Fewer Shows for Philly’s First Unitarian Church

Amelia Pitcherella

The Orwells at First Unitarian. Photo by Daniel Topete.

I have fond memories of a handful of shows in Philly’s infamous First Unitarian Church basement, with its charmingly dingy and dimly lit low stage. Vegan chili was served during a couple of my visits, and it was the only church where I’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing a guy walking around comfortably in a Pisschrist shirt. First Unitarian was a friendly and intimate space, perhaps the only drawback being—as R5 Productions is quick to point out—its lingering scent of ginkgo balls.

Now it’s coming to the end of its run. Since 1996, R5 has booked underground acts of varying rapport at the Church, some of whom went on to become big names (Arcade Fire and the xx, among others). Within the past few years, the DIY show promotions agency has opened up two new Philly venues, Union Transfer and Boot & Saddle. Add that to the increasing number of venues cropping up in the city, and R5 is having a harder time booking bands who want to play in the sweat cellar at First Unitarian.

The next few weeks will be the last big run of shows in the Church basement. You can still look forward to seated shows in The Sanctuary and the smaller Side Chapel. R5 hopes to be able to continue hosting its basement shows on Saturdays and Sundays, but they’ll be more infrequent.

With Death By Audio set to close in November, it seems that a sizable blow’s been dealt to the DIY community lately. It is the name of the game as DIY venues tend to be temporary, usually unsustainable, and rarely built to last. Still, it’s hard to say goodbye. Or, in this case, kind-of-goodbye.

You can see what R5 has to say about the change and check for upcoming shows at First Unitarian on their website.

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