In recent months Philly has seen the demise of some of its most popular live music bars. One has to wonder whether the live music scene is dying, or if this is just simply a matter of mismanagement or a coincidence. Many of these venues had established themselves as staples in the Philadelphia music scene, becoming hot spots for local bands and visiting acts. Recently however some of taken a turn for the worst and were forced to close their doors for the foreseeable future. Was it a lack of revenue? Was security and safety a concern?
One of the most popular bars on South Street was The Legendary Dobbs, which was well known for its live music. It was called “Legendary” for a reason, as many notable acts played here over the years including Nirvana and George Thorogood. Back in the fall of 2015, Dobbs announced that it was shutting it’s doors for good while revealing little about the future of the venue. I had the pleasure of playing at Dobbs with my band Makhaira and can attest to the great rock atmosphere and live sound, so it pains me to hear that this club will be no longer. It is unclear what the exact reason for closure was, as the management is unavailable for comment, but most people have cited revenue issues or a dying live music scene. The nearby TLA is still one of the most popular venues in the city but is a few steps up on the chain from Dobbs.
Another local bar that was well known for live music was North Star Bar, which has also shut its doors for the foreseeable future. This venue apparently was also not doing so hot, and has announced that the venue will primarily become a restaurant. Could this be yet another sign that live music is headed on the decline? Is it just too difficult to run that kind of business in some areas of the city, or even at all? I had the pleasure of seeing Marty Friedman back in September 2015 right before the club shut down for renovation. There were also concerns that security may have been an issue, with some local cases of gun violence citing the use of concealed carry holster alternatives. Recently in Atlanta a rapper was killed due to gun violence, so in some cases this has been a recurring issue for nightclubs around the city.
J. B. McGinnes in New Castle, DE, was also a top spot to play a local rock show. With a lot of space and a large, professional stage, it was a hit with the locals and out-of-towners alike. However, the venue announced that it too will need to close citing a lack of revenue that would pay the bills. Keeping a larger club open can be more difficult if the promoters can not keep the place packed, but one wonders if there is enough talent or even local interest to keep open a venue of that size.
What will the future be for live music in Philly? Time will only tell, and for now the only way to know is to keep rockin’.