Before it became The Franklin — a prohibition, speakeasy-style bar that is more focused on crafting well-made cocktails instead of just loading highball glasses with ice, amber liquor, and a splash of whatever — what first housed it’s walls was a tiny, little dive bar called Bar Noir. It was a hipster hangout; you’d walk down a flight of stairs, past an outdoor/underground patio for smokers, into a low-ceilinged, black-painted basement with band posters and stickers covering every inch of the walls and ceiling. There were three things you could count on: Hipster’s, PBR, and live bands.
I met the Robes when I became friends with the bassist back in high school only to link back up with him when we both were living in Philly. Him and his three (at the time I would see them play, four) bandmates were mostly from the Wilkes-Barre area with the exception of one or two. They had started to gain some notoriety in the Philadelphia area by performing at local radio stations, festivals, and every bar they could get their hands on. They even opened at The Khyber for Little Joy which not only gained attention from their fan-base, but exposed lots of new ears to their music. (P.S., R.I.P. Kyhber. You will be greatly missed. I never got laid from one of your bar-goers, but I did get a lot of free drinks…)
Bar Noir was different. It was typical on Fridays for my roommates and I to get hammered at our Christian St. apartment beforehand, hop on our bikes if we still had the ability to ride them, at some point tear off our shoes and throw them in Ash’s bucket-basket on the front of her cruiser, pedal past the ritzy Parc and Rouge where all the rich married men would hang out to get young…never mind…, through Rittenhouse so that we could yell like assholes as we passed by couples and homeless people alike, right down to the packed street that Bar Noir had nestled itself into. We’d lock our bikes on some random side street, avoid bumping into club hoppers since Bar Noir was sandwiched between two of the biggest douchebag wannabe clubs, and then trek down the steps and duck inside.
Once indoors, we’d get whatever beer special was the cheapest, usually pair it with a round of shots, tap into a few PBR’s, laugh at some overly hipster group, make friends with the cute ones, and wait patiently until the Robes were ready to perform. The sound system was always shit, except when they played “The Breaks”, and even then it sucked. But this song always trumped any static or noise simply because it was their best and we knew all the words. The always saved it as their last song and we always anticipated it throughout the entire set, just waiting…
It was a real shame to hear the boys dispersed and went on to new projects years later. However, I’m forever grateful for the times spent getting shitfaced at Bar Noir, listening to the Robes perform, while clinking glasses with two of the best girls I ever lived with. Obviously I’m missing Philly like crazy tonight, but I’m totally stoked to bring you guys a local band that once almost made it big.
Here’s to dive bars, live music, and drinking in excess!
[ I should also note, every bar, restaurant, park, and band I’ve linked to is definitely worth a shot. Little Joy fucking rocks, Parc and Rouge are an experience you should enjoy every so often, The Franklin is my all-time favorite bar — like, ever in history, — and Rittenhouse is the place to be.]