Producer, Musician, Venue Manager -- The Many Roles of Greg Altman
written by G.W. Miller III
When Greg Altman was in the sixth grade, he discovered punk music, specifically the West Coast sounds from bands like Pennywise, Strung Out and Sublime. So he picked up a guitar and began learning to play.
By the time he was 13, the Newtown, Bucks County native became a fixture at the local DIY shows at Sacred Grounds, an all-ages venue inside the Friends Meetinghouse in Fallsington. By the time he was 15, he was on stage performing.
“We would make weird fliers and post them all around school,” Altman recalls. “The teachers would tear them down. That was our introduction to live music.”
He graduated from Council Rock High School North in 2004 and came to Philadelphia to attend Drexel University. But the success of his high school band—Like Lions—enticed him to drop out and hit the road.
“Why wait four years to see if you can do something?” Altman remembers thinking. “College will always be there.”
Like Lions opened for My Chemical Romance and toured with Copeland and The Starting Line. Altman became friendly with The Starting Line’s front man, Kenny Vasoli, and the two stayed in touch.
Altman returned to college but got detoured again when he began working with friends who had a studio in Prospect Park called PlayWork Productions. He helped produce for Four Year Strong, A Loss for Words and many other acts.
“For two years, I was in a windowless room for 12 hours per day,” Altman recalls. “As one band was pulling out after recording for six straight days, another band was loading in.”
That burned him out from music. So, he took some time away and went to work at The Continental Mid-town restaurant.
In 2011, Vasoli reached out to him to join his new project, Vacationer, a chillwave band whose music makes you pine for summers down the shore. The band has toured nearly non-stop since their debut LP dropped in 2012. Their second album was released in June.
Since January, Altman, now 28, has spent all his time in Philly setting up the venue space and throwing shows upstairs at Bourbon & Branch. He’s the venue manager at the Northern Liberties restaurant that features 80 varieties of whiskey, 16 beers on tap and a lot of specialty cocktails.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done in a very short time,” says Altman, who works with a team to book shows and draw crowds to the 100-person club. “The space has a classy DIY, boutique vibe.”
The club has become a go-to place to find local talent. Mo Lowda and the Humble, Night Panther, Ron Gallo and others have done month-long residencies at the club.
Altman winds up answering emails and solving problems at the club even while he’s on tour (or playing in his side project, the metal band Ratkicker). He’s OK with that.
“Playing shows is more fun,” he says. “But it’s really hard to just be in a band and not have another job. This job is pretty great.”