CHEF NOTES: Episode Five


Being a chef away from my kitchen and my team at World Cafe Live is very challenging, but I am focused on the opportunity to evaluate next steps and really process the negative impacts of this pandemic on our industry. Additionally, I am grateful for the chance to reconnect with the core of why we do what we do, and seek out the potential for positive outcomes as well.

The big question on my mind these days is when can we re-open and what will we need to do get to that point? With so many uncertainties, it is easy to get lost in the questions – but there is a strong foundation to our industry for us to lean on during this chaotic time.

As an organization that prides itself on being a home away from home for our guests, World Cafe Live has always implemented essential food safety practices to create a culture of proper sanitation procedures that are followed at all times. Like any good restaurant, we want to be in business for a long time, which means ensuring that bacteria do not grow and infection does not spread has always been and will continue to be a top priority. Our industry has a long history of guidelines from organizations like ServSafe and our own Philadelphia Department of Health. And while we can stand solidly on that institutional knowledge, it is also a platform on which we can and should continue to build.

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift, and we know that it is responsible for us to open our doors again to invite you in, we will be working tirelessly to make sure your mind can be at ease when you decide to join us. We are monitoring all changing regulatory requirements so that we can not only meet them, but find areas to exceed expectations and continue to make sure that your guest experience is the best possible.

If you are able and would like to direct contribute to organizations supporting our industry and it’s workers right now, please consider donation to Hospitality Response Assistance of Pennsylvania (HARP), James Beard Foundation Relief Fund, or locally with Philly Music Fest.

And if you need a break from all things sanitation and re-opening related, I recommend the following binge-worthy programming:
FX’s Devs
Netflix’s Dirty Money
And if you want to dive in even harder, check out this exercise hosted by The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security .

World Cafe Live Joins National Independent Venue Association (NIVA)

4/16/2020 by Dave Brooks via Billboard // View Full Article

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) will be helmed by Rev. Moose with branding and marketing firm Marauder and so far counts more than 450 national venues as members.

Independent concert promoters and venue operators from across the U.S. are teaming to lobby Congress and the White House for federal aid to help club and theaters hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) will be helmed by Rev. Moose with branding and marketing firm Marauder and so far counts more than 450 national venues as members. Among them are the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C., World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles, the Red River Cultural District in Austin and the Exit/In in Nashville.

“This is like a battle of survival and in order to survive, we need to put our best foot forward and have the most amount of unity and power that we can behind us,” explains Dayna Frank, owner of First Avenue in Minneapolis and NIVA board member.

Concert venues and clubs were among some of the first businesses to close as the coronavirus spread across America and they’ll be likely be among some of the last venues allowed to reopen once the pandemic ends. Already facing pressure from a rapidly consolidating music industry, rising rents and difficulty participating in the financial system, Frank says many venues and their employees are facing an existential crisis as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

“It is going to be a long struggle, but if we can all unite and speak with one voice, we’ll be able to help each other,” Frank adds.

Thanks to funding from See Tickets and Lyte, NIVA has hired well known Washington D.C. lobbying and international law firm Akin Gump to represent the venues and promoters who make up the group.

“Even though we were an independent group venue owners and operators, we wanted to hire the strongest possible lobbying group to be able to make our voices heard because we knew that everyone would be seeking to be heard at this point in time,” says Gary Witt, chief executive of Pabst Theater Group in Milwaukee.

Independent promoters have been under represented in the past — groups like the National Association of Concert Promoters have both independent and corporate promoter members and largely focus on negotiating publishing licenses with the royalty rights organizations. In March, the Independent Promoter Alliance was launched by Dave Poe of New York-based Patchwork Present and Ineffable Music and Jessica Gordon Broadberry Entertainment Group to focus on concert promotion.

NIVA is more political in nature and will work to lobby members of Congress and the White House to open federal assistance to small venues and educate lawmakers on the unique needs of concert promoters. Music venues are important economic drivers in their communities, explains Moose who was formally director of CMJ, the New York-based media company that organized the annual CMJ festival and published the CMJ New Music Report.

“Many venues started as a passion project run by sole operators and it helps to know that somebody across the country faces the same pain points and hopefully can offer some guidance,” Moose says. “Or maybe even just a little bit of moral support so you’re not feeling like you’re completely on your own. That’s one of the biggest stress points of being an independent business — you don’t always have somebody to turn to, like a board of directors. You sometimes just have yourself or an in law or something like that.”

Many of the aid packages and loan assistance available don’t work for concert promoters, who will face significant obstacles reopening their businesses, Frank explains.

“The primary goal of our lobbyists is to get language and to update to this act,” she tells Billboard. “Our employees and our community are our family. It’s a job, a lifestyle and defines who we are. We want to protect our employees and lift our community, but to do that we have to be able to reopen. And the way that the law is written now, it’s not going to be very helpful for that. So that’s, that’s why we’re going to D.C.”

Learn more at

Bridging the Distance: Online Resources from WCL Education

While we’re all practicing safe social distancing, we wanted to take this opportunity to share some of our educational programming – particularly for the young people, home-schooling caregivers, and educators in your world.

As many of you may know, WCL recently merged with our longtime partners LiveConnections to form one combined nonprofit. We’re eager to continue and expand the great educational and community work that LiveConnections has built over the past 12 years – but in the meantime, here’s some content from our archives. These performances are joyful explorations of how music expresses cultures, crosses boundaries, and brings us together.

Below you’ll find Bridging the Distance, a video collection of highlights and full Bridge Sessions, plus a few other favorite moments of music with and for young people – and grownups! Each link features a brief description, an age range, and some curricular connections to help any educators out there.


Artists: Elena Moon Park, violin; Ami Yares, guitar and vocals; Joe Tayoun, percussion

Themes: This session explores the diversity, themes, and spirit of folk music from a variety of cultures, including East Asia, the Middle East, and the U.S.

This excerpt features “Bint el Shabaliya,” a popular Lebanese folk song. The line “Ayyam aal baal bitaaiin itrouh” translates as “But these days are tough and they go”; “tough days come and go.” Resonant for the times! The excerpt also features a fun, interactive drumming exercise with Joe Tayoun.

Curricular connections: Cultural studies; how music expresses identity; lessons on rhythm



Artists: Alex Shaw, pandeiro & berimbau; Francois Zayas, maracas; Doc Gibbs, congas

Themes: Alex Shaw breaks down the “language” of the pandeiro, in an activity students could try at home; Francois Zayas exhibits his mad maracas skills!

Curricular connections: Interactive music/rhythm lessons



Award-winning spoken word poet Denice Frohman tells the story of how her grandparents met and fell in love and married. She speaks it in the voice of her grandmother, set to music by Andrew Lipke, performed by the Aizuri String Quartet.

Themes: Family history, poetry, interdisciplinary connections

Curricular connections: Lessons on poetry, personal narrative, oral history, music/text intersections



We created this video as part of the album “A DAY IN MY LIFE” we made in partnership with Henry H. Houston School in 2016. This is some musical fun for anyone who needs to just shake it out a bit. It features a catchy beat, student-created lyrics, and the entire Houston student body dancing along.

Choreography: Student team “Black Illusion” (Samiah Dean, Samaria Dockery, Arlon Hart, Jasmine O’Connor and Nijah Rogers-Combs, 5th grade) with artist Lela Aisha Jones
Producer: Galea McGregor
Project lead artists/producers: Ezechial Thurman, Houston Music Specialist Teacher; Andrew Lipke & David Bradley, LiveConnections



Artists: Doc Gibbs, Alex Shaw, Francois Zayas, percussion

Theme: A tour of percussion from around the world, from West Africa to the United States

Curricular connections: Cultural studies, world music, lessons on rhythm



Artists: Yumi Kendall, cello; Luigi Mazzocchi, violin; Alex Shaw, percussion

Theme: From Bach to the Jackson 5 & Black-Eyed Peas, music that cultures have danced to over the centuries.

Curricular connections: Cultural studies (links music from different times/cultures), different musical genres (classical, Brazilian, world, pop/rock)



Artists: Lela Aisha Jones, movement; Kwasi Burgee, Alex Shaw, Anssumane Silla—percussion

Theme: The intersection of movement and rhythm through polyrhythms, Brazilian capoeira, West African dance and hip-hop.

Curricular connections: World cultures, lessons in rhythm, dance, hip-hop


Highlights from “Folk Music_ The People’s Music”

Artists: Angie Zator-Nelson, percussion; Lisa Vaupel, violin; Andrew Lipke, guitar and vocals

Theme: All the ways rhythm is a part of our lives, how we hear it, feel it, and create it musically.

Curricular connections: Lessons on different musical styles, lessons on rhythm

CHEF NOTES: Episode Four (1/2)


I started this blog to showcase all the creative and talented individuals that I have the opportunity to work with daily who are constantly stepping up their game to excel their respective crafts. Both the music and hospitality industries require a level of dedication and patience that attracts very dynamic people from a range of backgrounds and experiences. I am in the very fortunate position of working alongside such a team every day, and I am humbled to be in a leadership position in our independent organization. At World Cafe Live we have over 80 people in our work family, and as we always say – once you’re WCL family, you are WCL family for life.

As of today, it’s been over week since I’ve seen my team, and the challenge of shutting down operations so suddenly has been intense. We work in industries that rely on public gathering, and the current COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our operations in ways I had not previously anticipated. The health and wellbeing of our team and our guests have always been a priority for us, so we recognize the importance of being temporarily shut down and are in this together to do our part. However, the direct impact is it having on our staff is devastating. When we realized how suddenly their funds would be cut off, we started an online campaign to help them, and I was blown away by the outpouring of immediate support. It takes a lot of hard work to do what we do day in and day out, and to see that hard work being recognized by a wide array of guests during a chaotic time really hit me. Thank you to every single person that has donated to the campaign. We are all very excited to reopen our doors as soon as it’s responsibly possible and welcome you all back for a great WCL experience.


CHEF NOTES: Episode Four


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.


I am very motivated by the continual growth of our organization and our growing WCL family. After a very deliberate decision to combine the long running work of traditional World Cafe Live operations with great outreach of LiveConnections nonprofit, we are very fortunate to now be in a position to go after our priorities by putting people and their experience first. A key player in this transition and its progress is Chief Advancement Officer of the newly combined organization Blair Bodine.


Blair Bodine speaks about LiveConnections and World Cafe Live’s educational programming.  November 2019. Photo courtesy of Wide Eyes Studios.

RC: What exactly is a Chief Advancement Officer and how do you serve the larger World Cafe Live goals?
BB: As a nonprofit music venue, World Cafe Live is a mission-driven organization. Our mission is to “open doors to shared experiences that create connections, inspire learning and celebrate who we all are.” I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be “mission-driven.” My role as Chief Advancement Officer is to secure the resources that fuel our journey. I help put gas in the tank, so to speak, as we drive forward towards achieving our mission.

And in less metaphorical language, my role is to think strategically about how we are able to grow the organization. This includes all areas of fundraising and “friend-raising,” like annual giving campaigns, applying for foundational grants, nurturing relationships with our donors, developing community partnerships and soliciting corporate sponsorships. I am also fortunate that I serve as a teaching artist for one of our music-making residencies. As a songwriter and musician, I personally feel very connected to our mission and the work that happens here.

RC: What is it like to work every day out of an office in a live music venue?
BB: Polyrhythmic! I’m sure you’ll agree, on a daily basis the energy here at World Cafe Live is phenomenal. During our educational Bridge Sessions this morning, our teaching artists were speaking with middle schoolers about polyrhythms from West African music traditions. They explained that when you have more than one rhythm, different patterns can intersect in new and interesting ways. I thought, “That’s what it’s like working a World Cafe Live!” There’s so much positive, polyrhthmic energy here. In 2019, we presented 600 concerts, featuring artists from 25 different countries. I love the fact that 150+ of those were local Philly-based artists.

As a team, we’ve been talking a lot about the ways that World Cafe Live can nurture the vibrant music ecosystem here in Philadelphia. I see that vibrancy reflected in our “house of music.” I get to work every day with a creative, collaborative team. And the perk of working at a live music venue is definitely the live music. I am amazed by all the incredible artists that play here any given night of the week. Some of my favorites in the past few weeks have been Tanya Tucker with Brandy Clark, Bethlehem and Sad Patrick and Nada Surf.

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Blair Bodine welcomes students to a Bridge Session.

RC: You interned for World Cafe Live & LiveConnections in 2010 while at UPenn, what was that like and what brought you back full time in 2017?
BB: At the time, LiveConnections was the nonprofit-in-residence at World Cafe Live, providing free, interactive performances for students from Philadelphia public schools and youth and adults with disabilities. In 2010, our free educational programming was only a few years old. Lori Landew, who is now our board chair, suggested I get involved and it changed my life! To this day, it is the best internship I’ve ever had. Our President and CEO Hal Real and our Producing Director of Arts & Learning David Bradley were incredible mentors to me. They also gave me a lot of responsibility for this alleged “internship,” which I really appreciated. I got to recruit new schools to come to World Cafe Live, meet with community partners and craft fundraising letters for donors. It was a real education.

It guided my career path in a very substantial way. After 2010, I worked for the Nashville Symphony, running their education and community engagement programs. During my time in Nashville, I often spoke about LiveConnections & World Cafe Live because the programming we developed here was so unique.

In 2017, I was looking for new opportunities in the nonprofit sector and reconnected with World Cafe Live. I was excited for the chance to come back! It was inspiring to see how much the educational programming had grown in seven years, from serving 500 participants to serving more than 5000 annually. And throughout that growth, collaborative music-making has remained the heartbeat that runs through all the programming we offer.

RC: As an accomplished musician yourself, how has the work you do had an impact on your own path as an artist?
BB: That’s a generous and thoughtful question, thank you! I began playing guitar and writing songs in middle school. When I work with students now, I remember how making music as a teenager gave me a sense of identity, a way to express myself and a pathway to connect with others. Our programs seek to do the same thing. I am thinking of our in-school residency at Hill-Freedman World Academy, a public high school in East Mount Airy. In collaboration with the school’s Music Technology teacher, our teaching artists and students spend the year writing songs and producing music, resulting in a fully-produced album. It’s so, so good. Sorry for the shameless plug, but you can listen to it here:

And I’m fortunate to work as a teaching artist for World Cafe Live’s “Immigrant Songs” residency, a storytelling and songwriting program serving refugee and immigrant teens. We deliver this program in partnership with the HIAS PA, the nonprofit that provides refugee resettlement assistance to families here in Philadelphia. Students record their songs at World Cafe Live and perform at community events like World Refugee Day. A majority of the students have been in the U.S. for three years or less and many are in the process of learning English. So in this context, songwriting takes on an entirely new meaning. Music offers is a pathway for connection, a platform for self-expression and a way to hone new language skills.

“Immigrant Songs” has made an incredible impact on me as an artist. I co-facilitate this program with teaching artist Ami Yares, who has done a lot of work using music as a tool for peacebuilding. One day, Ami and I were working with the students on a song about their dreams for the world. We wrote their short responses on index cards. “My dream for the world is… peace, no more war, friendship, more soccer, etc.” Then, we shuffled around the index cards and tried out different verses. The result was a hopeful anthem the students wrote called “When the World Comes Around,” For one verse, the students even wove their first languages into the lyrics, teaching each other how to sing “No more war” in Arabic, Spanish and Ukrainian. I remember walking to the parking lot with Ami that day; both of us were awed by what the students had accomplished, prompted by one question and a handful of index cards. And that process is something I had never tried with my personal songwriting. Needless to say, I learned a lot that day.

RC: What drives you to work with young people?
BB: Honestly? They’re cooler than me and I’m jealous of them!

As creative humans, young people are more empathetic, make bolder artistic decisions and see the value of arts and culture in their everyday lives. As adults, we sometimes forget how to value these things. Who doesn’t want to be around that inspiring energy?

RC: How have your travels impacted your outlook on the work you do?
BB: We all know the phrase, “Music is a universal language.” I’ve been lucky that I’ve had the privilege of putting that phrase to the test. As a student, I studied Chinese and majored in East Asian Languages and Cultures. When I traveled to Beijing to study abroad, I brought my guitar and began trying (very unsuccessfully, I might add) to write songs in Chinese. But, I got to experience how music is viewed as a community resource there. In Beijing, musicians will bring traditional instruments to the park and not only begin playing songs, but they will also distribute songbooks so that people can join in singing. Huge crowds will form. It’s incredible.

It reminds me a lot of the community-building concert we hosted last year called “A Song Everyone Can Sing” which celebrated inclusivity through group singing. People with and without disabilities were invited to join in the music-making, celebrating human ability and the joy of singing together. Like all of us here at World Cafe Live, I am very interested in moments like these that celebrate the “people connecting power” of music.

RC: You have a contagious energetic vibe, how do you maintain a positive attitude during adverse times?
BB: Candy.

RC: What are you currently not yet doing that you would like to tackle in 2020?
BB: I think the timing is perfect for World Cafe Live to host a huge fundraising/friend-raising event in in 2020. Now that we are a nonprofit, 100% of our proceeds are reinvested into the WCL experience. We can dream big about building an event that celebrates music-making, culinary arts and entertainment. There is a lot to celebrate here!

And personally this year, I’d like to learn more about the recording arts and digital production. I see this as an essential ingredient for making music in the 21st century. In our education programs, we have incredible teaching artists who are weaving this technology into their practice. I am eager to learn more.

Why Philadelphia music venue World Cafe Live is becoming a nonprofit

Dan DeLuca for The Philadelphia Inquirer // February 12, 2020

Changes are afoot at World Cafe Live, the Philadelphia venue that has been bringing bands to University City for 15 years.

The two-tiered music club, founded by Hal Real in 2004, is becoming a nonprofit enterprise. On Wednesday, Real said the venue is now owned by Live Connections, a nonprofit music education organization he cofounded in 2008 when the recession led to budget cuts at Philadelphia public schools.The combined entity will be known as World Cafe Live, according to Real, who said that the Walnut Street club’s busy schedule will be unaffected.

Between its 650-capacity downstairs room, recently redubbed the Music Hall at World Cafe Live, and the more intimate, 250-capacity upstairs space now called the Lounge at World Cafe Live, the venue hosted 400 ticketed shows and 200 free ones in 2019, he said.

The change to nonprofit status is being made, Real said, not only to further the enterprise’s charitable work, but also to help it survive as an independent venue in Philadelphia’s fiercely competitive concert market, where the great majority of spaces are either owned or primarily booked by dominant promoters Live Nation and AEG Live.

WCL’s freebies include open mic nights and the Free at Noon shows presented on Fridays by WXPN-FM (88.5), the University of Pennsylvania adult-alternative station with which the World Cafe Live shares a building. Nathaniel Rateliff plays this Friday. (The building at 3025 Walnut St. is owned by Penn. The WCL leases space from the university, and licenses from XPN the name World Cafe, the station’s signature syndicated radio show.)

Through Live Connections, Real said, 5,000 schoolchildren were brought to WCL in groups of 100 at a time for workshops and programs during 2019.

WCL has been “carrying itself” as a for-profit venture, Real said, but for the Live Connections education programs, “we pay for the bus, we pay the musicians, we pay for the entire experience.”

Going forward, “we’d like to double or triple that,” he said. “And doing that kind of work requires you to be subsidized.” Nonprofit status will allow WCL to do that with funding from foundations and other sources. (Tickets are not tax-deductible, but donations above and beyond the ticket price are.)

Along with venues such as Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown and Ardmore Music Hall, World Cafe Live is a go-it-alone venture in the city’s crowded music-business landscape. Since last fall, it has had yet another competitor in the Fashion District’s City Winery, similarly configured with a larger downstairs room and a more intimate space upstairs.

Real said that City Winery’s entry into the Philadelphia market — the company has venues up and down the East Coast and in Nashville and Chicago — wasn’t a factor in the WCL changes, which have “been in the works for two years.”

WCL hosted country star Tanya Tucker last week, and will promote African singer Angélique Kidjo at the Annenberg Center in West Philly on Feb. 20. It faces competitive challenges going up against companies like AEG Live, which through its partner Bowery Presents books Union Transfer and the Franklin Music Hall, and Live Nation, which books Theatre of Living Arts, Fillmore Philadelphia, Met Philadelphia, and others. “We don’t have the economies of scale that even the City Winery has.”

For the average concertgoer, Real said, WCL’s nonprofit status won’t change “their experience… . We’ll still book those shows, hopefully they’ll still enjoy a good cold beer.

“What will change is that they’ll know that every dollar they’re spending will be reinvested in the programming. Also, it will be going into the facilities, so we can maintain this on a quality level and don’t have to be compromised because we’re trying to compete with a Live Nation or AEG venue when they’ve got such deep pockets.”

Review: Tanya Tucker, making the most of her comeback at Philly’s World Cafe Live

by Dan DeLuca, February 7, 2020

Tanya Tucker took 10 years off before recording While I’m Livin’, her 2019 album that won the veteran country singer two Grammy Awards last month.

And to hear Tucker tell it during her terrifically loose, thoroughly entertaining show at the World Cafe Live on Thursday, she had no plans for a comeback.

Those two songs were at the show’s subdued center, but the rest of the night was raucous. Tucker carried herself with the swagger of a lifelong star who recorded her first Top 10 hit in 1972, when she was 13, and remained a relevant, consistent country hit-maker for two decades.

Read the full story on The Inquirer

CHEF NOTES: Episode Three


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.


Every single event large and small that comes through the venue must be coordinated on some level by the production department, and that makes Production Manager Jorgan Krug the busiest person in the building day in and day out. He maintains a hectic calendar, handles ridiculous changeovers, makes tour managers and event clients happy, leads a very strong team, and still finds time to explore his profession on the road. Working in a kitchen is its own grind, and I have so much respect and appreciation for the pace that Jorgan has to keep year-round.

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RC: What defines the daily role of a production manager in a music venue? What other elements are required specifically for a Production Manager at World Cafe Live?
JK: Production Managers oversee all of the technical aspects of an event, and act as the intermediary between venue and the touring party (artist/crew/management.)  Aspects include: vehicle parking, day schedule, tech crew labor staffing, coordinating tech elements, sourcing any gear rentals, handling backstage hospitality, and relaying safety concerns to security staff.  There are often a lot of heavy things being moved, tall ladders being climbed, and objects being hung high in the air; a PM must make sure all of this work is being done in a safe manner.

In addition to the execution of all of the above on the show day, the planning of everything must be negotiated and agreed upon ahead of time, in a process called “advancing.”  So expect to be planning all aspects of several weeks worth of events while simultaneously executing whatever event(s) are taking place in real time.

Lastly, a PM must also balance financial budgets with regard to show labor, employee payroll, catering, and equipment maintenance/repair.

WCL is unique in the amount, as well as the vast diversity, of events hosted.  The skills and temperament needed by Production staff to properly put on a rock’n’roll show, verses say a classical orchestra, are quite varied.  Having such a diversity of events helps to ‘round out’ ones skill set, and keeps things fresh and exciting.

RC: Having been on both sides of the stage, what motivated you to dive deeper into sound engineering and production management?
JK: People started paying me more money to execute their performances than to conduct my own.

RC: What are some key things that you look for in people when interviewing someone who wants to be a part of your production team?
JK: Must work well with others (often for long hours at a time.)  Time management and problem solving/troubleshooting skills are a must.  But above all, delivering under pressure.  Live concert production is often full of high-pressure situations, with strict time constraints, where any technical mistake made could have disastrous consequences, that likely will be noticed by everyone in attendance.  It’s not enough to simply keep your cool; you must thrive on that pressure, and naturally perform your very best in these circumstances.

RC: What are some of the craziest things that bands have requested on their riders?
JK: Backrubs, high fives, drugs, a locally supplied human body double, a picture of Dolly Parton, mannequins.  The crazier requests have not been in riders, but in person.

RC: With the long hours and weeks with events back to back to back, what are some of the small moments that remind you that you’re doing what you love?
JK: Touring crews expressing gratitude.  Interfacing with like-minded peers, surviving high stress situations, and pulling off sometimes near-impossible tasks, is extremely rewarding when accomplished.  When the show is done, the work is over, and the trailer is packed… being thanked, hearing that everything went smoother than anticipated, and leaving with a sense of mutual respect is very fulfilling; and ultimately the reason why the hard work is worth doing.

RC: We host over 500 shows a year with bands ranging from local artists to international acts and everyone in between. What are some of the ways your team lets each artist know we understand the grind?
JK: That number seems pretty low to me, hah.  Instead of asking “How are you?”  We’re more interested in how long the tour is, how much of the tour is already over?  “How long was the drive from last night?  Where are you off to tomorrow?  Oh that place, cool, yes that’s a fine room.  What’s this guitar you have here?”  We’re not just asking for the sake of conversation; it’s an overlap of interest shared by like-minded people in a similar space.  The music business is very much a people business.

RC: What sets us apart from other venues in the city and why is being an independent venue in Philadelphia for fifteen years and counting so important?
JK: Being independent in the venue space allows you to have a large diversity of programming, engage involvement in community, cultivate a designated experience for artists and attendees alike, and gives a freedom to forge a unique identity.

RC: What do you learn about the industry when you go out on the road and how do you bring those experiences back with you to the venue?
JK: In my experience, it’s really easy to form blind spots when you are doing one thing, or stay in one place, for an extended period of time.  When touring, being at a new place every day, you naturally investigate/notice aspects of a venue throughout the day that are of importance to you.  “The parking for the tour bus was way easier yesterday, the food at catering is better today, I can’t believe there are steps here and not a proper ramp”…these sorts of things.

Being in an investigative mindset and coming back to your home base can be eye-opening to improvements that can be made, whether in physical logistics or in general practices.  Having up-to-date knowledge of how production is being executed around the country (and the world) is obviously an invaluable asset; but it also builds empathy.  When you’ve personally been that guy that is 3,000 miles from home, for weeks at a time, tired, getting fed cold pasta in a greenroom with no heat, dealing with apathetic local sound crews… it builds a pretty strong desire to make sure others don’t go through those experiences when they enter your venue.

RC: What is the one show during your time at the venue that stands out to you the most?
JK: Snarky Puppy played several times; they are always quite the show.

RC: Who would be your dream act to perform on the World Cafe Live stage?
JK: Tom Waits.  Dillinger Escape Plan.


After the August death of David Berman, musicians will pay tribute in a Saturday World Cafe Live concert

by Jesse Bernstein, For The Inquirer

David Berman was 52 when he took his own life last August in a Park Slope apartment.

For those who knew the singer-songwriter — less than a week from embarking on only the third tour of his decades-long career — it was a crushing loss. The work of Berman’s longtime band, Silver Jews, was and remains a touchstone for indie rockers across the country, and his newer project, Purple Mountains, had just recently released its first record.

To Jeff Meyers, chief talent buyer at World Café Live, Berman’s death presented something else: a chance to do some good.

“Really bad situations just make me want to figure out what I can do to make it better,” he said.

On Saturday, the band Speedy Ortiz will be joined by a festival’s worth of Philadelphia musicians for “Philly Remembers David Berman,” a World Café Live tribute that will feature covers of Silver Jews and Purple Mountains songs. Additionally, on the recommendation of Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis, selections from Berman’s poetry will be recited. All proceeds will go to MusiCares at the request of Berman’s record label, Drag City.

Berman died five days before he was set to play a sold-out concert at World Café Live, just the third time he would have appeared at a Philadelphia venue, and the first since 2008. As the guest services and box office teams scrambled to alert all ticket-buyers that the show had been canceled, Meyers was inundated with requests for the date itself to be kept, if only for fans of Berman to gather and listen to his music, together.

Though the timing was not to Meyers’ liking, the sentiment certainly was. Quickly, he identified an open date that made sense — Jan. 4 is Berman’s birthday — and began reaching out to Philadelphia musicians to gauge their interest.

What he found was a community that was eager to pay its respects to a beloved figure. “I didn’t really have to convince many people very much about this,” Meyers said.

Early on, Meyers and Dupuis agreed that Speedy Ortiz would serve as a core band for the evening. Throughout the night, dozens of local singers and musicians, including Jake Ewald (Slaughter Beach, Dog) and Cynthia Schemmer (Radiator Hospital) will join them. Local poets like Jenn McCreary and Emma Brown Sanders will read from Berman’s poetry collection, Actual Air.

“People picked a selection of songs that I think represent the full emotional spectrum of what David was capable of writing about, often within the same song,” Dupuis said.

Dupuis has long found herself drawn to Berman’s work, both as a musician and a poet. She was once “obsessed” with Actual Air, and even attended the same poetry MFA program, at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“I always felt a kinship to him, even though I didn’t know him personally,” she said.

Silver Jews started as a project of Berman, Stephen Malkmus, and Bob Nastanovich in 1989. Though the latter two would go on to find fame and critical acclaim with their own band, Pavement, Berman remained as the sole consistent member until he ended the band in 2009, releasing albums every few years and developing a small, dedicated fan base.

One of those albums was American Water, released in 1998, and one of those fans was Frances Quinlan, the singer for the band Hop Along, who will be performing a Silver Jews song Saturday night.

Quinlan spent a summer working as a house painter with a friend of hers, and each morning they’d listen to American Water as they made their way to work. At 7 a.m., Quinlan would hear the opening line of “Random Rules” — “In 1984, I was hospitalized for approaching perfection” — and they remain as striking to her now as they did on those mornings. “They’re just undeniable,” she said, comparing him to celebrated lyricists Joanna Newsom and Leonard Cohen.

Andy Molholt of Speedy Ortiz said that spending so much time with the material — not just listening, but rearranging for the musicians who will be playing it Saturday — has brought him closer to Berman’s observations of humanity in a way he had not been before. Understanding Berman’s humor, he added, is similarly vital to understanding his music. An expletive-laden line from a Purple Mountains song has felt to him especially evocative of Berman — somehow obscene, tender, vulnerable, and funny in the space of just a few words.

Berman’s struggles with his mental health were well-documented, often by him. He survived a suicide attempt in 2003, which his lyrics reflected. “Way deep down at some substratum/Feels like something really wrong has happened/And I confess I’m barely hanging on,” he sang on “All My Happiness Is Gone,” released in 2019.

According to Dominic Angellela, who will join Speedy Ortiz for a rendition of Silver Jews’ “Smith & Jones Forever,” the circumstances of Berman’s death can make it difficult to talk about him. To say what you feel about the death of an artist you never knew can feel trivial, or trivializing, he said. And so, Angellela decided that the best way to express his feelings about Berman was to get on stage, “and play some music I really believe in.”

“I’m just happy to be a part of it,” he added.

Angellela and the rest of the musicians won’t be alone in celebrating Berman on Saturday. In Portland and New York City, similar tributes will be taking place. To Dupuis, such celebrations are further reinforcement of what she’s learned since his death: just how many people held Berman’s music and poetry close.

“I think it’s lovely that so many people around the country felt so compelled to share how meaningful he was to them,” said Dupuis, “and how meaningful he will continue to be.”

“Philly Remembers David Berman: A Birthday Tribute”
8 p.m. Jan. 4, $17 in advance, $20 at the door, World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., 215-222-1400,




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.