Welcome to Secret Philly, an occasional series in which Billy Penn will visit hidden or exclusive places in Philadelphia and write about them.
The Electric Factory in Callowhill. The place has been around for decades and has hosted acts you’ve heard, or heard of: Bob Dylan, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, Metallica, The Strokes, The Backstreet Boys, Duran Duran, Kanye West, ZZ Top, Alabama Shakes, Adele — chart-toppers. Pick the charts: Pop, rock, rap, R&B.
And despite a few renovations to the dressing rooms that took place this year, the concert venue with a psychedelic Ben Franklin as its logo has remained largely the same in how it draws people from across the region to experience its almost underground feel.
The Electric Factory started back in 1968 and was based in Center City at 22nd and Arch. That location was open for several years, but the owners shut it down and focused on promoting. Then in the mid-90s, the same owners, including legendary promoter Larry Magid, opened up this location at 7th and Callowhill, and now the place is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
The folks at the Electric Factory gave Billy Penn a backstage tour of their 2,500-person venue so we could show you where some of the biggest names in rock have prepared for their shows and partied afterwards. And also maybe before. Possibly during.
So this is a look at the green room, which Marketing Director Reid Benditt said hasn’t changed much since it was constructed. Up on the walls are pieces of art that the Electric Factory has created when big bands come to play the venue.
This is a view of the front of the green room which features a camel and an old police box, or a TARDIS — a time machine popularized by Doctor Who. Sorry, we didn’t try to travel through time or another dimension… This time.
Head down a hallway from the green room and there are several different rooms artists use to get ready. The main room has a full refrigerator that’s stocked with whatever they ask for. Benditt wouldn’t get into specifics, but some artists have been especially picky in the past.
Ever heard the story about Van Halen’s quality control efforts? When they played venues, the band would specifically outline in the rider with the venue that no brown M&Ms were allowed backstage. That’s not because they had some particular aversion to M&Ms, but rather because they knew that if the venue paid attention to that detail, they probably paid attention to everything else, too.
Here’s the main dressing room for artists, which recently renovated and updated:
And, alas, I give you: The bathroom that was probably used by some of the greatest rockstars of our generation. And if only we knew the things that have gone on in that shower.
At the end of that hall backstage is a full kitchen complete with tables that look something like a diner and flatscreen TV where artists and crew members can hang out before and after the show. The Electric Factory has an in-house chef that runs concessions for the public and caters for the artists.
Also, they’ve got the trippiest laundry room you’ve ever seen:
Most of the rest of the backstage area is largely dedicated to the show itself and getting ready. Here are a few other views of behind the stage, starting with the main hallway that’s directly behind the stage. That ramp there is how roadies get pieces of the set onto the stage itself.
And this is where artists enter the stage via some moderately rickety stairs. Right before the stairs on the ground, it says Electric Factory. Benditt says it’s “so they don’t forget where they are.”
Directly above the hallway where artists enter the stage is where some of the lights are controlled, and also: The general manager’s office.
Here are a few more photos of the backstage area:
And most importantly, the view that so few have seen. This is what it looks like when you’re standing on the stage:
The next big show on the Electric Factory’s calendar: The Wonder Years and Motion City Soundtrack are playing Nov. 25. Get calendar and ticketing information here.