Local performer marks 30 years of gigs at Smokey Joe's in University City

Tamala Edwards Image
Friday, July 22, 2022
EMBED <>More Videos

For the last 30 years, Kenn Kweder has played weekly at Smokey Joe's near the University of Pennsylvania.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- For the last 30 years, Kenn Kweder has played weekly at Smokey Joe's near the University of Pennsylvania. He typically plays on Tuesday nights and Thursdays in the summer.

Kweder is on vocals and guitar.

"My strength is classic rock and original songs," says Kweder.

However, he says he'll work in Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus songs since those are often requested by the audience.

He plays alongside his musical partner, Mark Teague, who is also on vocals and guitar.

Kweder says Teague is "one of the greatest musicians" he's ever played with on stage and their pairing is a good match since Teague knows more of "the real dance stuff."

"So together it's an encyclopedia of music," explains Kweder.

Kweder will take you on a musical journey, just as his career has been one.

"I started performing at the age of 16, after a failed basketball career," says Kweder. "I always loved music."

He says he bought a guitar, practiced and got "very seriously into folk music," citing Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan among the artists he listened to during that time.

He ended up settling into rock and roll.

"I put together a band called the Secret Kidds and that band got really popular quickly," says Kweder.

He played with many bands after, including some big names before they were well known.

"I worked with people like the Ramones, Patti Smith, Cheap Trick," says Kweder. "It was exciting."

Kweder says he would play hundreds of gigs a year, but since 1992 Smokey Joe's has been a mainstay. By his estimation, he's played about 1,500 gigs there.

"I love playing here because the response of the University of Pennsylvania community has been fantastic - the loyalty, second to none. The owners are unbelievable," says Kweder.

Smokey Joe's co-owner, Paul Ryan, says he's known Kweder since the 1970s.

"He's a draw," explains Ryan. "Usually on Tuesday nights, it's a really nice crowd during the school year."

And Kweder credits Ryan with pairing him up with Teague all those years ago.

"I'm proof that there actually is a second act and the second act started at Smokey Joe's. And I'm really grateful for that," says Kweder.