The lights were low and the place was packed. As the music flooded the room, some people talked to their friends, while others tapped a foot or nodded their heads. They thought they were just going out for a night on the Penn social scene. But what the patrons of Smokey Joe's didn't know Tuesday night was that they had entered "Kweder's Kitchen." The "South Street Bard," as Kenn Kweder has been affectionately dubbed by the Philadelphia media, made his comeback performance after an arm injury that kept him from performing for more than three months. Kweder, a native of West Philadelphia, has been composing music since 1971. He has written about 200 songs and has had four records released on a small label called Pandemonium. He has recently received acclaim in Rolling Stone magazine and has received awards such as the Delaware Valley Music Poll's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992 and the Philadelphia Music Foundation's Best Album of the Year Award for his 1989 release "Man Overboard." But even though local fame has found him, the guitar player, singer and songwriter has not wavered from his initial goal of making good music, which he calls "drinking in the kitchen music." Kweder says the genre is best described as "when you're with your friends and almost drunk and someone's playing a good song and you're in the kitchen and you don't feel any social pressures." "If you're in Kweder's Kitchen, then you're OK, baby," he said. As a child of the 1960s, Kweder said he has had quite an exciting life. A shy teenager, he studied English and communication at Temple University in order to break out of his shell. "I had a hard time communicating with people, especially with girls," he said. "And it helped me write songs." At 19 he began performing shows around Philadelphia, in New York and even internationally -- he has performed in England, Holland and Scandinavia, where he performed 67 shows in 75 days last year. Kweder said he does not earn enough money from his music to pay his bills, so he has to perform odd jobs to make up the difference. "I just love music so much that I'll park cars and bartend in order to play," he said. "It's worth the sacrifice of being behind the bar." Kweder's music has been compared to that of Roger McGuinn and Lou Reed, and audience members tend to agree. College senior Blas Nunez-Neto called Kweder "folksy." That folksy quality has made Kweder a perennial favorite at Smoke's. "The students love him, and it's original music," Smoke's owner Paul Ryan said. "He's a rock star -- he draws." Considering Kweder's popularity in bars and taverns, it is not surprising that alcohol plays a major part in his performances. "For some reason I like it when I'm drinking a lot," he said. "Because the more embarrassing I can get, the more fun I can have." He did not have a drink until he was 20 years old, but Kweder said that alcohol -- which he calls a "bad habit" -- also plays a role in his everyday life. "I'm into working hard and playing hard," he said. "I'm into enjoying life. If that involves a couple bottles of wine, you go back to work the next day." Kweder, who is 43 years old, has never been married, but says he may wed someday. "I was afraid I'd have to compromise and forfeit my love of music and I'd be unhappy," he said. "I'd want to be happy so I'd make [her] happy." Kweder recently released his latest album, entitled, "Kenn Kweder." He said it was his most trying yet. "It's really hard to get fertile again," he said. "I've written a couple of hundred songs and sometimes I don't know if I can write another. But I do." Kweder said he stays with the music business because big-time success may be right around the corner. "Just when I'm ready to quit I'll win an award or something," he said. "You've got to stay in the ballgame to hit the home run. I'm just waiting for the right pitch."Comments powered by Disqus
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