Bird Furniture, photo by Danny Yarnall
Out of the ashes of closed venues such as Boot & Saddle, Bourbon & Branch, and Everybody Hits comes DIY venue The Kitchenette in East Falls. This humble space, which is curated by long-time house-show goers Zin and Robin, is creating room for artists to perform, and in a unique way. If you prefer a warm and comfortable living room show to a dark and noisy club one, then you should pay attention to the gigs happening at The Kitchenette. CVZ Freelance writer Danny Yarnall visited the space on their opening night, and saw emerging folk group Bird Furniture (a band who recently played a CVZ Presents night at The Dolphin, and is invested in founding The Kitchenette), solo keys act Worst Sumo, psychedelic group Double Suede, and one of our shoe-gaze favorites, Heatloaf. Read on for his impressions of the venue and each act. And follow @kitchenette.phl on Instagram for future show listings.
An East Falls rowhome transformed into Philly’s latest DIY venue on Friday, March 11th, showcasing artists leaping outside their comfort zone. The pared-down performance space features a sparse setup, a far cry from its rough and rowdy counterparts in the local scene. “I wanted to add something to the community,” says Zin, who spearheads the new venue, The Kitchenette, with Robin, a guitarist and vocalist for local art-folk band, Bird Furniture.
The two have spent several years frequenting DIY spots like the now-defunct Soda Bar and House of Yarga. Bird Furniture has also emerged as a regular in the scene and can be found playing everywhere from The Pouch to PhilaMoca to CVZ’s own productions at the Dolphin. Wherever Robin and Zin went, they saw a void for softer sets that weren’t one-offs or gimmicks. “I wasn’t seeing a lot of that in the scene. Everyone is at the energy level of something loud and they’re talking and you can’t hear the person,” Robin says.
They set out to create a space for down-tempo appreciation of local acts that could also be an easy sell to roommates and neighbors. “When we moved in together, we had an idea of a DIY space, but we obviously knew what people’s houses looked like after, ” Robin says, laughing. “A workaround would be something with a lower energy level.”
In September, when they landed in the rustic house formerly occupied by members of psychedelic outfit Double Suede, they knew they had the perfect backdrop for the Kitchenette. Northwest Philly’s verdant runs between the Schuylkill and the Wissahickon, plus its townier layout, create a laid-back atmosphere. Its distance and accessibility from the DIY hubs around the city can be a deterrent from getting to see your favorite bands, but it also means if you go to a show, you really want to go to a show.
The Kitchenette’s “soft sets for loud bands” ethos comes at an interesting time in the scene. There is a resurgence in venues booking shows and warmer temps drawing eager audiences outside. However, some spots recently made multiple Instagram posts calling for personal responsibility within their audiences, citing the actions of a few that can turn a night south for everyone involved.
“Our house is not a frat house,” reads an Instagram story originally posted to @thecrawlspacephl. “We don’t want our house to just be a place where ppl get trashed to the point of needing to be babysat.” Other spots chimed in, reposting The Pouch’s story or making original posts of their own recounting theft issues, folks entering private rooms not in use during the show, and adherence to masking and vax policies at recent events.
Many DIY spaces are somebody’s home, making anyone in the audience a guest. “Don’t be a dick” should be the first unwritten rule whenever you find yourself at a show. Everyone is there to have fun and a good time, but venues at least feel the need to remind people to have one responsibly. So if you’re expecting to get hammered and crack your skull against another consenting person in a concrete basement, the Kitchenette will give you something else entirely. “We’re hoping to curate a space where the vibe is laid back on without forcing it down,” says Robin.
After a steep climb up the street, you’re greeted by Zin, who takes charge of putting on the events, and a selection of hand-carved stamp designs reflecting each band on the lineup. You walk through the foyer past a front room stacked with an eclectic collection of instruments, some familiar, others entirely unrecognizable. The main living space is adorned with stolen street signs, tastefully curated art posters, and a particularly charming lampshade hanging from the ceiling. Friends pile in, adding to the homey vibe, where folks greet each other with (masked) smiles and the excitement of christening the space with unplugged tunes and plenty of High Life.
The crowd capped at 30+ was stacked on top of each other in the Kitchenette’s living area/audience space, sitting, kneeling, standing pressed up against the back wall of the hallway, and faces peeking into the front room framed by wooden doorways where the artists take the stage.
Worst Sumo, a solo act from Cherry Hill, turned his dancy, spacey, electronic production-driven act into a mic-less sit-down keyboard affair to start the night. “I feel like Elton John,” he added in between songs. His unique take to transform his songs for the space by laying his vocals over looping beats and percussion highlighted the Kitchenette’s charming technological absences.
Bird Furniture had a home-field advantage and took hold of nearly every house instrument they had available, including a mandolin, banjo, double upright bass (plucked and bowed). The most exciting and unnatural of these is a frankensteined percussion instrument featuring a cup, a small cymbal, a cowbell, sleigh bells, and wooden blocks affixed to a washboard. They produced a refined live performance, setting a spiritual acoustic calm over the crowd bopping their heads in agreement with what was being conjured before them.
Double Suede’s psychedelic fuzz made a return to their old stomping grounds with a delightful sound that could be described as Frank Zappa drinking a latte. They hit on members’ solo work and songs like “Acoutsicment” and “You and I” from side projects Piper’s Bellflower and Blue Jean to round out their setlist.
Heatloaf,(shown above) your fave no-boy band, reached into their back catalog for acoustic adaptations of their originals and capped the night with a one-two punch of an excellent cover of Girlpool by-way-of Radiator Hospital’s indie hit, Cut Your Bangs, and an unreleased mystery track.
Every band distinctly navigated new ground, meshing their own sounds with the cozy confines of an unplugged set. For now, the Kitchenette only plans on hosting one show a month. But Robin and Zin were savvy enough to collect live recordings of the bands for a potential future project to watch out for. They’re playing it by ear, but the latest installment in the DIY scene looks to be a low-key musician’s paradise in East Falls, perfect for kicking back with some friends and seeing your favorite local bands get weird with their music.