Domenic Palermo dishes on the city’s best murals and karaoke joints.
In Best In Your Town, we ask artists to talk about the local institutions that make their hometown like no other place on earth. For this issue’s installment, we asked Domenic “Nicky” Palermo from Philadelphia’s Nothing to chat about his favorite record stores, late-night food spots, and wall murals and in the city of brotherly love.
Best place to go on a Saturday night
Well, there’s a couple different versions of this story. I live in New York now, and I haven’t been in Philly for a weekend in a while, but the one spot we always find ourselves in is the bar where I’m a part owner, Ortlieb’s, in the Northern Liberties neighborhood. It used to be a jazz club. My friend Kyle took it over, and I became a partner with him. Pretty often I find myself there, because I can kind of just walk behind the bar and pour myself a drink, do whatever I want, play whatever music I want. I can bump everyone out on a Saturday night, just start playing Smog records at midnight and make everyone leave. That’s probably where I would find myself out if I were drinking and trying to party. They got really good tacos, and after the bars close at 4AM, we find ourselves opening up the kitchen.
Best late-night food spot
Well, it depends. I try to avoid the big crowds on the weekends, and the days of any kind of Philly cheesesteak spots are done cause they’re just a fistfight waiting to happen constantly. Everyone is wasted, so I try to avoid all that. We always go to David’s Mai Lai Wah in Chinatown. That’s one of my low-key spots.
Best Karaoke bar
I was just about to say that the reason we go to David’s a lot to eat Chinese food and drink beer is because we usually finish up the night doing karaoke at a place called Tango. They have a secret area where if you walk through the restaurant at the end of the night, there’s a back room with a staircase to this super crazy fucking karaoke room. It’s just neon lights, there’s a billion people there all night, it’s like lawless down there. After we do that and drink a bunch of soju and shit, we’ll bounce over to David’s to eat Chinese and slam Budweisers. I have two bangers that I go to and kill: “My Cherie Amour” and “Into the Night” by Benny Mardones. [“Into the Night”] just slaps—I fucking tear the roof off with that one.
Best place to buy gear
You know Philly, has always lacked a decent music store. For a while, that was my thing: I was like, “I’m gonna open up a music store,” cause there’s not that many. DiPinto Guitars, they make really great guitars. Bluebond Guitars is the other one I would go to and try to find used pedals; in the early days, when we were trying to figure out our sound, I would go there a lot.
Best record store
Definitely Repo Records. It depends at where I’m at in the city, but Repo and Long In The Tooth Records are my two favorite record shops. There’s a ton of good ones down there, but those are my go-tos. I’ve always been friends with the people there.
Johnny Brenda’s is always a great venue for music in town—it’s one of my favorite [places] to see a show. The best venue in the city is Union Transfer, for sure; from the sound to the hospitality, there’s not a better venue than that place. Also, the First Unitarian Church—I gotta big-ups the Church. I spent a lot of time there.
Oh well, my favorite murals in the city are the ones that my friends do illegally on L roofs. I still [know] a ton of people in that scene—these 16-, 17-year-old kids I grew up with when they were tiny little babies and now they’re in their late teens who are still wilding out, climbing on roofs. That’s always gonna be my favorite kind of painting in Philadelphia. I don’t really care for any of the legal stuff, though I do like [Steven Power’s] “Love Letters.”
Favorite neighborhood? Well, every one of them keeps getting ruined by gentrification so, uh, I keep getting pushed further and further north. My favorite place to be is Kensington at this point. It still has a lot of life in it; it still has a lot of the Philadelphia I remember growing up, for better and for worse. It’s nice to see some of [that] Philadelphia still living down there, even though day by day it’s getting shipped out. These are the things that happen in life, I suppose, but I’ll always love Kensington.
I think my favorite thing about Philadelphia is that there’s always been this aura around it that makes anyone from outside of Philadelphia hate it. While Philly’s really coming up in the world in terms of food and music and real estate, and [that reputation] is starting to fade away, I’ll always have some love for it. The city will always have a chip on its shoulder. It’s an underdog.