Posts Tagged ‘philadelphia


Fergies Pub – A gem in the heart of Philly!

Ok, so before you think Hi-Fi has “jumped the shark” and become a blog about pubs and beer read on and give us a chance.  Last month I was in my hometown of Philadelphia, PA to catch the Flyers versus Canadians game; a that allowed them to clinch a playoff spot for this current season!  I make the pilgramage to “The City of Brotherly Love” every year for my birthday, and beforehand I always plan my weekend out hour by hour, so that I make the best of my time.  One of the key things in my life is food and beer (aside of hockey and music) so with a vast array of incredible places to eat in Philly, you really need to plan ahead.

After putting in a hard day of blogging at Hi-Fi Central, I decided to explore recommended pubs in Philly – always worthwhile and a deserving reward after trekking any major city is a good microbrew…or two.  During my search I came upon a blog that recommended a place called Fergie’s Pub; Fergie’s seemed to offer a fine array of ever revolving microbrews, and also the added treat of live music!  I planned to visit it pre-Flyers game, eat some dinner, and get a good buzz on prior to my trek to the Wells Fargo Center. 

Part of the appeal of visiting Fergies Pub is that it was also located on Sansom Street, a street that my ancestors once resided on in 1870, so to walk the very street seemed very sentimental, and again, a good excuse to perhaps have a (ahem) third beer in honor of their memory.

I had been staying at the Sofitel on 17th and Sansom, so the location seemed right, but prior to departing I decided to ask the concierge what they thought of Fergies.  Instantly their eyes lit up and the looked at each other with disbelief, apparently few of the clientele of a Sofitel ask for a good seedy Irish pub when in Philly.  All three suggested that I go and said that timing (3:00 on a Saturday) was perfect since at 4:00 “The Sessions” begin; “sessions” I asked, what is that?

I was informed that at 4:00 this group of regulars comes in, parks it at a table with their pints and plays a few hours of free form Irish music; but space becomes limited very quickly.  So, I rushed down and found Fergies Pub, entered and was instantly welcomed by the waitress asking us how many and before we sat down what we would like to drink.  The beer menu offered about 15 beers on tap, and the food was excellent.  After we got settled we drank a pint and sure enough the waitresses started moving the tables around to make room for a group of people, about 4 in all, to sit down and prepare to play.  The group consisted of a guitarist, two fiddles, and an accordian player, it didn’t take long for them to get started and the music was excellent.  Much of the music was impromptu jamming and at times they would just fade out and drink their beers and then start up again by sheer impulse, clearly they knew each other rather well and their timing was spot on.   At one point a mother walked in with her daugther (I think about 9) and the little girl got out her fiddle and jumped right in not missing a cue; it was excellent!

Philadelphia, if you’ve either never been there or have visited only a few times is truly a fun city.  Last year I blogged about visiting a church on 20th and Christian streets called St. Charles Boromeo where my great-grandparents were married in 1907, just to find out the church and the mass had converted into an amalgum of both Catholic and Gospel influences, just something completely unexpected. 

Check out Fergies Pub on a saturday afternoon if you are every visiting Philly, the beer, food, and service are excellent, but the music just adds a special twist.


City of Brotherly Love exemplified

On a recent birthday trip to my hometown of Philadelphia I wanted to retrace some of the steps my ancestors once walked. Unbeknownst to many of my friends I am a huge geneology nerd and researching my families past has been a passion for over a decade.  So, why talk about geneology on a music blog you say?  A good question indeed.

One of the places I’ve always wanted to visit was a church in South Philly where my great-grandparents were wed in 1906; many of my great-aunts and uncles were baptised there as well, so natually I had to see what it looked like and gain some insight into the past.  The church is St. Charles Borromeo and is located on the corners of 20th and Christian streets; it is a magnificent structure that dominates the corner with a profound statement of just how much care, detail, and devotion workers put into churches built in the 19th century.  One of the interesting things upon approaching the church was my mothers initial comment when she noticed several African-American folks entering the church for the 9:30 a.m. service, she said “hmmm, I don’t know if this is the same church these days”, a classic comment from a woman who was brought up in the “Archie Bunker” blue-collar 1950’s household of rural Philadelphia.  But her comment did get me thinking about how diverse Philadelphia is as a city and how much of a transition it has undergone over the past 100 years; especially the ethnicity defined neighborhoods that rarely truly exist in the robust nature that they once had in during the turn of the last century.  You need to remember that my great-grandparents were literally off the boat from Ireland, so at one time this church’s congregation was either entirely Irish or Italian at one time.

Upon entering the church it was clear to see that times had changed with the ethnographic make up of the participants, but regardless it has remained a Roman Catholic church.  To be honest it was a bit uneasy of a feeling, knowing that the sentimental ethnic qualities of the church had changed, although the interior had not and probably still looked as it did on the day my great-grandparents were married, it did not hold nearly the anticipation of mystery that I had expected; actually it presented another mystery entirely.  What was the identity of this church now?

As the mass began it was clear to see that the church was going to perform a traditional Catholic mass and followed the entire script to a tee, except for a twist, Gospel!  Yes, that’s right Gospel music integrated within a Catholic mass and it was incredible.  I began to think to myself “what a little diamond in the rough”; to think that the dynamics of the neighborhood had changed since 1906, and with the infusion of the few African-American Catholics a blend of both styles had resulted without any one being more dominant than the other.  The selection of songs during the service was incredible; and in a traditional Gospel style a man played an upright piano while a group of both White and Black singers intertwined harmonies with so much emotion that I was in disbelief.  This church was exhibiting exactly what Philadelphia supposedly represents – A City of Brotherly love.

After the service I took some time to talk to Father Ed Kuczynski who led the mass and basically is the only priest left to manage the one service a week and said the church is more like a “hobby” these days to the diocese; the school and housing for the sisters and priests have been sold off to private developer.  The church and mass are held as a courtesy to the continued interest of the one sunday mass offered; he too agreed that out of all of the churches in Philly this was a true gem and sadly often overlooked by the people of the city.

Interestingly during our conversation about the how the mass had a Gospel feel he said that the African-American community introduced itself to the church shortly after World War One; and that the church has always been a unique place sought out by the Black community that embraces diversity and exemplifies it in every way.  Sadly with the majority of younger people (myself included) no longer attending mass on a regular basis the future of the church is in question; often relying on the bleak donations to provide to the poor of the city. Not the mention the current national trend of the priest child sex abuse scandals rocking most U.S. cities, Philadelphia not being exempt.

If you are in Philadelphia or live in the city and feel like enlightening yourself on a truly worthwhile experience, check out a 9 a.m. service at St. Charles Borromeo in South Philly; and tell your friends! Afterwards head to Reading Terminal and get a good p0rk loin with brocolli rabe sandwich at D’inics! 

If you do go, let us know what you think.

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