I've performed in over one hundred cities across America. Sometimes, the road feels more like home than my actual home. As with anything, some places are utterly unremarkable, while others are completely unforgettable. Here's a list of my favorite cities I performed in throughout the USA, including the venues and places to grab good grub!
*Note: This list is strictly interstate travel and doesn't include cities in NJ. Photos are mine, except of course for the one I'm in.
1. Portland, ME
Everything I could ask for in a city. They're openly supportive of people of color, every religion, and even the churches hang rainbow flags in support of the LGBTQ+ community. The poetry and Hip-Hop culture is real. And the people are filled with love. I'd move there, one day. Check out the Hidden Ladder Collective to meet the local artists and writers!
Best Venue: Flask Lounge
Best Food: Green Elephant for vegan noodles, Holy Donut for Potato Donuts (it's a thing), and Homegrown Herb and Tea for apothecary style drinks
Pictured with me is a treasured voice in Portland, Myles Bullen.
📷: Amanda Stewart
2. Minneapolis, MN
The mecca of Midwest Hip-Hop. The 5th Element was a pilgrimage destination for over two decades until it closed down earlier this year. The spoken word scene is rightfully renowned, and the artists are visionary. The warmth of the people makes quick work of the cold in the air. Walking around Hennepin Avenue is truly inspiring. Go for the culture. Stay for the... cheese curds?
Best Venue: Kieran's Irish Pub (in the Poet's Corner)
Best Food: Milkjam for ice cream and literally anywhere for cheese curds
3. Las Vegas, NV
On the outside, Las Vegas is pure glowing glitz. But beneath the neon, the local spots are real vibes only. There is a stark contrast between the natives and the tourists, and it shows in areas like the Las Vegas Arts District on Main Street. The best part about Vegas though, by far, was the people. Talented, down to earth poets, artists, musicians, who have authentic stories to tell. It's one of my favorite places to visit, and I don't even drink, do drugs, gamble, or bang hookers.
When I visited, there was an old hospital turned into an art co-op called Emergency Arts. It's now defunct, but it was one of the coolest places I'd ever seen, and it's worth looking up.
Best Venue: The Truth Spot (black owned too!) and ReBAR
Best Food: Le Thai for a good local noodle spot with a huge drink menu
4. Philadelphia, PA
Philly has a spot in my heart because of all the shows I went to at the Trocadero Theater when I was younger. I stood in the crowd in front of Atmosphere, Sage Francis, Get Up Kids, The Kooks, Buck65, and so many more inspiring musicians hoping I'd be able to play that stage someday. In 2013, I had the chance, and played the main stage with my band The Stickball Social Club. It was a dream come true. Since then, I've made Philadelphia kind of a home away from home, going there to grab delicious vegan food, visit indie bookstores and record shops, and see all the amazing music on the other side of the Ben Franklin bridge. There are too many stories for this one blog, but I'll always consider Philly one of the gems of this country.
Best Venue: The Fire / Ortlieb's (Used to be The Trocadero before it closed down)
Best Food: Tattooed Moms for the best vegan cheesesteak or hit up the Reading Terminal Market for anything your heart desires
5. San Francisco, CA
I wasn't in San Francisco for very long, but in the short amount of time I spent there I made undying memories. The venue where I performed was called Viracocha, and has since closed down. It was one of the most magical stores, with an old wooden stage in the basement and an upright piano.
After we left, I saw a band busking at midnight in the doorway of a church. I visited the legendary City Lights Bookstore, dipped my hand in the Pacific Ocean, took photos by the Golden Gate Bridge (obviously), and climbed the hilly streets until dusk. San Francisco is poetry, and I know I'll be back someday.
Best Venue: Cornerstone Church steps Best Food: Trouble Coffee for an Americano and a coconut
The basement of Viracocha, February 11th, 2012
NEXT UP ON THE 5iVE LIST:
Favorite New Jersey Diners