20 Philadelphia concerts you should go to if you ever invent a time machine

Led Zeppelin onstage at The Spectrum in 1970 | Photo via
Led Zeppelin onstage at The Spectrum in 1970 | Photo via

Every music fan has their own personal list of all-time favorite concerts. But imagine if you were old enough to experience a legendary rock and roll act like Chuck Berry in his prime, while in the same breath catching emerging bands like The Black Keys and Nirvana before they got huge. It’s pretty likely you never got to do either of these things. But there is one hypothetically feasible way to make it happen: invent a time machine. So let’s pretend for a minute this doable – here’s what I’d go back in time to see.

1. Led Zeppelin – March 31, 1970 at The Spectrum

The earlier you saw Led Zeppelin the better. Towards the middle of the 70s, Jimmy Page’s heroin addiction affected his onstage presence, and Robert Plant’s voice became noticeably strained. There’s a phenomenal video, which you can find on YouTube, of Led Zeppelin playing at the Royal Albert Hall in London from the same year, which features my personal favorite versions of “Communication Breakdown,” “Bring It On Home,” “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” and “How Many More Times.” The grainy video (which also features Page doing the seemingly impossible: making a sweater vest look cool) isn’t all that clear, but the sound is great and that’s really all that matters. It’s likely you would’ve gotten the same mind blowing performance in Philly (check out this vintage review by longtime Philly journo Clark De Leon).

2. The Strokes – October 9, 2003 at Tower Theater

Julian Casablancas’ voice in the early 00s was a thing of beauty. He had the perfect Jim Morrison-esque rock and roll growl, and is probably one of the most overlooked singers in rock history during his prime. Although, I’m a huge fan of The Strokes’s later stuff as well, there’s no denying their first two albums were two of the best rock albums in the early aughties – a time that was otherwise riddled with awful rock bands like Nickelback and Breaking Benjamin.

3. Oasis – October 23, 1994 at J.C. Dobbs

This was the first time Oasis ever played in Philly and also their first ever American tour. Around this time, tensions between Noel and Liam Gallagher had yet to reach the point of totally hating each other’s guts. Also, due to a randomly placed wall on J.C. Dobbs’ stage, this show was rumored to be the only time Noel played on the left side of the stage.

4. The Who – October 19, 1969 at The Electric Factory
The Who actually played two shows at the Electric Factory on this day (bands did that back then, apparently). Anybody who’s ever seen Who videos from the late 60s knows that the band was a powerhouse back in this time period — especially with the late Keith Moon on drums. Also, this probably isn’t the Electric Factory you’re familiar with. The original one was at 22nd and Arch and closed down in 1973. The current one at 7th and Willow opened in 1994. Listen to audio from the show here.

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The Clash at The Tower in September, 1980 | Photo by Todd Heft |

5. The Clash – March 6, 1980 at Tower Theater

The year 1980 was a good one to see The Clash live. You would have heard songs from all their best albums including Give ‘Em Enough Rope, London Calling and their self-titled debut. Also, you’d get to see their iconic lineup. By 1983, drummer Topper Headon and guitarist Mick Jones would eventually be kicked out of the band.


6. The Black Keys – February 5, 2009 at Electric Factory

There were at least two or three times I almost saw the Black Keys before they got huge. For whatever reason, I couldn’t go to the concerts, but I always knew they’d be back in Philly again so I never let it bother me much. That is, until they released Brothers and the band made it big time. Continue reading →


Kurt Vile covers The Clash for Google Play’s “Audio Ammunition” (playing Union Transfer on 10/26)

Photo by Abi Reimold |
Photo by Abi Reimold |
As a supplement to the recent reissues of classic Clash albums, Google Play has gathered together four contemporary musicians who draw influence from the legendary English punk band for a series of cover songs.  Kurt Vile & The Violators contributed their take on 1979’s “The Guns of Brixton” to the effort, captured in the video below and compiled alongside covers by Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Surfer Blood and Slipknot’s Corey Taylor.  Check out the Philly band’s rendition and get limited-time free download of the MP3 here.  Vile plays Union Transfer on October 26th; tickets and information can be found here.


Happy Birthday, Joe Strummer: Listen to The Clash play JFK Stadium in 1982

The Clash outside JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, PA. September 25, 1982 | Photograph by Bob Gruen

Today would have been the 61st birthday of Joe Strummer, legendary guitarist and lyricist for punk icons The Clash. Best known for being the heart and soul of that influential, genre-defining (and defying) group, Strummer also released solo work through the 80s and 90s, collaborated with The Pogues and others, and released a solid string of albums with his band The Mescaleros up until his death in December of 2002. He was 50 years old.

Two decades prior, The Clash was riding high on the massive commercial success of their fifth full-length, Combat Rock, which was to be the final release with their “classic” four-piece lineup. A late summer tour opening for The Who brought them to Philadelphia on September 25th, 1982, playing to a massive crowd at JFK Stadium. The set featured songs from the recently-released album – “Rock The Casbah,” and of course “Should I Stay or Should I Go – but also drew from across their discography for selections like “Police on My Back,” “White Man in Hammersmith Palais,” “Clampdown” and more. Audio from the entire performance is on YouTube; listen to it below and tell us your favorite Strummer songs or memories in the comments.


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Six essential covers from The Afghan Whigs (playing The Electric Factory on Sept. 27)

Photo by Sam Holden |

This summer, Greg Dulli and his reunited bandmates in The Afghan Whigs turned heads with their cover of Frank Ocean’s “Lovecrimes.” It was a great rendition, but as fans know well, the Whigs are masters of interpretation. A 90s alt-rock group with soul leanings, their catalogue is peppered with fantastic R&B and Motown re-versions, and some stuff from the rock pantheon too. These guys have a broad and deep appreciation of music, and here are six essential covers for you to dig into as we collectively get psyched for The Afghan Whigs’ appearance at The Electric Factory on Thursday, September 27. Tickets and information on the show are available here.

“(Don’t Worry) If There’s Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go” by Curtis Mayfield – covered on the Live at the Howlin’ Wolf EP (1999)

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World Cafe 20th Anniversary: Listen to David Dye’s interview with Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash

World Cafe with David Dye is celebrating its 20th Anniversary, and—beginning Monday, October 3rd, on World Cafe—David will be going through the World Cafe archives to rebroadcast many bands who have been on the show over the last two decades. Below, stream the interview that David did with Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash in March, 2003.