The moment has arrived.
After two years of work and more than $20 million in renovation, The Queen Theatre in Wilmington will re-open as World Café Live on Friday. Modern music has just hit Wilmington in a very big way.
The occasion will be marked by a ribbon cutting, then—rock on—a Free at Noon concert by guitar hero Sonny Landreth. Free at Noon is the one-hour concert performed weekly on Fridays, usually at the original World Café Live in Philadelphia, and broadcast on 88.5 WXPN-FM. Landreth is a Louisiana-based blues virtuoso amazing enough to lure guitar gods such as Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler and Eric Johnson to play on his latest album, “From the Reach.” Friday’s Free at Noon will be a real treat, but if you haven’t claimed your seat, you’ll have to wait to check out the Café. Don’t worry—the weekend will be full of festivities.
World Café Live is the brainchild of Hal Real, a Main Line lawyer with a special love of music who has since taken up residence in Wilmington. A few years ago, he teamed with the folks at WXPN, the radio station of the University of Pennsylvania, on a new concept: a broadcast and performance space in one, with a restaurant. The name comes from the popular syndicated radio show World Cafe, a mainstay of WXPN programming for close to 20 years. It is produced and hosted at WXPN by legendary Philly jock David Dye and broadcast to subscribing public radio stations across the country. You can listen starting at 2 p.m. weekdays at 88.5.
World Café Live in Philly houses the WXPN studios and a couple of performance areas with food and drink service. Patrons can dine before a show, then stroll over to the stage area. The concept went gangbusters straight out of the box, so Real had been looking for a place to replicate it ever since. Hence World Café Live at The Queen. Like its parent, the venue houses studio space where WXPN can tape or broadcast shows and interviews, as well as a stage for shows. There’s also a restaurant and bar.
Guests will find some of the original elements of The Queen—shuttered for 50 years—preserved and intact, like ghostly murals and ornamental plaster work. With it, they’ll find a state-of-the-art sound system. You will be impressed.
After Friday’s opening bash, things kick off in earnest with a Peanut Butter and Jams series concert for kids by Kinobe on Saturday afternoon, followed by a concert by quirky and critically acclaimed songstress Ingrid Michaelson. Later in the month come shows by popsters Toad the Wet Sprocket and Carbon Leaf on April 8, songwriter Aimee Mann April 9, John Jorgenson Quintet April 10, country-roots legends Asleep at the Wheel April 14 and Rusted Root April 19.
Want Delaware roots? You’ve got them. Delaware’s own Mad Sweet Pangs will celebrate the release of their CD during a party at the WCL on April 22. Songwriter Richard Julian, a native son who has worked with luminaries such as Nora Jones, visits May 13. Local faves Apex Watson play May 14. The Wailers, backup for Wilmington’s most famous reggae artist, the immortal Bob Marley, play May 25.
That’s not to mention the all-important 2011 NonCOMM (non-commercial) music festival, but more on that later. For now, suffice it to say that the opening of World Café Live at the Queen is the most significant thing to happen to Wilmington’s Market Street since the rehabilitation of The Grand Opera House in the mid-’70s. Music lovers of all tastes are in for a treat.
For more, visit queen.worldcafelive.com.