A lot of great conversations start at the dinner table. And that’s music to Dan Drago’s ears.
Over the last seven years, the host of the 25 O’Clock podcast has shed new light on emerging Philadelphia music talent from the kitchen table in his old apartment above Ippolito’s Market at the corner of 13th and Dickinson streets.
Now a resident of Girard Estate, Drago has kept the music playing all these years, with a little added studio comfort in his new digs. He is closing in on his 200th podcast episode, which is perhaps the longest-running music podcast in Philadelphia.
It all began by clearing the utensils and plates and sitting down and talking shop in his tiny kitchen. It was nothing out of the ordinary from his day-to-day life. Drago just finally decided to hit the record button one day and see where it went.
“In the back of my mind, I was like, I listened to podcasts when I was in the van, running around as a musician,” Drago said. “I just started by talking to my friends who are musicians. They would come over and we would talk. It was just a way to see people and be social. The next thing I knew, they’re feeding me other people that I didn’t know and then publicists and labels started reaching out to me. I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m doing a thing now.’”
That thing became a coveted platform for local musicians to have their voices and instruments heard. Drago, himself, knows what that’s like, having been heavily involved in the local live music scene as a guitarist and bassist. It’s actually when he got the idea for the podcast.
“Around 2013, I was in my early 30s and I was tired of running around in that way you do when you’re in a band trying to make it happen,” Drago said. “But I still very much wanted to be part of the community.”
He’s been helpful in having other bands and musicians gain their footing within the crowded local music scene. Notable guests over the years have included Joe Reinhart (Hop Along), Kyle Pulley (Thin Lips, The Headroom), Marley McNamara (Johnny Brenda’s, artist management), Brian McTear (producer of Dr Dog, War on Drugs, Kurt Vile), Susan Werner and Camp Candle.
Once his podcast became a well-known entity, Drago was invited to virtually co-host an episode of Philly Local with John Vettese on WXPN. Drago used his hour to introduce some unknown music acts to the popular radio waves in Philadelphia.
“I got to basically play DJ for an hour,” Drago said. “So I wanted to make a playlist of people who I don’t think have ever been played on the radio before. Because that’s a legit thing. I can say that from having been in a band since I was a teenager and some local station played my little high school band because we made a tape. That’s huge. It’s like that movie scene in That Thing You Do! where they all lose their minds because they are on the radio, because your heroes are on the radio. Even for three minutes you get to share space with the people who play the music you love.”
Things have come full circle for Drago, as he recently recorded the milestone 200th episode that will feature WXPN’s Helen Leicht, who has been part of the Philadelphia music scene since 1976. The episode will be available on May 18. Leicht has been with WXPN since 1990 and is partly the reason Drago started his podcast.
“It’s a great conversation,” Drago said. “She’s been part of the Philadelphia music community, shouting out and cheerleading bands for so long. She’s an inspiration to people like me. She’s one of the reasons we do what we do.”
Episode 201 and beyond? Only time will tell. Drago says there is no shortage of interview subjects in the immediate area.
“The Philadelphia music community is a never-ending source of people to talk to and perspectives and ideas and cool people with cool points of view,” Drago said. “If you kind of keep your ear to what’s going on, you’ll never run out of people to have on. You’ll never run out of things to talk about.”