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Vegan food, coffee and a cultural hub at South Philly’s The Pharmacy (soft opening tomorrow)

From the outside, The Pharmacy looks like an old decrepit warehouse. Soon, though it’ll be a vegan café with visions beyond coffee, built in true DIY spirit. However, with opening a new business comes many municipal loopholes to pass through.

It’s been just a little more than two years since Gary Viteri, lead singer and guitarist of South Philly punk band Le Yikes Surf Club, got the keys to the former in-patient care office. It’s essentially a “fixer-upper” since it’s been empty for decades – and Viteri has handled most of the remodeling himself with a crew of friends – but as far as he’s concerned, the hard part has been getting the neighborhood on board with turning the corner building into a commercial business.

“I started the process last summer,” Viteri says. “That involves petitioning and getting approval from the neighborhood councilman. And for example, since we have churches on our block, we needed their approval too and they had to notify their congregation. It all really puts you on blast. Plus people from the public were at meetings accusing us of potentially turning the spot into a bar or a nightclub because our application mistakenly said there will be ‘alcohol, a DJ and live music regularly’ and that’s just not true.”

He believes that some people at the meetings simply viewed him as a delinquent; they simply didn’t believe that he’s capable of producing a business with a positive outcome on the community. But the building has been empty for years until Viteri bought it. He’s already gained support from his immediate neighbors – including a woman who’s outspoken goal is to rid her block of the unsightly empty facade.

Still, Viteri had to go to meetings repeatedly just regarding The Pharmacy’s location. It stands on the southwest corner of 18th and Wharton Streets; 18th is the border between the Newbold and Point Breeze neighborhoods. Consequently, Viteri had to get approval from both districts. But the payoff, he believes, will be positive. Continue reading →

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Obits, Creepoid and Le Yikes Surf Club rock the Black Box at Underground Arts

Photo by Beth Ann Downey
Photo by Beth Ann Downey

Sohrab Habibion, guitarist of Obits, described the Black Box room at Underground Arts as being like a lectern during their show Thursday. That was due in part to the arena-style seating, low ceiling and how close the crowd was able to get to the band because of the stage being around four inches tall. In fact, the crowd drew so close to Habibion that they cast shadows over the guitar pedals at his feet. He asked the sound man for better lighting, saying, “If I can’t see what’s at my feet it’ll be like having a really bad church organist.”

Obits’ crunching guitar chords and Rick Froberg’s iconic yell, best associated with Drive Like Jehu; Hot Snakes and Rocket from the Crypt, kept the energy high through their entire set. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Veronica Falls at Johnny Brenda’s, Obits with Creepoid at Underground Arts, Aaron and the Spell at The Tin Angel

VeronicaSlumberland / Bella Union artists Veronica Falls hit Johnny Brenda’s tonight.  The London-based four piece are indie pop born and bred, having come together after three members (two from Sexy Kids and one from Your Twenties) met at a Comet Gain show.  Now touring in support of their second full-length Waiting for Something to Happen, Veronica Falls got their start releasing gothy / punk-pop singles on Brooklyn’s Captured Tracks label.  The current LP, however, is much brighter sounding than the early efforts with a Pale Saints-esque shoegaze quality.  Tickets and information for tonight’s 21+ show with Cold Showers and Juan Wauters can be found here.  Watch their video for “Teenage” off of Waiting below.

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Hang ten with Le Yikes Surf Club (playing Crystal Palace on 1/5)

Over the last week and a half South Philly slammers Le Yikes Surf Club went from Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory, up to Massachusetts and over to Chicago with synth-punk, the Bad Doctors on their Philly Phreakout tour. Tomorrow they’re bringing it back home to the Crystal Palace in West Philly. Yikes is prepping a release this year on Grizzly Records, who also put out their self-titled EP last summer. Check out their newest, the densely menacing, “Dimesworth” below. Local pop-leaning punk band, Ex Friends who put out a seven-inch via Paper + Plastic Records in September, will also be in the house. More can be found here.