Hal Real - Music at work
A seasoned entrepreneur, a community collaborator, and of course a musician, Hal Real was destined to open World Cafe Live.
Music has played a pivotal role in his life. He believes it is incredibly powerful and a much more important part of our lives than we realize.
This October World Cafe Live celebrates 10 years of innumerable live performances from an incredible range of artists.
‘We are excited to have gotten here. It’s been quite the journey,” Real said. “It started out as a concept for musicians and music lovers that has expanded into a community meeting place for events, fundraisers and parties.”
It’s been 17 years since Real pitched the idea to WXPN Radio, a place for the National Public Radio audience with good sound, good sight lines, comfortable seating “and clean bathrooms.”
“Where people could have something decent to eat and drink. So many people over the age of 25 or 30 stop going out to hear live music because the show starts at 11,” Real said. “I told them, we need to create a place not only for young people but also for grownups to go and enjoy live music.”
WCL opened its doors October 2004 with the clear concept of presenting both living legends and emerging artists.
“I will tell you that for us, quality is much more important than genre. We do over 500 shows a year between Upstairs Live and Downstair Live,” Real said. “We don’t have a specific formula, but one of my favorite quotes is from Louis Armstrong who said, ‘There is two kinds of music. There is good music and bad music.’ I am not sure if there is bad music but I know there is better music.”
Driven first by quality and then by genre, several Latin American performers and bands have set foot on the WCL stage, injecting much needed variety into Philadelphia’s music scene.
Just a few weeks ago I had the chance to experience, for the second time in WCL, the “electro tropical” and “champeta” rythms of Colombian band Bomba Estereo.
Last year famed Uruguayan musician Jorge Drexler stopped in Philly to performed at WCL as part of his "Mundo abisal" tour. While Venezuelan band “Los Amigos Invisibles,” and Mexican singer-songwriter Ximena Sariñana have also delighted Latino and non-Latino music lovers.
“They are plenty that we haven’t had that we would like to. It would be a dream to present Los Lobos, Caetano Veloso or the Spanish Harlem Orchestra,” Real said. “We would love to have Adele come back, she played in WCL four times before she was famous.”
But aside from the great list of artists, one of the biggest satisfactions is the development of community programs such as Peanut Butter & Jams Kids concerts on Saturday mornings. As well as the non-profit program “Live Connections,” which brings students into WCL for interactive music session on school days.
According to Real, the programs and community events are also important to keep their doors open.
“Everybody knows two the the toughest business in the world are the music business and the restaurant business. So the balance is that we are determined to keep the lights on,” Real said. “Nobody is gonna get rich from doing this, but we try to make sure we are booking shows that can sell tickets but also that meet our standard in terms of quality.”