For all intents and purposes the Khyber was my home away from home from the late 1980s until I moved to Pittsburgh in the fall of 1995. A dingy, dark hole of a bar, it was also home to some of the greatest punk and rock shows in Philly's checkered musical history. (Especially the night the Dwarves played a spectacular 10-minute set that ended with Blag Dahlia triple-lindeying into the drum kit, only to be dragged off to the bathroom by his bandmates.) While it would be impossible to rattle off the names of every great band that I watched -- or simply heard on really busy nights -- grace its tiny stage, here's an all-star ballot of pre-Green Day "alternative" if ever there was one: Didjits, Pegboy, Fleshtones, Junk Monkeys, Figgs (shown playing at the Khyber in the photo above), aforementioned Dwarves, Urge Overkill, The Fluid, Bash & Pop, Lunachicks, Original Sins, Boredoms, Neighborhoods, Elastica, Bullet La Volta, New Bomb Turks, Devil Dogs, Soul Asylum... and the list goes on.
Not just a great band bar, the Khyber was also one of the oldest bars in the city and sported a mind-boggling, world-class selection of draft and bottled beers due to its proximity to Penn's Landing and the city's tourist/naval traffic. Me, I just plunked down my $2.50 and had me another Yuengling Porter. Oh yeah, it was also purported to be haunted! How could you possibly go wrong?I can't remember what the last show I saw at The Khyber was but I have so many strange and good memories... interviewing Tommy Stinson for the pages of Exploitation Retrospect and chuckling as he bad-mouthed the Goo Goo Dolls for sounding like The Replacements and not having a hit, chatting with the guys from The Neighborhoods, Peter Zaremba of The Fleshtones jumping into the crowd and pulling me into a headlock as we belted out one of their garage rock classics, nearly getting killed during the choas of a Lunachicks show, having a good-natured argument with my pal Lou about which of us the lead singer of Elastica was making goo-goo eyes at, getting what amounted to a private show by the fellows in The Junk Monkeys, running into old friends and old flames, dashing across the street between sets because I'd already blown all the money I'd gotten out of the bank, and so on and so on.
For more on this once-great venue check out this oral history from The Philadelphia City Paper. Me? I gotta go get a six-pack of Yuengling Porter... for old times sake.