About World Cafe Live
World Cafe Live has been built on a simple insight: that a place dedicated to showcasing live music should be a place that attracts and inspires musicians and
audiences. The result is a place in which every detail has been designed to optimize the live performance experience for both the artist and the audience — from sight lines, lighting and acoustics, to innovative programming for diverse audiences to great food and beverage service, all programmed and delivered by a caring staff.
Our Live Story
The story of World Cafe Live starts with a coincidence.
As a dedicated concert-goer, Hal Real had become increasingly disenchanted over the years with the smoky rooms, lousy sight lines, tinny acoustics and inadequate seating that have become the standard live music experience.
And then he heard a voice. Specifically, the voice of David Dye, host of a contemporary music program on public radio called World Cafe. On the Cafe, Hal heard everything he’d been missing in the clubs: talented artists in a nurturing environment, free from distractions, taking risks and playing their guts out for an appreciative audience.
At the same time, WXPN, where World Cafe is produced, had outgrown its studios and was seeking a new home. And so the moment Hal called the station to propose joining forces was the moment of conception for World Cafe Live.
Hal’s company, Real Entertainment Group and WXPN, which is owned and operated by the University of Pennsylvania, have entered into a unique partnership between a for-profit and a non-profit organization. Sharing work space and a common philosophy, XPN and World Cafe Live have created an innovative new model for bringing new music to people and new people to music.
Designed Entirely By Ear
World Cafe Live-Philadelphia gave us a rare opportunity to design a space expressly for live music and broadcast studios in an otherwise empty 40,000 square-foot Art Deco factory building. World Cafe Live-Wilmington (DE) allowed us to “light up” the Queen Theater, a gorgeous 45,000 square-foot 1917 theater that had been dark since 1959.
Both buildings were completely rebuilt from the ground up to optimize sight lines, create isolated and excellent acoustical envelopes and an operation that allows WCL to offer the very best in live music performances, restaurant and special event services:
- Downstairs Live features a multi-tiered music hall in both locations with capacities ranging from 300 fully seated in a bistro configuration to as many as 900 with standing room only.
- Both concert halls are equipped with state-of-the-art PA and stage monitor systems, ETC lighting fixtures and dimming racks, all designed and installed by Clair Brothers, the world’s largest touring sound company.
- Upstairs Live in each location offers an intimate restaurant and second stage, seating 100 in Philadelphia and 150 in Wilmington, featuring live performances seven days a week.
- Designated retail areas for the sale of tickets, CDs, t-shirts and gifts as well as World Cafe Live logo merchandise.
- Comfortably appointed Green Rooms for performers (including shower facilities and wireless internet) and
- Ample, clean restroom facilities, parking and similar guest amenities. WCL-Wilmington (DE) opened on April 1, 2011. This ambitious project emerged from a four-year private/public collaborative effort among Real Entertainment Group, Buccini/Pollin Group (Wilmington-based development group), the City of Wilmington, and an impressive list of bank, corporate, foundation and individual supporters. Together this group put together $25 million in funding to restore and re-open the 45,000 square foot historic Queen Theater as the cornerstone and catalyst for a $325 million effort underway to revive the historic Market Street corridor in the heart of downtown Wilmington. WCL at the Queen is a “clubhouse” for the music and arts community that will serve as an entertainment, dining and events destination anchoring this exciting urban redevelopment effort. For more information, please visit www.lightupthequeen.org.
Programming at World Cafe Live
Since 2004, WCL-Philadelphia has been programming an average of 570 ticketed shows and 200 free shows a year. With the addition of the two stages at WCL at the Queen (Wilmington, DE), WCL now programs about 900 ticketed shows and 350 free shows each year. WCL’s programming team proactively manages the talent lineup and books all shows in accordance with WCL’s strategy and vision to successfully land key established and emerging talent on its stages. National and emerging artists, including many Grammy nominees and winners, have appeared on WCL’s stages, such as Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Natalie Cole, James Blunt, Aimee Mann, Ray LaMontagne, KT Tunstall, The Roots, and Corrine Bailey Rae. WCL has served as the launching pad for upcoming artists such as Adele, Amos Lee, Diane Birch, Trombone Shorty, Brandi Carlile, Alabama Shakes, Sara Bareilles and Raphael Saadiq, to name a few. Booking great established and emerging talent is the key component to WCL’s unique concept, and has been a critical success factor for WCL. As its national prominence has grown and as WCL’s unique partnership with XPN has gained recognition, more and more of music’s biggest stars and emerging talent seek an opportunity to perform on WCL’s stages.
In addition, WCL has created unique and innovative programming for diverse audiences through WCL programming to support the local and regional music community and in partnership with other organizations. A sampling of these programs includes:
- “Peanut Butter & Jams,” a weekly interactive children’s series, recognized by Newsweek as the catalyst for a nationwide trend.
- WCL has attracted interest from programming partners on a national level, including Mark Cuban’s HDNet, with whom WCL launched a live concert series called “Onstage from World Cafe Live” that aired nationally on HDNet and Public Television.
- “Friday Free at Noon Concerts”, an XPN-WCL concert series from World Cafe Live in Philadelphia or Wilmington every Friday, offering a free weekly concert open to the public that is broadcast live on XPN, NPR.org, California Public Radio, Vermont Public Radio and many public radio outlets around the country. Guests have included Adele, Hall & Oates, Citizen Cope, Buddy Guy, Carly Simon, Counting Crows and numerous other famous artists and rising stars.
- Philly Rising and “The Best of What’s Next” (Wilmington) – two “open mike” nights that have become grooming grounds for local and regional artists, some of whom have risen to national and international prominence, like Melody Gardot.
- The “Beta HiFi Fest” – a summer institution in Philly and now also in Wilmington for local and regional bands to audition and compete in front of a jury of seasoned music industry professionals, leading to gigs on WCL’s main stages, recording opportunities and more.
- Bridge Sessions (in partnership with LiveConnections.org) – in both venues approximately 60 sessions per year that engage urban youth and special needs populations in interactive performances that explore diverse musical styles and cultures and spark learning that’s hands-on and alive.
- ClassicAlive series (in partnership with LiveConnections.org) presents at least a dozen concerts a year that expand how classical music is experienced by breaking boundaries of repertoire, collaboration and atmosphere in innovative concerts designed to attract both new audiences and long-time classical fans.
- Monday night Jazz Jams series in Philadelphia and the Wednesday night “4W5 Blues Jam” in Wilmington – an opportunity for musicians, young and old, including many national artists who live in either city as well as music students and players of all ages, to jam in front of live audiences in the intimate setting of WCL’s Upstairs Live venues.
For more information about World Cafe Live, including awards, press, history, photo galleries, schedules and more, visit www.worldcafelive.com.
In 2008, WCL helped a team of artists and educators launch “LiveConnections.Org,” (LCO) a nonprofit organization dedicated to music, education and support for artists through community engagement and educational programs. LCO creates innovative programs for kids, adults and special needs populations, host concerts for the community and helps artists grow their careers and their connection to the region. LCO programs help participants understand different cultures and perspectives and spark new ideas and creative expression across generations. For more information, visit www.liveconnections.org.
About Hal Real, Founder and President of World Cafe Live
Hal Real is a seasoned entrepreneur with a passion for new ideas and a history of transforming those ideas into successful businesses. He formed Real Entertainment Group to “radically change the landscape for contemporary music audiences and artists.” In October 2004, Hal delivered the first installment of that promise by opening World Cafe Live (WCL), a trailblazing live music venue, restaurant and event complex in Philadelphia. He then followed up with the 2011 opening of World Cafe Live at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, DE. Both locations include broadcast studios for revered public radio station WXPN, whose nationally syndicated “World Cafe” radio show inspired the venues’ name and musical philosophy. A gifted musician, Hal is active in other arts, educational and community organizations. Currently he is Board Chairman of LiveConnections.org, and a member of the Board of Overseers of the Delaware College of Art and Design, the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe, the Philadelphia Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Board, and the Light Up the Queen Foundation. In the past he served as Chairman of the Board of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, a Board and Executive Committee member of The People’s Light & Theatre Company, and Chairman of the Main Line Chamber of Commerce. Hal has been a guest speaker for various business and civic events, and often serves as a guest lecturer at Drexel, Wharton, Temple and other schools. He is a graduate of Kenyon College and Temple University School of Law.
WXPN, the nationally recognized leader in Triple A radio and the premier guide for discovering new and significant artists in rock, blues, roots and folk, is the non-commercial, member-supported radio service of the University of Pennsylvania. WXPN produces World Cafe®, public radio’s most popular contemporary music program hosted by David Dye and syndicated by NPR to over 230 public radio stations, and the Peabody Award winning Kids Corner hosted by Kathy O’Connell. WXPN also produces the alternative rock service, Y-Rock On XPN (yrockonxpn.org) as its secondary radio channel in HD. WXPN serves the greater Philadelphia area at 88.5 FM, the Lehigh Valley at 104.9, Worton/Baltimore at 90.5 FM, Lancaster/York at 88.7 FM, Harrisburg at 99.7 FM and the world via online streaming at XPN.org. For more information, visit www.wxpn.org.