Where We Belong: MilkBoy

(l-r): Tommy Joyner, Jamie Lokoff

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 MilkBoy currently holding up?
Tommy Joyner (co-owner): It’s tough. We were closed for months, then re-opened when the city began to allow indoor dining again. It was OK, and then of course the city closed indoor dining again, which shut us down on Chestnut Street. MilkBoy is lucky that we’ve cultivated great business outside of being a venue, and that our second location at Fourth and South has parking in front, which the city generously allowed us to turn into outdoor table space. That business, even at the reduced capacity, has saved our asses. It’s like a second home with a roof and heaters, and we’re calling it “MilkBoy’s Rock Salt” as a nod to actual rock salt—let’s melt away 2020! Good riddance, 2020.

What was the last show you had at MilkBoy?
The last show was the Dales, the beginning of March. I had to look back at the calendar to answer that question, and I can see that the concert industry was already on edge—we have cancellations well before St. Patrick’s Day.

What does the future look like for MilkBoy?
We’re going to make it. MilkBoy will survive. Our landlord has been kind, and we received all the loans we could get, which has been carrying us. The future is hard to see right now, we know that repaying loans on top of re-opening MilkBoy will be a challenge. But we’ve been through a lot of tough times, and we are survivors. (Co-owner) Jamie (Lokoff) and I always say, “The hits keep comin’,” and people think that we mean something else. We say that in a gallows-humor way, that we know that we keep taking punches and always expect to. None of us has lived through a global pandemic, but we know that even as weird as this is, it’s part of life.

How can the public support MilkBoy right now?
The public can support MilkBoy by visiting us on South Street, buying our gift cards and merch online, ordering takeout and talk about the Save Our Stages act on their socials. I miss live music so much, don’t you? Talk about the SOS Act on social media! Tag us! This keeps us alive.

Nick Perri on MilkBoy

To me, the city of Philadelphia has always had its own heartbeat, its own rhythm. Sometimes it feels as if the city itself is creating music from the street corners, SEPTA busses and back alleys. I don’t know if it’s the water or the Cheez Whiz, but this city and the people who come from it have a sound. Regardless of genre, it’s real, it’s electric, and it’s authentically Philadelphia.

This city has always had amazing venues both big and small. There’s a reason why it has become a go-to stop for national and international touring acts, as well as local artists, since the birth of rock ‘n’ roll some 70 years ago. Over the last two decades, I’ve had the honor and privilege of playing some of Philly’s finest, and as I said earlier, there’s a pulse and a vibe to a Philly venue that’s as unique as its patrons. One of many standouts to me has always been MilkBoy.

For a small independent venue, it packs a heavyweight punch that could go toe-to-toe with Apollo Creed. I’ve enjoyed playing MilkBoy on a few occasions and every time it’s a party. My most recent memory says crowded, sweaty and loud—a.k.a. perfect

Man, even writing that gave me chills as it feels a million miles away after this ball-busting year. But one thing I think we can all count on is live music being back with a vengeance. The unbreakable spirit of Philadelphians is simmering on the high burner, and it will be a sight to see.

In the meantime, supporting your local venues, bars and restaurants, small businesses and artists is as important now as it will ever be. There are responsible ways to get involved and support the people and places that mean the most to you, so please do. 

Over time things change, it’s natural. But as long as there are fun independent venues who support local artists like MilkBoy around—which are the real backbone of this city—Philadelphia will alway be a magnificent music town.