by free live jazz and R&B music on weekdays and weekends—The Crowd Pleasers (Fridays) and The 4 Notes (Saturdays) are two shows not to be missed. What you can expect: Upbeat jams, mixed crowds, awesome energy, and cheap drinks, like Bob and Barbara’s famous PBR beer-and-a-shot special—just know the bar is cash only.
Located just west of Philly’s city limits in Upper Darby, this beautifully grand concert theater has been a performing hotspot for large musical touring acts since the 1970’s, including Bruce Springsteen and Phil Collins—and more recently, Hanson’s String Theory orchestra show. Tower Theater’s high ceilings offer amazing acoustics, so many artists have (and continue to) record live albums here. The venue is located right by the 69th Street stop of the Market-Frankford El train; there’s also a parking garage at Chestnut St and South 69th Street, plus ample metered parking if you arrive early.
Boot & Saddle
Boot & Saddle has made a name for itself as one of Philly’s go-to music hubs for catching up-and-coming indie acts. While the venue’s unremarkable outside blends into South Broad Street, the historic interior is filled with wood-paneled character, cowboy murals, and a divey feel that keeps things on-brand and unpretentious. Up front, enjoy locally sourced bar snacks (go for the vegan cauliflower wings) and solid drink specials during showtimes; the stage is located in the dark, more intimate backroom.
First Unitarian Church Philadelphia
By daylight, the Church functions as a city community center; come nighttime, its basement (The Griffin) transforms into an all-ages concert venue with a packed lineup of punk, indie, and solo/acoustic artists. Catching an awesome show here is very affordable (tickets are around $20), partly in thanks to local booking agency, R5 Productions. Keep in mind: no alcohol is served and it gets quite hot and humid in the basement, but you can always head upstairs to the Sanctuary and rock out from the church pew seating.
World Cafe Live
A Philly fan favorite, this multi-level venue in University City shares a building with the WXPN radio station, so you could say music is truly at its pulse. The mainstage is downstairs, boasting views that are as equally amazing as the acoustics; it’s somehow wide open and intimate at the same time, so you can feel right near the performers without sweating profusely. The upstairs stage is a longer, narrower space that tends to host rising performers making a name for themselves or high-caliber indie acts; it’s also where they hold the fun Friday Free At Noon shows.
Formally a railway baggage depot (and a Spaghetti Factory), this historic building “transferred” into a concert venue in 2011 with a maiden performance from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Poliça. Today, Union Transfer is a hotbed for new-on-the-scene artists and popular touring acts alike, mostly from the indie-rock genre. The Callowhill locale is revered for its amazing acoustics, ample balcony seating, and three easy-access bars that source from Philly-based businesses like Yards Brewery.
Theater of the Living Arts (TLA)
Dating back over a century as the Crystal Palace motion picture theater, TLA became a premiere, slightly smaller concert hub in the ’80s — and has since maintained its big reputation on South Street. Act-wise, they present a little bit of everything: pop, rock, punk, alternative touring veterans, industry newbies, and more. While the venue has undergone tons of renovations and expansions over the years, a few signature features have remained the same, including the top-rated acoustics and dark red walls adorned with memorabilia.