Today in Philly Music History: The Spectrum opens in South Philly

A Billboard Magazine ad for the Spectrum from 1974 | via wikipedia
A Billboard Magazine ad for the Spectrum from 1974 | via wikipedia

There was once a time when, if you were going to see a huge concert in Philadelphia, it meant going to The Spectrum. The historic South Philly arena opened 48 years ago today – September 30, 1967 – and though it was initially a sports arena and home to the Flyers and 76ers, it quickly developed a strong rep as rock and roll central on Broad and Pattison. Continue reading →


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.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 1.39.51 PM
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 →


Happy Birthday Jerry Garcia: Watch him in concert at The Spectrum from 1991 (plus more!)

GarciaRollingStonecover Jerry Garcia would have been 71 today. Born August 1, 1942 in San Francisco, Garcia passed away just eight days after his 53rd birthday on August 9, 1995. The lead singer and guitarist for The Grateful Dead, Garcia left behind what Rolling Stone magazine called “a legacy of wondrous creations.” Of the hundreds of videos on YouTube, we picked just a few out for you to watch below, including a full Jerry Garcia Band show from The Spectrum on November 12, 1991. May he rest in peace in rock and roll heaven. God bless the Grateful Dead.

Continue reading →


RIP Ray Manzarek of The Doors (listen to songs from their Live at The Spectrum show in 1970)

raymanzaerek Raymond Daniel Manczarek, Jr., known to most as Ray Manzarek, co-founder and keyboardist of The Doors from 1965 to 1973, has passed away. He was 74 and died from bile duct cancer in a clinic in Rosenheim, Germany. On May 1, 1970, The Doors played The Spectrum on a bill with The Staple Singer and Blues Image. The recording, Live In Philadelphia ’70, was released as part of the Bright Midnight Archives live music series. Below, listen to a few songs from the show, from a band in their prime. The don’t call is classic rock for nothing.


R.I.P. Jerry: Listen to The Grateful Dead’s final Philadelphia show

Photo by Joe Ryan

Just last week, we were remembering Grateful Dead founder Jerry Garcia on what would have been his 70th birthday. Today, it’s a more solemn anniversary; seventeen years ago, Garcia passed away, but fans were left with the myth, the music and the memories to cherish. A consummate performer, Garcia was touring with his bandmates almost up until the end; his final show with The Grateful Dead was at Chicago’s Soldier field a month before his death. Here in Philadelphia, Garcia and the Dead made their final appearance with a two-night stand at The Spectrum on March 18 and March 19, 1995. The first show was notable for a stunning rendition of Bob Dylan’s classic “Visions of Johanna”, while the final show was the first time the band ever played the song “Unbroken Chain” in concert (the studio version of the Phil Lesh song was on their 1974 album From the Mars Hotel). Watch the Dylan cover in the YouTube player below, and listen to the May 19 concert in its entirety right here:

If you want to take it home with you, the entire show is downloadable at Rest in peace, Jerry…thanks for the music.


Happy Birthday, Jerry Garcia

Photo by Peter Simon

Today would have been Jerry Garcia’s 70th birthday had he lived past his 53rd birthday. He passed away on August 9th, 1995. The man, the myths and of course the music live on. Below, watch a couple of videos of Jerry from shows at the Spectrum and download “Scarlet Begonias” from one of their shows from the Civic Center April, 1984.


In September 1984, Bruce Springsteen brought the Born In The U.S.A. tour to the Spectrum for six shows

Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A. was released in June, 1984. Three months later, Bruce And The E Street Band rolled in to Philly for six shows at the Spectrum on September 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th. He opened each show with the anthemic title song, ended with “Born To Run” and covers of “Twist and Shout” and “Detroit Medley” (a medley of Mitch Ryder’s “Devil With A Blue Dress,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” and “CC Rider.”) You can see the set lists from each show here. For Springsteen fans here in Philly this was one of his most legendary run of shows. I was lucky enough to see them all. How I made it to work that week I don’t quite remember. We asked WXPN Facebook fans to share their memories of these shows.

Diane Brandt Wilkes: “I was at four of them. I had just started teaching 8th grade English and one of my students had his head on his desk. When I told him to sit up, he said, “I was at the Springsteen concert last night. I’m tired.” I said, “I was there, too, but you don’t see me lying on my desk. And I’m going again tonight, too. Sit up!” My students were so amazed that their strict teacher was going to two Bruce Springsteen shows! It was funny.”

Chris McNelis: “I was 22 & worked in the Spectrum Executive Offices. I went to all 6 shows, & was in the front row for the last show. The girl he pulled up onstage to dance was 2 seats away from me AND was a plant, which was a bummer. But I passed Bruce in the hallway after soundcheck one afternoon & got a nod… Pretty exciting. Still have some great photos from those shows. Great memories.

Neil Roosevelt: “My mother was an Executive Asst for the President of the Spectrum at the time plus a HUGE Bruce fan..She had 2nd row all six nights..on the 3rd night during intermission, Bruces bodyguard came out and told my mom Bruce was going to pick her for Dancing in the Dark..I was in Section S with my friends when all of a sudden Bruce pulls someone out of the audience and starts dancing with friends turn to me and say “Is that your Mom?” and it was.”

More quotes and videos from the shows after the jump.

Continue reading →


Philly’s (and Rolling Stone’s) David Fricke Remembers The Spectrum

photo by Neil Fitzpatrick

While we were all chuckling (or booing) over the “wrecking balling” of The Spectrum today, we were reminded of an article written by Rolling Stone Senior Editor (and former Philadelphian) David Fricke about The Spectrum where he reminisced about shows he saw there by the Stones (pictured above), King Crimson, The Who, numerous Springsteen shows and others. You can read Fricke’s stories here and view photos from Spectrum shows here.