Grindcore House: Fast, Loud, Abrasive and Caffeinated.
Text and image by Rick Kauffman.
Could a pair of metalheads who own a coffee shop in South Philly also be the modern purveyors of radical liberty?
Dave Anthem and Mike Barone didn’t try to make the hippest coffee shop in the neighborhood. They just made the kind of place they would spend time in. The Grindcore House in South Philly is their brainchild – a vegan, death metal café that plays host to authors, bands and movie nights.
“We always thought it’d be funny to have a coffee shop that plays grindcore,” says Anthem, a hardcore music-loving librarian, who, with his friend Barone, turned what began as a joke into a reality. “It’s fast, it’s loud, it’s abrasive and it’s what I love to listen to.”
The café is intimate, communal and open to all. The French doors, hardwood floors and white tin ceiling are reminders of the 1860s butcher shop the coffeehouse space once was. The backroom of the Grindcore House contains what the guys call “The Radical Library,” a collection of rare and hard-to-find books about anarchism, socialism, communism, radicalism, feminism, ecology and numerous other subjects.
“The most important aspect we wish to promote is a political atmosphere,” says Anthem, who works as a librarian at Audenried High School. “We want a place where people come together and talk and interact, not just put on their headphones, bury their head in a book and turn the world off.”
They have more spinoffs of hobbies than actual jobs. They’ve done record releases on personal labels (“Just for our friends,” Anthem says) and they design T-shirts, scarves and other items through their company, Fifth Column Clothing. Their designs push vegan values and straight-edge ideals.
“We just have a shitload of people helping,” says Anthem. “It’s a big collaboration.”
They hold regular events at the shop that feature acoustic hardcore sets. Pygmy Lush from Virginia performed recently. There are movie nights and events with various speakers, evoking discussion and debate. Rutgers University law professor Gary Francione spoke recently about his book, The Animal Rights Debate: Abolition or Regulation.
“We basically made a place where we wanted to hang out,” says Barone. “We asked ourselves, ‘What would I want to eat,’ or ‘What kind of place would I want to hang out?’ You have to love what you do.”
Anthem and Barone acknowledge they took a huge risk in creating a vegan café – due to the niche appeal and the high costs of doing business in the city. But the popularity of the café and its events has proven that something radical can thrive.