The Underworld: Building community below ground

Matt Guardiola and Regina Hennessey host shows out of their house on Carlisle Street.

The Underworld, a DIY venue focused on amplifying the community, was started by two Temple students. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Regina Hennessey and Matt Guardiola went to their first house show together when they were freshmen. The experience was unforgettable: the show was located on the Schuylkill River Trail, and by the end of the night the pair were mud-soaked and smitten with the scene.

“Ever since that show, I was just like ‘Wow, this is like something that I want to keep doing, keep being a part of,’” said Hennessey, a junior business management major.

The pair started The Underworld, a house show venue on Carlisle Street, during their sophomore year. They host shows about once a month and strive to run a safe, community-oriented venue where artists and audiences can connect through music.

The duo doesn’t profit from venue operations. They keep 10 percent of cover revenue to purchase free water and ear plugs for their shows; the other 90 percent is divided between a different charity for each set and the bands who perform. Profit from the bar goes to offsetting the electricity cost of operating sound and lighting equipment.

“We try to give back to the community as much as possible and realize that Temple definitely played a big role in displacing a lot of people and a lot of families,” said Guardiola, a junior music major. “So as Temple students, we want to recognize that and try and do our best to give back while also getting to do this thing that we love.”

Bands can submit booking requests through The Underworld’s Instagram account the semester before each show. Guardiola and Hennessey then sift through requests, looking for scheduling and genre compatibility, and create a bill for their shows.

They also try to incorporate unique themes into each show. On Feb. 16, they hosted a Valentine’s Day set featuring four shoegaze bands with screen printed valentines from a local Philly artist for sale at the bar. Profits from the show’s cover fee went to The Attic Youth Center, a Philadelphia LGBTQ+ youth center. The show was one of their most popular this year. 


Hennessey and Regina plaster signage throughout their house before every show with safety reminders and their personal phone numbers in case anyone in an uncomfortable situation needs to reach them discreetly.

“Basically we just try and make people aware of the space they’re in and each other as much as possible and keep each other safe,” Guardiola said. 

They also keep free water and Narcan available at the bar during shows and have a team of volunteers to help operate procedures, like admission and security.

The duo hopes their work at The Underworld creates a platform for small artists. They record audio and video for each set in hopes of helping the bands they host to reach broader audiences. 

Colo, a Northern Virginia-based band who performed at the venue last semester, released “Live at the Underworld” on Spotify on Feb. 1. The recording of their Dec. 6 set was mixed by Guardiola.

“How I got into DIY music was seeing some shitty video of a band in a shitty basement playing some crazy song and I just remember watching old videos of Modern Baseball in some Philly basement and being like, ‘Wow, this is awesome, I wish I could do that,’” Guardiola said.

Guardiola hopes to give that experience to someone else through his recording work at The Underworld, he said.

Casey Kohler and his band, Cadalay, performed at The Underworld in November at their masquerade show. The theme stuck out to Kohler as particularly fun, as most venues don’t theme their shows.

Kohler also remembers the high quality of the sound, which is especially rare for a tiny North Philly basement.

“It sounded really good in that basement, because a basement’s hard to get good sound in,” said Kohler, a junior media studies and production major. “It was electric down there. It was sick. It was super energetic and that’s all you can really ask for like a basement show.”

Video by Kajsa Morse

The Underworld’s next show, scheduled for March 9, will be prom themed. Guardiola and Hennessey hope to continue bringing the community together through their venue and look forward to developing more themes for their shows.

“We love doing the shows,” Guardiola said. “I’m really happy with how it’s running right now and what we’re doing, so our plans are just to keep on keeping on.”

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