Carbon Leaf is one of those bands that I never really paid attention to until I saw them live.
Ironically, I opened up Facebook the other day, and my “on this day” memory was from the first time I saw Carbon Leaf six years ago. I went to the show to see the opener – Red Wanting Blue – and Carbon Leaf happened to be the headliner. I’m always willing to give new music a try, so even though we weren’t there to see them, we stuck around for Carbon Leaf. I remember thinking they were good, but they didn’t make it into my regular playlist at the time.
Fast forward to 2017, when I saw Carbon Leaf was coming around to the Philadelphia area to do a show. They were playing at one of my favorite venues – World Café Live – so we decided to go and see them. Turns out it was a fantastic show, and we even got to meet the guys in the band after the show. You can read more about that show here:
So, when Carbon Leaf was coming back to the area at another of my favorite venues, and it was the Friday of St. Patrick’s Day weekend, I jumped on tickets for the show again. Keep reading for more about my latest Carbon Leaf show.
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HISTORY OF THE VENUE
The Queen is located in Wilmington, DE – right in the heart of its downtown area. Downtown Wilmington has gone through quite a resurgence over the last several years. There are new restaurants, a revived music scene with The Queen and The Grand, and even a new microbrewery.
The building that The Queen currently occupies has quite a history. It was built in the 1800s as a hotel. In 1916, the building was converted to a movie theater, as many venues were at the time. The building closed its doors in 1959 and sat empty for the next 50 years.
In 2011, the venue reopened under the name of World Café Live at the Queen. The owners and operators of World Café Live in Philadelphia took possession of the venue to bring live music to Wilmington. As you can imagine, after a building has sat vacant for 50 years, a massive renovation was required. About $25 million was spent to restore the building and turn it into a 2-story music venue.
While operating as World Café Live at the Queen, the venue featured a smaller and fully-seated upstairs room, that also served as a restaurant. The larger downstairs area was able to handle about 800 people at full capacity.
In early 2017, World Café Live announced that they were no longer able to operate the venue. In the announcement regarding the closure, World Café Live president Hal Real stated that despite their attempt to operate the venue as a seven-day-a-week operation, they were unable to do so.
After several months of the building being empty, Live Nation announced that it was taking over operation of the building. Renamed as simply “The Queen”, the venue is now part of Live Nation’s House of Blues division.
THE VENUE TODAY
As for the venue itself, Live Nation is currently in the process of making some major changes. The box office/merchandise area is gone. There are plans to build a bar in that area of the building. The restaurant in the upstairs area is only open for private events. At a show a few weeks ago, we were invited to a pre-show VIP party in the upstairs room. While the food was decent and the bar was open, Live Nation has removed most of the tables and chairs, so there were very few places to sit.
In the downstairs part of the venue, Live Nation has only made some minor changes. They’ve kept the beautiful historic touches of the building intact.
Tip #1: Parking to attend a show at The Queen is usually quite easy to find. There is street parking available in the area. Be sure to read the signs and pay the meters accordingly, although most street parking is free after 6:00 p.m. If you don’t see parking on Market Street, try checking some of the streets around the block in the general vicinity. There are also several lots as well as a parking garage nearby.
Tip #2: If you want to get dinner before the show, there are a couple of restaurants right on Market Street in downtown Wilmington. They are all within easy walking distance of The Queen. Tonight, we ate at Chelsea Tavern (http://www.chelseatavern.com/), and it’s a great spot with good food and a good drink selection. If you want to go a little further away, Iron Hill Brewery (https://www.ironhillbrewery.com/wilmington-de) and Joe’s Crab Shack (http://www.joescrabshack.com/locations/10729) are located right next to each other, and are both good. Those options are not within walking distance, so plan your time accordingly.
Tip #3: Brand new to the downtown Wilmington area is Stitch House Brewery. In fact, it was only operating on limited hours during its first week of operation when we stopped in before the show. We stopped in to have a beer or two before the show. The good news is that the place was packed, which bodes well for their future business. The bad news is that the staff was clearly struggling to keep up – at least behind the bar. We waited a good 10 minutes for a bartender to help us. I am looking forward to trying this place out again when they have settled down into a regular rhythm.
Tip #4: The Queen has started offering a limited food menu. There is a menu at the bar on the wall on the right. To get food, place your order with the bartender. There is a small table in the back next to the bar with a heat lamp. Your food will come out and be set down there. It’s self-serve to pick up.
Tip #5: The Queen is a pretty small venue. For most shows, the bottom part of the room is General Admission/Standing Room. Because the room is so small, there really isn’t a bad place to stand. If you get there before the show starts, it’s usually easy to get right up front. We like to stand on the left side of the stage. It lets us get in and out to the bathroom/bar easily.
ABOUT THE BAND
Lullanas is made up of twins Atisha and Nishita Lulla. Based out of Philadelphia, they are singer/songwriters. They started writing music in 2012, and their latest single – “Don’t Say” – is currently streaming and available for purchase. They also cover a number of their favorite songs, and you can find many of those videos on their YouTube channel.
The Lullanas took the stage at 8:02 p.m. From the first song, you are immediately aware of their beautiful harmonies. Their voices are very similar, yet they are able to create some nice layers of sound in their vocals.
They played a mix of originals and covers. One of the originals they played was called “Someone Else’s Eyes”.
The Lullanas write their songs based on stories, so it was nice to have them explain the stories behind some of the songs. For example, their song “Blue Moon”, is a song that they accidently wrote about beer!
They covered “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia and introduced it as “that song they sang into their hairbrush” when they were younger. The other cover they did was Vance Joy’s “Saturday Sun”, which they said they learned that morning.
Atisha and Nishita play well off each other – both musically and in their banter on stage. One of the sisters teased the other early in the show, saying she had a habit that she had to take a sip of water in between each song. We were right up front and close enough to be able to see the looks they were giving each other every time the sister went to grab a sip of water.
I love the vocals by the Lullanas. They clearly have talent. The question is whether they can differentiate themselves enough from other singer/songwriter artists that are out there.
Lullanas play shows around the Philadelphia area. You can find out more about them and keep up with what’s going on by following them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lullanasmusic/.
Set List: Someone Else’s Eyes, Don’t Say, All In Your Head, Torn (Natalie Imbruglia cover), Blue Moon, Pennsylvania Skies, Saturday Sun (Vance Joy cover), Memphis, Last Straw
ABOUT THE BAND
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, lops, effects, vocals, violin/fiddle, hurdy-gurdy), 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 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.
Carbon Leaf is celebrating their 25th anniversary. Their career has spanned 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.
The music to Queen’s “Killer Queen” came on about 9:03 p.m. as Carbon Leaf took the stage. We had a great spot right in front of Terry Clark, with a front row view of the stage. Carbon Leaf opened up with a new song off their upcoming album called “Bow & Arrow”, and then went into one of their older favorites “What About Everything?”.
One of the great things about Carbon Leaf (besides their amazing music and talent), is that they are really down to earth guys. Barry Privett took the stage in a baseball hat, sweatshirt/t-shirt and jeans. He doesn’t look like a rock star. He looks like a guy you would meet anywhere and sit down and have a beer with. You can see throughout the show that Carbon Leaf loves their fans, and loves performing – whether it’s a sold-out room or not.
Privett only referred briefly to it being Carbon Leaf’s 25th year together. He thanked the Lullanas (and asked the audience how to pronounce their name because he wasn’t sure), and joked that it sounded like the twins had been singing together their whole lives, unlike Carbon Leaf who had only been together half their lives.
Another great thing about Carbon Leaf’s music is the diversity of sounds to their music due, to all of the different instruments. You might get a very Celtic sounding song with Privett on the penny whistle. Or, you might get a more bluegrass sound with Gravatt on the banjo. Other times, they sound more like an alternative rock band with Clark on the acoustic guitar.
Carbon Leaf had a lot of fun with the smaller crowd. Privett talked about their drummer being from Boston, which drew some boos from the crowd. But then he introduced bassist Jon Markel who is from Philadelphia. Of course, we had to have a reference to the Philadelphia Eagles, as Privett toasted “here’s to the underdogs”.
During the show, a man came up behind us and brought a tray of White Russians up and set them on the stage with a business card. Privett grabbed the drinks and passed them out and thanked the group – who was from Maryland – for the drinks. He also toasted Katy Perry – whose picture is hanging on the wall in the venue. Privett said that Perry was in their “Learn to Fly” video.
As many bands are doing now, Carbon Leaf did a couple of songs – “Comfort” and “Ragtime Carnival” – acoustically. Some bands can pull this off, and some can’t. Carbon Leaf is a band that can pull it off. Privett’s voice is strong enough to carry through the music, and their music is beautiful acoustic.
Towards the end of the set, Privett again mentioned that it was their 25th anniversary, and that they were celebrating by putting out a new album that will be called Gathering. They played two songs off the new album – “Bow & Arrow” and “Come Sunday Morning”.
For Carbon Leaf’s encore set, Privett said they were going to practice for their St. Patrick’s Day show the next day. They played a mix of traditional Irish songs, along with some of their more Celtic-based originals, including “The Boxer”. They had the crowd clapping and dancing as they wound up the night!
As always, Carbon Leaf hung around by the merch table after the show. While I wish more people knew about the amazing music of Carbon Leaf, it’s nice to see these guys up front in a small venue and hang out with them after. You don’t get that from very many bands. So, check them out!
Carbon Leaf is touring extensively this year in honor of their 25th Anniversary. They will be all over the U.S. through July, before taking a break and then heading to the UK in October. Privett promised they would be back around in the fall after the new album was out. You can find all of their tour dates on their website at www.carbonleaf.com.
Set List (click on any of the links to download the song from Amazon): Bow & Arrow, What About Everything?, Alcatraz, Sparklers, One Prairie Outpost, Life Less Ordinary, Desperation Song, Dirty Bird, Raise the Roof, Comfort (acoustic), Ragtime Carnival (acoustic), Come Sunday Morning, Let Your Troubles Roll By Encore: Morrison Jig/American Tale, Rocky Road to Dublin (cover), The Donnybrook Affair, Banish Misfortune, The Boxer, She’s Gone, Mary Mac
Have questions about seeing a show at The Queen? Want to know more about Lullanas or Carbon Leaf? Are you a fan of any of these artists? What do you think? Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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