September 17, 2014
by Bryne Yancey

Longtime Philadelphia show promoters R5 Productions announced today that shows at The First Unitarian Church, a Center City venue heavily used by the promotion since 1996, will be mostly phased out beginning in 2015. In the past couple of years, R5 had begun opening and operating their own venues around town, including the 1,000 capacity Union Transfer in Poplar/North Broad and the 150 capacity Boot And Saddle in south Philadelphia, with great success, which no doubt decreased the frequency with which the church basement (capacity: ~600) had been booked:

In the last few years, we have been fortunate enough to open two dedicated venues, Union Transfer and Boot & Saddle. With these new venues and a slew of other that have opened up around Philadelphia, it’s become increasingly difficult to book bands who want to play the church. The church heavily relied on our rental income for the basement hall and since we were no longer using the space as frequently as we have in the past, they understandably had to find a more permanent tenant.

In a few weeks an after school group will begin to use the basement hall which will make our ability to host shows on weeknights extremely difficult. We still plan/hope to do shows on Saturdays and Sundays moving forward. We realize that limiting ourselves to just two days, there won’t be many opportunities to present future shows in our favorite venue.

The First Unitarian Church is a special place, a throwback to when promoters were forced to be extra creative when booking large, all-ages shows. In Pennsylvania, where archaic liquor laws often keep kids out of small venues or even in the same room as alcohol for some reason, spaces like the FUC were a lifeblood for these kids to experience underground culture in a safe environment at their most malleable and impressionable. Yeah, at the end of the day they’re all just rooms—and UT and B&S are great ones to be sure—but this wasn’t some DIY space that opened in 2012 and is being shut down by the cops or a landlord. We’re talking two decades of history, an unheard amount of time for a non-traditional venue to be operational, coming to a close. Even if you haven’t been there for most of it, it felt unique, weird, one of those things that could happen only in Philly.

As a visitor, seeing Bomb The Music Industry!, Cheap Girls, Spraynard and Slingshot Dakota there in July 2011, crouched underneath the speakers, completely drenched in sweat and guzzling warm backpack beers with a bunch of people that I’d just met but who instantly felt like my best friends was no doubt, one of the experiences that made me want to move here someday. As an interloper, seeing bands like Algernon Cadwallader, Joyce Manor, The Menzingers, Restorations and who knows how many others play to packed houses full of fervent, mostly respectful kids and adults made me realize that I’d made the right choice when I did move here, that I needed to be here. New cities, especially big ones, can be alienating, and Philly certainly is that at times. But never at the Church.

The good news is, this “last hurrah” of shows at the First Unitarian Church will be even more fun now. Check out the listings below, buy tickets here and let’s hang out underneath the speakers.

09/21: Yacht, White Fang
10/07: King Tuff, Cassie Ramone
10/10: Iceage, Helm
10/11: Citizen, You Blew It!, Hostage Calm, True Love
10/15: Com Truise, Rone
10/21: Merchandise, Ninos Du Brasil, Anxiety Hammer
10/23: Dads, Tiny Moving Parts, Nai Harvest
10/25: Boysetsfire, Tim Barry, War On Women, Unwed, Pulling Punches
10/29: David Bazan + Passenger String Quartet, David Dondero
11/01: This Will Destroy You, Future Death, Silent Land Time Machine
11/02: TTNG, Emma Ruth Randle, Mylets
11/07: The Dismemberment Plan, Priests
11/12: The Rural Alberta Advantage, July Talk
11/15: Restorations, Cayetana, Three Man Cannon, Hurry
12/20: Pig Destroyer, Dropdead, Fightamp, Ultramantis Black