Robert Randolph and The Family Band to headline Smyrna at Night

Grammy-nominated Robert Randolph and The Family Band will headline this year’s Smyrna at Night event set for Saturday, June 8. (Submitted photo)

SMYRNA — The increasing success of the annual Smyrna at Night townwide block party just got a little bigger Friday with the announcement that three-time Grammy-nominated Robert Randolph and The Family Band will top the list of musical artists at this year’s event.

The funk and soul band is led by pedal steel guitarist Mr. Randolph, who Rolling Stone called one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. Jeremy Hebbel, co-owner of Gable Music Ventures, organizers of Smyrna at Night, along with NuPoint Marketing, said the band, known for their lively stage performances, is the perfect headliner for Smyrna at Night.

“They are one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen,” Mr. Hebbel said Friday.

“We look for bands with a lot of energy since this is a huge block party. Their kind of intense, gospel feel really gets you moving. I really can’t think of a better act for this event. We toyed around with bringing in a New Orleans-type horn band but when this suggestion got floated to us, that went out the window fast.”

Mr. Hebbel said the town of Smyrna appropriated a larger than usual budget for this year’s event so they had a bit more money to go out and find an act of this caliber.

“A good friend of ours (Rose Relations) who networks with a ton of national acts assisted us with this one and we lucked out. Sometimes it just comes down to luck.”

The band’s latest release “Got Soul,” nominated for a Grammy in 2017 in the Best Contemporary Blues Album category, featured guest artists like Darius Rucker, Anthony Hamilton and Cory Henry. In the past they have collaborated with artists such as Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, The Roots and Jack White.

The group has performed at local venues, such as Bottle & Cork in Dewey Beach, but Mr. Hebbel believes this will be the first time they will play a free concert in the area.

This year’s Smyrna at Night will be the first to be held on a Saturday, with longer hours than ever before. It is set for June 8 from 3 to 10 p.m.

“In talking to the mayor and town manager, we decided that the event has grown to the point where we think we can overcome the notion that everybody goes to the beach in the summer,” Mr. Hebbel said.

“Having longer hours and it being on a Saturday will hopefully make setup easier as well.”

As in recent years, 24 acts will play at the event, with six instead of four on the main stage this year and the majority of them playing for a longer time than in years’ past.

Mr. Hebbel said he anticipates getting interest from a wider array of bands looking to play this year. But he still wants to keep the majority of the acts local.

“I’m really proud of the fact that we’ve been able to showcase artists from around the Smyrna, Dover and Middletown area and we intend to keep it that way,” he said.

Mr. Hebbel said he expects another round of band announcements next month.

Last year’s attendance was estimated to be about 7,500 people. This year, Mr. Hebbel says Smyrna at Night should draw about 10,000.

“Now the challenge will be parking and getting people to and from the event. So we’ll be looking at setting up auxiliary parking lots and adding shuttles,” he said.

The increased amount of attendees should add to excitement of the day, Mr. Hebbel said.

“When the crowd is more excited, the artists are more excited and that just adds to their overall performance. And these guys are definitely at the top of their game,” he said.

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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