Best Philly venues

Ellie McCutcheon

Forget concert reviews. Let’s talk venue reviews. This is about your future concert experience, not the show that took place last night. For now, it’s not about the band, but instead about the setting, the ambiance, its character and all that jazz that makes up any location at which you might see a concert.

Philadelphia provides an eclectic mix of potential concert experiences, and you’re about to discover just a few.

World Café Live

Best venue for a dinner date


Best place to hear that actor from that movie, or that band from that movie soundtrack, then meet them.

Two blocks from 30th Street station, you can eat while you listen. What more could you ask for? Granted, the food leaves a bit more to be desired at times, but the experience makes up for it.

The venue is so intimate that the artists are always around for a meet-and-greet after their sets. Matt Duke (who performed at Villanova last year) brought out a birthday cake and called his sister up on stage so that the audience could all sing to her. Graham Colton and Bryan Greenberg invited anyone with the guts and desire to get up on stage to do a Billy Joel cover with them.

Want to dance on stage? Go ahead. Want to meet the band? It’ll happen every time.

At World Café, you don’t need to know music to enjoy the performance; it is simply great entertainment with equally impressive service.

You can expect to find many different styles of performances that will appeal to almost anyone – from folk to reggae to Brazilian to rap – so go with your friends or significant other. You could even bring your parents.

World Café Live is so great that it gets two awards. They’re the songs you know and/or the faces you’ve seen, but the names you’ve always overlooked.

To name a few: Pete Francis of Dispatch; Rhett Miller, lead singer of Old ’97’s; Dana Fuchs, who played Sadie in the Beatles’ musical movie “Across the Universe”; Colton and Greenberg, the guys who played Jake on “One Tree Hill” and Nate in “Bride Wars,” or Jill Hennessey from “Law and Order” and “Crossing Jordan.”

Location: 3025 Walnut St.

Transportation: Take the R5 to 30th Street Station. Walk two blocks to 31st and Walnut Street.

Price of the night per person: $10 roundtrip by train, $10-30 per concert ticket, $10-20 for dinner.

Philadelphia Theatre of the Living Arts (TLA)

Best small band scene

One room with an upstairs VIP section, red velvet walls, chandeliers and a stage. That pretty much sums up this South Street venue.

Look closer, and you’ll see the aged holes in the ceiling, but the dangling crystals distract you from the wear and tear, thus allowing for a semi-classy ambiance.

Nevertheless, the pressure of entertaining in these standing-only venues lies almost entirely on the performer. Your legs will be aching by the end of the show, so make sure you love the artist you’re going to see.

The slight upward slant towards the back so that more people have a better view is an added bonus.

Location: South Street between 3rd and 4th Streets

Transportation: After the show, taxis line up and patiently wait to take you right back to Villanova. Ask for a flat rate as low as $30, and you’ll soon be back in your room, with the songs still on replay in your head.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit difficult to get to by train. If you take the R5 to Market East Station, you’ll still be about 12 blocks away. Ask the Information Desk for subway directions from Market East, but there are no guarantees that it will preclude a bit of a walk.


Bank Center

Best big band venue

Nine out of 10 times, this amphitheater-style venue provides an epic experience that you will never forget.

This massive, seasonally outdoor location allows you to be in the same general vicinity as the ruling bands of the music world.

It’s intimate in a fundamentally different way than what you get at places like World Café Live.

At Susquehanna, the powerfully loud music overwhelms you as the experience focuses on the individual and the all-consuming sound rather than the individual alongside the artist.

From the lawn seats in the back, Dave Matthews is no larger than your thumbnail. Therefore, you are forced to watch him and the rest of his band rock out on the big screens towards the back of the amphitheatre. It’s worth it, though. It’s Dave. Or Bruce Springsteen. Or Eric Clapton.

In addition, it’s not extremely difficult to get there. If you can get to Penn’s Landing, there’s a ferry that will take you directly to the venue. The ferry conveniently runs two hours before and after the performance on show nights.

Location: 1 Harbor Boulevard, Camden, N.J.

Transportation: Penn’s Landing ferry to Camden Waterfront