Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Xfinity Live - A Review

image from www.flickr.comBy now many of you have probably had the chance to get down to Xfinity Live, the new party venue in South Philly sports complex. Crowds have been huge, filling the place to capacity when there is an event at any venue. The opening night, when Third Eye Blind did a free concert, was seriously packed with the crowd overflowing long before showtime.

I had a chance to check things out last weekend as the place was opening and was pleasantly surprised at how much they have packed into what is a pretty small footprint. For a place that isn't quite done yet, there is certainly a lot going on!

The music stage out back is pretty sweet for the local band scene, offering a nice raised stage flanked by a short turf football field and a back bar faced with bricks from the original Spectrum. Even on a cold early April evening last Saturday, several local bands were able to generate some warmth as fans came out for long-time favorites Burnt Sienna, Mr. Greengenes, The Flamin' Caucausians, a Strange as Angels reunion and Kristen and the Noise all rocked for the Flyers fans and later the 76ers faithful.

One musical off-note from opening weekend - whoever the idiot was that booked Crazy in Stereo needs his head examined.  They were so bad I thought that some drunken wait staffers had stolen instruments and stormed the stage.

Inside there is the main space, the NBC Sports Arena, with it's MASSIVE 32 foot HDTV towering over bars, tables and banquettes. Each time I have been to Xfinity Live, this space has been packed.  It's a great place to watch the game if you don't a ticket and the food is certainly on par with sports complex places like Chickies and Pete's and McFaddens.  You will have to deal with some jostling around and it's hard to hear over the thunderous sound system and crowd noise, but you really aren't taking a date here for the conversation, right?

I was pretty impressed with the Victory Beer Hall, which was was packed with beer lovers sucking down pints of Downingtown's best brews.  While there is certainly some learning curve on the staff beer knowledge (No beautiful, the Storm King Stout is NOTHING like a Guinness, but you sure are cute in that outfit!) the place was electric.  The outside bar and fire pit were also a really nice addition to the space.

PBR (no idea what that stands for) is an odd duck of a bar.  It's got a mechanical bull in the middle of the bar, women in backless chaps, some very pretty margaritas and some solid smoked BBQ ribs.  So you can watch your drunk buddy last .8 seconds on the bull while your suck down a few big drinks served to you by someone who looks like she should be at Hooters.  This place seems to be a staff favorite after they get cut from other spots.  Broad Street Bullies Pub is your basic sports bar, replete with Flyers memorbilia and a quieter vibe than the other bars in the complex.

Finally, there's the Spectrum Grille, a quiet, high-end steakhouse featuring soft lighting and sleek, dark wood decor and my friend Noelle making great drinks at the bar.  The tuna carpaccio was very good and other bar customers had high marks for the steaks.  In the time my guest and I were there, we saw several former Flyers slip in the back entrance and order up some massive steaks.  It looks like the Flyers Alumni has a new clubhouse!

XL certainly answers the question 'Where should we meet before the game?' It is now THE destination for pre-gaming in South Philly.  McFaddens will still have its crowd for Phillies nights, but my guess is the C&P crowds will take a hit as folks realize they don't need to take a bus from the bar to the game. Groups will be able to meet here easily, have a few drinks before game time and then head off.  Folks without tickets won't be out of luck either, given the plethora of TVs and the mega giant HDTV screen in the main hall.

I think XL also has a lot of potential on non-game nights. The music venue will be a fun addition to the local rotation of spots you can see your favorite cover bands.  There is also room inside for smaller acoustic sets at Victory, PBR and Broad St., something that I think will make for and interesting evening, as you can walk from venue to venue as long as you are willing to carry your drink in a plastic cup.

I'll be headed back down soon to see how the place looks as it works out its growing pains.  XL was obviously overstaffed and overcrowded for opening weekend, so it will be interesting to see how the place looks on a 'normal' weekend. So far though, Xfinity Live looks like a winner!


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