The tiny stage at the upstairs section of World Café Live in Philadelphia was the setting for a hurricane on October 20th. That hurricane is called Billie Eilish. Supporting her remarkable debut EP dont smile at me, Eilish embarked on her first, and sold out, North American tour at the start of the month. Philadelphia was one of the last stops of the tour before a leg of shows in Europe.

Two hours before Eilish started the show, the crowd was already fill ed with eager fans (and the occasional parent chaperone) who were bunched up as close as possible to the stage, counting down the seconds to see the singer. Their eyes shined in ecstatic anticipation. There was a palpable energy and buzz in the room, a replica of the buzz and excitement Eilish herself is creating in the industry right now – the word prodigy is a staple in conversations about her and her music.

Brooklyn-based and Nigeria-born opener Thutmose infected the crowd with that final bit of energy that was needed. Eilish’s fans seem to have taken the rapper in with open arms, singing along to his words and moving to the beats of his songs very naturally. Thutmose interacted with the crowd beautifully, and the look in his eyes was half disbelief and half gratefulness. Highlights of his set were “Blame” and “Still I Rise”, the latter which is bound to be played at the best parties and clubs for months to come.

Opening the show with the sassy and energetic “COPYCAT”, which also opens the EP, Eilish took the stage with brother Finneas O’Connell and from that moment onwards it was impossible to get your eyes off her. Eilish is a magnet and a force, the artist inside her demands we pay attention to her, and we happily oblige. Every single word that was uttered out of her mouth, repeated by the whole room.

Next, Eilish slowed the pace with “idon’twanttobeyouanymore”, “watch”, and “Six Feet Under”, songs which served to showcase her jaw-dropping vocal abilities and capacity to convey raw emotion through song. With her ukulele, Eilish then covered Drake’s hit single “Hotline Bling” – a homage to the artist who she admires and also a perfect segue into her own ukulele-driven song, “party favor”, which starts with the ring of a phone. Between both songs, Eilish teased, holding her hand like a phone by her ear and smiling – one almost believed the person who she addresses in the song was in that room.

“We have a surprise for you” Eilish said, as brother Finneas stepped out from behind the keyboard and took center stage. “This is my brother Finneas, and he’s going to play a song for you”. O’Connell, Eilish’s main collaborator and co-producer, then had the spotlight shine on him as he played an acoustic rendition of newest single “I’m in Love Without You”. At this moment, Eilish sat onstage, cross-legged, head resting on her hand, as she stared up at her brother. The slight smile on her face and the admiration in her eyes evidence of the special fraternal bond between the two of them and the one time during the set where she looked like a conventional 15-year-old girl.

But Eilish is not conventional, at least not when she’s performing. Eilish is her funny, honest self when she’s singing, dancing, and in between songs when she addresses a screaming and passionate audience. The attitude and certainty in all of her moves and perfectly pitched words aren’t an act, they’re a translation of who she is.

The girl who sings “it’s not you, it’s me and all that other bullshit” in “party favor” also candidly tells her fans that it’s “crazy”, in a good way, how they record everything she puts on social media and how that makes it easy for her to look back at things she didn’t save since all she has to do is look it up on YouTube. This same girl is stunned when the audience asks her to play an unreleased song called “I Wish You Were Gay”, replying “how do you know that?”, and seems unfazed when she sings mere inches from a fan’s face and is met with screams and “I love you so much!!!!”. Billie Eilish the artist and Billie Eilish the girl are inherent to one another.

Eilish treats the crowd to an unreleased song called “Listen” which she plays on the keyboard. Unsurprisingly, the audience already knows every word. “my boy” comes as another musical translation of Eilish’s fierce attitude and incredible dancing skills, while debut single “Ocean Eyes” closes the set with yet another stunning showcase of Eilish’s vocal abilities. Eilish and O’Connell rush off stage, but in mere minutes they return for the encore.

In an unexpected turn of events, Eilish abides to the one fan’s earlier request and, for the first time, her and O’Connell perform “I Wish You Were Gay” to the audience’s delight. A song about heartbreak and unrequited love is not supposed to be this charismatic, but Eilish works wonders with her words and melodies. “Bellyache”, the night’s final song, is both a display of Eilish’s capacities as an artist and performer and a promise that this is only the very beginning of a successful career for this out worldly talented girl. She moves like she owns the stage, brother Finneas joining her momentarily for a coordinated dance, and by this time the whole audience is moving and shaking along with her, ecstatically taking in the whole performance but somewhat nostalgic already with the knowledge that this is her last song. Once the set is done and the stage is bare, the crowd is left momentarily stunned by the show they just witnessed and seem eager and willing to live through the experience all over again.

The stage is Billie Eilish’s natural habitat. There is no other explanation as to why the 15-year-old from Los Angeles performs in front of sold out crowds all around North America with such ease. Every step she takes, every note she hits, and every look she gives displays a conviction which confirms that she is exactly where she needs to be – it would be a crime to deprive Eilish from the stage and the fans from her.

CHEF NOTES: Episode Two


I have had the fortunate opportunity to meet many people throughout my life and travels, and every single one of them has taught me something about getting where you want to go. In this current chapter of my life as Executive Chef of World Cafe Live, I am grateful to work alongside many people in both the hospitality and music industry who are working hard daily to stay sharp in their respective fields. Here you will find my interviews with some of those people, and an exclusive inside look behind the scenes of who we are and what we do and why we love it.

EPISODE TWO: Meet Lauren

The hours associated with being a chef can be challenging, so a friendly face to greet you when you enter the building is a real game changer to start the day. Guest Services Manager Lauren Shughart has been that person for me and for so many of our guests and artists.

IMG_2361RC: How do you feel a Guest Services department differs from a Box Office staff and what has been the impact for you and your team in transition from one to the other?
LS: A lot of other venues keep these departments separate but for us, being a small, independent venue, merging the two just made sense. For me, even as a Box Office Manager, it was always about making guests feel extremely welcome when they’re here for a show. So when I was informed that we were going to create a Guest Services department, I saw this as a chance to go even further when it comes to making our guests happy. The transition from one to the other has been pretty seamless and has only allowed for more opportunity and growth for each of my staff members.  I’m excited to see how this department continues to grow!

RC: Why is it important to surround yourself with the right colleagues and how have you been so successful in maintaining a great team?
LS: I’m a big believer in the saying “If you love the place you work, you’ll never work a day in your life,” and that’s honestly how I feel every day.  That’s not only because of the work I do, but the people that I’m surrounded by.  Everyone that works here has a passion for what they do and that makes me strive to do better every day. When I’m hiring for any position in my department, I’m not just looking for someone who wants any old job.  I’m looking for people who are truly committed to being here and I think that shines through with the team I currently have.

RC: What are the biggest challenges you face in managing guest expectations in a building with two simultaneous event spaces?
LS: We work in a really big, confusing building and pretty much every night of the week we’ll have two shows happening simultaneously. That can definitely be a challenge, especially on busy nights.  The biggest thing for me is making sure all our guests are well informed on the workings of our building before they even arrive.  The sending of this information helps a great deal when it comes to the guest experience the night of.  But no matter how hard we try to get the information out there, there’s still going to be people that arrive and have no idea where they’re going or even what band they’re here for.  So, by getting details out in advance to our guests it allows for me to give more attention to those folks who might not be as well informed.

RC: What about the music industry have you learned since you started working here that has surprised you the most?
LS: That even though the industry seems SO big, it’s really quite small.  We all seem to know each other in one way or another.

RC: What are your most common Frequently Asked Questions? What are a few of your favorite questions that have made you really have to turn on the charm?
LS: The most frequent question we get is “I’ve never been to World Cafe Live before, how does it work?”.  Which is my favorite frequently asked question because that means with every night and every new artist we bring through we’re bringing a whole new crowd of people who have never stepped foot in our building before.  OH and probably second most frequently asked question- “Does Standing Room Only really mean I have to stand all night?” (in case you were wondering – yes, it usually does).

I wouldn’t say these are my favorite questions but probably the most memorable:
“What time does Free at Noon start?”
“Can I bring a cot to the concert?”
And lastly, and definitely one I’ll never forget… “Didn’t there used be a Petting Zoo here?”

RC: What is the best story you’ve ever been told when someone is trying to get tickets for a sold out show?
LS: A lot of people tend to take the “my husband/wife is going to kill me for waiting to buy these.  Can you do anything?” route.  I’ve also been offered someone’s kidney before- which I politely declined.

RC: What are you most focused on for the venue in 2020?
LS: My team and I are focused on making 2020 a great year for the venue!  This is going to sound cheesy but I’m really proud of what we’re doing and what we continue to do so I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings!

RC: What new menu item from The Lounge is a must have for guests looking for recommendations?
LS: Crisp Salad with Ahi Tuna is definitely a go-to for me!