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Connie’s Ric Rac: South Philly’s Music Scene Trailblazers.

October 14, 2014

RonBaumanConniesOnline2014As part of our partnership with Philly Beer Scene magazine, we’re documenting Philly’s relationships between music and beer. For the September issue of Philly Beer Scene, G.W. Miller III spoke with Ron Bauman and the crew at Connie’s Ric Rac, the 9th Street Market venue.

Ron Bauman and his friend Eric Schaerer had been performing together informally for years, mostly fun, Tenacious D-style stuff in front of their friends, often making up songs on the spot.

“We didn’t take ourselves seriously,” Bauman recalls.

But they were entertaining and their friends kept telling them they should hit a real stage. So in 2006, the duo performed at the open mic night at Lickity Split on South Street.

That night, Bauman ran into Frank Tartaglia and his life hasn’t been the same ever since.

Tartaglia, a longtime Italian Market denizen, invited Bauman to play in his rock band, The Discount Heroes. Within months of the open mic performance, Bauman found himself in the clubs on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, performing before huge crowds with his new bandmates.

In Philly, they played at the Italian Market Festival. After the event, they invited everyone back to Tartaglia’s vacant storefront on 9th Street, where his mother, Connie, used to sell bric-a-brac – everything from electronics to action figures to musical instruments.

Shows in the former shop became a regular thing, sometimes lasting until 5 or 6 in the morning.

Authorities quickly shut down the venue, as it wasn’t licensed to be a venue. Then Tartaglia, his brother Joe and their friend Pete Pelullo got a license to hold events. Connie’s Ric Rac was officially born, the first of the new wave of music venues in South Philadelphia.

“There was no live music down here when we started,” Frank Tartaglia remembers.

In 2010, they were awarded a liquor license and business started to boom. The strip that was once rather seedy at night all of the sudden had life. Another venue opened a few doors down. Several other music operations have since opened in the neighborhood.

“I really feel like we started the revitalization down here,” says Bauman.

RonBaumanOnlineBauman, a father of three young boys, performed and toured with The Discount Heroes until they broke up in 2012. He now books acts, promotes shows and runs events for Connie’s. Last December, he officially became a partner in the business – while retaining his 9 to 5 job with an integrated marketing company.

The excitable, gregarious guitar player also tends bar, with his specialty being the Ron Bomb – a pint of Yards Brawler served with a shot of Jameson Irish whiskey.

“It’s like a fancy citywide special,” he says with a laugh.

The team recently improved the sound system at the 125-person capacity venue and they rebuilt the bar and green room. Now, they’re building a kitchen in the adjacent storefront that will serve as a companion operation.

Despite the improvements, Connie’s – with its black walls, heavily vandalized bar and cardboard cutout of Marlon Brando on the wall – still feels like a semi-legal, almost secret spot.

“If there’s one thing you don’t have to worry about,” Bauman says, “it’s this place being too fancy.”

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