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Atlantic City has a new non-casino music venue, with South Philly ties

It's from the owners behind beloved pubs American Sardine Bar and P.O.P.E.

RFA at the Anchor Rock Club in Atlantic City on Saturday night.
RFA at the Anchor Rock Club in Atlantic City on Saturday night.Read moreDan DeLuca

Believe it or not, Atlantic City has a brand-new non-cover-band music venue planning to bring in local and touring rock acts.

It’s called the Anchor Rock Club, and it’s not in a casino. The 21-and-over rock room is located inches from the Boardwalk on New York Avenue, right next door to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.

The Anchor — or ARC, as it’s branding itself — is a joint venture of Philadelphia publicans John Longacre and Dennis Hewlett. The former owns the South Philadelphia Tap Room and American Sardine Bar; the latter’s bars include P.O.P.E. and Bardot Cafe.

The venue, which plans to be open year-round, is on what promoters of Atlantic City’s latest reinvention efforts are calling the “Orange Loop,” the entertainment and nightlife district springing up on New York and Tennessee Avenues, two of the three orange properties on the Monopoly board. (St. James Place is the third.)

So far, the schedule is weekend nights only, with low $5 cover charges sometimes waived if you register through Eventbrite, as I did last Saturday. That’s when RFA, the top-shelf Philly garage-rock band fronted by Dan Cousart, headlined a show also featuring Hempwick, a reggae-funk quartet with members from Philadelphia and South Jersey.

The room holds 650, with a U-shaped balcony, a setup that resembles a tighter, more compact Union Transfer. Saturday’s crowd was sparse for RFA, but that didn’t keep the band from effectively rocking out, testing new material from the upcoming follow to 2018’s excellent self-titled debut. A bigger crowd will surely be in attendance at their next Philly gig at Johnny Brenda’s on Oct. 24.

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The ARC is being booked by Bonfire Shows, the promoters who do shows in the Philadelphia market at Ardmore Music Hall and MilkBoy Philly. Last month, Philly rockers Marah drew a crowd of 150, Anchor general manager John Warner, a veteran of Passyunk Ave.’s P.O.P.E., said on Saturday.

Cover bands are plentiful in boardwalk casino bars and lounges, and the Hard Rock a few blocks away has a steady lineup of reliable casino showroom headliners, with the Pointer Sisters and Isley Brothers playing Friday night.

Asked for an example of the kind of touring acts he would hope to bring to the beach town — where face-tattooed rapper Post Malone had played a few blocks away at Boardwalk Hall — Warner named Stephen Malkmus, the Pavement guitarist and songwriter who played Ardmore Music Hall earlier this year on a solo tour.

Upcoming shows on the Anchor calendar include “hick-hop” country rapper Demun Junes on Friday, playing with Long Cut and Cypress Spring. Horn-happy jam band Litz plays Oct. 26 with Colin “The Williams” Murphy.

Philly hard-rock quartet Soraia — favorites of Sirius/XM’s Little Steven’s Underground Garage — play on Nov. 1, opening for surf-rock band Dry Reef. Rusted Root’s Michael Glabicki performs with Dirk Miller on Nov. 16, and Black Sabbath tribute band Black Reign honors Ozzy Osbourne on Nov. 29.

There’s nothing on the Anchor schedule after a two-day celebration of Elephant Talk-Indie Music Magazine on Dec. 13 and 14, but Bonfire’s Spencer Carpenter says “lots of shows are in the works for 2020.”