Venue: Union Transfer (the old Spaghetti Factory)
Location: 10th & Spring Garden
Cons: Put on your walking shoes if you want to escape the high price of lot parking and be prepared to meander down some shadowy streets. Don’t plan on pre-gamming in a lot full of fellow crazies. Also, there is not a plethora of kitschy bars/restaurants to kill time in before the show, so I recommend chowing down before you park up.
Pros: Hold your breath from your car to the venue. Not that the walk is infested with foul smells, but the air inside the Union Transfer is INSANE. They have magical fairies that fly around pumping fresh oxygen into your lungs while you sing along. Seriously, the air inside the venue is rejuvenating and keeps you feeling fresh even after hours of incessant dancing.
Sound: There is not a bad spot to be in this venue, whether you are in the downstairs bar refueling; hanging out upstairs around the mezzanine; anywhere front-to-back on the dance floor; the sound system is phenomenal.
Layout: Architecturally speaking, this is the most attractive venue in Philly. Cathedral ceilings, dark-stained wood accents, and mesmerizing full-wall stained-glass windows mix with the low ambient lighting to create an enchanting vibe.
Venue: The Electric Factory
Location: 7th & Callowhill
Pros: The E Factory puts great names on the marquee to fulfill all genres of musical desire from hometown rock heroes Dr. Dog to British DJ Shpongle. The venue is easy to get to and parking is $10 to be in the gate or, if you have a pocket full of quarters, meter parking can be found right out front. After the show, be sure to head next door to J.D. McGillacuddy’s. They keep the party going with local artists such as Philly Funk Hustle and Flux Capcitor.
Cons: Let’s be honest. Yeah, the Factory gets great bands, but we’d all rather see them somewhere else. Getting near the stage is never an easy feat, and trying to get a bartenders attention can be just as difficult. As for smokers, forget it. If you really need to fill a craving you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with all your fellow fiends. Careful, you might get burnt.
Sound: The sound quality has been on noticeable decline over the past five years. If you are in close proximity to the stage it is loud, but not high quality. If you’re in the back or upstairs it sounds like max volume on a car stereo. Hopefully, with the competition from Union Transfer, E Factory will pour some money into an upgraded system.
Layout: Can you say bottleneck? Everyone filters in like cattle through four lines, is quickly frisked by security, and then sent through the main doors. From there it is a mad house, drinks, food, and merch are along the left side with one seemingly muddled line of impatient people, the main floor is directly in front of you, and then everyone else rushes to the right to hit one of the bars. Depending on the show, the upstairs bar might not be open, leaving everyone to fight for the attention of the downstairs bartender. Lastly, it seems as though the air in the Factory has been stagnant for years, like a cesspool of stink floating around you. As you can imagine, when the bass drop and a sold out crowd gets sweaty, the smell doesn’t get any sweeter.
Venue: The Mann Center
Location: 52nd & Parkside
Pros: Tailgating heaven. Rolling hills of plush grass with a canopy of shade provide the perfect area for hours of pre-show partying. Bring a cooler, chairs, a Frisbee and some friends. There is nothing better than an outside concert on a beautiful summer night. Once inside, if you have lawn seats it is easy to weasel past security under the pavilion and catch a better look at the artists.
Cons: The ratio of lawn to people is uneven so don’t expect to stretch out and relax, but rather get close and comfortable with the people around you. The cement pillars are not something you want to get stuck behind; there are no large monitors to show you what you are missing.
Sound: The acoustics aren’t great. The Mann is more geared toward setting than sound.
Layout: The bathrooms and bars are at a distance from where the audience goes to enjoy the show, but on a nice night a little stroll isn’t necessarily a bad thing.