Local residents don’t need to travel to Austin, Nashville, New York City, or even Philadelphia to hear a wide variety of great live music. Many who live outside the Kennett area, though, are traveling here. In restaurants, breweries, parks, and beer gardens, at festivals, and in its own dedicated concert venue, Kennett Square has been steadily gaining momentum and a reputation as a destination for live music.

From nationally acclaimed acts to up-and-coming local talent, singing new songs and old favorites, Kennett Square venues are hosting artists playing a wide variety of musical styles from diverse cultural traditions every week of the year.

The Kennett Square music scene, fueled by the energy of appreciative local audiences and an abundance of local talent, is flourishing. Kennett Square is also home to the Kennett Symphony and Longwood Gardens, which brings a program of world-class musicians to the area every year. Live music is a hallmark of every quintessential Kennett Square event—from Third Thursdays to the Mushroom Festival, Kennett Brewfest, Clover Market, Summerfest, Midnight in the Square, the Holiday Village Market, and even the Memorial Day Parade—but it’s also part of the regular rhythm of life here. And live music has contributed in significant, if sometimes invisible, ways to what makes this community great.

The popular Slightly Sedated will return to play at The Market on Saturday, April 29th. (Photo: The Market)

Making the food taste better and the beer colder

The Market at Liberty Place, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, has hosted live music every Friday since they opened in 2013—with the exception of two cancellations due to snow, a few Fridays that coincided with Christmas or New Year’s Eve, and a few months during COVID. This kind of dedication—to artists as well as to audiences—has been foundational for the local music scene.

“Live music creates an energy that’s hard to replicate,” says owner Geoff Bosley. “The laughs are a little louder, the food tastes better, and the beer is colder when a great band is playing. Live music has a way of connecting people and helps to add to the community feeling that we want to have at The Market.” Community is important to Bosley, who also serves on the Board of Kennett Collaborative and is a lifelong Kennett resident.

Music also played a part in bringing the community out of the pandemic. “It was important for us to bring live music back as soon as the restrictions were lifted,” Bosley says. “We wanted to try to restore a sense of normalcy and feeling of routine.”

When Liberty Place Pub opened in 2019, Bosley and his team added music on Saturday nights. There’s now live music at The Market every Friday and Saturday from 6pm to 10pm. “We’re introducing ‘Latin Fiesta Night’ on Thursday April 27th,” says Bosley. “Other favorites this month include Green Eggs & Jam on Friday the 21st, Jimmy Jam on Saturday the 22nd, and Slightly Sedated on Saturday the 29th.

Singer/songwriter Chris Despo, a fan favorite at Grain, has also performed at World Cafe Live, the Kimmel Center, and other venues.

Creativity and connection

“Live music is not just a source of entertainment, but a reflection of the community’s spirit and creativity. It connects people, it brings them together, and it creates a sense of belonging that is essential to any thriving town,” says Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen owner and Kennett Collaborative Board member Lee Mikles. “In the words of Taylor Swift, live music is about the experience of sharing a moment with a group of people and creating a memory that will last forever.”

Friday and Saturday nights at Grain are alive with the sounds of music by different bands and performers, including singer/songwriter Chris Despo. Despo is a fan favorite, Mikles says, and embodies the kind of creative care and generosity that has carried our communities through the past several years. “At the start of the lockdown in 2020,” Mikles says, “Chris livestreamed a benefit concert for our staff, and we donated all money raised to the employees.”

Dynamic young musician Dylan Zangwill, who as on American Idol this year, performs at The Kennett Creamery. (Photo: Kennett Creamery)

Anthony Racaniello, Director of Marketing & Programming at The Kennett Creamery, also emphasizes the central role that music plays in nurturing community. “The Creamery was built to revitalize a historic milk plant into a thriving community gathering space. As such, we celebrate all things authentic and local including history, art, live music, and food. At our core we care about community. We love to share and create a platform for the local artistic expression and imagination while creating really fun moments for our area’s families.” The Creamery’s live music page, which is updated monthly, is the best place to see upcoming music performances.

Other venues for enjoying award-winning food and drink with live music abound throughout town. Every Thursday through Saturday, for example, Wayne James—local favorite and the legendary “pied piper” of Third Thursdays—plays a combination of blues and jazz on keyboard, trumpet, and vocals at Portabellos of Kennett Square.

Wayne James—local favorite and the legendary “pied piper” of Third Thursdays—plays a combination of blues and jazz on keyboard, trumpet, and vocals every week at Portabellos. (Photo: Portabellos)

Kennett Brewing Company, another one of the original venues for live music in Kennett Square, offers a full schedule of live music every week. Their 8th annual anniversary party, Jossapalooza 2023, will be a three-day celebration of great beer, great music, and great people.

Braeloch Brewing, Letty’s Tavern, and La Verona all feature live music on a regular basis as well, as does Victory Brewing Company. Their Brews and Tunes series will feature The Acoustic Jam on Saturday, April 22nd.

The Denver-born songwriter/guitarist/singer Jill Sobule will be performing at the Kennett Flash on Thursday, April 20th.

A professional live music venue

If live music is a fantastic side dish to complement the delicious fare created by local chefs and the great beer and handcrafted cocktails at these venues, live music is the main course at Kennett Square’s own professional live music venue, the Kennett Flash.

“The intimate cafe-style atmosphere gets you up-close and personal with the artists, and our incredible team of audio engineers deliver top-quality sound that is unparalleled in Chester County,” says Executive Director Michael Hahn. “It’s a great vibe and an unforgettable experience from the moment you step through the doors.”

The Flash, which is also a BYOB venue, offers a full and varied menu of performances for every musical taste. Over the next few weeks, for example, “We’re really excited to have Jill Sobule performing on Thursday, April 20th, Kansas Tribute band Know Return on Friday, April 21st, Irish Folk band On The Lash on Saturday the 22nd, Alice Howe and Freebo with special guest Craig Bickhardt on Sunday the 22nd, and guitar legend Arlen Roth on the 28th,” says Hahn. A regular singer-songwriter showcase has also been added to the mix. In addition to a full lineup of live music, The Flash hosts comedy shows and a variety of community events like Kennett Library’s Poetry Open Mic Night, as well as Groove KSQ’s Drum Clinic with Nate Smith and student showcase (GrooveFEST). The Flash will also host the key for the Kennett JazzFest headliner Pat Bianchi on April 29th.

Tuk + The Big Brass Ones will once again bring their fresh, fun sound and a contemporary take on New Orleans-style jazz to Kennett Summerfest on June 11th. (Photo: Becca Matthias)

In addition to a steady diet of these regular offerings, summer will bring even more opportunities to hear live music—at Third Thursdays beginning in May and at Kennett JazzFest 2023 on April 29th, which will bring a mix of the highest caliber musicians to Kennett Square. Kennett Summerfest, on June 11th, will feature music by Tuk + The Big Brass Ones. The group, led by drummer Bryan Tuk, features some of the region’s best young jazz musicians from all across Pennsylvania and brings a fresh, fun sound and a contemporary take on New Orleans-style jazz. In addition, Kennett Area Park Authority just has announced that big plans are in the works for this year’s Free Summer Concert Series at Anson B. Nixon Park.  The concerts will run on Wednesday evenings for eight weeks, June 21st until August 9th.

Headline photo: Dylan Francis