While I am aware that places like Kung Fu Necktie in Fishtown have become a staple in the local music scene, hosting bands, DJs and much more, I can admit that I’ve somewhat been sleeping on this little gem under the el on the corner of Front and Thompson streets. I am not a huge bar fan and prefer dives if I am going to venture out and I often forget that KFN is right in my backyard. Whether they are hosting some local music or not, KFN provides just the right geek lover’s, laidback atmosphere alongside decent drink prices and a crowd made up of older local Fishtowners as well as plenty of younger, newer neighborhood transplants. Whether you grew up in the neighborhood or just recently discovered this booming area, this is the perfect little no fuss bar to go and hang out at as well as hear some great local music or even some bigger name, touring bands. On this particularly steamy Wednesday night, I got a little bit of both.
Now, I had never really heard of the opening bands. Which is sad cause they were both local. If you’re way more up on local music than me, you can insert your snarky judgment right here. Might as well get it out of the way! Making it even worse is that this band has my current neighborhood, Port Richmond, listed as their hometown. Well, they certainly have my attention now and I mean hey, isn’t that how this works? Local band plays a bar, people there hear them, like them, and voila! You’ve gained a new fan. The Barren Marys did just that with me. I was already impressed that they had a female bassist and when they started to play I was genuinely into it. It was early on in the night and I was technically on a first date, so we opted for the booth at the front that provided a perfect view and a surprising amount of coziness for a corner dive bar. A balanced blend of punk and rock with just a hint of rockabilly, The Barren Marys had most of the crowd on their feet and moving during their high energy set.
Next up was the debut of a new local band, The Dead Laughs. Not many bands get to say their first show was opening for someone like The Dollyrots but it was clear they deserved the bragging rights for such a feat as they kept things moving. With a sound similar to The Barren Mary’s but instead of a touch of rockabilly they had more of a splash of pop. It was upbeat yet edgy and they even nailed a cover of “3 Small Words” from the Josie and the Pussycats Soundtrack, taking it from a tolerable yet sugary hit to an actual fun rock song. They were definitely the perfect lead into the night’s headliners.
Taking the spotlight is L.A. based band The Dollyrots. I first heard of them years ago while joining two of my favorite Pandora stations. The Dollyrots became staples of my Horrorpops station and eventually my Riot Grrrl station. They fit right in with bands like Go Betty Go and The Donnas, but secured a place in my rollergirl heart when they covered Melanie’s hit “Brand New Key,” a song I was happy they did live while here in Philly. These somewhat mainstream, kinda still underground pop punk rock stars are currently touring with their kids in an RV and were preparing to head to Lancaster the next day to perform an acoustic set. But on this random hump day in May, they rocked out a popular dive so hard that during their song “Dance Like A Maniac” the lights went out. Never missing a beat, they kept rocking in the dark and liked the added atmosphere so much, decided that lights out should be the new standard when it’s time to play this song.
In between hits like “Because I’m Awesome” and “Get Weird” the married duo manning lead and bass guitar, took moments to just be real and geek out about experiences on the road and highlight some of the fun people who had came out for the show including local Roller Derby celebrity Razor De Rockefeller and friends. Lead singer Kelly Ogden said she noticed them outside and wanted to follow them to see where the cool kids were going only to be pleasantly surprised that her band’s show was the destination. Kelly and her husband Luis Cabezas create a fun yet rebellious environment where everybody there feels like they are rockstars. The rapport between the two makes you feel like you’re hanging out with your friends while they play you some kick ass music. At one point they encouraged their merch girl, Tiandra, to join them on the stage to reveal her hidden talent. Taking a break in the middle of their hit “Jackie Chan,” Kelly urged Tiandra onto the stage where she regaled us with a ukulele cover of Snoop Dogg‘s “Gin and Juice.”
The Dollyrots rocked Kung Fu Necktie in a way that felt like you were at a large venue, thousand member audience while still maintaining that intimate atmosphere you expect at a from a local show at your corner bar. All of the bands were there to have a good time with the audience both on and off the stage. It was definitely a great way to spend a Wednesday night and an even better way to get to see such talented artists. I definitely left feeling like I wanted to be more aware of the bands playing KFN and wanting to hear more from The Barren Marys as well as The Dead Laughs. It was a night of a few firsts but definitely not lasts for me with all the bands that night providing the perfect soundtrack for a great first date on a warm spring night.