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The Best in Indie Music: Philly’s R5 Productions

The duo Matt and Kim perform onstage in hazy red lighting.
Matt and Kim at The Starlight Ballroom in 2010, an R5 productions show. Photo © Ernest Haines, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Born in 1996, R5 is a local promotion company named for the SEPTA regional rail that connects the Main Line to Center City. Founded by Ardmore native Sean Agnew with the express purpose of bringing back quality indie rock to a city that was often skipped over by touring bands due to lack of suitable venues, the idea was to give audiences big shows in small spaces for a more intimate live music experience.

With no alcohol served and generally low prices, the shows cater to all ages, but especially the younger set. R5 has hosted many of today’s best names in indie music at a variety of small-but-mighty venues, including the staple First Unitarian Church; bars, like The Barbary and Johnny Brenda’s; and dance halls, like Starlight Ballroom. In 2011 Agnew opened his own place, Union Transfer, a beautiful midsized music venue.

R5 Productions has become synonymous with Philadelphia’s independent music scene. Punk and indie crowds no longer need to travel to New York or D.C. to see their favorite acts play, nor do they have to pay double admission price to see old favorites play larger, overcrowded clubs and arenas. Likewise, bands can come to Philly and play to the whole audience and not just the people in the front row. And the fact that many of them come at all, as opposed to a decade ago, can be gratefully attributed to R5.

Agnew’s philosophy is “for the kids, by the kids,” and no self-respecting music lover in Philly would have it any other way. Check out for lineup and venue information.

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