In South Philadelphia, arts and entertainment encompasses the soul of the people. The combination of music, film and visual art, as well as the places that produce them, inspires artistic freedom and the understanding that these individual forms of storytelling are the unified voice of a community. With an abundance of music venues, record stores and art galleries, South Philadelphia is a haven for the lover of new discoveries. Are you an arts connoisseur or a newbie with an appetite of unearthing classic treasures? In need of places to check out?
Listed below are five establishments, veterans and rookies, that are an integral part of the culture of Philadelphia.
With visual layers that are sure to pop out at you as you walk down South Street, Magic Gardens (picture above) is sure to leave you awe of the depths of this mural beauty. Located at 10th and South streets, this mural display is the brainchild of mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar, and Magic Gardens is a nonprofit organization designed to promote his work. Zagar built the sculpture over a period of 14 years, representing just one of his creations in his effort to revitalize South Street.
“It was his love letter to Philadelphia,” said Emily Smith, Magic Gardens’ executive director. “It represents the community that he loved.”
Today, Magic Gardens offers the public tours and mosaic workshops, and Zagar’s art can be found on more than 90 walls in the city.
Pop Culture Vulture
New to the South Street scene is Pop Culture Vulture. While it may be overshadowed by trendier hubs for music and movie collecting, Pop Culture Vulture has a unique charm and fair prices. With a simple aesthetic presentation, the store takes its pride in its product. Walt Wilson, husband of part-owner Rose Plattenberger, feels this aesthetic appeals to more casual customers.
“It’s all used music and movies,” Wilson said. “Most of the collectors are over at a vinyl record store, but people who just want to pick up some cheap music and have some movies for the weekend will come in.”
If the music and movies isn’t enough, the Tekken, crane and pinball machines are sure to draw you in.
Catering to private, one-on-one beginner and advanced lessons, Bridgeset Sound removes itself from the stereotypes that come with chain music retailers. While chain music stores are oversaturated with electric guitars and lack in their distribution of obscure instruments, Bridgeset does the opposite.
“The ukulele has kind of been one of our main things here,” said owner Steve Harner. “I think it’s because it’s accessible. The vibe we’re going with here is less ‘music store rock guitar’ and more just learning music and hobbyist music.”
With a musician’s interests in mind, Harner created his business.
“I had the opportunity to open this store, and I’m not that good of a musician, so I kind of asked myself where I would want to go and learn music,” Harner said. “We’re designed to be accessible and open to anybody.”
Sit & Spin Records
In wake of the growing popularity of Philly’s punk and metal music scenes, Sit & Spin Records serves as a music lover’s hotspot where old favorites are rediscovered and new obsessions are formed. Owner Leora Colby described the varied stock that lines the shelves of the store.
“Our new music focuses on punk, metal and indie,” said Colby. “The used stock tends to vary a little more. We’ll have used punk, metal and hardcore, but we also stock blues, jazz, classic rock and funk.”
The store’s location allows it to be accessible to new customers. A short walk past the Italian Market draws music fans to the store.
“The Italian Market and the cheesesteak places help a lot with new customers,” said Colby. “We just wrapped up two years of opening. We’ve been very well received by the neighborhood and touring bands, and have become a destination for record collectors.”
Known by its longevity and music overload of an array of genres, Repo Records packs the heat of nostalgic memories with new sensations. From vinyl, cassette tapes and CDs to advanced collections of metal, hip-hop, indie, rock and so much more.
“Being able to be ahead of the things that are happening,” said owner of Repo Records, Dan Matherson, about what he believes helps his record store continue to stand among changing times. “Having an idea and a feel of what people want to know about.”
If you’re that music aficionado that feels like you’ve heard it all, let Repo Records formally introduce you to all that you haven’t.
– Text and images by Deneia Washington and Patrick Smith.