Ben and Jake Davis knew they were on to something when a few hundred people showed up at their family home in Marlton, NJ for a multi-band music festival back in 2006.
Ben was in college and Jake had just graduated from Cherokee High School, but this was not your average high school or college bash. The Davis brothers set up a stage with high-end sound equipment and they had Porta Potties on site. They sold burgers and beer and they carded people who entered the property at $5 per person. All of the money went to pay the bands, Ben recalls.
“We definitely didn’t do it for the money,” he says. “It was about coming up with an idea and executing it. There was something really satisfying about doing something where everyone had fun.”Until the cops arrived and shut down the party, that is (despite their parents being on hand). Still, it was a life-altering moment.
“We were hooked and decided to make a go of it,” Jake says.
They started Davis Concert Staging as a non-profit organization that would help bands get stage time, with profits donated to charitable organizations. Their first big show, on Thanksgiving in 2008, drew more than 800 people to Champps bar in Marlton to hear five bands. Profits were donated to Toys for Tots and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
They booked other events in South Jersey and down the shore but they could never replicate the success of that first show at Champps.
“We realized that we needed to move to Philly if we were going to be successful,” Ben remembers.
They changed to for-profit status and ran a few shows at The Blockley in West Philadelphia and other spots around the city. Then, while promoting their now-annual Thanksgiving show at Champps in 2010, they discovered that one of their street team promoters was the son of the general manager of the Hard Rock Café in Philly.
“We’d been trying to get in there for a while,” Ben says. “All of the sudden, we had a meeting set up.”
Soon after, the Davis brothers were booking shows at the local outpost of the international club best known as a destination for tourists.
“Our focus is on rebranding the Hard Rock as a local music venue,” Ben says.
While holding down other jobs—Ben is a software engineer and Jake does corporate lending for a bank, they now book two or three shows per week at the Hard Rock. Every week, there is a night dedicated to local performers, like Commonwealth Choir, Chill Moody, OCD: Moosh & Twist and Desoto Jones.
“This is obviously something I’m very passionate about,” says Ben, who attends every show. You can often find him afterward drinking a Yards IPA, Samuel Adams Summer Ale or Yuengling Lager.
Jake, who played in several bands over the years, handles the business end of the company.
“I’ve always loved business and music,” Jake says. “This is an incredible crossroad for the two.”
Within the next two years, Ben hopes to quit his day job to run shows full-time (Jake will do the same eventually, Ben says).
“It’s still very dynamic,” says Ben. “It’s never the same show twice.”