Best Bets: Delaware concerts humming along in outdoor venues

Members of the Delaware National Guard’s 287th Delaware’s Own Army Band played to a crowd in Stango Park in Lewes last month. The concert kicked off the Lewes Summer Concert Series lineup in Stango Park for 2020, with some modifications for social distancing. (U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. Laura Michael)

During this summer like no other, the musical soundtrack has been muted at best. Largely, the only place you are hearing live music is in the great outdoors.

But even those are few and far between. The Rehoboth and Bethany Beach bandstands have canceled their summer concert series due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Local venues such as Milford, Milton and the Lewes Canalfront Park nixed their concerts and the Delaware State Fair will go on starting Thursday but without their usual lineup of national acts in the grandstand.

•In Sussex County, towns such as Millsboro, Georgetown and Lewes have let the shows go on while maintaining social distancing, the wearing of masks and using other precautions.

The popular local band Glass Onion performed July 7 at Cupola Park in Millsboro and then Thursday night at the Marvel Museum in Georgetown.

Lead singer and band founder Dale Teat says playing in Millsboro was an interesting experience.

“People brought their lawn chairs and they pretty much set up where they wanted to be. They were spaced out to be sure. That seems to be what I’ve seen happening,” he said.

Mr. Teat said the crowd was much larger than they have seen in Millsboro in the past.

“They pretty much sat in their chairs and there were groups that danced and came to the front of the stage. They were there in masks. But it’s not like it has been. I can tell you that the crowd was much bigger. This is our third year playing there and this is the biggest crowd we’ve ever seen,” he said.

“People want to go out. They want something to do. They just haven’t been allowed. In fact some people didn’t think they were allowed to dance.”

Mr. Teat says he has been told at some indoor venues that dancing is not allowed but the outdoor venues seem to be a permissible place due to the open-air environment.

Because of the lack of venues to play, Mr. Teat said these were the first two gigs of the summer for Glass Onion, which is marking its 20th year.

“As far as band shows, the festivals and the outdoor events are pretty much all that’s on. The bars, the restaurants, the casinos that we play every month are still off. They don’t have entertainment budgets yet. The (Cape May-Lewes) Ferry we have played every Friday through the summer for, I think, 13 years. They canceled that at the beginning of the summer. No ferry shows and that’s outside. They canceled their whole entertainment budget because they didn’t know where they would have the money to afford it,” he said.

In a typical summer, Mr. Teat said Glass Onion has 10 to 12 shows per month. He said this summer, he has two other shows booked for the band and that’s it for now.

Rose Hoke claps to the music of Glass Onion as Beckett Savage looks on during an outdoor concert July 7 at Cupola Park in Millsboro. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

“We’re fortunate because we all have other things we do to make a living but it’s a challenging time,” he said.

Mr. Teat has a solo act that he is performing now, sometimes in lieu of the full band shows and many of those gigs are outside. He’ll be on the beach stage at Paradise Grill in Long Neck on Saturday from 8 to 10:30 p.m.

“Right now I have more solo gigs than band gigs and the venues are telling us they’re afraid they can’t afford the band. You hire a band to bring a packed house. And when the guidelines are you can only have 60% and before it was only 30%, you can’t hire that band to bring a packed house because you can’t let the packed house in,” he said.

“So that’s what we are up against. The venues that we play expect us to bring a lot of people in to make sure everybody is successful. And if we can’t let the people we bring in, that makes the venue not successful. … So that’s pretty much cut out bands. You see with a lot of the popular bands, all of the shows are canceled just because the venues can’t afford to bring them in.”

No other Cupola Park shows are scheduled at this time. The next Georgetown summer concert will take place Aug. 6 with Ty Sherwood. Shows will continue at the Marvel Museum every Thursday in August from 7 to 9 p.m.

Stango Park in Lewes holds shows every Tuesday at 7 p.m. through Aug. 25. The reggae band Real Ting plays next week.

•At The Freeman Stage amphitheater in Selbyville, shows have started for the summer after they had to redo their national schedule due to the pandemic.

On June 6, Patti Grimes, executive director of The Freeman Stage, found herself staring at a blank performance calendar. After having to cancel a full slate of performances that had been assembled over the prior six months, she had now been given the go-ahead by the nonprofit’s board of directors for a “right-sized” season, one that would feature smaller audiences, local/regional acts and a stringent adherence to physical distancing and other health-related guidelines given the public health concerns around COVID-19.

“Once we received the word to move forward, our entire season had to be reprogrammed in a fraction of the time it normally takes,” said Ms. Grimes.

“We were able to quickly book some local favorites like lower case blues and The Stims, who were thrilled to be part of our season. We have a strong focus on diversity, not just in cultural terms but also in terms of musical genre. Our challenge was finding a nice variety of acts that could appeal to our broad audience base.”

Tickets are being sold in groups, or pods, with fixed seating for four provided in each pod. The season is starting out with a seating capacity of just under 400 and will be periodically evaluated as the season progresses to determine if any adjustments are warranted.

A highlight of the season will be “Broadway Stars (under the Stars),” starring Caroline Bowman and Austin Colby, which is scheduled for Thursday, July 23 and Friday, July 24 at 8 p.m.

Ms. Bowman’s resume includes starring roles in multiple Broadway musicals, including “Fame,” “Grease,” “Spamalot,” “Evita,” “Wicked,” and “Kinky Boots.” Mr. Colby starred in the leading male roles in “West Side Story,” “The Sound of Music,” and “Jersey Boys.”

The couple has been living in the Bayside community since early May — after driving back East and quarantining for a period of time — patiently waiting for the chance to return to their national tour of “Frozen.”

The cabaret-style performance will feature songs from both actors’ Broadway shows, accompanied by Benjamin Rauhala.

Other shows announced recently for Freeman include the classic rock cover band Tranzfusion on July 25; 19th Street Band on July 30; Sweet Baby James, a James Taylor tribute on July 31; and Eric Scott Band, a Washington, D.C., soul/pop act, on Aug. 1. Two Young Audience Series programs were also announced — “Peter Pan,” by Rehoboth Summer Children’s Theatre on July 25 and Jungle John’s Reptile Show on Aug. 1.

For more information and tickets, visit freemanstage.org.

•Dover’s Performing Arts Series on The Green is rolling along nicely this summer.

Performing Thursdays at 7 p.m., the series has featured a slate of diverse entertainment with audience members socially distanced and a mask mandate in place.

The success of the series was brought up during Tuesday night’s Dover Council of the Whole meeting.

“For the performances on The Green, (Parks and Recreation) staff have done a great job of drawing circles to ensure the social-distancing protocol,” said Matt Harline, Dover assistant city manager.

From left, Carol Clay, Zoe Wilkins and Woody Clay enjoy live music at the 44th annual Performing Arts Series on The Green in Dover last month. (Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller)

“Staff modified the program by ensuring signage of facial coverings and hand sanitizer is available for concertgoers. Circles were painted to allow families to sit together, while keeping the required six feet apart guideline. Concert attendees have expressed their gratitude for bringing the series back this year, even though they have to wear their mask while at the show.”

Shows will continue until Sept. 10 with a season finale performance by The Honeycombs. Next week’s concert will be the R&B band Comfort Zone.

A Tuesday night movie series on The Green is also under consideration.

•Finally, a whole new take on the outdoor concert is going on in the parking lot of Wilmington’s Frawley Stadium.

After a successful first concert, The Grand theater will hold its second event in the Concerts by Car series featuring Echoes: The American Pink Floyd today at 7 p.m. in the Frawley Stadium parking lot on Wilmington’s Riverfront.

Tickets are $25 per person (up to four people per car), plus fees. They are available by calling The Grand Box Office at 302-652-5577 or online at www.TheGrandWilmington.org.

Vehicles are spaced approximately 6 to 8 feet apart. Windows may remain open at this distance.

Patrons are encouraged to remain in their vehicles. However, you may leave your car and sit in your own chairs in the adjoining space beside your car.

Face masks must be worn anytime you are outside your vehicle.

Attendees are able to hear the concerts via FM radio. No pets are allowed and no walk-up sales will be allowed.

Joe Trainor, who has performed locally in Smyrna, Dover and Milton, did the first car concert in Wilmington last month with his Rock Orchestra’s Tribute to The Beatles.

“I thought it’d be weird playing to a bunch of cars, but most people sat outside of their vehicles on lawn chairs, so we did enjoy some feedback from the audience,” he said.

“Those that stayed in their cars ‘applauded’ with their horns, which was funny, and cool. They even got into the action when we did ‘Drive My Car’ (“Beep beep, beep beep, yeah!”)

“I, at times, found myself overwhelmed with emotion. It was likely a combination of relief over finally getting to play music again, the sheer scope of the audience, the fact that we sold out, the idea that this is what things are now and being on stage with my friends and wife — none of it was lost on me. I was happy to get to do it, and made sure to take a few moments to enjoy that happiness.”