World Cafe 30th Anniversary: First Times

Oct 15, 2021
Originally published on December 22, 2021 11:56 am

As part of World Cafe's 30th anniversary, we're publishing a series of special features that celebrate the music, the conversation and the legacy of the Cafe, every week for 30 weeks.

One thing that's so important to us at World Cafe is boosting emerging artists – and then continuing to support them on their journey. There are so many artists who have visited multiple times, each we've had the privilege to see grow. Sometimes, into big, big stars.

For our First Times series, we've gone into our archives and dug out some of the most memorable first visits to the Cafe, often when an artist was just starting out — or on the brink of major success. Each week for the next 30 weeks, join us in listening back and re-witnessing the obvious early promise of our guests.

First up, Jan. 26, 2012: Alabama Shakes was just a couple months away from releasing the breakthrough album Boys & Girls — in fact, the Shakes hadn't even officially released the eventually Grammy-winning single "Hold On." But they played it here.

Now, let's go back to September 1993. A month before her appearance on the show, Sheryl Crow had released her debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club. It wasn't an immediate success, which is hard to believe in retrospect, so her visit to World Cafe fell in-between the release of that album and her rise to fame. You'll hear her speak with original World Cafe host David Dye, and perform some of those soon-to-be hits from Tuesday Night Music Club.

Dave Matthews has been on the show a bunch of times over the years, but his very first appearance, in 1994, was the only time the entire Dave Matthews Band was on World Cafe. (We should mention that, in 1994, the World Cafe studios were much smaller...) The band was promoting its debut album Under the Table and Dreaming — and were just about to go on to play some much bigger rooms.

Like all great works of science fiction, Janelle Monáe's debut full-length, ArchAndroid, used the genre as a way to examine the world's problems through a new, fantastical lens – specifically here, the ever-present spectre of racial injustice. Mixing orchestral arrangements with funk, soul, pop and rock, Monae covers it all while constructing a dimension wholly her own. Listen to her live performance in the World Cafe studio, along with an interview, in this session from December 2010.

Sometimes we catch them just before that success happens – like when John Mayer stopped by the Cafe just two days after the release of his major-label debut, Room for Squares, all the way back in 2001. That album would go on to sell over 4 million copies and snag him a Grammy for the song "Your Body Is A Wonderland" — well, when this session was recorded, none of that had happened yet. He had no idea he'd be a star (or that he'd one day tour as lead guitarist for a the Dead and Co. reunion).

It doesn't take much to argue that Coldplay is one of the biggest rock bands in the world — but they'd just boarded that rocket to the stars when they made their stop at the World Cafe in June, 2001. It was less than a year after releasing their debut album Parachutes when former World Cafe host David Dye spoke with Chris Martin about writing Coldplay's hit "Yellow" and performed live at Indre Studios in Philadelphia.

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