WRDE on Tour: Dewey Beach's Rockin' Live Music Scene
This week's "WRDE on Tour" takes a look at the music scene in Dewey Beach, one of the few places in southern Delaware to see live music year round.
"Dewey's one of the last places in the east where you can be at both the beach and have live music at the same time," said Alex Pires, managing partner of Highway One.
The company owns music venues such as the Rusty Rudder, Northbeach, Jimmy's Grille and the 80-year old Bottle and Cork, the oldest concert hall in town.
"Dewey has four or five traditional places that have been around a long time," Pires said. "The Bottle and Cork since the 30s. The Starboard since the 50s. The Rudder since the 70s."
Our first stop is the Starboard, a staple in the Dewey community attracting families and people of all ages.
Keith "Toasty" Kirk manages the bar and restaurant. Kirk said he got his nickname from the years he spent working at the Starboard making toast as a teenager.
"The people that once came here as young adults are now coming back with their families, with their kids," said Kirk.
"It's crazy the amount of people that I met when I used to work the door, bus tables, that are now coming down with little kids and toddlers. It's a cool environment. It's become more and more of a family place," he said.
Kirk explained what people can expect from the Starboard's music scene.
"It's more of a mellow vibe here for music. We bring in a bunch of acts like Bruce in the USA. They're a tribute band for Bruce Springsteen. We do a free G Love show every year," said Kirk. "We're not trying to be like that rock n' roll bar but we like to have fun and hear people perform as well."
Over at the Rusty Rudder, another staple in Dewey Beach, WRDE caught up with "Nashville" star and lead singer of the alternative rock band, Jonathan Jackson + Enation.
"We hear this is a real music town. We didn't really know what to expect," said Jackson in response to how the band came to be in Delaware. It was their first visit and performance at the Rudder on June 22.
Jackson went on to explain what people can expect from the band's shows.
"We really love playing live and there's a real visceral energy," Jackson said, "we'll be doing quite a few covers from some of the bands we love but mostly original music."
Our next stop on the music tour is the Lighthouse Cove complex which is home to Que Pasa, the Cove, the Lighthouse and the Hyatt hotel and residences. Vince DiFonzo is a managing partner with the company and explained why the complex remains a popular destination in Dewey.
"We want it to be a full resort environment," DiFonzo said," for example Que Pasa is a very family oriented restaurant. Our tables are on the beach, our cantina is great for happy hour. At night we have bonfires a couple times a week here. You know that you're not back home in Wilmington or D.C. when you're sitting at the beach here at Que Pasa."
Similar to the Starboard, DiFonzo said the Lighthouse Cove complex's live music is more laid back but changes come Friday nights.
"We mainly do acoustic type music here. A lot of classical rock type music. Last year we added what we call the Cove Beach Party on Friday nights and that's where we do our concerts," said DiFonzo.
Over at the Bottle and Cork, which opened in 1936, rock n' roll music continues to be a popular attraction for visitors but country is also taking the iconic venue by storm. Highway One's Entertainment Director Vikki Walls told WRDE about some of the biggest country music starts who've graced the Cork's stage over the years.
"We have brought in some of the top country acts in the whole country. Cole Swindell. A Thousand Horses. Kane Brown. Old Dominion sold out," said Walls.
And it's not just the Cork that lands the biggest acts.
"Jason Aldean played the Rusty Rudder seven years ago. Rachel Platten, who has that huge song 'Fight Song' and millions of albums, she played six times at the Rudder at my events."
Walls said there have been countless musicians who, relatively unknown at the time, have played at the Cork, the Rudder, or Northbeach and have gone on to become wildly successful, some even earning Grammy's or other prestigious music awards.
"I can't tell you how many bands I've seen play on Letterman and Leno and all these shows. Eric Church played here three times before he blew up. Miranda Lambert played [at the Cork] twice. Neon Trees, Andy Grammar played here last year. Gavin Degraw has played here. I mean the list goes on and on."
Since 2001, Walls has been responsible for bringing the Dewey Beach Music Conference to town which helps connect up-and-coming artists with industry producers and record labels.
"It's all genres and it's bands from all over the country trying to get started," said Walls, who also used to be a band manager for many years.
"They want to learn the music business and we bring in producers and record label people and stuff to do sessions during the day. We give them classes and teach them what to do. And then we throw parties at night. That's 150 bands."
This year the Dewey Beach Music Conference runs from Thursday, Sept. 22 to Saturday, Sept. 25. It's a free event and the public is welcome to attend.
Be it summer, spring, winter or fall, Dewey Beach's music scene leaves people on a high note all year long.