It’s not very often that you go to a church to see a rock concert. But, Philadelphia happens to have a pretty unique venue in the First Unitarian Church. The building houses a functioning church full-time, but also happens to be the host of R5 Productions shows from time to time.
Missio is the latest artist to bring their show to the venue. I’ve seen one show here before – Lucius – but they played in the sanctuary upstairs. You can read about that show here:
Having seen Missio a few times before, I was thinking that the church sanctuary was probably not the right setting for them. Lo and behold, the Missio show was held in the basement.
A Missio show in a church basement on a Wednesday night in Philadelphia? That has all the makings of an incredible experience. Was it? Keep reading to find out!
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HISTORY OF THE BUILDING
The First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia is first and foremost, a functioning church with a Unitarian Universalist congregation.
On June 12, 1796, several Philadelphians formed the First Unitarian Society of Philadelphia, which became the first Unitarian church in the country. The church built its first building in 1813, and moved to a second larger building in 1828. They moved into their third and current building located on Chestnut Street in 1885.
The current building was designed by Frank Furness, who also designed the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In addition to its large sanctuary with a concert-grade Casavant pipe organ, the building has many rooms that allow it to serve as a community center for the region. One of those is Griffin Hall, which is on the basement level of the building. Griffin Hall contains a stage and a commercial-size kitchen.
THE BUILDING AS A PERFORMANCE SPACE
Because of the location and the size of the church building, the church can host several community activities. This includes everything from yoga classes to Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
With Griffin Hall, they are also able to hold concerts. In fact, in 2007, Rolling Stone magazine featured the church as one of its top alternative music venues in the country. R5 Productions has used the church as the venue for many of its indie music shows.
On this particular night, the show was held in Griffin Hall.
Tip #1: They do not sell any concessions inside the church. However, the church does allow you to “bring your own”. You can even bring your own alcohol, if it’s not in a glass container.
Tip #2: If you are looking to grab something to eat and drink before the show, Victor’s Bar and Mix Brick Oven Pizzeria and Restaurant are just a block away. There are also several other food choices within close walking distance, so get there early and do some exploring!
Tip #3: This really is a church basement. While the Missio show was not very crowded, if the space was packed, I could see it getting very warm inside. There are some ceiling fans and the doors were open for some air, but there isn’t a lot of air circulation. So, dress appropriately.
Tip #4: There is plenty of on-street parking in the area, although it can be tough to find a spot depending on the time of day. On-street parking is metered in the area, and you are required to pay until 10 p.m. on weekdays. Always be sure to check the signs when parking in the street. The Philadelphia Parking Authority loves to issue tickets!
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Blackillac is an emcees duo out of Austin, TX. The duo is made up of ZEALE and PHRANCYZE.
They are currently working on a new project featuring production by Gary Clark, Jr.
So, I’ll be totally honest. Before I got to the show, I had determined that I probably wasn’t going to like Blackillac. I listened to one of their songs before the show, and it just wasn’t my style of music. I’m not a huge rap fan. It’s just not my thing.
Well, rap still isn’t my favorite kind of music, and I wouldn’t go seek out another Blackillac show. But, I really enjoyed these guys. They were a lot of fun and very high energy. And while I’m not a fan of their music, I appreciate their talent and the way they got the audience involved. I even found myself tapping my toe a few times during their set!
Blackillac took the stage at 8 p.m. The show had an advertised start time of 7:30 p.m., and additional announced opening act – Swells. But, Swells never took the stage and there was never an explanation provided as to why not.
Instead, we got a high energy set from Blackillac, including their song “Yes”. Please note if you click on the video, that there is explicit language.
My favorite part of Blackillac’s set was when they did a freestyle song. First, regardless of whether or not I like rap music, I have a huge appreciation for anyone that can freestyle. Second, Blackillac is really good at it! Their humor and ability to tie it to something the crowd will appreciate – in this case, a lot of Philadelphia Eagles references – put it over the top.
Blackillac is on the road supporting Missio. Stay up to date on when their new album will be released as well as any future tour dates on their website.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Missio is made up of band members Matthew Brue and David Butler. They are based out of Austin, TX, and had their first “radio” hit with the song “Middle Fingers” in 2017, which was off of their debut album – Loner.
The band started in 2014 as a side project for Brue, and quickly turned into Missio when Butler joined him after one studio session. The two came from very different backgrounds. Brue was brought up around music, beginning as a young child when he was trained as a classical pianist. Butler didn’t pick up the guitar for the first time until age 16. When the two of them got together, however, they immediately gelled musically.
Last year, Missio released a three-part docuseries chronicling their story. Skeletons (Part I), Skeletons (Part II), and Skeletons (Part III) are all currently streaming at Missio’s official YouTube channel. The docuseries was directed by longtime collaborator Jeff Ray.
The docuseries was released to compliment the release of Skeletons Part I, which is their EP featuring acoustic versions of songs originally featured on Missio’s full-length debut – Loner. In conjunction with the kick-off of their “Loner” tour last year, the band released Skeletons Part II, which is their second stripped down EP.
On April 12th, Missio released their second album – The Darker The Weather // The Better The Man.
Missio hit the stage shortly before 9:00 p.m. The last time we saw Missio, Brue was sick. While he still gave the show everything he had, you could tell he was pushing himself to get through. This time, we had a healthy Matthew Brue, which meant a ton of energy from start to finish.
Missio started off the show with “Misfit Lunatic” right into “Temple Priest”. Please note that if you click on the video, there is explicit language.
After “Temple Priest”, Brue greeted the Philadelphia crowd and mentioned the venue saying “it smells like armpit in here”. Brue went on to say that the vibe in the room was very cool and it made it seem more like an intimate club show.
If you are a Missio fan, you also know about the Missio Mafia, which is what the band’s hard core fans call themselves. Brue talked about the Missio Mafia and the fact that he loves that everyone can feel comfortable coming to their shows. He mentioned that he often hears about people going to shows solo, and leaving having made a bunch of new friends. So, he invited everyone to turn to their neighbors and introduce themselves.
After bringing Blackillac back on stage to help them with “Shimmy”, Missio went into one of my personal favorites – “Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea”. The song itself is haunting, and Brue’s powerful voice on it makes it even more so.
Missio continued through their set playing a lot of fan favorites like “I Do What I Want” and “KDV”. I follow a lot of bands, and I have to say that Missio has one of the most eclectic fan bases I’ve ever seen. Every age, every color, every type of person out there seems to be in the Missio fan demographic.
Missio wound down their set by inviting one fan up on stage to help them with holding up their middle fingers for their song “Middle Fingers.” The fan seemed to have an amazing time, even though it was a tight squeeze up on the tiny stage.
After a quick encore break, Missio returned to the stage with “I Don’t Even Care About You” and then finished things up with their newest hit – “I See You”. In introducing the song, Brue talked about how much they appreciated everyone being at the show on a Wednesday night, knowing people had jobs, had to get babysitters, etc.
Brue also talked about how the song “I See You” was “gifted” to them. He said it had been out a month, and had just gone to number one on the Alt Nation charts. Brue talked about what an impact the song had on people and how much Missio appreciated it. He said that he personally had been struggling with comparison and wondering why he wasn’t as successful as some other artists. Then Brue told the crowd that he wanted them to know three things – they are valued, they are loved and “we see you”. A great message to end a great show!
Missio is wrapping up their North America tour in support of the new album this month. You can keep up with all of their news on their website.
Set List (click on any link to purchase the song directly on Amazon): Misfit Lunatic, Temple Priest, Rad Drugz, Shimmy, Bottom Of The Deep Blue Sea, Dizzy, I Do What I Want, KDV, Underground, Twisted, Everybody Gets High, P.O.L.I.T.I.C.S., Middle Fingers Encore: I Don’t Even Care About You, I See You
Are you a Missio fan? What do you think about seeing them in a church? Let us know. Please comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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