What to know about North Philadelphia’s DIY music scene

The area is a hub for independent music and houses two vibrant DIY music scenes.

North Philly has seen a vibrant DIY music community rise. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The Do-It-Yourself method is a mindset founded on the idea that, through self-reliance and hard work, one can achieve anything.

It’s only natural that the DIY music scene at Temple, a university that started as a night school and steeped in that same fierce independence, flourishes as it does. Countless Temple students pack into crowded rowhome basements near Main Campus each weekend, hungry for the hearing loss-inducing sounds of their peers’ music. 

“Most Temple students are used to having to work for everything they have,” said Jack Klotz, director of Bell Tower Music, Temple’s student-run record label. “And so to me, just that basic ethos, it’s kind of a Temple thing really kind of lends itself to DIY as an art.”

Temple’s house show culture is a reflection not only of the attitude of the school, but the culture of Philadelphia. The city is a hub for the underdogs of music; its ever-present class of independent musicians has churned out stars of every musical genre. At the heart of Philadelphia music stands North Philly, where two DIY scenes have emerged: hip-hop and indie rock.


In the 2010s, Philadelphia became the epicenter of the college rock movement. As bands like Modern Baseball and Marietta began to grow in popularity, so did Temple’s basement scene. 

“I would say probably [the Temple DIY scene] has become a thing I’ve been aware of within the last, like less than 10 years,” Klotz said. “There’s always been frat houses and parties and things but the idea of a DIY music scene I’d say within 10 years.” 

The budding culture didn’t lose momentum even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Temple musicians continue to trend toward creating the gritty rock music best heard in the basements of North Philly rowhomes, where an eager audience is constantly ready for more. 

“After quarantine ended and people were starting to host events more, we noticed this huge surge in house show venues,” said Reece Herberg, a 2023 political science alumna and co-founder of RatPie Friends, a DIY music publication. “My freshman year there was only one or two venues, but after COVID I think that people were just craving the intimacy of being in a basement with a bunch of sweaty people and listening to live music.”

The scene is kept alive by the hundreds of Temple students who have found a home there. Whether they’re looking for a place to showcase their musical talent or a deviation from the typical party culture, Temple’s house show scene offers a change of pace for many.

Herberg was attracted to the scene after feeling unwelcome at frat parties near campus. 

“I just always felt out of place at frat parties, I just always felt like the odd one out,” Herberg said. “I first went to [a house show] freshman year, this was before COVID in 2019, and I instantly felt a sense of belonging. Everyone there, they were just there to drink a beer and enjoy the music, and to me that was significantly better than being in a sweaty frat basement listening to ‘Mo Bamba’ for the eightieth time that night.”

Much of the basement scene is defined by giving back to the community. Venues often host charity events, donating the night’s proceeds to causes near to their hearts or offering harm reduction supplies to attendees. 

The scene is also a catalyst for musical careers. In dank North Philly basements, musicians find a platform for their art and a workshop for their sound. 

“Each little house show is like, in so many ways I’m sure, like a little petri dish,” Klotz said. “God knows what bacteria is growing in those basements, but musically too, because the other thing that’s cool, like any scene, is that people know each other. So the folks who are in this band know the folks in that band and this singer knows that guitar player and I would be surprised, I haven’t seen results of this yet myself, but I would be surprised if there isn’t cross pollination going on.”


Indie rock is far from the only genre in North Philadelphia with a prominent DIY scene. The neighborhood has produced hip-hop icons like Meek Mill and Questlove, alongside countless independent artists.

Queue Rainey, owner and operator of Everquest Recordings, an independent, community-based record label, has hosted Freestyle Fridays out of his home studio for the past 20 years. He invites rappers to have conversations and make music with hopes of building a community each week.

Rainey believes his work at Everquest Recordings is a form of community outreach. He hopes to bridge the ever-growing gap between generations he’s noticed in the neighborhood and highlight North Philly talent through his work.

“So many gifted people just walk around doing nothing, and you don’t realize it because you’re not getting a chance to talk to them,” Rainey said. “But when you do see it you think ‘Wow, this is crazy,’ and like I said, we have a lot of stars in our neighborhood that aren’t shining.”

In 2017, Rainey and his family were featured in “Quest: A Portrait of an American Family,” a documentary showcasing Rainey’s work in the North Philly hip-hop scene. The documentary led to the inception of Freestyle Fridays at Temple and helped Rainey expand the community. 

Rainey partnered with WRTI, a jazz station founded on Temple’s Main Campus, for three years to host Freestyle Fridays on Temple’s campus once a month. Access to Temple’s recording studios allowed the events to grow in size and impact.

“Without a doubt, [Freestyle Fridays were] like the greatest thing ever,” Rainey said. “I can tell you that for sure. A lot of kids felt important because they were invited to a facility where you would normally have to pay to get in.”

Freestyle Fridays were discontinued at Temple when Main Campus shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rainey still hosts the events out of his house, but the space limits the amount of people able to attend each week. 

Rainey hopes to bring the scene back to its pre-pandemic status and Freestyle Fridays back to Temple’s campus.

“It only takes one person to care,” Rainey said. “Someone with a little bit of power, let’s put it that way. Someone with a little bit of caring about the community and a little bit of power and wants to see to change just as much as I do.”

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