In Praise Of Connie’s Ric Rac, On Its Tenth Anniversary
BY JOEY SWEENEY
If you’ve ever lived near the Italian Market and truly used it as a resource, you’re kind of ruined for just about any other neighborhood in Philadelphia. It’s not that the Market is particularly grand or, frankly, even pleasant (cue the live chicken place smell), it’s just that, once you scratch the surface, you realize: Everything is in there. If there’s a thing you can’t get in the Italian Market, there’s a good chance it’s a thing you don’t need.
With perhaps the only exception being, up until a decade ago, live music. That's when Frankie and Joe Tartaglia Jr. and their buddy Pete Pellulo took Mrs. Tartaglia’s old knick knack shop on 9th Street and turned it into Connie’s Ric Rac, where they started having music and comedy shows. At first, the Ric Rac wasn’t much; on bricks and mortar level alone, it still isn’t. But Connie’s Ric Rac is possessed of a kind of old South Philly anything-goes magic that no other venue in the city even gets close to. It’s a simple black box with a concrete floor, a PA and a stage on one end, and the most rudimentary bar on the one side. (The bar still feels “new” — for the first few years of its existence, the Ric Rac was BYOB.) But when it’s Friday night and Johnny Showcase has the place packed, or mid-sketch on one of the comedy nights that helped really build Philly’s indie comedy scene over these last few years, you feel an electricity in that place that feels like it’s jumping right outta the ground.
And as the guys have worked their asses off over the last ten years, Connie’s Ric Rac has found itself at the crossroads of different creative scenes and a South Philly that’s in the middle of a hard merger with New Philly. It’s to their credit that it feels perfectly settled in either camp. All this weekend, Connie’s Ric Rac celebrates with pretty much a Friday-night-through-Sunday-night continuous show and party; on Saturday afternoon, they’re even closing down the 1100 block of 9th Street. Because Lord knows, there’s enough of 9th Street’s heart and soul inside the Ric Rac that it’s only right and natural to let it go air itself out once in a while.