Stephen Kallao

Nothing, and, by extension, founder and band leader Dominic Palermo, has been called the unluckiest band in the world. There was the time when Palermo, rising star in the Philadelphia hardcore scene, stabbed someone during a fight one night and ended up in prison. There was the time, after he got out, when he was jumped after a show and nearly died.

Mike Farris is unflinchingly optimistic. You can read it on his Twitter, hear it in his music and feel it in conversation when you talk with him. He can even have a laugh about the name of the band he played in during his 20s while signed to Atlantic Records, The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies.

Hope you brought your volume knob. J Mascis co-founded Dinosaur Jr. and over the past decade, the band sounded just as vital as when it debuted in 1984. Mascis has also been just as prolific when it comes to his own solo albums. He's recorded three records in the last seven years as a place to showcase some of the quieter (yet still loud) songs.

The band Lawrence is led by two siblings, Clyde and Gracie Lawrence. The New York City-raised pair started the band, now an eight-piece group, with a love of pop and soul music.

Johnny Marr has a lot of accolades.

PJ Morton loves Christmas. He even joked that he's been making music just so he could be able to record an album of classics (and a handful of originals too).

Explaining Christmas to someone who's never heard of it is a strange proposition. As our guest and old friend JD McPherson puts it, there's a tree in your living room, a strange man's walking around your house at midnight eating cookies, and then you get clothes.

I imagine it's an even stranger proposition to write an album of modern Christmas originals. Christmas means so many different things to so many people, and the differences matter: Is your audience children or adults, religious or not? Are they jaded? Feeling humorous? Maybe sentimental? You've got a lot of options.

Back in the day, morning radio programs would take all the week's bits, interviews, and wacky phone pranks, and build a brand-new show out of those parts. They'd call it "The Best of...whatever" But it really wasn't 'best of.' It was 'more of.' If you didn't like Sparky's Morning Playhouse, you'd probably hate The Best of Sparky's Morning Playhouse.

The first thing I remarked after finishing my conversation with Marcus King: "This guy doesn't act or sound like a 22-year-old at all." He's incredibly perceptive, and thoughtful, and the music he's making sounds like it's coming from someone who's been working at it for decades.

Kurt Vile's song "Loading Zones" is in my head. It's a song about Kurt's adventures driving around Philadelphia. In particular, I've been thinking the last few minutes, wherein he repeats this line over and over: "I park for free."I parked for free. Until I didn't.

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Doyle Bramhall II is a musicians' musician.

In the 1990 book  Bound To Lead: The Changing Nature Of American Power, economist Joseph Nye introduces us to a term he coined; soft power. Soft power is the act of trying to change things through coercion and appeal rather than force and intimidation.

There's one obvious thing to get out of the way up front. Yes, The Nude Party actually played without clothes during the band's formative years at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. During their college years, the members hadn't picked a name for the band and because of their lack of wardrobe, the locals dubbed the group "The Naked Party Band."

Watching Joseph Arthur and Peter Buck of R.E.M. onstage together as Arthur Buck shows an obvious dynamic in energy. Arthur's a firecracker; a ball of energy. He sings with all his heart and his body.

So much of the music of the last few years has been influenced by the sounds of the 1980's. The revolutionary (and affordable) gear made it's way into musicians hands and people continue to go back to those sounds and textures. However, for this generation of young adults making music, there's another decade to explore ripe with it's own stylistic quirks — the 1990's. Hatchie is one of those artists.

Ten years ago, my guest introduced himself to me as a lanky, biracial kid from suburban Chicago who graduated from Harvard with a Kenyan diplomat for a dad. Nope, I wasn't interviewing Barack Obama. It was Tom Morello. If he had dropped Neo-Marxist into his introduction, the jig would have been up.

If you've been to New Orleans, you know how easy it is to strike up a conversation with a stranger on the street. It just happens! It's also how the band The Revivalists was founded.

My introduction to Dave Wakeling was a little unusual. Sure, I'd heard The English Beat as a kid growing up, (shout out to my Dad who had ALL of their vinyl), but the first time I saw the ska crooner pogoing around the stage was at a club show in a tiny college town in Illinois back in 2001. And that was 19 years after the last Beat record at the time, 1982's Special Beat Service.

When you work at World Cafe, you quickly realize you are not making an episode entirely on your own schedule. The biggest moving pieces are, of course, the guests. We hope to catch them for a few hours as they criss-cross the country in search of sharing their craft and art with an audience, and hopefully some merch sales. It's part of our job to be ready then, for the tiniest of windows.

Here's a story for you about two teenage boys named Salvo and Diego. One is Mexican, one is Italian, and both are immigrants living in America. They're into punk rock like MC5 and The Stooges.

Aaron Lee Tasjan has a way with words and on his latest album, Karma For Cheap, he walks a fine line between timelessness and a record very much of this moment.

Wayne Kramer has seen some things. He saw the Detroit Riots of 1967 firsthand when a tank rolled up to the house he was staying at. He oversaw a career in crime and therefore got a good, long look at the inside of prison cell.

Meg Myers makes explosive, aggressive rock coupled with synthesizers, strings and plenty of distortion. Her music is a bit like Nine Inch Nails got into a fight with Pixies — the latter of whom she's toured with — and threw some incredibly dynamic vocals into the mix.

Gorillaz' Damon Albarn drew me a portrait. Imagine my surprise to learn this. After all, this is an audio medium and he's half a world away in London while I'm chilling at the World Cafe studios in Philadelphia.

The first single off Rayland Baxter's latest album Wide Awake is about a dysfunctional relationship. That's a near-universal truth we can appreciate. However, when you learn the woman's name is Sallie Mae, you realize he's not singing about a human being, but instead, the giant student loan corporation.

Today, we're featuring a mini-concert from an artist you might first know as an actor. Lera Lynn's turn on the second season of True Detective introduced her to a lot of America, including myself.

Jukebox the Ghost is the type of band you want to play your party. Why? For one, Because they're talented, but that's just table stakes. The second reason gets us a little closer. The band members are excellent entertainers, but even that doesn't really capture it.

If you don't know who Nick Lowe is, there's a very good chance you know at least one of his songs — perhaps "Cruel to Be Kind" or "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass," or his song that longtime friend and collaborator Elvis Costello made famous, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding."

Jim Lauderdale is rightfully considered one of the kings of Americana music.

It's easy to throw the word legend around when you talk to musicians who regularly appear on World Cafe. So when a real legend shows up, you've run out of superlatives.

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