The Electric Factory exhibit at Drexel University covers the history of Philly’s concert power plant

Generations of Philadelphia concertgoers can trace some of their formative memories to experiences at the Electric Factory. The name is synonymous with the growl of amplifiers, the thrill of the crowd and the evolution of a rock movement that dominated the cultural landscape in the second half of the 20th century.

Most people in Philly probably think of the venue at 421 N. Seventh St. – now called the Franklin Music Hall – if you remember the Electric Factory. But the space first opened at 22nd and Arch Street and the The story goes back decades. Electric Factory Concerts, an innovative advertising company founded in the late 1960s, played a key role in creating the model for concert tours and music festivals that we take for granted today.

At Drexel University, an upcoming exhibition will highlight 50 years of Electric Factory and the agency that raised the bar for live music on the East Coast.

Electrified“, which runs from September 22 to December 30 in the Paul Peck Alumni Center Gallery, features a collection of photos, posters, concert clothing and guitars played at the Electric Factory. Including that of Bruce Springsteen iconic Fender Telecaster from the cover of “Born to Run” and Mick Taylor’s guitar from the Rolling Stones’ performance at the Spectrum in 1972.

Other areas of the exhibit focus on the venue’s early years, its sound systems, some of its major concerts, and an interactive area where people can decorate virtual guitars.

The original Electric Factory & Flea Market opened in February 1968 on the site of a former tire warehouse. Then-26-year-old general manager Larry Magid was asked by brothers Herb, Jerry and Allen Spivak to rent the building, which the four did together.

West Philly native Magid had been working for a talent agency in New York City but was drawn to the Spivak brothers’ vision bringing together a disjointed music scene that lacked a unifying focal point. The city’s venues at the time were mostly small clubs supported by radio stations.

“There were no promotions whatsoever,” said Magid, now 81. “The disc jockeys were the stars and they did dances… That’s it. There were a few rock ‘n’ roll shows here and there, as in other cities, but there was no large-scale advertising. There were.” “No concert business.”

In its first three months, the Electric Factory attracted sensational acts including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Cream.

“We had the shiny new toy,” Magid said. “It was the right place and the right time.”

One of the venue’s selling points was its low ticket prices, which started at around $3.50. Promotion agency Electric Factory Concerts also developed a model for booking three-act shows that could appeal to overlapping fan groups.

“For a long time we kept our ticket prices lower than everyone else,” Magid said. “That was intentional. By focusing on volume and not increasing prices by a few dollars, we can keep people coming to the shows on a consistent basis.”

By 1970, the landlord of the electricity factory wanted to double the rent. But Magid and Allen Spivak were already bringing musical acts to other area venues, such as the Spectrum, and had plans to open Bijou coffee shopa jazz and comedy club, in the space of the former Showboat, 1409 Lombard St. Their three-day Atlantic City Pop Festival, held just before Woodstock in 1969, featured stars such as Joni Mitchell, BB King and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

It became clear that the Electric Factory’s first brick-and-mortar location was expendable.

“We gave up the club, but we were well on our way to doing concerts,” Magid said. “Because we had taken advantage of many opportunities, we received calls to play Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra afterwards. Through our efforts we attracted a lot of interest from other managers and record labels.”

Even as older acts made their way to EFC, Magid was at the forefront of efforts to build relationships with newer rock bands from the US and England. He was involved with Yes, The Kinks, Alice Cooper, The Allman Brothers and The Band and took them on tours to other cities such as Pittsburgh, Washington and Baltimore.

Still, Philadelphia remained EFC’s focus. In 1975, the company purchased the legendary Tower Theater in Upper Darby.

“We probably did 70 shows a year across the city, and no other market could do that,” Magid said. “Children from the suburbs played an important role. We let kids ride buses and trains. We created a large environment and network for visitors. It just kept growing.”

He added: “The great thing about Philadelphia is how knowledgeable the people are. Not just in music, but also in sports and other places. It’s a magical city.”

In 1985, EFC reached world level when it produced Live Aid at JFK Stadium in South Philly. The Beach Boys, Madonna, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Neil Young, Patti LaBelle and a reunited Led Zeppelin all played the huge benefit concert, which was simulcast at England’s Wembley Stadium and raised more than $120 million for the Ethiopian famine brought in.

The key to EFC’s success was that they created an accessible community for music lovers where they could not only see their favorite bands, but also each other.

“People came without thinking about what was playing, just to be part of the environment,” Magid said. “We created something through weekly series and building our shows with three actors. It was a conscious effort to take what we did at the Electric Factory and take it to larger venues.”

In the early 1990s, a new wave of grunge, metal and pop-punk bands became very popular. EFC decided to purchase the building at Seventh and Willow Streets – the former General Electric switchgear plant – and convert it into the new Electric Factory in 1995.

“It worked a lot better than the first factory,” Magid said of the 2,700-seat venue, whose iconic Ben Franklin sign loomed over the factory’s smokestack.

In 2017, EFC sold the building for $20.1 million. It was later acquired by Bowery Presents, who continue to operate it as Franklin Music Hall with concerts by artists of various genres. Magid, member of the Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk of Famesaid the decision to sell was personal.

“It takes a lot of hours and a lot of people to put on a show. It was a great venue, but the time had come. It just ended and we had to know when to get off the bus,” Magid said. “On the whole, it no longer appealed to me. Personally, I went to the club less and less.”

Magid still works with Bruce Springsteen and hosts his shows from time to time, but now he enjoys spending time with his wife. He helped acquire some of the Drexel exhibit’s pieces – including “The Boss’ Telecaster” – but was otherwise not involved in its compilation. He said he’s excited to see how it turns out.

“It will be a trip down memory lane,” Magid said.

“Electrified: 50 Years of Electric Factory” is open Wednesday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. The Paul Peck Alumni Center Gallery is located on the southeast corner of 32nd and Market Streets.

Hung is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button