Prater: Great tunes, atmosphere at Philly’s Tin Angel

Nia Prater

Nia PraterThough I’m hardly an expert, I usually consider myself to be pretty in-the-know as far as music is concerned.

Even if I haven’t been there, I usually can recognize the names of different concert venues around Philly, either from word of mouth or from reviews. However, I recently came across a place that I had never heard of before: Tin Angel.

Tin Angel is a listening room that sits one floor above the Serrano Restaurant on 20 S. 2nd St. It’s a smaller space that can only seat up to 115 people, resulting in a very intimate performance. This November will mark its 21st year of operation, and it’s as well frequented as ever.

This place was unfamiliar to me since its shows are mainly for people more than 21-years-old. The restaurant and venue both serve alcohol. But having just turned 21 during the summer, I thought that there was no better time to expand my horizons than by paying Tin Angel a visit.

Serrano and Tin Angel are separated by a tall staircase, the walls around it lined with pictures of past musical acts. If customers make reservations to eat at the restaurant before the show, they’re able to receive reserved seating upstairs.

The restaurant felt warm and cozy, and the food was quickly served. There’s even a TV above the bar for sports lovers. The menu is more on the expensive side for a college student budget, though I found that the food is worth the price.

Ticket prices for Tin Angel shows can be as low as $10 for lesser-known acts. I ended up paying $12 for my ticket, which was a definite plus.

Tin Angel consists of a long room with walls that are completely covered in colorful murals. The reserved tables and chairs are varying distances from the stage, but all of them offer decent views. However, if you’re just there to see the show, you can file in with everyone else and take a seat on one of the stools along the walls. There’s even a ledge above it for your drinks.

Tin Angel, located at 20 S. 2nd St., doubles as both a restaurant and venue for all types of musicians. Its small, decorative inside delights both the performers as well as members of the audience. | Alex Udowenko TTN
Tin Angel, located at 20 S. 2nd St., doubles as both a restaurant and venue for all types of musicians. Its small, decorative inside delights both the performers as well as members of the audience. | Alex Udowenko TTN

And speaking of drinks, there is a two-drink minimum for Tin Angel. Luckily, if you did have dinner downstairs before, glasses can be brought from the restaurant into the venue. If not, customers can order right from their chair or the bar all the way in the back of the room. They have a pretty decent selection to choose from with something for all tastes.

I won’t lie, with the seating you will be in very close quarters. The reserved tables seat four and depending on the number of people in your party, you might just have to share with another group. I suppose there’s never a wrong time to try and make friends.

The stage itself is small, which can make for more stripped or acoustic sets, though it is able to hold a whole band and equipment if the act wishes to try.

The type of acts booked here primarily fall under either the singer/songwriter or folk labels. The size of the place is conducive to that kind of sound.  Because everything in the room is so close together, the sound is clear regardless of where you’re sitting. So whether you’re right next to the stage or all the way back by the bar, you can still be drawn in by the performer’s captivating words or rustic musicianship.

The night I went, the acts on tap were Tall Tall Trees and Valerie June.  Tall Tall Trees, the stage name of Mike Savino, engaged the crowd through hand claps and marveled with his live looping and banjo. It was a banjo that lit up, I might add, the remote to which he gave to an audience member so she could control the colors of the lights during the show.

Though Tall Tall Trees’ sound carried more of an airy feel and Valerie June was much more gritty and earthy, the venue played off of their tones equally well.

Despite the tight squeeze in seating, the experience and atmosphere is well worth the occasional nudging of elbows.

 Nia Prater can be reached at nia.prater@temple.edu.

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