Twenty years ago, when Serrano owners Rich Machlin and Jude Erwin decided to open their second floor as an acoustic performance space, Old City was a different place. The Khyber Pass Pub—as it was known—hosted acts like the Bats and Surgery; hungry denizens ate at Café Einstein and Equator, and WDRE was in its very first week of existence.
And on Fri., Nov. 13, 1992, local legend Ben Vaughn inaugurated the Tin Angel stage. Tickets were $8. So it’s fitting that now, 20 years later, he returns to Old City for the venerable venue’s big birthday.
Vaughn kicked off the first weekend of music there, along with Essra Mohawk and Joseph Parsons on Saturday night. (Where art thou now, opener Les Lokey?) The first month’s bookings established the blend that the Tin Angel still boasts today—local favorites (Vaughn, Robert Hazard, Kenn Kweder) and national headliners (John Hammond, David Massengill, the Persuasions) sharing the same stage.
“Playing in Philly is a big deal for me,” he said in a PW interview before the 2010 XPoNential Music Fest, where he reunited with old bandmates. “I get a lot of emails asking when I’m going to come back, and the time has never felt more right to be playing with these guys there.” He’s since hit local venues such as the Sellersville Theater and a VFW hall in Radnor, Pa.
One thing less predictable this time around, though, is what kind of Ben Vaughn show you’ll see. In the intervening decades, he’s become a genre-spanning music scholar and can mix in long, jazzy improvisations with his flawless, three-minute pop ditties.
“The guys I play with, I’ve been with for 20 years now,” he said. “We’re able to shift and go together really well, so whatever the occasion calls for will happen.”
Tues., Nov. 13, 8pm. $16. Tin Angel, 20 S. Second St. 215.928.0770. tinangel.com
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PW's Music Issue 2014