BEST BETS: Palko bringing music with a message to Friends of Folk Coffeehouse

Shane Palko can remember growing up in Landenberg, Pennsylvania “ripping around in the woods playing music. Those were the two things that stuck,” he said.

Musician Shane Palko has played in five continents and over 20 countries. (Submitted photo)

Mr. Palko, 28, has grown to become an independent alternative folk musician and environmentalist, performing his music and spreading environmental and social messages with a global focus across five continents in over 20 countries.

He opens for the husband and wife musical duo of Wyatt and Barbara Lema Saturday night at the Delaware Friends of Folk Coffeehouse concert at Wesley College’s Bennett Chapel in Dover.

Writing and playing songs since he was 6 years old, Mr. Palko had three older brothers, two of whom were musicians. During high school and college at the University of Delaware, the three formed the band The Look Machine where he played drums.

“We were always jamming together. I skipped my high school graduation because we got a gig opening for one of our favorite bands at The Trocadero in Philadelphia. We later broke up when my brothers moved to California and Uganda. It’s hard to keep a band going with them there,” he joked.

Playing primarily the guitar, Mr. Palko has released eight albums with a ninth, “Pick Me Up” due next spring and “Madison Drive” released earlier this summer.

Each album is heavily influenced by themes surrounding the importance of place.

“I write a lot about home and place and belonging. Where do I fit in? Where do I belong? I think they are pretty typical human feelings,” he said.

Playing in faraway places such as Austria, Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Russia, South Africa, Thailand and Uganda has ironically given Mr. Palko a greater sense of place.

“I’ve noticed that being in a lot of countries, people always want to be somewhere else,” he said.

“And I can get a chance to see their home area and learn to love it and take that message and try to connect to them to love their place for what it is.

“I’ve also learned to love my home by visiting other places.”

When in Pennsylvania, he prefers to live with no electricity, no utilities and no internet.

“When I get home from a tour, it’s nice to get away from the flashing lights. I can sit outside by a pond listening to the geese and burn stuff for a fire in the winter and sing and write my songs. It’s nice to be grounded like that,” he said.

He will soon build a small house on the property with electricity.

“I’m not totally blind to the modern world. I know we have this technology. But I’m trying not be consumed by it. You need a place to charge your phone,” he said.

“I have the biggest carbon footprint of anyone I know. I fly around the world. I certainly see the irony of that as well.”

He was formerly program coordinator for the Chesapeake Wilderness Institute in North East, Maryland. For part of each year, he taught and developed programs centered around ecological issues of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

“(Parent organization) NorthBay Education keeps me on part time as a socioenvironmental education specialist. I love that organization but can’t give much time to them at this point,” he said.

The environmental message that he tries to spread doesn’t focus on any one issue and he tries not to be “too preachy.”

“It’s just all about being connected to the environment. I don’t think many people understand the importance of it. I always like to start with a positive spin and share with people the beauty of different places,” said Mr. Palko who performed at this summer’s Smyrna at Night festival.

His next big adventure will take him to Central and possibly South America starting next month.

“We’ll drive from Pennsylvania and cross the border in El Paso, Texas into Panama where we have gigs booked in December and January. Then in February, we’ll figure out whether we want to continue to South America,” he said.

A cultural representative to China, one of his biggest thrills was a New Year’s Eve concert last year in Uganda. Hooking up with his brother who lives in the country, Mr. Palko found a booking agent who made him part of a celebration in a stadium in the kingdom of Busoga where he played for the king.

“It was me and my brother on stage in front of more than 10,000 people with this crazy, dark lighting with guards with machine guns and us up there singing our Pennsylvania folk songs,” he said.

“They later commissioned me to write a song for the kingdom and I gave it to the king as a gift and he loved it. I sang it in front of him. We wore the traditional robes and they nominally added me to the royal family as an ambassador of tourism.”

He says getting a chance to have these experiences is like climbing a wall.

“Sometimes you get knocked down when they say no but then when you get a chance to play East Africa’s biggest music festival on their biggest stage, you can then ask another festival if you can play on their side stage and it goes from there,” he said.

Closer to home Saturday night, Mr. Palko and hand drummer Evan Stout expect to perform songs from an album entitled “Along the Tracks” that they wrote while riding the Transiberian Railroad across China two summers ago.

“I’m really excited about this show. I’ll probably tell a bunch of stories as well. The Friends of Folk present an awesome listening environment,” he said.

Wyatt and Barbara Lema will headline Saturday night’s Delaware Friends of Folk Coffee House in Dover. (Submitted photo)

Along with guitar, the headliners for the evening, Mr. and Mrs. Lema play a variety of traditional instruments, including ukulele, dulcimer, and bodhran.

Their music is a mix of traditional Appalachian songs, Piedmont blues, and many of their own Americana-influenced compositions. Living in Warwick, Rhode Island, they are very involved in the New England Folk scene, appearing at festivals, house concerts, and the many coffee houses in their area. They are also active members of the Rhode Island Songwriters Association.

Bennett Chapel is at the corner of Division and North Bradford streets in Dover, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Admission is $5 for members of Delaware Friends of Folk, $7 for non-members, while those 12 and under are admitted free. Fresh-brewed coffee, baked cookies and other snacks will be available.

Songwriters and Storytellers

As we told you last week, Jack Sundrud from the band Poco will join local musician Sol Knopf and Craig Bickhardt,

Jack Sundrud, bassist and vocalist for the country rock band Poco, will join Sol Knopf, Craig Bickhardt and others tonight at the Smyrna Opera House. (Submitted photo/Charles Hudson)

whose songs have been recorded by legends like Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, The Judds and Martina McBride, for another in the series of Songwriters and Storytellers shows at the Smyrna Opera House tonight at 7.

Also joining tonight will be Tom Hampton, who has toured with the Marshall Tucker Band and Poco, on pedal steel guitar and mandolin and drummer Tommy Geddes.

Tickets for the show are $16, $14 for Smyrna Opera House members, senior citizens and military members and $8 for children 12 and under.

They can be purchased at, by calling 653-4236 or at the box office at 7 W. South St., Smyrna.

Food drive and concert

Also tonight, Mike Hines & The Look and Friends will support the Food Bank of Delaware with the Thanksgiving Food Drive For The Hungry at Cowboy Up.

Donations of canned goods can be dropped off at Cowboy Up at 1036 Lafferty Lane.

Examples of items needed are: canned sweet potatoes, canned peas, canned corn, evaporated milk, canned pumpkin, applesauce, coffee/tea bags, corn muffin mix, canned gravy, mashed potatoes, graham cracker crust and turkey pans.

Also performing will be Jammin Jeff, a Rick James tribute by Charles Boyer, Ashley Mitchell and Donny Marvel and Jovon Newman and Quintin Richardson of JQ, along with others.

Admission will be $15 with partial proceeds going to the Food Bank of Delaware.

Doors open at 6 p.m., with food available for purchase, a disc jockey and dancing at 7 p.m., and live entertainment starting at 9.

This will be the third annual event at Cowboy Up, whose owners Jimmy and Felicia Baker are soon selling the nightspot to Charles Boyer.

Play it Back benefit

Continuing a busy Friday night, Tom’s Bullpen, at 1035 Walker Road in the Hamlet Shopping Center in Dover, will host the Play it Back benefit concert with proceeds going to the Dover Police Department’s Holiday Heroes program that allows children from the Dover area to pair up with a Dover police officer to go shopping for Christmas gifts at the Dover Target store

Music artists slated to perform include Anatomy of an Outcast, Dave Nickolson, Justin McNatt, Surreal Nation and The Wet Bandits.

There will also be a disc jockey, 50/50 raffle and a silent auction.

There is a $5 cover charge for the event, which starts at 7 p.m.

Delaware Symphony in Milford

Finally, David Amado will conduct the third of the Delaware Symphony family concerts Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Milford High School Auditorium, 1019 N. Walnut St.

Entitled “Mother Earth,” the one-hour concert will feature Debussy’s “La Mer,” plus portions of Grofé’s “Grand

David Amado

Canyon Suite,” and “Pictures from the Floating World,” by A. I. du Pont Award- winning composer David Ludwig, with guest soloist William Short, principal bassoonist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

The performance of “La Mer” will be enhanced by visuals by Delaware artist Mary Page Evans, with projected images by noted Wilmington photographer Carson Zullinger.

Following the concert, there will be an up-close musical instrument “Petting Zoo,” provided by faculty members from the Music School of Delaware.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for those under 18, and will be available at the door.

Now showing

New in theaters this weekend is the all-star superhero film “Justice League,” the animated Christmas film “The Star” and Julia Roberts in the inspiration film “Wonder.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” the sci-fi film “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” the animated “Leap!” and the martial arts movie “Birth of the Dragon.”

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