In one of the worst markets on the East Coast, Soundgarden Hall has somehow figured out how to singlehandedly breathe life into Philadelphia. And while venues like Rumor, Lit, Silk City, The Blockley, and Voyeur have great sound systems and great DJs, with the exception of Dirty South Joe and Flufftronix at Mad Decent Mondays, no promoters had anyone that knew how to book electronic music DJs from outside of the city with any level of consistency.
I have said for years that Philly has the densest concentration of phenomenal local DJs of any city in the United States. But most of the venues are outdated and selling $2 PBRs to a frugal crowd. There’s no way to book headliners if you aren’t making money at the door. So in the past 10 years, the local scene just got better, nobody made real money, and it became a contained wonderland of incredible musicians.
The solution was easy, in theory. Build a club that sets the standard. And that they did. Matching low ticket prices (usually around $15) with the best DJs they could afford, they effectively created a system where they don’t need a major ticket broker in order to turn a profit. Their service fees are minimal. You can order your tickets from an app. Every weekend has been stacked with HUGE acts.
Enter Aaron Ruxbin. He’s got long shaggy hair. It’s matched with an unkempt beard. He looks like he rolled out of bed every time you see him. And in Philadelphia, you ALWAYS see him. In the past 18 months, I have watched him move from pouring beer at a dive bar and promoting raves (while working shifts at a strip club) to being the point person that controls the industry’s perception of an entire city. People either love him or hate him, and it isn’t hard to tell why. He’s the most unlikely star in a town of talented people. And now that he’s the one with the spotlight on him, he’s creating a brand that has been built on his homies as (paid) openers and booking the best DJs he can find. He continuously and excitedly texts me lineups at 4AM. He’s a tastemaker, hands down. But more than knowing music on a deeper level, his love for this business and hatred for sleep have landed him on top.
It’s not just him, though. From the head of hospitality to every single security guard, you’re met with a smile. I’ve never been in a venue that actually felt friendly. The sound system is insane. The audio technician is always on point. It’s a group of young and kind people that seem to appreciate the fact that they’re working in a fun environment. This is a venue that does the same exact thing that every other venue does. They just do everything better, and churn out events consistently.
Dash Berlin, Diplo, Seven Lions, Dillon Francis, Armin Van Buuren, Nicky Romero, and Flosstradamus have all sold out in a 2000 person capacity venue that’s less than a year old. And a giant stack of their other shows have been packed. Very rarely are people on top for doing things the right way. And everyone at SoundGarden hall is breaking the myth that nice guys finish last.
Saturday marks the one year anniversary of SoundGarden Hall, and they’ll be celebrating in style. I’ll be at TomorrowWorld, but thinking of my favorite hometown venue as UZ takes the stage. If you’re looking to open a club, this is the formula. Just put one person in place that knows music, and surround them with kind-hearted people. It’s been a pleasure to watch.