Amid the smoke, studded leather jackets and punk music that filled West Philadelphia’s flophouse/underground venue Fakehouse last Friday night, one thing stood out: the turtle in the corner.
“That turtle’s been here longer than anyone,” one woman explained. Now, after almost 20 years at Fakehouse — also known as Fake House or Fake Haus — the turtle was among the couple hundred guests to witness the house’s final punk show and, soon, its closing. The landlord's plans aren't known, but the lot at 38th Street and Lancaster Avenue is probably destined to be developed. With very little time until the move-out date of Dec. 15, Fakehouse residents threw one final “reunion” concert, complete with Christmas lights, $1 beers and hundreds of past and present Fakehouse frequenters.
“It’s the end of an era,” said one Fakehouse regular who goes by the name Johnny Dangerous. He added that in the ’90s, Fakehouse was one of a few punk venues around West Philadelphia, many of which would hold shows and give a home to passersby. But Fakehouse was special. “You always used to come here for the [best] underground shows. … It’s important to have underground venues, because it adds to the community,” Dangerous said.
A large barn with no central heating, Fakehouse hosted shows by several well-known punk bands in their early days, including Crash Worship and Bikini Kill. It has also been a West Philadelphia destination for artists, travelers and anyone looking to pay around $100 a month for rent.
The house’s demise is indicative of the gentrification chipping away at the area.
“This is like explorers, missionaries, soldiers coming in and conquering,” said Pasquale, another regular. “Everyone is moving west, and they’ll be followed by those explorers and missionaries — and real-estate agents,” he laughed.
Many Fakehouse residents were finding it hard to leave the place they had come to know and love. There was even talk of ignoring the request to evacuate.
“You see these things that people coming here for a while have built,” said Amy, a Fakehouse resident. “It’s just crazy that they can come and take that all away.”
While many mourn Fakehouse’s closing, others like Alicia — who frequented the place in the 1990s — were sure that this wasn’t the end for underground punk venues. “As long as there’s kids who like music, there are going to be places like this,” she said. “I’m not too concerned.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article claimed that Drexel University was taking over the lot to expand student housing. That is not the case.