Staff Picks: Waker

By: Jack O’Rourke

What started as a fun, little project between lifelong friends, Chase Bader (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Conor Kelly (electric guitar), has grown into one of the hottest bands coming out of Nashville. Formerly known under the name Koa, Waker has garnered quite the following for their high octane and jam session filled live shows. With a similar sound to Dave Mathews Band, Waker is known for their eclectic blend of soul, funk, and rock & roll. Fresh off the release of their 2015 EP, Waker hit the festival circuit playing shows at ACL, Hangout, Bonnaroo, SXSW and Firefly and have been on the road touring ever since.

While balancing touring and working on an album, last year Waker released their most recent single, “Pike.” My personal favorite from their repertoire; the single marks the culmination of Waker’s evolution as songwriters and musicians. The up-tempo and dance inducing song got its name after the U.S. general and explorer, Zebulon Pike. With their sights set on a Guinness World Record, all seven members piled into their van and hit the road, heading for Pikes Peak with the goal of reaching the summit and “playing the hell out of this song.” The music video for “Pike” shows the bands journey to the top of the mountain.

As we patiently await the release of Waker’s new album, in the meantime be sure to catch Waker at WCL – Upstairs on Saturday, April 7th. Tickets are available here.

March 2018: Staff Picks

March is going to be a month of funk, folk, alternative rock, and power pop, and we have put together the ultimate playlist to help you get in the zone–featuring Red Baraat, Nada Surf, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and more.

Red Baraat


The riveting eight-piece ensemble that NPR has dubbed “the best party band in years,” will be bringing their mesmerizing, funk grooves to the World Cafe Live stage on March 8th. Get ready for a high-energy, fusion of  jazz, hip-hop, rock, funky go-go, and scalding hot bhangra.

Favorite tracks: Shruggy Ji, Horizon Line

Nada Surf

nada surf

Celebrating the 15th anniversary of the seminal album, Let Go, Nada Surf will be performing the record in its entirety on March 9th.

Willy Porter  and Carmen Nickerson 


Midwest artists Willy Porter and Carmen Nickerson are an exciting addition to the indie-duo scene. With their liquid harmonies and unassailable, playful performance chemistry, these two solo artists have joined their unique talents to create the unforgettable sound of Porter Nickerson. Tickets for their March 16th show are available here.

Favorite tracks: Angry Words, You Stay Here

Jamie McLean Band


As a guitarist for New Orleans royalty Aaron Neville and Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Jamie McLean has toured the globe playing fiery guitar everywhere from Madison Square Garden to Japan’s Fuji Rock. He is bringing his fusion of New Orleans soul, Delta blues, and middle America roots to World Cafe Live on March 17th.

Favorite tracks: Virginia, I Been Low

Tom Rush


Tom Rush is a gifted musician and performer, whose shows are a journey into the tradition and spectrum of what music has been, can be, and will become. His distinctive guitar style, wry humor and warm, expressive voice have made him both a legend and a lure to audiences around the world. Don’t miss your chance to experience his performance here at World Cafe Live on March 25th.

Favorite tracks: No Regrets, Child’s Song, The Circle Game




Squirrel Nut Zippers


It was about 20 years ago when NPR’s Morning Edition said: “It’s not easy to categorize the music of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, except that it’s hot.” The cutting edge ensemble is bringing the heat to our Downstairs stage on March 27th.

Favorite tracks: Hell, Got My Own Thing Now

We hope to see you soon!

February 2018 Staff Picks

John OatesGin BlossomsSyleena Johnson, and Phoebe Bridgers are just a few of the amazing artists we have coming to the World Cafe Live stage this February. Plus, we have our second show of the Spotlight Artist Series featuring The Stooges Brass Band with their unique blend of authentic New Orleans brass, contemporary jazz, and hip-hop beats—oh yeah, and it’s completely FREE! What better way to celebrate Mardi Gras?

You can check out these artists and more on WCL’s February Spotify playlist.

John Oates is one half of the best-selling duo of all time Hall & Oates, as well as an accomplished solo artist. Daryl Hall & John Oates have gone on to record 21 albums, which have sold over 80 million units, making them the most successful duo in rock history. They have scored 10 #1 records, over 20 Top-40 hits, and have toured the world for decades.Since embarking on a long awaited solo career in 1999, Oates has recorded five solo albums: Phunk Shui1000 Miles of LifeMississippi Mile, a live album called The Bluesville Sessions, and Good Road To Follow. You do not want to miss his performance with The Good Road Band on February 6th!

Favorite tracks: “Color of Love,” “Bad Bad Love,” “Different Kind of Groove Sometime” 

Syleena Johnson is one of those undeniable talents whose unfaltering truth shines through every note she sings, and we are so excited for her to take the World Cafe Live stage on February 9th. Undoubtedly one of the best singers of her generation, Johnson has collaborated with everyone from Kanye West and Common to Anthony Hamilton and R. Kelly. Her 2017 record, Rebirth of Soul, features covers hand-picked by her father, Syl Johnson—including his own “Is It Because I’m Black?”

Favorite tracks: “Make Me Yours,” “Guess What,” “Is It Because I’m Black?”

The Stooges Brass Band, widely considered one of New Orleans’ elite brass bands, is playing the World Cafe Live on February 16th as part of our new Spotlight Artist Series—bringing you the best emerging talent to come through Philly. Over the course of a twenty-year career, the Stooges have shared the stage with greats including Jessica Simpson, Galactic, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Trombone Shorty, Shemekia Copeland, Pedrito Martinez Group, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Ozomatli, Black Star (Mos Def & Talib Kweli), Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, and The Funky Meters, among others.

Favorite tracks: “Stooges Party,” “Wind It Up”

In the late 80’s, Gin Blossoms started to grow a huge following as the #1 local music draw in Phoenix, Arizona. Their indelible jangle-pop sound was evolving during radio’s diverse mix of hair bands and grunge music superstars. Their breakout record, New Miserable Experience, was where their rise to fame began. This album kept the band on the chart for almost 3 years with singles “Hey Jealousy,” “Allison Road,” Until I Fall Away,” “Mrs. Rita,” and “Found Out About You.” The crossover hits on New Miserable Experience played on 4 radio formats and, to date, have sold over 5 million records.

Now, the band is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the very record that brought them to fame on February 20th here at World Cafe Live.

Favorite tracks: “Found Out About You,” “Hey Jealousy”

On February 21st, we welcome Los Angeles-based folk-rock artist, Phoebe Bridgers, who has been described as Elliott Smith meets Gillian Welch. Bridgers grew up in the rose-colored city of Pasadena, attending the prestigious Los Angeles County High School for the Arts to study music. From an early age, she found encouragement from a close-knit artistic community of friends and family to follow her dreams, and at school she forged relationships that would teach her as much about her craft as her classes. She has collaborated with friends and mentors including Terra Naomi, Noah Gundersen, Chad Gilbert, and Conor Oberst. Indie rock-pop outfit, Soccer Mommy will open the show. 

Favorite tracks: “Motion Sickness,” “Scott Street”

January 2018 Staff Picks

We have so many great shows coming up in January that you will not want to miss! Check out some of our staff favorites, and listen to song selections from the entire month on our Spotify Playlist.

We are very excited to launch our new Spotlight Artist Series in 2018, bringing you FREE shows from the best emerging talent to come through Philly. First up is Memphis five-piece, Southern Avenue on January 12th! Their self-titled debut album, released in February 2017, captures the soul, blues, and gospel traditions of Memphis, and has already reached #1 on the iTunes Blues chart. This will not be the last time you hear their name, so here is your chance to say you saw them at World Cafe Live first… for FREE!

Favorite Tracks: Slipped, Tripped And Fell In Love, Don’t Give Up, Love Me Right


David Uosikkinen of The Hooters returns with In The Pocket on January 18th! Uosikkinen is recording what he feels are the “Essential Songs of Philadelphia.” In The Pocket brings together a rotating line-up of Philly’s most celebrated musicians, who perform songs which were either recorded in Philadelphia, or written and performed by Philadelphians. The current line-up is set to include fellow Hooters band member Fran Smith Jr.,  Tommy Conwell of The Young Rumblers, Kenny Aaronson of The Yardbirds/Bob Dylan, and Charlie Ingui of Soul Survivors, among many other all-star Philly musicians. This will be a fun celebration of Philadelphia music!

Favorite Tracks: Punk Rock Girl, I Ain’t Searchin’, One Of Us


On January 20th, be sure to catch the greatest Tom Petty Tribute Band around, Damn The Torpedoes! Front man Rich Kubicz has mastered all things Petty with painstaking precision, and it’s no surprise that this show drew so much attention that we had to move it from our smaller upstairs room to downstairs! Since we now sadly live in a world without Tom Petty, Damn The Torpedoes is the next best thing to seeing the legend himself. RIP Tom!

Favorite Cover Tunes: Wildflowers, Learning To Fly, The Waiting


Roots rock/alternative country singer, songwriter, and guitarist Alejandro Escovedo Band returns on January 23rd! Escovedo, who comes from a family of several professional musicians, has been touring and recording since the early 90s and has an eclectic body of work spanning his career. His latest album, Burn Something Beautiful, was released last year, which Rolling Stone calls “timeless rather than trendy.”

Favorite Tracks: I Was Drunk, Heartbeat Smile, Always A Friend


WCL veteran Howie Day returns on January 28th! Through extensive touring, Day gained a loyal following among the college crowd in the early 2000s with his (unique at the time) in-concert use of samplers and effects pedals, which made him sound like a one-man-band. He gained national attention in 2004/2005 with his top 10 radio hits “Collide” and “She Says.” His latest release, Lanterns (2015), was fully funded by fans and himself through his PledgeMusic campaign.

Favorite Tracks: Collide, She Says, Anyone


Joe Purdy and Amber Rubarth are stopping by on their “American Folk” Tour on January 31st! The pair, who are real-life folk musicians and not professional actors, star in the award-winning independent film of the same title, which is set for release on January 26th alongside the film soundtrack. “American Folk” is about two folk musicians who meet on a plane bound for New York on the morning of 9/11, and the soundtrack features a mix of original material from Purdy and Rubarth, as well as folk classics. Philly is one of only 8 stops on this unique tour!

Favorite Tracks: The City, I Love The Rain The Most, San Jose

December Staff Picks

We’ve got another amazing lineup coming up in December! Check out some of our staff favorites, and take a listen on our Spotify Playlist.

WCL veterans Carbon Leaf are returning on December 1st! The Richmond, VA quintet blends folk, Celtic, bluegrass, Americana and rock into what the band refers to as “ether-electrified porch music.” Their 2016 release, Nothing Rhymes With Woman, was the third and final album to be re-recorded after a split with their previous record label, achieving the band’s goal of regaining 100% ownership of their music catalog. With 16 albums spanning their 24-year career, you never know what to expect at a Carbon Leaf show!
Favorite Tracks: Let Your Troubles Roll By, The Boxer, Miss Hollywood

Coming to our upstairs stage on December 5th is Jaws of Love., the new solo project by singer/multi-instrumentalist Kelcey Ayer of Local Natives. Ayer explains of his debut album Tasha Sits Close to the Piano, “It was such an awesome release making these songs, and that let me embrace who I feel like I am. It was wonderful to not have to explain myself to anyone. I have dark piano music in my heart and soul, and Jaws of Love. is me at my truest self.” Be sure to check out this special, intimate show!
Favorite Tracks: Love Me Like I’m Gone, Hawaiian License Plates, Jaws of Love.

Outlaw country/southern rock singer-songwriter and son of country music legend Waylon Jennings, Shooter Jennings is coming through Philly on December 8th! On this special co-headlining acoustic tour with Jason Boland, the two will be sharing the stage swapping songs and stories. This will surely be a fun show that country music fans will not want to miss!
Favorite Tracks from Shooter Jennings: 4th of July, The Gunslinger
Favorite Tracks from Jason Boland: When I’m Stoned, Pearl Snaps

 On December 9th, WXPN Welcomes Hiss Golden Messenger! This Durham, NC folk band is fronted by M.C. Taylor, who has been making music for more than 20 years. The prolific songwriter has been recently flooded with inspiration, releasing 2017’s Hallelujah Anyhow less than a year after 2016’s Heart Like a Levee, which itself was packaged with a bonus eight-song record, Vestapol. Taylor explains, “These songs felt like they were flying over my head and I reached up and caught them. It was pretty simple in that way. There was an emotional urgency with this collection of music that felt spurred on by what I was seeing and hearing around me.”
Favorite Tracks: Biloxi, Jenny of the Roses, Heart Like a Levee

Everett Bradley’s Holidelic returns on December 15th!  Combining his old school 70s style funk and humorous lyrics, Everett has created a fun and unique holiday celebration of life, love, and Christmas that people from all walks of life can enjoy.
Favorite Tracks: Holidelic, Santa Bring The Funk, Nativitay

One Tree Hill favorites Tyler Hilton & Kate Voegele are bringing their ”One Tree Holiday” tour to WCL on December 21st! The pair will be performing as a duo for a special night of music that is sure to make fans of the show feel nostalgic. Tickets are flying for this one, so don’t get left out!
Favorite Tracks from Tyler Hilton: When It Comes, Glad, Next To You
Favorite Tracks from Kate Voegele: It’s Only Life, Forever and Almost Always, Not The Only One

November Staff Picks

November is almost here and we’ve got a killer lineup for you! Check out some of the highlights below & on our Spotify playlist.

JD McPherson makes his WCL return on November 5! The rural Oklahoma native has drawn inspiration from everything from Little Richard to the Wu-Tang-Clan to Led Zeppelin, giving him a unique retro sound that lies somewhere between rock & roll, R&B, and 1950s rockabilly.

Favorite Tracks: Lucky Penny, Let The Good Times Roll, North Side Gal

Coming to our upstairs stage on November 8 are JD Eicher & Sawyer Fredericks! Eicher has been playing guitar since age 12 and has four albums and a live EP full of catchy pop-rock tunes. Fredericks is a contemporary folk singer-songwriter who won the 8th season of The Voice in 2015, making him the youngest winner in series history at age 16. This co-headline show will be a fun night of music you will not want to miss!

Favorite Tracks from JD Eicher: Two By Two, The Little Bit, Aaron, This Heart

Favorite Tracks from Sawyer Fredericks: What I’ve Done, Not Coming Home, Take It All, This Fire

Come check out Mary Lambert on our upstairs stage November 14! Lambert taught herself to play piano and write songs at age 6 as an escape from her traumatic and abusive household. Her emotional and revealing songs speak of the struggles she faced as a child, and her live shows are described as “safe spaces where crying is acceptable and even encouraged.”

Favorite Tracks: She Keeps Me Warm, Know Your Name, So Far Away, Secrets, When You Sleep

On November 22 we welcome Philly up-and-comers, the Chris Paterno Band! This energetic eight-piece is a little bit of rock and roll and funk and soul, all rolled into one. Come dance the night away while supporting local music!

Favorite Tracks: Gorgeous, Unfaithful

Loudon Wainwright III returns on November 29! With his witty, self-mocking lyrical style, Wainwright has recorded 23 studio albums since 1970. Wainwright’s songs are often deeply personal with a twist of humor, making his live shows as entertaining are they are meaningful.

Favorite Tracks: The Swimming Song, In C, Middle Of The Night, Daughter

The Alternate Routes are back on November 30! With their latest record “Live In Pawling” and a new single “Stronger,” are available now! These guys always put on a great show, so don’t miss this special co-headline with Nick Fradiani!

Favorite Tracks: All That I See, Nothing More, Ordinary, Desdemona (Featuring Patty Griffin)

Staff Pick: Noah Gundersen 10/22

Coming to WCL on Sunday, October 22nd is Seattle-based singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen. With his quiet, unique voice and deep lyrics, his music offers his heart on a string.

His latest record, White Noise, has taken Gundersen into a new musical direction, expanding his sound from acoustic/folk music with few frills, to a wall-of-sound production style record which features electric guitars, drums, progressive synth, and bass on many tracks. Gundersen has called his latest venture a “sensory overload.” “Fear, anxiety, desire, sex, lust, love. White Noise is the place between waking and dreaming, where the edges blur and the light is strange. It’s a car crash, it’s a drowning, it’s everything all the time.”

His upcoming tour is sure to be one you will not want to miss. Tickets are available here.


After a snow storm caused the cancellation of his March 2017 show, WCL is thrilled to welcome back Nashville singer-songwriter Will Hoge to our downstairs stage this Wednesday, September 20th! With 9 studio albums and 3 EP’s which showcase the evolution of his music from full-band rock ‘n’ roll to solo country artist, Hoge has kept up a relentless touring schedule over the past 16 years, sometimes playing more than 200 shows in a year. While he had built up a loyal fan base throughout these years, it wasn’t until 2012 when he suddenly found himself in the spotlight, when Eli Young Band hit #1 on the Billboard Country chart with their recording of his song “Even If It Breaks Your Heart.” Soon he was earning nominations at the CMA, ACM, and GRAMMY awards, playing gigs at the Grand Ole Opry and The Late Show with David Letterman, and earning a steady paycheck by writing songs for other artists. The songs on his latest album, Anchors, are the result of a man who found himself uninspired by the redundancy of being in a band, so he made the decision to let his band go and tour the country by himself with just a guitar and a keyboard. As a result, he found himself feeling reenergized by his newfound freedom as a songwriter and performer, which fueled the creation of some of his strongest work to date.

Supporting Will Hoge is former Augustana front man, Dan Layus. After putting out four albums with the (now disbanded) rock band from 2003-2011, Layus recently began his solo venture as a country artist. His debut album, Dangerous Things, which was released in 2016 and features several tracks with singing duo The Secret Sisters adding harmonies, is some of his most personal work to date. Over the last couple of years, he has been given some incredible opportunities to expose his music to new audiences, with gigs opening for country superstars the Dixie Chicks and pop sensation One Direction. Dan Layus bears his heart and soul in his songs and on stage, and this special tour with Will Hoge is one not to be missed! Tickets are still available.

-Nicole Sipple, Marketing Intern

September Preview

September is quickly approaching, which means we’re about to return to the grind of work and school. Though this may sound daunting, don’t worry- World Cafe Live has some awesome shows to help keep you occupied when you need a break from it all. Next month’s shows offer a diverse range of genres, from classic rock, to jazz, folk, and blues. Take a listen to our Spotify Playlist for September to hear for yourself —

Birdtalker “Heavy” (September 13)

Nashville based indie-folk rock group Birdtalker have a knack for creating poetic lyrics and beautiful harmonies that flow smoothly with the music. “Heavy” is the first song that the group wrote together and recorded, which sparked the composition of the remainder of their 2016 debut EP, Just This. Their charming sound melds the melodic sense of indie rock with the more intimate and quiet sound of acoustic folk music.

Zealyn “Talk: Listen” (September 19)

“Talk: Listen,” from Zealyn’s 2016 album Limbic System, has an alternative electronic sound that is organic and unique. Zealyn, otherwise known as Angie Miller, began her musical career as a contestant on American Idol Season 12. After placing third on the show, she came out with her debut album, Weathered, in 2014. Zealyn will embark on a five week tour around the entire US beginning September 12, and we are incredibly excited to have her play at World Cafe Live.

Philly Music and Arts Fest (September 22-23)

“The Festival is both a testament and celebration of the exploding music scene in Philadelphia and a showcase of up and coming artists”

The Philly music scene is “eclectic and blossoming,” so what better way to celebrate it than have a festival featuring only local bands? In addition to live music, the festival will highlight the food, beer, and arts of Philadelphia. You don’t want to miss it!

Check out some of the artists who will be performing at the show:

Strand of Oaks- “Goshen ‘97

Slomo Sapiens- “Fangs

Harmony Woods- “Renovations

Pine Barons- “Telescope

Sea Offs- “Leave

-Dana Schwartz, Marketing Intern

Coming Up In July

Is there a better way to welcome July than coming to hear some live music? Didn’t think so. Check out our monthly Spotify Playlist to familiarize yourself with these talented artists!

Tank and the Bangas “Oh Heart” (July 11)

From Tank and the Bangas 2013 album, Think Tank, “Oh Heart” is the perfect blend of rhythmic soul and spoken word. Unique instrumentation paired with the various musical techniques of the Bangas is what makes them one of the most distinctive groups to emerge from New Orleans. It’s not surprising that NPR recently named the band as the 2017 Tiny Desk Contest Winners- their style is unlike any other. Hope you got your tickets to their July 11th show because it’s sold out!

Okkervil River “Lost Coastlines” (July 26)

“Lost Coastlines,” from Okkervil River’s album The Stand Ins, features the beautiful voice of lead singer Will Sheif, as well as layered string and horn instrumentation. With a sound similar to Neutral Milk Hotel and The Decembrists, this indie-rock and folk-rock group makes music that is easy on your ears. Their 2016 album, “Away” was deemed one of the best records of 2016 by media including Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. In order to promote this new album, the group has announced a special limited run of intimate acoustic trio shows, and we’re excited to host their performance.

FORQ “Starchy” (July 31)

With Rudder founder Henry Hey on keyboards, Snarky Puppy founder and Grammy Award-winner Michael League on bass, Foe Destroyer founder and fellow Snarky Puppy member Chris McQueen on guitar, and Jason “JT” Thomas on drums, FORQ is an, “all-star ensemble of sorts – but with the spirit and cohesiveness of a garage band.” Straight off their debut album, FORQ, “Starchy” is an upbeat and catchy tune with the same playful and soulful energy which characterizes the rest of their music. Come to World Cafe Live to see them on their first-ever international tour!

-Dana Schwartz, Marketing Intern