If you’ve ever sat through a night of karaoke where one extremely drunken, off-key person keeps getting on the mic to sing yet another song by Creed, you’ve probably fantasized about having a giant hook to drag that loser offstage, or at least some way to make it clear that the audience is not receptive to their performance. Well, the Trocadero has genetically engineered the best possible way to communicate this sentiment: a brutally sarcastic MC dressed as the neon Skeletor from the He-Man cartoon who makes bitchy comments about and gongs subpar performers off of his stage. In addition to being the karaoke host and arbiter, Skeletor also performs evil-themed versions of various songs by Enrique Iglesias and Prince. It’s hilarious, but take our word for it: Naïve attempts to sing Meatloaf or Bon Jovi will automatically be gonged—as they should be.
Skeletor Karaoke Gong at the Trocadero, 1003 Arch St. 215.922.5483. myspace.com/skeletorlive.
Consistently treading that very fine line between underground zine publisher and rare art-book producer, the Philly-based Free News Projects is without a doubt one of the most creative and pioneering literary art factories that you’ve probably never heard of. While the always-surprising Megawords photo-magazine is the company’s most visible product, it’s hardly representative of the many odd literary creations in the FNP back catalog. There are gorgeously produced coffee table books documenting area graffiti, as well as obscure indie-rock records, beautifully crafted art books, consistently strange magazines, and to be perfectly honest, who knows what else!
Free News Projects, 125 N. 11th St. freenewsprojects.com
Here at PW we have no problem giving credit where it’s due. That said, City Paper ’s food blog Meal Ticket helps us with our daily dose of procrastination, as it’s a must read for anyone hoping to get the scoop on restaurant openings, specials and foodie news. Felicia D’Ambrosio is half of the stellar team over at Meal Ticket, and she really knows her stuff. A long-time bartender at beer mecca Belgian Cafe, she is like a walking, talking encyclopedia of brew knowledge, and can spout off a hundred different facts about the suds you’re sipping like she’s some sort of spooky reincarnation of Michael Jackson. (The beer writer, not the King of Pop.) Next time you want to know more about your vice, pop in at Belgian and have her pour you a pint.
Belgian Café, 2047 Green St. 215.235.3500. thebelgiancafe.com
It’s not every day you read a review of a post office, especially one with the word “friendliest” in the title. But make no mistake: The women who work the counter at the Penn's Landing Postal Store are beyond courteous and kind professionals. Each and every one goes out of their way to flash a smile, or to simply radiate warmth to the workaday crowds who would otherwise be completing nothing more than a tedious, and often frustrating chore. What’s more, this PO has benefits: It stays open until 7 p.m. on weekdays, and 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Since its immediate neighbors include four tattoo parlors and a body piercing shop, you’d better believe the crowds here tend toward the eccentric and visually stimulating, which will give you something to look at while you’re waiting to meet the nice ladies up front.
US Post Office, 622 S. Fourth St. 215.923.2701. usps.com
Like most people, Jonathan Sipes ’ picked up his habit in college. He started selling on the side just to keep a head stash. Eventually, collecting vintage guitars became a full-blown obsession, so he scrimped for his first big investment and made the pilgrimage down to Gil Southworth’s famous vintage instrument shop in Maryland. During the sale, Sipes’ then-girlfriend mouthed off to Gil, who promptly kicked everyone out of the store—except them. The three of them stayed, drank a bottle of liquor and talked guitars into the night. By morning, Sipes had two new guitars and a mentor for life. Twenty years later, Sipes works as both a broker and a manufacturer, locating “obscure but historically important” pieces from the 1950s for players with discerning fingertips, especially 1950s and 1960s-era Les Pauls, Gibsons and “unique examples of Bigsbys and Rickenbacker guitars.” He also specializes in Bigsby and Rickenbacker parts, restoration and part fabrication. “The company that owns Bigsby now doesn’t make a third of the things that it used to make,” says Sipes. “I won’t just make parts and sell them outright, it’s more for the restoration of specific instruments, but if someone has an old magnitone guitar that was supposed to have a Bigsby bridge I can fabricate it from scratch.” Guitar geeks, meet your new BFF.
J.Ashley Sipes: Rare Stringed Instrument Broker & Muffler Repair, firstname.lastname@example.org
Belfast native Irish John says he owes most of his success to his abrasiveness. Quizzo crowds are struck with fits of laughter as John explains the rules (“No Blackberries or iPhones; it’s bullshit and it’s pathetic”) and comforts the crowd with the promise of an easy question (“This one’s a gimme, it’s a piece of piss.”). You can be entertained and abused by Irish John at bars like Nodding Head, National Mechanics and Atlantis the Lost Bar, as he’s maintaining order with raspy yelps of “Fuck up!” (Irish John shorthand for shut the fuck up) and berates a quizzo team begging for an extra-credit question (“Stop point-whoring!”). He’ll also pepper in a few C-words for good measure.
We can’t think of many Narcotics Anonymous meetings that are more enjoyable to hang out at on a Friday night than the neighborhood bar. The Eleventh Hour , however, which convenes at the South Philly Circle of Hope church, is just that. Every Friday at about 10:45 p.m., the same sort of tattooed and bike-obsessed hipsters you may have gotten drunk with congregate outside the church’s front door. The meeting itself happens in a wide-open gallery-like space that’s illuminated by dozens of flickering votive candles, and after most meetings a small group retires to the nearby Melrose Diner. The Eleventh Hour, by the way, is known in N.A. parlance as an “open meeting,” which means that even non-addicts are welcome to attend. It might be something to consider when you’re making your wild-night weekend plans.
Circle of Hope, 1125 S. Broad St. 215.468.2726. circleofhope.net
Anyone who has spent the weekend shuffling out-of-towners to the requisite local sites can tell you if you’ve seen one historical Philly postcard, you’ve seen ’em all. For visitors (or expats) who want a funkier piece of Philly memorabilia, hit up the gift shop at the College of Physicians’ Mütter Museum , where you can pick up interesting home decor including Noah Scalin’s skull wreath or a plush microbe. Our favorite item is a specially commissioned, hand-drawn poster by technophobic artist Madame Talbot, who creates each one without the help of computers or machines, sometimes taking as long as two weeks to complete a single poster. The Mütter features some of the medical oddity museum’s most popular specimen, including Grover Cleveland’s tumor, the plaster death cast of Chang and Eng and the gangrenous hand in a jar.
Mütter Museum, 19 S. 22nd St. 215.563.3737. collphyphil.org.
Ready to find out Philly's coolest people, fanciest food, tastiest drinks, best shopping and more? Welcome to PW's "Better Than Best" list, a roundup of all of the city's top hidden treasures.