Venue attracts new fans with popular hardcore artists

The Voltage Lounge consists of a Hookah lounge and bar, and is evolving into a thriving live music venue. | Greg Frangipani TTN
The Voltage Lounge consists of a Hookah lounge and bar, and is evolving into a thriving live music venue. | Greg Frangipani TTN

In the Electric Factory’s shadow on 7th Street sits the Voltage Lounge—a former dive bar that hosted karaoke nights and urban dance parties. Now, the venue is a favored spot for hardcore shows like sold-out nights featuring Northlane, Nails and Code Orange.

Michael Daddario opened the Voltage Lounge as a music venue Aug. 2012, transforming the former nightclub “from the ground up.”

“It was started by someone who had no music … nor night club connections,” Daddario said. “So it started from zero.”

Daddario said Voltage’s recent progress comes down to hard work paying off, but is still remarkable because of the venue’s reputation and financial situation when he took over. The venue’s performances felt like “amateur hour,” Daddario said, because he had little money and few connections to book more than mediocre local acts.

To improve the quality of artists, Daddario would sometimes work with outside promoters and booking companies, like Dominic Stone at Little House Booking.

Stone enjoys booking at Voltage because the venue is laid back about allowing promoters to run shows their way. However, Stone said, Voltage’s staff is always attentive to the safety and well-being of the crowd.

The staff at Voltage is a recurring positive theme among those who attend the venue as promoters, fans or musicians.

Paul Marchesani played Voltage many times with his former band Overfield. and said he enjoyed the sound quality and the staff at the venue.

Phil Quartucci, a fan who frequently attends shows put on by Little House Booking and hip-hop shows at the venue, said the promoters Voltage chooses to work with are very professional. Additionally, Quartucci said that promoters make sure the bands playing are “happy from the moment they walk into the venue until they leave for the night.”

Out of Voltage’s employees, Daddadrio and Stone agree that Sean Salm, the booking manager, is one of the venue’s key employees and was crucial to the recent success.

Salm joined Voltage about a year ago, making the venue’s booking more organized and professional, Daddario said.

“He knows all genres, he knows all the venues, he understands the business side of it,” Daddario said. “I can’t say enough about his contributions.”

“Sean Salm really turned that place around for the better,” Stone said.

Salm said he brought networking and connections to the table when he became Voltage’s booking manager in February.

“I have a very large network of promoters that I work with that I trust,” Salm said.

Some of those promoters Salm works with are Live Nation and R5 Productions, as well as R5’s offshoot, Philly Hardcore Shows.

But Voltage is still competing with nearby venues like the Electric Factory and Union Transfer, though it’s not comparable due to its size, according to Daddario. Voltage caps at 300 patrons at a seated show, adding on an additional 100 when the show is standing room—but still holds less than half Union Transfer’s capacity, which holds up to 1,000,  and only a small fraction of the Electric Factory’s 3,000 cap.

“Right now, mid-size venues are popular,” Daddario said. “People are looking to feel that connection with the artist.”

Sometimes, the venue’s proximity to two popular venues is a good thing. Voltage worked in tandem with the Electric Factory during This Is Hardcore Festival, hosting multiple smaller, after-show events.

Despite its size, Voltage also offers an upper level—a perk to music fan and senior Mike Shaer.

“The upstairs section is nice to hang out and watch from above,” Shaer said.

Shaer also said he likes that Voltage allows patrons to stage dive at shows with heavy bands and enjoys the bar’s beer selection.

To maintain Voltage’s popularity, Daddario said he and the staff must plan to stay ahead of the trends and on the cutting edge, particularly by staying active on and paying attention to trends on social media.

Though there are challenges to face when running a venue, like costs and regulations, Daddario is confident Voltage will continue to entertain people and remain open.

Vince Bellino can be reached at vince.bellino@temple.edu.

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