It’s a fact of life that there are certain items you shouldn’t mix. You should never order sushi from a gas station, and don’t ever drink orange juice after brushing your teeth. One would think if you’re ever offered chocolate cake by the proprietor of a music venue that it’s either code or something you’ll regret hours later. But in this one circumstance, never turn down chocolate cake at The Living Room.
Now approaching its first anniversary at 104 Cricket Ave., this quaint Ardmore venue celebrates live music in a more relaxed atmosphere. Visitors can recline on one of the comfy sofas or armchairs, bring their finest bottle of wine and enjoy whatever homemade food has been prepared by proprietor Laura Mann that evening while enjoying some of the region’s top bands and artists.
While Ardmore Music Hall is nearly in her backyard, it’s clear that the Mann isn’t aiming to compete with the larger venue. With roots in Ardmore going back over 40 years, the two venues couldn’t be any more different. Most stages around Philadelphia see artists performing in front of hundreds or thousands standing crowded in a smoky room, but The Living Room’s intimate space takes live music to a more personal level. With a capacity of just 150 individuals, most of whom are seated on armchairs and couches, the venue prioritizes acts that are down to earth and take time to interact with guests and make themselves known as individuals, instead of as bands and artists.
Notably, this is not the first iteration of The Living Room. Founded in 2018 at 35 East in Ardmore, the original venue shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the space which Mann had built was lost.
“When COVID hit, like everything else, we couldn’t just stay open and not have entertainment,” Mann explains.
After winning Best of Philly and Best of the Main Line awards shortly after opening, Mann felt the devastating effects of COVID-19 on her business. Though The Living Room at 35 East was an even more intimate 40 seats, this ephemeral sanctuary which had so suddenly burst onto the Philadelphia-area music scene left as quickly as it had arrived.
So lauded with accolades, Mann never truly believed The Living Room would disappear entirely. As the world began to re-open, she looked into replacements for her beloved auditorium. Ardmore’s Masonic Hall played host for a brief period of time before she settled on the current Cricket Ave location.
“If I did re-open at [35 East], as much as I loved that place—I really did, it was really special—I couldn’t host some bigger acts with 40 seats,” Mann notes.
Upon arrival, Mann dedicated herself to making the space feel like, well, a living room. The building, which had previously been a funeral home going as far back as four generations, now had to be modeled for a different kind of comfort.
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Thankfully for Mann and her husband, who planned extensive renovations, the owner of the building is a builder for Pinemar Inc. whose offices are directly above the venue.
For someone who had looked longingly at the building for years despite the knowledge that renovations would cost a fortune, Mann found 104 Cricket Ave. falling into her lap with a builder on hand to aid in the venue’s refurbishment.
“[I got] to say, ‘Can you build the stage for me and work here or take that wall down?’ It was so nice to have a blank slate really,” Mann recalls about construction.
By November 4, 2022, The Living Room reopened to the world. The adjoining room next to the venue allows for the small Cricket Cafe to thrive. Here Mann serves casual, homemade dishes, including her famous chocolate cake. Rounding out the living room vibe is the made-to-order French press coffee. The establishment is BYOB for those guests looking to add a twist to the evening as well.
“It’s like a family here, people that come in and come back,” Mann says about the community she’s fostered.
A point of pride for Ardmore, Mann expects locals to stroll in regularly for each show, of which there are typically several per week. The shows aren’t just limited to rock concerts either; currently scheduled are also poetry nights, an opera night with spaghetti and meatballs, art exhibits and more.
You can celebrate The Living Room’s official anniversary with Mann herself on November 4. The scheduling wasn’t intentional, but Mann invited an old colleague, Dan Navarro, who’s written songs for acts like Pat Benatar and The Bangles. She and Navarro will both have solo shows before a duet performance. The evening will be capped by a champagne toast, desserts and, of course, chocolate cake.
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