A Celebration of All-Ages Venues with Yowler, Kississippi, and Thin Lips

Kississippi. All photos by Amanda Silberling.

I remember joking with friends in high school about how we should get fake IDs, but not so that we could buy Smirnoff Ice – we just wanted to see live music without worrying about getting carded at 21+ venues. I am now older, wiser, and legally permitted to purchase alcohol, so I can understand why sixteen-year-olds shouldn’t be hanging out in bars – but that doesn’t mean that sixteen-year-olds shouldn’t have the chance to support their favorite bands.

Philadelphia is home to so many live venues that it’s hard to keep track of them all, but there are still only a handful of all-ages venues. Sure, there are dozens of house venues in South and West Philly, but as someone who used to run a house venue… It’s really not ideal to worry about underage kids potentially getting drunk in your home (nothing is more punk rock than safety!). So, it was understandably devastating when, this past fall, two staple all-ages venues closed down: Everybody Hits and PhilaMOCA.

Poster by Zoe Reynolds.

Everybody Hits – batting cage by day, rock venue by night – closed after its building owner abruptly sold the property. But in the case of PhilaMOCA, the story is a bit more complicated. In its beginnings, PhilaMOCA was primarily an art gallery and showroom, though over the years, it transitioned into more of a concert venue. An unassuming, rectangular building off of 12th and Spring Garden Street, the Masoleum was shut down in September because it was zoned as an art gallery, but operated as a nightclub. After months of wading through bureaucracy and fundraising to cover the rezoning process, PhilaMOCA plans to re-open in April.

To help raise the last bit of money needed to re-open PhilaMOCA, local promoters Home Outgrown and R5 Productions threw a benefit show, which was fittingly hosted at the all-ages First Unitarian Church (yes, it really is a church). Philly favorites Yowler, Kississippi, and Thin Lips united to form a stacked bill, and locals like Mannequin Pussy, Frances Quinlan, and Algernon Cadwallader donated records and merch for a raffle.

With PhilaMOCA’s re-opening on the horizon, this night at the church felt like a celebration – a reminder that, even though we’ve grown up, we owe it to the next generation of angsty, guitar-playing teenagers to make sure that they have the chance to find community in the same way that we did.

Chub Rub Is Fat, Proud, & Powerful on their Debut EP

Chub Rub. Photo by Irene Victoria.

A month after the Grammys, I’m still thinking about Lizzo’s opening performance: how she belted “Cuz I Love You” in a black, bedazzled Christian Siriano ball gown, and just moments later, danced across the stage in a neon bodysuit, rapping the lyric of the year: “I’m 100% that bitch.” And let’s not forget about that flute solo.

It’s empowering that a self-proclaimed “fat bitch” is one of the most successful musicians in the world right now (side note: did y’all see this perfection?). But it often feels like the Lizzos of the world – the women who see their fatness as a point of strength, rather than weakness – exist only in these untouchable, highest echelons of fame. Where are the musicians who are fat and proud, but don’t yet have their own Rolling Stone cover?

That’s where Chub Rub comes in. If you have your own personal, tried-and-true method for mitigating chub rub in summer months, then this band is tailor-made for you, like that pair of jeans that actually fits the shape of your body right.

It’s still an incredibly radical act to be a fat woman who is comfortable in her body. In the Huffington Post feature “Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong,” Michael Hobbes explains, “… the most unique aspect of weight stigma is how it isolates its victims from one another. For most minority groups, discrimination contributes to a sense of belongingness, a community in opposition to a majority. […] Surveys of higher-weight people, however, reveal that they hold many of the same biases as the people discriminating against them.” Fat people rarely join together in solidarity, because calling oneself fat is still often perceived an admission of shame, or a self-deprecating insult.

This is what makes Chub Rub feel so victoriously ground-breaking: that they’re four femme people demanding “fats to the front!” at their shows, performing alongside other explicitly body-positive acts like Thunder Thighs. By encouraging support and community among fat femmes, the four-piece addresses an aspect of accessibility and inclusivity in the DIY scene that is often ignored.

Representation aside, Chub Rub’s debut Make Some Fucking Space is a triumph. The four-song EP is reminiscent of Girlpool’s debut, thriving on vocal harmonies set atop simple, stripped-down guitars. And, like the former Philly basement dwellers’ early music, Chub Rub’s lyrics are cutting and clever (“I watch too much true crime to think that I’d get away with it/But the thought of you six feet under keeps me from losing my shit,” they sing on “50 Ways to Kill Your R*pist”).

Make Some Fucking Space evolves in tone from start to finish, in spite of its brevity. The EP opens with “Portland, Maine,” a love song anchored by a ukulele and surf pop twang. At first, they try to be blase (“It was nice kissing you/or whatever,” repeats the refrain), only to ease into a confession of love: “Trying to be subtle about how into you I am/but I just wanna kiss your fucking face/and hold your fucking hand.” On the other hand, “CoDA” reflects on the emotional baggage that comes along with romance gone wrong. These first two songs aren’t as explicitly political as the ones that follow, but there’s something inherently subversive about this duality. It acknowledges that we are capable and deserving of love even after we are hurt, and that we can move forward even when pain still lingers – that we can be both confident and insecure at the same time, even when trauma is nonlinear and unpredictable.

The song title “50 Ways to Kill Your R*pist” primes us for an angry punk treatise, but instead, it’s a dark folk ballad that demands a dramatic, Western-style music video (I volunteer to direct this). The quartet sings, “I carved R-A-P-I-S-T into the side of your shitty Honda Civic/and still to this day I wish I had cut your breaks along with it.” Each couplet follows the same melody, making this a song that you can sing along to upon first listen – it’s a brilliantly subtle choice for a song that all too many listeners may be able to see themselves in. But even more anthemic is “Shrink,” the final song on the EP, which boasts the titular lyric: “If you think I don’t fit in, well/Make some fucking space.” It feels like the entire EP has built to this moment: a declaration that no matter what size jeans we wear or what abuse we’ve faced, we deserve to be on stage, whether at the local bar or the Grammys.

With their long overdue messaging and irresistible four-part vocals, Chub Rub will certainly “make some fucking space” for themselves in the Philly music scene. And, P.S.: the best antidote to chub rub is a solid pair of bike shorts. That shit is magical.