‘ELECTRIFIED: 50 Years of Electric Factory,’ Philadelphia’s Storied Music Scene Goes on Display at Drexel University
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Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ guitar, original posters, photographs and concert apparel help set the stage for Electrified: 50 Years of Electric Factory, an exhibit at Drexel University highlighting iconic images and objects from events at Philadelphia’s well-known music venue, Electric Factory, and the shows that Electric Factory Concerts mounted, which helped shape generations of music tastes and today’s concert experience. Larry Magid, co-founder of Electric Factory, has worked in partnership with the Drexel curators to execute the exhibition.
Larry Magid returned to his native Philadelphia in 1967, connecting with the Spivak brothers Allen, Herb, and Jerry and Shelly Kaplan. Herb Spivak owned a jazz nightspot called the Showboat Theatr and was keen to harness Larry Magid’s experience as a talent agent in New York, who had been promoting upcoming rock and blues musicians. The two discussed plans to open a club that would be a hip, underground environment.
When the original Electric Factory opened on Arch Street in Feb. 1968, Philadelphia had a range of venues offering jazz, blues, soul, rhythm & blues, and rock, supported by local radio stations. Yet its impact was immediate, with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Cream appearing in its first three months. Electric Factory Concerts (EFC) began shortly afterwards, mounting the three-day Atlantic City Pop Festival just before Woodstock in 1969 and becoming the largest popular music promoter in the United States. After the original Electric Factory closed in 1970, EFC opened the Bijou Café on Lombard Street.
Electrified: 50 Years of Electric Factory will run from Friday, Sept. 22 through Saturday, Dec. 30 in the Paul Peck Alumni Center Gallery (31st and Market St.) and the Bossone Research Center (3140 Market St.) on Drexel’s campus. Operating hours are Wednesday through Friday 1-7 p.m. and Saturday, 12-5 p.m. The exhibition is open and free to the public.
“For many Philadelphians Electrified will evoke treasured musical memories, stretching back over decades,” said Derek Gillman, the executive director of University Collections and Exhibitions, and distinguished teaching professor in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design.
The exhibition includes sections on the early years of Electric Factory, Live Aid, concert sound systems (with a scaled-down stage), the second Electric Factory, and the psychology of rhythm, which underlies so much music. An interactive section will close the show, inviting guests to decorate guitars virtually. An American invention, the electric guitar is the signature instrument of rock and visitors will be drawn to three celebrated instruments: Bruce Springsteen’s Esquire-Telecaster, played in Philadelphia more than any other celebrated guitar; the 6-string Fender bass Jack Bruce used to record Fresh Cream, painted in psychedelic colors for Cream’s 1968 European and U.S. tours; and a late 1950s Gibson Les Paul, regarded by some as the holy grail of electric guitars, played by Mick Taylor at the Spectrum during the Rolling Stones Tour in 1972.
“Drexel has completely blown me away! I didn’t know what to expect,” said Larry Magid, Electric Factory co-founder.
The exhibition is sponsored by Ciright, Comcast-Spectacor, the Frank Barsalona Family, Philadelphia Music Alliance, Brian Communications, Red Spruce Capital, Saltz Mongeluzzi Bendesky, and Alan Kessler and Duane Morris.
For more information about Electrified: 50 Years of Electric Factory visit: https://drexel.edu/drexel-founding-collection/exhibitions-events/exhibitions/Electrified/