Best Bets: The Benderz bring music back to the beach

The Benderz, which consist of Angelique Buckley on lead vocals along with Noa Spott, lead vocals and guitar; Mark Kuczynski, drums; Joe Veltri, keyboards and vocals; and Luke Anderson, bass and vocals, have been around since 2003 in various forms. They play The Rusty Rudder in Dewey Beach Friday night at 9.

As life slowly returns to some semblance of normalcy around here, live music is making a comeback in area nightspots, most notably in the beach-area venues where most of the action is this time of year.

Delaware Gov. John Carney allowed a 30% percent occupancy in restaurants and establishments earlier this month and will bump it up to 60% percent on Monday.

The Benderz, a popular Philadelphia area-based cover band, has already gotten back to work, having played at The Rusty Rudder in Dewey Beach last weekend and will return there Friday night starting at 9.

Angelique Buckley, the band’s lead singer and owner/operator, is excited to get back on stage. She said last weekend’s response to the band was a good sign. They played on the facility’s back open air deck.

“There were rules people followed the best that they could. They naturally want to dance. The music’s playing and they want to move around and go to the bar for a drink and it’s strange,” she said.

“It’s a strange time right now where those things are a little bit different than what we’re used to. But people are so receptive and just onboard with taking it slow and letting this happen how it needs to happen.”

Ms. Buckley said she was a bit apprehensive as to how performing would be in a new environment.

“In terms of safety — my safety and the safety of others, you don’t know how one person sees this, it just might be completely different than the next person. Someone might want to hug you or they might want you to stay seven feet away and you don’t know until you’re physically around people and I knew that I would be safe, being on a stage,” she said.

I’m not next to anyone other than my bandmates and even if you saw the layout, where we were 6 feet away from one another and that wasn’t even intentional. It just ended up being that way.”

Ms. Buckley said as restrictions are lifted, she knows the band’s schedule will start to fill up again. But for the immediate future, it’s light to be sure.

“I mean it’s stressful. You don’t know for sure if you’re going to play again or when that’s going to happen. And even right now I had a full band gig last Friday at the Rudder, I had a duo gig on Saturday at Seacrets (in Ocean City, Maryland). I have this gig coming up (Friday),” she said.

Ms. Buckley and Mr. Spott make up The Benderz Duo. The band is also a favorite at Dover Downs.

“Next, and the only other booked gig is a duo at the Chesapeake Inn in Maryland toward the end of the month and then a few weddings, like way further out. That could really be stressful but I know it’s already starting to come back and it’s been very positive. And I don’t think that that’s going to let up and I think that that trend is going to continue until we’re at 100% and this will just be a crazy memory that we tell our kids.

“We were booked out through next year, like every single weekend, plus. So, right now it’s just completely up in the air, but I think that once the venues open up, obviously that’s going to change. But yeah, we’re booked out for people that want us to play their wedding or their private event. They want to book us as soon as they get that date and they’re not missing out and we’re booked elsewhere.”

The Benderz, which consist of Ms. Buckley on lead vocals along with Noa Spott, lead vocals and guitar; Mark Kuczynski, drums; Joe Veltri, keyboards and vocals; and Luke Anderson, bass and vocals, have been around since 2003 in various forms.

Starting as an all-male band, Ms. Buckley is the group’s second female lead vocalist and the longest-serving band member, having joined in 2014.

“This is actually my third band. The second band that I was in also worked with Frank (Annunziata at A.E.M., Inc.) And at the time, the band I was in was going in an original route rather than covers and the members were moving to Nashville. And at the same time, I decided that I was going to stay,” she said.

“And I was pretty much offered to be a member of the band, to join The Benderz. And so I took it. I didn’t know that I would be running it. That doesn’t happen a lot. As happens in our scene a lot, I went from one band to the next and took the opportunity as it presented itself.

“That’s actually pretty crazy that I had that opportunity because usually once the founding members are done, the band is done.

The Benderz are an in-demand band for weddings and corporate events.

We’re very fortunate to get to continue the name and the brand and constantly kind of reshape it and reinvent it.”

Playing for weddings, corporate events and clubs, The Benderz have an all-encompassing setlist, which includes plenty of medleys, all with a high-energy kick.

“Music and tastes change, so it’s really big challenge in trying to make sure you stay on top of that. You want to keep everyone interested and get everyone engaged, and the age ranges are filled with such different styles and you kind of have to dive into a little bit of everything to stay current and relevant be well received,” Ms. Buckley said.

“I don’t think that that’s much different from when this band started. But I know that the music itself has just completely transformed. And, the DJ element — we all want everybody to dance and have a good time and for it to be this energetic, really great night out. So I think that the DJ world, and the cover band world when they collide, it that also changed everything.”

A mainstay at Dover Downs Casino’s Fire & Ice, both as a full band and a duo with Ms. Buckley and Mr. Spott and trio with Mr. Veltri, The Benderz play anywhere from the New England area all the way down to Key West, Florida, and even out to West Virginia, Ohio and Nashville, Tennessee.

As things hopefully keep going in the right direction, Ms. Buckley is equally hopeful that the music will keep playing.

“When this first started, I thought that we weren’t going to be back until 2021. No lie, I thought that that was going to be when things would return to normal. So, for me, I’m ahead of schedule. You never know and like I said, we’re blessed to be booked out so far. So hopefully those gigs just kind of slowly start showing up again now. So, yeah, now I’m confident. I’ve got PMA about the the whole thing,” she said.

PMA?

“Positive mental attitude,” she replied.

Freeman to hold season of locals

The Freeman Stage announced Thursday it is moving forward with a special season of the arts — one which will have reduced capacity to comply with physical distancing guidelines and will primarily showcase local and regional talent.

“We’ve decided as an organization the arts need to be present during this time of reopening,” said Executive Director Patti Grimes. “Our Board of Directors supports the key tenets of our mission, which includes creating experiences that elevate the human spirit. We are going to do that by presenting the arts at a right-sized scale due to COVID-19.”

The Stage plans to present local artists — many of whom haven’t been able to perform since quarantine began — and hope to start the season in early July. Thanks to grants from the PNC Foundation and the Delaware Community Foundation, the Young Audience Series, which features free children shows typically held Saturday mornings, will also take place.

Because the organization is starting from scratch in terms of a lineup, there will be a rolling announcement of performances throughout the summer. The first round of shows will be announced near the end of June, with ticket sales starting soon after, Ms. Grimes said.

Tickets will be sold in groups, or pods, with fixed seating for four provided in each pod. The season will start 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.

“As we navigate these unprecedented times, safety has always been our No. 1 priority so we’re using this pod approach to give people some freedom while still being able to maintain physical distance,” she said.

“While we have limited space, we have a beautiful lawn and consider ourselves fortunate to be a presenter this season as many of our fellow arts organizations are unable to do so.”

The planning for the 2020 season at The Freeman Stage began soon after the last performance last year, but what would have been the organization’s biggest lineup to date had to be shelved when the pandemic struck.

While the nation was in quarantine, the nonprofit pivoted its programming to provide virtual arts experiences via social media and local schools.

Officials say staff and Board of Directors closely monitored the ever-changing landscape presented by COVID-19, continually evaluating alternative options that allowed The Stage to stay true to its mission while respecting the mandates from government and public health officials.

For more information, visit FreemanStage.org.

Peach Festival changes

The 2020 Wyoming Peach Festival recently announced the cancellation of the Peach Dessert Contest and the 2020 entertainment schedule.

Organizers say there will be no announcement of the final status of the 30th anniversary event, set for Aug. 1, until Wednesday.

Happy trails

The Delaware Tourism Office is launching a new interactive street art trail this fall and is looking for artists from across the state and the country to create an original piece of art to be part of the Delaware Discoveries Trail.

The Delaware Discoveries Trail is designed to offer visitors and residents the opportunity to explore attractions all over the state by engaging with unique street-art projects produced specifically for the trail.

To kick off work on the trail, DTO is holding a nationwide contest to find an artist to create a piece for the entrance to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal in Lewes. The application period is open and runs through June 24.

The artwork will be painted on an exterior wall of the terminal in a 10-by-10-foot space. While submitting artists are being encouraged to express their individual creativity in their designs, there are a few guidelines that will inform the process of selecting a winner.

According to a statement, designs should:

• Reflect the location;

• Be simple yet engaging;

• Be whimsical and spark joy;

• Include an immersive detail or feature that allows viewers to interact or participate; and

• Lead viewers to learn more about the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.

The tourism office will select a proposal by July 3, and the chosen artist will need to place the finished piece by Aug. 28. The winner will also receive a stipend for their work.

Applicants can submit their design for the ferry terminal at www.DelawareDiscoveries.com.

The trail will launch this fall with seven sites, including the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal.

For more information about the Delaware Tourism Office, visit www.visitdelaware.com. And for more information on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, visit www.CMLF.com.

Now showing

Movies available for download this weekend include Pete Davidson in “The King of Staten Island” and “Practical Jokers: The Movie.”