Sunday, April 10, 2011

World Cafe Live opens in Wilmington

World Cafe Live at The Queen Opening

Wow.!!! That was a party...the likes of which downtown Wilmington has not seen since the '70's rehabilitation of The Grand Opera House. The scintillating atmosphere reminded Aisle Say of the time he sneaked into NYC's legendary Studio 54 during its heyday in the '70's.
Energy of the packed house for the opening of The Queen on April 1 could very well have levitated the building. The guests were expectant of how this was to reinvent the former – the emphasis on former - urban equivalent of Death Valley. Euphoria overwhelmed developer Chris Buccini. There had been legions of naysayers on this project. He proved them wrong in a manner befitting royalty. This weekend was transformative for the city and the state.
The hallowed Queen, for decades a dilapidated and dank cavern reaching from Market to King Sts, has been transmogrified into a state of the art hall for music, food, drink and meetings. The pathways to the various spaces reminds one of the Roman catacombs, quickly opening up to a destination of an intimate bar or tricked-out conversation space. The interior design has retained the most interesting aspects of its original stature from over 100 years ago. The oversized original murals are so very cool. The meeting spaces on the 3rd and 4th floors look out over Market Street through 10 foot clerestory windows.
While sold as a VIP night (which one must question for I was allowed in without a disguise), I can testify that I recognized only about 25% of the assemblage...and I'm a native!. Considering this will open Wilmington to completely new audiences, that's a very good thing!
Our city has never seen such diversity in live programming as is promoted on their web site. Saturday mornings are devoted to children's events. All told, over 200 gigs have already been booked. Timidity is not in the vocabulary of this organization: jazz, blues, bluegrass, open mic, classical, folk, new world, you name it. The seating is flexible to cater to both large and small groups of guests at an event.
While The DuPont Theatre's mission does not conflict with World Cafe Live, there is overlap with The Grand. I would hazard a guess and suggest that the latter's demographics are a bit older. The artists at The Grand enjoy more national and international cachet, but that does not suggest that World Cafe is nothing if not Tonto with his ear to the ground listening for new talent. (Not many have heard of Josh Ritter, the entertainer at last week's donors-only soirée. That man is a pure poet and Aisle Say has a Pandora station dedicated to his music. It was announced that evening that philanthropist Tatiana Copeland gave $1 million in matching funds).
My point is regarding the bigger picture. Over one weekend World Cafe is the new elephant on Market Street. It is absolutely essential that the World Cafe and The Grand work together. The powers that be should have weekly powwows. In the past, Mayor Baker has trumpeted “world class city” for Wilmington. Until this weekend, that was all smoke and mirrors. Now we can make that phrase reality.
The Grand and The Queen have historic interiors, great acoustics, centuries old tradition and strong and passionate leaders. The mission must be to complement. Everyone benefits with a coordinated plan; the institutions, the musicians and most assuredly all Delawareans.

Aisle Say wishes to thank Jayne Armstrong, District Director of the SBA for her “Great Idea For Delaware. We will run it next week. If you have a Great Idea, let everyone else know it.

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