On a Wednesday afternoon, Square on Square is bustling with its regular weekday lunch crowd. The restaurant, located right off of Rittenhouse Square, seems like your typical Chinese spot: good food at a good price. However, this Saturday, the unassuming restaurant will transform after dark into a bumping music venue. The nightlife event Beers + Beats at Square on Square will be the first of its kind for the restaurant, catering to both Penn students and local residents alike.
The business venture was the brainchild of Penn student Joe Maggiore (E ’19) and Stephen Yau, owner of Square on Square. They struck up an unlikely friendship when Joe attended a BYO at his restaurant. “We got very intensely into conversion, telling me about his business,” Joe said. When Stephen Yau told him about his Wednesday Jazz Nights, Joe instantly thought of the opportunities for his own band, Band Dance Music (BDM). “I got his contact info. I sent him a text saying we should talk about this. We ended up having a meeting for two hours talking about if this could work.”
Joe’s band will be the headliner for Beers + Beats this week, with an opener by DJ Blake Thomas. Joe founded BDM during his freshman year at Penn, when he had the idea to deconstruct EDM music into songs to be performed by acoustic instruments. It was a tedious process, listening note–by–note to compose the music. “There [were] no band members at this time. I kept thinking, is this going to sound as good as I think it will sound?” The first song he successfully crafted was a Martin Garrix classic. “You know that song ‘Motherfuckin' Animals?’” Joe rounded up a group of musicians to play it for the first time, and he thought, “this is incredible.”
Now that Joe had the music, he needed a band to perform it regularly. “We didn’t continue with the same people from the initial group. Coming back that semester, I was going to hit it hard and pretend it was an existing thing. I flyered all throughout the quad under all their doors.”
Now with 13 members, Joe describes the band as “verging on a large jazz group”; it is so large that Joe must count on his fingers to double–check the number. Soon after the group came together, Jake Diamond–Reivich (W ’20) joined as business manager and Chase Rapine (E ‘19) as production manager.
BDM booked gigs performing at frat parties and MilkBoy Philadelphia, but saw Square on Square as a new way to share their music. After several meetings with Stephen, the band created a plan for their first event: live performances and cheap drinks. “Our goal is to create a unique experience for students at Penn. We need Penn students down there, so we need cheap drinks, $2 shots and $1 beers. A lot of people go to frat parties and enjoy the music but want something more. This offers a frugal experience and quality music,” Jake said.
The set–up of the restaurant will completely change to accommodate the event. All of the tables will be moved from the first floor and a DJ booth will be placed in the back. “When we talked to Stephen, he said, 'what about the food?' We got talking about it, and he’s going to have a $10 buffet and get all–you–can–eat food upstairs,” Joe said.
The band describes the joint venture as a symbiotic relationship, helping them to share their music and the restaurant to expand their business to after hours. “[Square on Square] is sandwiched on either side by a bar that is packed. We are trying to open that door for them. As it gets closer and closer, I see how beautiful this partnership is because it is mutually beneficial for both of the parties,” Joe said.
If the first Beers + Beats is successful, there could be more to come in the future. Joe said, “If this goes well, Stephen will want to do this as frequently as possible. We are looking for groups that will want to do this. This might become a music venue.”