Best Bets: Blues Traveler runs around to Freeman Stage

Blues/rock band Blues Traveler will make an appearance at the Freeman Stage in Selbyville July 16 along with G. Love and moe. Tickets are available at FreemanStage.org.

For Blues Traveler keyboardist Ben Wilson, he’s not sure what’s hotter in Delaware, the fans or the weather.

The veteran blues/rock jam band has played in various Delaware locales over the past few years from The Queen in Wilmington to the Delaware State Fair to the Bottle & Cork in Dewey Beach and the Freeman Stage in Selbyville.

The group makes a return appearance to the Freeman Stage July 16 on its All Roads Runaround Tour with progressive rockers moe. and alternative hip-hop artist G. Love.

“Delaware is awesome. The crowds are great,” Mr. Wilson said Wednesday by phone from Colorado where Blues Traveler was getting ready for its annual Fourth of July show at Red Rocks Amphitheater.

“I have a friend who lives at one of the beaches down there. Although he won’t be around this year. But I do remember last time we played that (Freeman) stage (in 2017), it was hot as (heck). Man, it was hot. I was just dripping after that show.”

Blues Traveler is scorching into its 31st year of existence, best known for its live, improvisational shows but also for hits such as “Runaround,” “Hook” and “But Anyway.”

In “Runaround,” the band had the longest-charting radio single in Billboard history and it earned them a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

They have released 13 studio albums, four of which have gone gold, three platinum and one six-times platinum. Over the course of its career, Blues Traveler has sold more than 10 million combined units worldwide.

Their 1994 hit album “Four” produced their best-known hits, plus crowd favorite “The Mountains Win Again.”

The band started in 1988 with original members John Popper, Chandler Kinchla, the late Bobby Sheehan and Brendan Hill in Princeton, New Jersey.

Mr. Wilson and Tad Kinchla are the proverbial new kids on the block. Mr. Kinchla joined after the death of bassist Mr. Sheehan in 1999 and Mr. Wilson came aboard to fill the new position of a keyboard player in 2000.

Mr. Wilson said he still feels like “one the new guys.”

“I feel very comfortable and very settled but you never really get over that initial feeling,” he said.

“It was just such an amazing break to working regular jobs by day and then getting in your van or trailer to go do a gig to suddenly being in such a well-respected, well-traveled band. And you’re with these other three guys who have done so much that’s it hard not to feel like the new guy.”

Mr. Wilson said the years that followed the band going from a quartet to a quintet were a little bit rocky.

“Tad had it a little bit tougher in that he replaced an existing member after a tough circumstance. There had never been a keyboard player so there was a little less pressure on me in that respect. But the band had to grow and change and get on the road and play and we were never going to sound like the way we sounded before again,” he said.

“Obviously with John as the lead singer and the way he plays harmonica, the sound was going to be recognizable but different. Some fans took that journey with us and some did not. For every bad review, we got four or five good ones.

“It took us a good two or three years. We made the album ‘Bridge’ (in 2001) and we started to feel where we needed to live musically and how it was all going to work. And then with every successive record, we went through another process with the touring and the arranging and the writing and songs emerged from the process that gave us an understanding of where we were going to go and get into that live setting where we always excelled.”

Mr. Wilson said he had a fast entrance into Blues Traveler.

“I was in a band for eight years and I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I was having very little success and just banging my head against the wall. I thought I would just travel for a couple of months,” he said.

“But a friend sent me an online ad saying Blues Traveler was looking for a keyboard player. I remember I went down and saw them in mid-January of 2000. They were writing songs for ‘Bridge’ and they hired me on the spot. I flew back home the next morning and five days later, I’m making music with those guys. It was literally that fast. I didn’t count on it as my thing I’d be able to rely on for the next 20 years at the time, but it beat hanging drywall, which is what I was doing.”

Since Mr. Wilson admits that you don’t hear much of their newer stuff on the radio these days, they have to rely on their live shows to get their music out to the public.

This latest tour with moe. and G. Love, which officially starts July 11 in Long Island, New York, has Mr. Wilson particularly excited.

“We’ve played Red Rocks with moe. in the past and they are tremendous. The cool thing about this tour is that it starts out with G. Love and then we come on and then in the middle, various members of both bands come out and we will do some of their stuff or they will do some of our stuff or we might do some covers and just get to improvise and jam. And then it will slowly morph into just a moe. show by the end,” he said.

“They are just beasts with really quirky, challenging stuff that’s really a little bit intimidating. I’m going to have to step up my game.”

Mr. Wilson said Thursday night’s show would be the band’s first in over a month.

“(moe.) sent a couple of songs over that I have to start practicing. But I find that if I don’t play for a while, you do get out of practice. There are days when you’re just tired and you don’t want to touch an instrument. But then it costs you later and you have to keep in shape with it,” he said.

The band continues a longstanding tradition each night of having a different member pick the list of songs they are going to play during that particular show.

“Sometimes the songs are the same but the order will be different and the jams might be in a different place in the show. It keeps it fresh for us and hopefully fresh for the audience too,” Mr. Wilson said.

Although the sets differ, Mr. Wilson said the band is mindful of playing the hits every show. That’s why a gig like the one coming up at the Freeman Stage gives him such a charge.

“With our main set, we might not get a chance to expand past the basics too much but then once we hit that middle part, we can stretch out and really have fun,” he said.

Blues Traveler has been in the news recently. Late last month, The New York Times Magazine listed the band among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal Studios fire.

Universal Pictures claimed at that time that the fire only destroyed a three-acre portion of the Universal backlot and 40,000 to 50,000 archived digital video and film copies. The June article alleged that the fire in fact destroyed 118,000 to 175,000 analog audio master tapes belonging to Universal Music Group.

Mr. Wilson said the band isn’t sure what they have lost.

“They had all of the masters prior to ‘Bridge.’ We’re not sure what’s gone. They have done a terrible job, in my opinion, of telling us even what’s going on. It’s probably viewed as less of a priority since they were never going to do anything with then anyway. But we’d really like to know what we’ve lost,” he said.

Tickets for the 5 p.m. July 16 show at the Freeman Stage can be purchased at FreemanStage.org.

Christmas in July

Local singer Trini Lima will participate in Saturday’s toy drive and open mic at Tom’s Bullpen in Dover.

Sgt. Bell the Rapper and singer Trini Lima will co-host Sgt. Bell’s Christmas in July kickoff celebration and open mic Saturday night from 7 to 11 at Tom’s Bullpen in the Hamlet Shopping Center in Dover.

The event will collect new, unwrapped toys for area homeless shelters. This is the third annual toy drive and also the third year that the Shore United Bank will be collecting new unwrapped toys at the Felton, and Dover and Denton and Ridgely, Maryland locations.

St. Peter’s Art Show

On Saturday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Second Street in Lewes, will hold their 53rd Annual Art Show. All proceeds from the show go to local charities. 
The event is held rain or shine and will feature over 140 juried artists in a variety of categories such as jewelry, metal-work, pottery, painting, photography. The show is located on all four streets surrounding St. Peter’s Church and is manned by over 150 volunteers from the parish and the community. There is no admission charge to attend.

There will be a silent auction with over 120 items donated by artists as well as a raffle of three items donated by this year’s featured artists. During the day, inside the church, the church historian will give ongoing presentations and the parish music minister will give organ demos.

Face-painting will be offered and “grab and go” lunch will be available for purchase. For those bringing their own reusable water bottles, free water is available. For others, reusable water bottles will be sold.

There will be a free shuttle from the Cape Henlopen High School parking lot.

For further information online, go to: http://stpeterslewes.org/outreach/artshow.

Milton Theatre celebration

Scott Mason impersonates the outrageous Australian character Dame Edna Saturday night at the Milton Theatre. (Submitted photo)

The Milton Theatre is hosting its annual fundraising event on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in honor of the five-year anniversary of the reopening of the Milton Theatre in 2014.

The second annual fundraiser will welcome Milton Theatre donors, members, and theater-lovers for an exclusive update on the planned improvements to the structure.

Guests will enjoy entertainment provided by harpist Joy Slavens with classical harp music, Scott Mason as Dame Edna and local band Hot Sauce with mariachi fusion music.

A silent auction also will be featured. Tickets are $70 (inclusive of food, cash bar).

Purchase tickets online at www.MiltonTheatre.com, via phone by calling 302-684-3038 or at the box office at 110 Union St. in Milton.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is “Spider-Man: Far from Home” and the suspense-thriller “Midsommar.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is a remake of “Pet Sematary” and the body-switching comedy “Little.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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