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  • Writer's pictureChristine

Carbon Leaf Brings a Night of Amazing Indie Music to Philadelphia!

A picture of Carbon Leaf on stage at World Cafe Live.

Carbon Leaf is one of the best bands you’ve never heard of. They brought their 2017 tour to World Café Live in Philadelphia on Friday night.

Carbon Leaf has been making great music for almost 25 years.  You may have not have heard of them, since they release their music independently.  That means they don’t get radio play.  It also means that they don’t play big shows at big venues.

If you are a Carbon Leaf fan, that’s good news and bad news.  The good news is that it means you can still see them at a little venue like World Café Live in Philadelphia.  It also means that you can hang out after the show and get hugs from the band and get your cd signed.

The bad news is that a band that is truly deserving of your attention, might be a band you have never heard of.  If you haven’t heard of Carbon Leaf, you need to check them out.  Read more and check out the links to their music to find out why!

This content uses referral links.  Read our Affiliate Disclosure statement for more info.


World Café Live ( is an independent music venue in downtown Philadelphia. Located in the University City area, it brings in both local and national artists, as well as hosting a variety of other private and public events. The venue opened in 2004, and hosts over 500 shows per year between its upstairs and downstairs space.

A picture of the outside of the World Cafe Live building in University City in Philadelphia.

World Café Live is a music venue located in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia. The building houses the music venue, as well as the studios for public radio station WXPN.

The idea for World Café Live started when Hal Real heard David Dye’s contemporary music program called World Café. Broadcasted on local public radio station WXPN, the program highlighted no frills artists who were dedicated to their craft and appreciative of their fans. Hal knew that a venue to support those types of artists was missing from the Philadelphia area. Hal’s company – Real Entertainment Group – and WXPN joined forces and moved into the space that became World Café Live.

World Café Live consists of two main areas. The “upstairs” is a restaurant and bar that also has a small performance area. They have a full sit down dinner service. The “downstairs” is the larger performance area. With a capacity of 650 people, it also has a full bar in the back along with an elevated seating area. A lighter food menu is available downstairs.

Tip #1: The food at World Café Live is fantastic! If you are going for a show “downstairs”, come early and enjoy dinner “upstairs” beforehand. You can make a reservation on Yelp or by calling the box office at 215-222-1400.

Before the Carbon Leaf concert, we wanted to just do a casual dinner, so we decided to check out Wahoo’s Tacos & More.  Located at 3180 Chestnut Street, it’s a short 5 minute walk from World Café Live.  Wahoo’s is a bar/casual restaurant, with a surfing and “beach bum” kind of theme.  There is a bar area when you first walk in.  If you want food, proceed towards the back of the room.  You’ll find a walk-up counter where you order your food and then grab a number.  The seating is all self-seating and first-come/first-served.  Be aware that if you are there on a busy night, tables can be hard to come by.

We started with nachos as an appetizer.  For entrees, I had Mr. Lee’s SCReaM’n Chicken Burrito, and my husband had tacos.  The food came out fast and was really good.  Wahoo’s is a great option for a quick bite before a show.  It’s also open late, so you can stop in for an after-show drink or bite to eat.

Tip #2: There are several parking options near the venue. If you get there early, it is usually fairly easy to find street parking right on Walnut Street in front of the venue. Be sure to pay attention to the parking signs when parking on the street. If you can’t find a spot on the street, there are several parking garages close by. The Cira Center South Garage (129 South 30th Street) is only $8 in the evenings (enter after 5 p.m.) or on weekends.

Tip #3: As mentioned above, radio station WXPN shares the building with World Café Live. When you come for a show, be sure to walk around and check out the radio station studio.

A picture of the entry to the WXPN radio studio.

The WXPN studios are located inside the building with World Café Live.

Tip #4: If you want to avoid ticket fees, buy your tickets during World Café Live’s “happy hour”. Between 5 and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, go to the box office and get your tickets with no fees. Cash only and tickets for the mezzanine area are excluded.



Sarah Darling was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1982. She first hit the national stage in 2003, when she was a top-three finalist on the television show “The Entertainer”. The winner of that show got the opportunity to perform in Vegas. Wayne Newton (who was the host of the show) didn’t think Darling was right for Vegas. Instead, he suggested she go to Nashville and pursue a career in country music.

In 2009, Darling released her debut album “Every Monday Morning“. Her second album – “Angels & Devils” – was released in 2011.

Darling gained some traction with her 2012 single “Home to Me”, which sold over 8,000 copies in its first week of release. It went on to peak at number 34 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

Her latest album – “Dream Country” – was released in February of 2017. She also has a holiday album out called “Winter Wonderland”.

A picture of Sarah Darling with her guitarist on stage at World Cafe Live.

Sarah Darling took the stage to open the show with just a guitarist to play an acoustic set.

Darling took the stage at 8:01 p.m. and opened her set with “Halley’s Comet“.  Let me be clear, that I’m not a big fan of country music, which is the type of music Darling plays.  Darling has a great voice, but the music is just not my thing.  In fact, I found it a bit odd that Darling was the opening act for Carbon Leaf.  The last time we saw Carbon Leaf, rockers Red Wanting Blue opened for them, which seemed to be a better fit.

Darling told the crowd that it was her first time playing World Café Live, and she was enjoying the chilly weather in Philly.  She said it got her in the Christmas spirit.  Darling mixed several Christmas songs into her set, including “White Christmas“, “Santa Baby“, and Joni Mitchell cover “River“.

Along with the Christmas music, Darling played several of her original songs including “Where the Cowboys Ride“.  Darling also covered Johnny Cash classic “Ring of Fire”.

A close up picture of Sarah Darling on stage during her set.

Sarah Darling played a mix of original songs, covers, and Christmas music during her opening set.

While I appreciate Darling’s talent and might like to see her live during the right circumstances, I found her set too mellow to get me ready for a Carbon Leaf show.  Darling wrapped her set up at 8:39 p.m.

You can get more information on Darling’s music and tour dates on her website at


PR photo of Carbon Leaf.

Carbon Leaf has been making music for 24 years! Photo courtesy of Carbon Leaf and Bullhorn Publicity.

Carbon Leaf formed in 1993 as an independent college band out of Richmond, Virginia. The band has had several members throughout the years, but the current line-up is made up of Barry Privett (vocals, penny whistle, acoustic guitar, bagpipes), Terry Clark (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals), Carter Gravatt (acoustic/electric mandolin, acoustic/electric guitar, 12 string guitar, lap steel, bouzouki, bodhran, loops, effects, vocals, violin/fiddle, hurdy-gurdy), Jason Neal (drums, percussion), and Jon Markel (electric bass, upright bass).

The band blends folk, celtic, bluegrass, Americana, rock and pop into its music. They utilize a vast array of instruments to create their unique sound.

Carbon Leaf recorded and released their first four albums independently on their own record label called Constant Ivy Music. Their first three albums – “Meander“, “Shadows in the Banquet Hall” and “Ether-Electrified Porch Music” – sold over 10,000 copies combined.

In 2001, they released their album “Echo Echo“, which included the song “The Boxer” as the first track. In January 2002, the song won the first ever American Music Awards Presents the Coca-Cola New Music Award. This led to Carbon Leaf performing “The Boxer” on the AMA’s, becoming the first unsigned band to perform on the show.

In 2004, Carbon Leaf signed a record deal with Vanguard Records. They recorded and released three albums during their 6-year stint with the label. In 2010, they announced that they were amicably splitting with the label and returning to recording and releasing music independently.

After 5 years of intense touring, the band pared down its 2016 touring schedule to focus on re-releasing their 2009 album – “Nothing Rhymes With Woman“. This album was the third of the three albums they recorded originally with Vanguard Records. They re-recorded the album along with “Indian Summer” (2004) and “Love Loss Hope Repeat” (2006), so that they would regain 100% ownership of their music catalog.

A picture of the Carbon Leaf album cover of Nothing Rhymes With Woman.

Carbon Leaf has re-released their album “Nothing Rhymes With Woman” on their own record label. Photo courtesy of Carbon Leaf and Bullhorn Publicity.

Carbon Leaf’s career has spanned 24 years, 16 albums and 2300+ live shows. They continue to have a large and loyal following, and continue to pursue recording and releasing their music independently, so that they have complete control over the music they write.

At 9:05 p.m., The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” came over the speakers, and Carbon Leaf took the stage.  The band came out strong, including their second song “Shine“.

One of my favorite things about this band, is not just that they are talented musicians who give their all during a show, but that they also clearly cares about their fans.  Throughout the show, they interacted with a number of fans that they knew, including early in the show when Privett called out someone named Adrian.  He asked everyone to toast to her, as she was there for her 70th Carbon Leaf show.

Privett and the guys had a lot of fun during the show.  Privett cracked several jokes during the show, including holding up what must have been a White Russian, and telling the crowd the name of the drink should be changed to a “Mike Flynn”.

Carbon Leaf also showed their serious sides.  When introducing the song “The War Was in Color“, Privett asked everyone who was a current or former member of the military to raise their hands.  He also asked for Jon Markel’s (who is a Philly native) dad to raise his hand, as he was a veteran as well.  Privett said that the song was dedicated to all those in the military and never came home alive.

In addition to the great music, the light show added a really cool vibe to the show.  Here are a few pictures capturing some of the coolest light effects.  It’s amazing what you can do with a disco ball!

A picture of Carbon Leaf on stage with lots of blue lights.

The blue lights added a very cool vibe to the show!

A picture of Carbon Leaf on stage with the white lights.

The white lights made it feel like you were seeing the show under the stars!

A picture of Carbon Leaf with yellow lights.

The yellow lights made it feel like thousands of fireflies were in the sky!

Towards the end of the show, the band did a couple of songs acoustically.  Privett announced that it was Markel’s birthday on Monday, and he wanted to sing a song.  Markel talked about how there was a big scare at Carter Gravett’s house – a lice outbreak!  He said that luckily, Gravett didn’t get infected with the lice, or he would have had to shave his beard.  That led into a song that appeared to be called “Carter’s Christmas Beard”.

Carbon Leaf all at the microphone doing a few songs acoustically.

Carbon Leaf had some fun with their acoustic set.

Before wrapping up their set, Privett told the crowd that they normally record the show, make copies, and let the fans leave with it.  This time, they were trying something different.  Fans could text their e-mail address, and the show would be sent to them.  Privett gave out the number, and as people tried it, the text came back saying it was a land line.  Privett laughed and told everyone he was going to regret it later, but gave his own e-mail address out and told everyone to send him an e-mail asking for the show.

Carbon Leaf thanking the crowd and taking a bow at the end of their show.

Carbon Leaf thanking their fans at the end of the show. They promised to be back next year for their 25th anniversary!

After wrapping up their set at 10:59 p.m., Carbon Leaf hung out after the show, giving fans a chance to meet them, get hugs, and autographs.  We had a friend who is a big fan and couldn’t make the show.  I went live on Facebook as we walked through the line, and the guys all said hello to her.  She was thrilled!

Carbon Leaf signing autographs for fans.

Carbon Leaf meeting their fans after the show.

Carbon Leaf is touring throughout the month of December, along with a couple of dates in February with Sister Hazel. They are also playing a New Year’s Eve show in Akron, OH with Red Wanting Blue.  You can see their upcoming tour dates on their website at  This is a band you don’t want to miss!

Have questions about seeing a show at World Café Live?  Want to know more about Sarah Darling or Carbon Leaf?  Are you a fan of any of these artists?  What do you think?  Comment below or e-mail me at

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