You may not know it, but Philadelphia has a pretty big folk music scene. In fact, we even have our own festival – the Philadelphia Folk Festival – honoring the genre. If you’re looking to hear some quality folk music in Philly, your best bet is to head over to one of the venues listed below.
Boot & Saddle
1131 S. Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Boot & Saddle reopened in 2013 after closing its doors nearly 20 years ago. A former country and western live music venue, this South Philly bar now features an array of genres, including many folk musicians and bands. This place supports many popular local folk acts, like Ron Gallo and Levee Drivers, but many national acts also play Boot & Saddle, such as Bon Iver’s drummer S. Carey, who launched his own solo career a few years ago. Its live music venue is in the back of the bar and has the capacity to fit 150 people. The bar has kept much of its originality and features 10 craft beers on draft and innovative bar food.
229 S. 45th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
To find this sign-less and barely noticeable bar in West Philly, look for the Ethiopian restaurant, Abyssinia, which it sits quietly above. Fiume may be the size of a bedroom, but this tiny and dimly lit place guarantees you’ll enjoy an intimate show when it offers live music, like on Thursdays when The Citywide Specials, a bluegrass, folk and country band, perform. On Sundays, catch old-time music from around the world starting at 8 p.m., and every fourth Sunday, stop by for a performance by gypsy jazz band OctoMonkey.
Lansdowne Folk Club
84 S. Lansdowne Ave.
Lansdowne, PA 19050
The Lansdowne Folk Club was founded in 1993 and, as a 501(c)(3) non profit corporation, is staffed by all volunteers. Its mission is to present and promote folk, acoustic and blues music in the Greater Philadelphia area. The LFC, in its more than 20 years, has presented over 200 concerts of regional, national and international acts, including Ben Arnold, The Kennedys and Dave Van Ronk. All performances take place at the historic ballroom at Lansdowne’s Twentieth Century Club.
The Mermaid Inn is set on the corner of Germantown Avenue and Mermaid Lane in Chestnut Hill. It features live music five nights a week, including blues, funk, gypsy jazz, Americana, singer-songwriter, bluegrass, Irish music and folk. If you’re looking for a place to sing your own folk tunes or jam with other musicians, The Mermaid Inn has open mic nights and jam sessions on Tuesdays. This spot also has a good selection of domestic and imported brews, sandwiches and soups.
20 S. 2nd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Tin Angel is an intimate acoustic café on the second floor of the soon-to-be-revamped Serrano in Old City. The café brings in national and international musical talent — from folk, blues, rock and country — to perform acoustically. The café offers coffee, cappuccinos, teas and desserts along with liquors, wines and beer. Serrano is also a great place to dine before the show. The setting is romantic, comfortable and intimate and the kitchen prepares some delicious and authentic international cuisine, such as grilled Spanish octopus or chickpea fries.
Kelly Neilson is a freelance writer living and working in Philadelphia. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.