Where We Belong: Kung Fu Necktie

With our Isolation Drills series, MAGNET has been checking in with Philadelphia-area musicians to see how and what they’re doing during the pandemic. Now, we’re also shining a light on our beloved local venues, hoping their stages will be saved. Photos by Chris Sikich.

MAGNET: How is Kung Fu Necktie currently holding up?
James Herman (Owner):
We’re closed and honestly don’t expect to reopen until April. We just got a $25,000 grant from the city, so hopefully, we’ll be able to hang on until then.

What was the last show you had at KFN?
Last show? Geez, I don’t know. It was March 15. Let me look it up … Nathan Gray.

What does the future look like for KFN?
We have no future right now—just limping along like everyone else.

How can the public support KFN right now?
Good question. I have no answer for that.

Douglas Sabolick (Plaque Marks, Ecstatic Vision, A Life Once Lost) on Kung Fu Necktie

Ahh, Kung Fu Necktie. My home base in Philly. I’ve played in the basement, the upstairs and the main stage throughout the years. I’ve played there more times than I can remember. Probably due to all the great drinks.

After traveling around the world a couple of times, a few really special places stick out; I am happy and proud to say KFN is one of them. Everything from the amazingly hip decor to the brutally honest Philly vibes that flow through it. The owner, Chicken, will let you know if you rocked or not—just ask him after the set.

I’ve made most of my closest friends in Philly there, and some have even transitioned into my family. Much love to one of the most special, completely independent rock clubs left in the USA.

MAGNET’s Chris Sikich on Kung Fu Necktie

Kung Fu Necktie drips with sweat and beer, coating your ears and neurons with a rich paste of musical nostalgia. One show stands out in my concert-going experiences there: Those Darlins with opener Adia Victoria in May 2015.

Shows stand out the most for me when the whole bill is electrifying. On this night, the electricity nearly led to a blackout. My first-ever encounter with the stunning blues ‘n’ roll of Adia Victoria was on this spring night. The raw soul of her talent made me—and, I suspect, many others—instant fans.

And then there was Those Darlins. The awe-inspiring talent of the late Jesi Zazu was something to behold. Her piercing eyes and countrified alternative riffs harkened to the past and strove for a future not yet achieved. Her one-of-a-kind talent is sorely missed.

On this unforgettable night more than five years ago, the center of the music universe was at 1248 North Front. May Kung Fu Necktie open its doors to live music again in 2021.