When my husband announced he wanted to go see Macklemore at The Fillmore in Philadelphia, I will admit that I wasn’t very excited about the idea. I’m not a big fan of hip hop/rap music in general. While I find a few of Macklemore’s hits catchy, I don’t really care for some of his other stuff. Plus, the concert was on a Monday night, and part-time bloggers with full-time real jobs need sleep during the week!
My husband offered to go alone, but in the interest of covering all types of live music for my readers, I decided to tag along.
Was I glad I did? Keep reading to find out!
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THE VENUE – THE FILLMORE
The Fillmore is one of my favorite music venues in Philadelphia. The size of the room is perfect. Even if you stand all the way in the back (which we did for this show), you are sill close enough to have a great view. The acoustics in the room are fantastic. The bathrooms are spacious and clean (always a plus!). Parking near the venue is easy and inexpensive. Plus, the venue s located in the Fishtown neighborhood, which has lots of restaurant and bars to choose from for your pre-show or post-show food and drinks.
The “original” Fillmore opened in San Francisco in 1965. During the ‘60s and ‘70s, that version of the Fillmore was the focal point of the psychedelic music scene. It helped launch the careers of bands like The Grateful Dead, Santana, Led Zeppelin, and The Doors.
The Philadelphia version of The Fillmore opened in the fall of 2015 in a 125-year-old metal building. The AJAX building was converted into a 25,000-square foot facility, that is really three venues in one. The main room holds 2,500 people. It has a large main stage, along with a large bar on each side of the room, a large bar in the back, and a balcony area. The Foundry is located on the second floor of the facility, and holds 450 people. It has a small stage, a large bar, and several comfortable seating areas around the perimeter. Finally, as you enter the facility you will be in what is called Ajax Hall. This is a lounge area where you can get food and drinks before the show. There is usually a DJ playing music before and after shows as well.
Tip #1: As mentioned above, The Fillmore is located in the up and coming Fishtown neighborhood. There are plenty of food options for grabbing a bite before the show. Two of my favorites are Frankford Hall, which serves German food and beer, and Fette Sau, which serves barbeque. If you want something a little less pricey and much more down to earth, grab a burger at Johnny Brenda’s. A Philadelphia institution itself, they also have live music regularly. It’s a great place to stop in after a show.
For dinner before this show, we decided to try something new. A new restaurant – Mad Rex – recently opened in The Fillmore entertainment complex. It calls itself a “Survivor’s Kitchen” and is decorated in a “Mad Max” type of theme. There are big wooden tables, silver chalets used as wine goblets, and survivor themed memorabilia on the walls. While you can order standard restaurant fare, their signature dish is “pick your protein”. You select your meat – beef, fish or chicken – and the raw meat is brought to your table, along with a hot lava rock, allowing you to cook your own meat to your temperature preference.
My husband and I were not that adventurous and selected the burger (for him) and the steak kabobs (for me). We also got a side of the fingerling potatoes and the rice and beans. The food was tasty, although the burger had so much on it that it was difficult to eat and fell apart. We had to wait a bit for someone to come over and greet us, but the manager noticed us waiting before we could say anything, and had a server over right away. Our server was attentive, although she did disappear at one point. She apologized saying that they had given her a table with a food critic, so she was trying to give them premium service and got caught up.
All in all, it’s an interesting concept (they even have a virtual reality room) and good food at decent prices. The location is ideal for dinner before a show, so it should have a built-in customer base on concert nights.
Tip #2: Parking near The Fillmore is easy. There are two lots located near the venue. The cost to park is typically $10. If your timing is good and you don’t mind walking a little further, you can typically find parking on Frankford Avenue or the surrounding neighborhood streets. Most of it is free, but be sure to read the signs to make sure you aren’t parked illegally. Also, be aware that the trolley comes down Frankford Avenue. I’ve seen people that haven’t parked close enough to the curb, and the trolley can’t get through. They will have your car towed if you are blocking the trolley route.
Tip #3: Because the venue is so small, there really isn’t a bad spot in the room. I usually hang out in the back next to the sound board. That keeps me out of the crowd. From there, I also have good access to the bar and to the bathrooms.
Tyler Andrews was born in Olympia, WA, but spent his childhood growing up in the Midwest. Living in midwestern cities such as Detroit, Gary, IN and East Chicago, he grew up in some rough places. His mother attempted to keep him out of trouble by getting him involved in church, where he eventually became the drummer and singer in his church’s choir.
As an adult, Andrews fused what he learned on the streets with gospel, and returned to Washington State to pursue a musical career as Xperience (or XP as he says his best friends call him).
Currently based out of Seattle, Xperience has built a solid career. In 2004, he met Ben Haggerty (aka Macklemore), and the two quickly became best friends and collaborators. XP’s current album – “Chasing Grace” – is a biography of his life.
XP took the stage at 8:00 p.m., donning a long brown jacket and a racoon cap. His job was clearly to get the crowd warmed up for the main act, and he did a great job doing so. The set even included an appearance by Eric Nally (who Macklemore fans will recognize as another collaborator), who not only sang, but did some dancing and acrobatics on the stage. Sometimes you have to see this stuff to believe it!
XP’s set was short, but it included the song “Not Today”, which he wrote with Ryan Lewis for all the haters out there. He wrapped up the set with the song “Me Time”. XP explained that he wrote the song after losing his mother to breast cancer 3 years ago.
XP is currently out on tour with Macklemore. You can find out more about him and his music at his website at www.xpmusic.rocks.
After a very short break, the second opening act – Travis Thompson – took the stage at 8:30 p.m.
Thompson is a young rapper out of Seattle. Brand new to the music scene, this is his first tour ever. In fact, Thompson said that he had been working in a daycare changing diapers prior to this tour.
Thompson had a lot of enthusiasm during his set, although he admitted that he was a bit out of shape. With Macklemore as a fan and advocate, I’m sure the young rapper has a big future ahead of him.
Thompson has been out supporting Macklemore on the US leg of the tour. You can find out more about him and keep up with his music at his website at www.travisthompsonmusic.com.
Benjamin Hammond Haggerty (aka Macklemore) was born in Seattle, WA. Macklemore says he was just 6 years old when hip hop first came into his life by way of Digital Underground. He continued to listen to and be influenced by hip hop music, including a lot of East Coast underground hip hop. Music continued to play a larger and larger role in his life as he got older. As a high school student, he became involved in “Gateways for Incarcerated Youth”, where he facilitated music workshops. He also started a hip hop group in high school called Elevated Elements. The group even released an album called “Progress” in 2000.
Haggerty first embarked on his solo career in 2000, under the name Professor Macklemore. He recorded a mixtape, which he distributed himself and released in October of 2000. Haggerty went on to record his first full-length album – “The Language of My World” – in 2005. He first met future collaborator Ryan Lewis in 2006. Lewis worked for a few years as Macklemore’s photographer.
Macklemore is probably best known for his collaboration work with producer Ryan Lewis. Their single “Thrift Shop” reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 2013. It was the first song since 1994 to top the Hot 100 chart without the support of a major record label, although Macklemore pays a nominal percentage of sales to Warner Bros. Record’s radio promotion department to push his singles.
Macklemore & Lewis continued to top the charts with their second single “Can’t Hold Us”, which also peaked at number one. They released their debut album – “The Heist” – in October of 2012. The release of the album and singles led to Macklemore & Lewis having huge success at the 2014 Grammy Awards. They won awards for Best New Artist, Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance.
The duo released their second album in February of 2016 titled “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made“. In 2016, Macklemore also released two solo singles. On “Drug Dealer”, Macklemore raps about his previous addictions. The song was also featured in a documentary that includes clips of Macklemore discussing drug abuse with President Obama. The second single – “Wednesday Morning” – was released after the 2016 election. On that single, Macklemore raps about the political future of the country.
On June 15, 2017, Macklemore announced that Macklemore & Lewis were officially on hiatus. This was the same day that Macklemore released his solo album “Gemini”, which his current tour is promoting.
Macklemore took the stage at 9:02 p.m. to an excited and sold out crowd. With some horn players and a drummer in tow, Macklemore came on stage in a white shirt, black pants and a black velvet jacket and opened with “Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight”.
The video screen behind him played a prominent role. The combination of the video graphics and the red lighting put off some great effects to accompany his second song – “Firebreather”.
Macklemore announced to the crowd that this was the next to last stop in the U.S. leg of his tour. He said he had an off day in Philadelphia the day before, and he’d eaten two cheesesteaks in 24 hours. He joked that he had more than his yearly intake of cheese wiz! Macklemore commented about the venue and joked that he had made the four chandeliers hanging in the room with his own hands over the summer.
During a more emotional moment, he mentioned how he had Face Timed with his little daughter, who asked when he was coming home. He told the crowd that he explained to her that he was in Philly, but it was difficult for her to understand. He ended the story by saying that his daughter said it was ok that he wasn’t coming home yet, if he promised to do the next song – “Marmalade”. The song featured Macklemore’s back-up dancers, as well as a young b-boy dancer that Macklemore explained had played him in the video.
After briefly going off stage, Macklemore came back with a fur coat on and went into his hit single “Thrift Shop”, which got everyone in the crowd dancing.
For the next song, the mood turned a bit more serious. Macklemore talked about the current division in the country, and that his belief was that everyone should be allowed to love who they wanted. This, of course, was the intro to hit song “Same Love”, which contains a very powerful message about being able to love anyone you want to. As a special treat, singer Mary Lambert – who voices the chorus on the song – appeared on stage and sang live. We later learned that this was the only show on the tour that Lambert appeared on.
After that more serious moment, the show turned back into a big party. Complete with a yellow top hat and purple velvet jacket, Macklemore played the character of his song “Willy Wonka”. He did yet another costume change, wearing an old school 76ers jersey for his song “Corner Store”. The song also featured opener Travis Thompson.
The party culminated with the song “Dance Off”, which featured not only Macklemore’s back-up dancers, but two members of the audience that they brought on stage to have a mini-dance off. One of the great things I noticed with this show, was there were a lot of young Macklemore fans there with their parents. The little guy in front of us (probably about 6 or 7), was doing a dance off with his Mom during the song and having the time of his life!
As is common with a lot of artists today, before going into “Can’t Hold Us”, Macklemore asked everyone to put their cell phones away for one song. I thought his line was pretty clever. He said, stop posting on Facebook telling everyone that your timeline is better than theirs right now! Macklemore got most people to comply with putting away their phones, and got the whole place putting their hands up during the song. He even walked out into the crowd, trusting the fans to hold him up by his ankles as he stood and performed.
The main set wrapped up at 10 p.m. After a very short break, Macklemore came back to the stage with old school style hip hop song “Downtown”, which also featured Eric Nally on vocals. After “Good Old Days” and a pretty lengthy band introduction, Macklemore said his 100 year-old grandma wouldn’t let him get away with not playing the last song – “Glorious”.
At the end of the song, the rest of the performers left the stage and only Macklemore remained. He talked about how he made the “Gemini” album in his basement, and then independently released it. He said that it was because of the fans that the album went to #1 without the support and push of a big record label. It was a heartfelt and sincere thank you, that was really appreciated by the crowd.
Macklemore is currently wrapping up the last few dates of his North America tour. He’ll be heading out next year to Australia and New Zealand, followed by an extensive list of dates in Europe. For more information on Macklemore, including future tour dates, check out his website at www.macklemore.com.
Here is Macklemore’s set list from the show. Click on any of the songs to download them digitally through Amazon as well: Aint’ Gonna Die Tonight, Firebreather, Marmalade, Thrift Shop, Same Love, Willy Wonka, Corner Store, Otherside (a capella), Intentions, Can’t Hold Us, Dance Off. Encore: Downtown, Good Old Days, Glorious
Have questions about seeing a show at The Fillmore? Want to know more about XP, Travis Thompson, or Macklemore? Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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