Best Record Store
AKA Music has the best selection of new records, but their used selection’s not very impressive. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a shiny Coltrane reissue. But if it’s the real thing you crave, your chances are significantly better at Hiding Place. Located directly below Vox Populi, owner Mark Johnson’s a bona fide cratedigger who understands the value of curation. The small, but well-stocked shop specializes in avant-garde jazz, soul music and R&B. Recent trips by this writer have yielded classic LPs by free-jazz icons Roscoe Mitchell and Giuseppi Logan. Folks hankering hip-hop and Philly rarities will also be rewarded.
Hiding Place, 319 N. 11th St. 215.385.4818. hidingplaceplace..com
Most Beautiful Building In Philly That You Can’t Get Into
Well, you probably can; there’s a small fee for a tour of the Freemason temple sitting beyond the Northeast Corner of City Hall. The tour will take you to a few of the rooms, which are absolutely stunning, each constructed in a different architectural style and imbued with symbols that’ll have you gazing around the city’s architecture with a new set of eyes. And you’ll find out which city dignitaries are members of the secret society. Hint: a whole bunch of the Founding Fathers, and a few of the current ones, too.
Venue With the Most Squalor
The Rathaus doesn’t even have a proper door, and its only sign is an X that appears to have been tagged on the plywood over it. Inside, it looks like what Satan’s dorm room must have been like. But it hosts some of the finest national and local indie acts in music today. They also just opened a vintage clothing store, and God knows how they manage to prevent all the kids from stealing their merchandise. Must be because the $5 cover price includes unlimited access to the keg.
Rathaus, 31st and Spring Garden streets.
Best Performance Artist You Might Think Is Hammered
Messapotamia LeFae, dancer, burlesque drag-queen extraordinaire and reigning diva of Tabu, can be seen drinking PBR with a straw at every Liberty City Kings (LICK) Drag and Burlesque performance, falling over in her spike heels and raking in the cash as she stumbles endearingly through the crowd in a purple silk kimono, and talking to anyone who’ll listen. Our theory? It’s water and she knows exactly how to scam it. But what’s a dollar compared with the microthrill of her touch on your shoulder as she struggles to right herself?
Best Place To Ask Stupid Questions About Power Tools Without Being Judged
The world of DIY home renovation is a secret world that’s hard to enter. West Philly Tool Library gives you a key, providing a staff of nice, non-judgmental people to answer all your questions about the difference between a round saw and jigsaw and discover why your drill won’t drill into your Ikea shelf (it’s set on reverse). As long as you’re suitably broke, $20 a year gets you access to all the tools your ignorant heart desires.
West Philly Tool Library, 1314 S. 47th St. westphillytools.org
Best Rockstar Architecture Firm
When the eco-development firm known as Postgreen Homes debuted its 100K House some three years ago, there was little doubt that a new group of rockstar-architects had officially entered Philadelphia’s homebuilding scene. And yet who could have guessed that in such a short amount of time, Postgreen would not only have completed three more incredibly smart homes that appear to have materialized straight from the pages of Dwell magazine, but would also have three other multi-home projects in progress. The most ambitious of these, a mini-cluster known as reNewbold, threatens to completely alter the public perception of South Philly’s most transitional neighborhood. Keep an eye on these guys; they obviously have no plans to stop making architectural waves anytime soon.
Ever think to yourself: Hey, I wonder where I can have a threesome and then promptly forget about it? Well, one of our writers thinks he's found that place. Want Mexican food that doesn't burn on the way out? Of course you do. More of these questions and answers have found their way into this year's Better Than Best issue. And what's better than best, you ask? We have no idea. We just knew we couldn't use Best Of, because another publication in this town has it on lockdown. But that doesn't mean we didn't put an enormous amount of effort into bringing you the most random hidden gems Philly has to offer. Because we did. And we think we've got a pretty good list going on here.
Being Black: It's not the skin color