One-on-one with Chris Perella, co-owner of Ardmore Music Hall
by Eli Bank, arts and culture editor
Ardmore Music Hall may seem like a Main Line mainstay, but the concert venue has only been in existence for 10 years. Of course, plenty of people knew AMH as Brownies 23 East, the beloved and fake ID-friendly college bar.
Chris Perella was one of them. Now one of Ardmore Music Hall’s co-owners, Perella frequented Brownies during his undergrad days at St. Joe’s. “I knew Brownies pretty well,” he said. “I was sneaking in underage to see The Grateful Dead tributes, and some still play here regularly, so it’s been a pretty full circle experience for me.”
After taking possession of Brownies in 2013, Perella and his partners realized that transforming it into Ardmore Music Hall would be quite an undertaking. “The prior owner had turned Brownies into Ardmore Music Hall, but it wasn’t designed to be a full-time music venue,” Perella said. “It was designed to be more of a high-volume college bar. It always felt like there was a little bit of an uphill battle to tweak the nooks and crannies of the room from a production standpoint.”
Over the years, Perella worked hard to fine tune the building’s issues. Much of that was done during the COVID quarantine. Perella used the down time to execute massive renovations. That included a complete rebuild of the stage, fixing obstructed audience views and production flaws.
“We had seven and a half years of experience in the space and really had the time, for better or worse, to rethink and reimagine every bit of it during the pandemic,” he said. “We brought in an architect and a contractor group because we ended up doing some pretty major work.”
Why take on such a huge project? Chris Perella comes from a music- loving family. He grew up listening to greats like Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones and even saw The Who live in concert.
“I grew up on a lot of classic rock. My parents were definitely ’60s kids, so we were listening to a lot of Beatles,” he said. “Then, in high school, I got into contemporary rock – a lot of Limp Bizkit and Green Day, and then transitioned into being a big Phish and Grateful Dead fan as I got into college. It’s evolved from there to a pretty good spread of rock Americana and roots and country, but I’m definitely still a jam band guy also.”
Now, Ardmore Music Hall is a state-of-the-art venue and Perella’s team can book acts like indie pop giants Japanese Breakfast, Kurt Vile, Meshell Ndegeocello,10,000 Maniacs – and, of course, The Hooters.
To mark its 10-year anniversary, Ardmore Music Hall hosted several anniversary concerts, including with The Hooters. The Philly rock band sold out three shows in May 2023. “The Hooters played our first ever show in 2013 and we convinced them to do a weekend here 10 years later,” Perella said. “They played 23 East many times in the past. So that was a fitting reunion where they not only were our first show, but also did it as a young rock band in the same space 40 years ago.”
Perella and his team marked AMH’s momentous anniversary in other ways, including a locally-brewed, signature beer called Track 10 and other special events. “We don’t stop very often to enjoy or celebrate the things that we’ve accomplished,” Perella said. “We’re all passionate about what we do, but I think our 10-year anniversary is a rare chance for us to reflect a little bit on what we’ve been able to do in the space and how far we’ve come since 2013.”
Moving forward, Perella’s focus is on continuing to bring all kinds of musical genres to Ardmore. “We discovered that people have a really broad range of interest,” he said. “As we’ve taken more chances on new and different genres, we found a lot of great results in terms of turnout. This area has been a little bit of an entertainment desert in the past, so now we’re serving all of those different audiences – and successfully. That has given us the wind under our sails to keep taking chances and to really broaden our horizons.”
For information about upcoming shows, visit Ardmore Music Hall.
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