Changing of the Guard

Delaware leaders help welcome world’s largest producer of live music concerts to Wilmington

Dylan, Bowie, Sam Cooke and Sheryl Crow all sang about change—the need for it, the inevitability of it, how it will “do you good.” Now, an exciting change has come to Wilmington with The Queen’s new caretakers, Live Nation, a live-events company based in Beverly Hills, Calif., whose website boasts that “somewhere in the world, there is a Live Nation event every 20 minutes.”

On June 14, a healthy mix of musicians, music fans, neighbors, politicians, non-profits and business leaders crowded the 500 block of Market Street to help welcome the new owners. Celebratory sounds from the Wild Bohemians brass band filled the air and three stoic “British guards” stood at attention onstage. (I caught Gov. John Carney trying to converse with one of the guards, to little avail, as she embraced her role.)

The excitement was palpable, especially after an enthusiastic welcome from Buccini/Pollin Group Co-President Chris Buccini and rousing words from Gov. Carney and Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki. Live Nation’s executive vice president for clubs and theaters, Michael Grozier, then stepped to the podium, channeling the Pointer Sisters with his first words to Wilmington. “I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it!” he shouted.

Live Nation’s Regional President Geoff Gordon (who previously oversaw bookings at Wilmington’s own Kahunaville) joined him to launch a gigantic burst of confetti onto Market Street and usher in a new chapter for The Queen and her city.

“The bones of this building are just fantastic,” Grozier said when I asked about his first walk-through. “And we feel that we’ve got the resources that can build upon that.”

Inside, most of the grand edifice will remain, as will a few familiar faces (e.g., former World Cafe Live talent buyer Christiana LaBuz has moved to the Live Nation team to continue in that role), but there’s also plenty evidence of what will be built with Live Nation’s “toolbox.”

Gathering at the soft opening were (L to R): Jazzi Hall, operations supervisor for The Queen; new General Manager Trenton Banks; Jason Bray, Live Nation Philadelphia Market general manager, and Angela Depersia, operations manager for the Queen. (Photo by Joe del Tufo)
Gathering at the soft opening were (L to R): Jazzi Hall, operations supervisor for The Queen; new General Manager Trenton Banks; Jason Bray, Live Nation Philadelphia Market general manager, and Angela Depersia, operations manager for the Queen. (Photo by Joe del Tufo)

New Bar by Thanksgiving

Guests were greeted by sleek architectural renderings of the new front bar and box office, which Buccini hopes to have completed by Thanksgiving. Walls and hallways were adorned with large music/pop culture-inspired, neon-tinged installations by artists Louis St. Lewis and Nate Sheaffer. Posters touted some of the shows that have already been booked, including Cheap Trick, The Alarm and comedian Jim Breuer as well as longtime local favorites Ben LeRoy and The Snap and Montana Wildaxe.

“From a talent perspective, our plan is to bring in a mix spanning all genres,” said Jon Hampton, Live Nation’s senior vice president for talent. “I expect us to book close to 100 shows annually, keeping the venue active and ensuring the calendar offers something for everyone.”

Grozier concurred: “We hope to bring over 100,000 people downtown for the best in international, national, regional and local talent—in all forms for all members of the community.” It seems that our new neighbor wants to celebrate the local scene as much as endorse Wilmington as a place to draw big-name acts.

“The level of financial, social and emotional investment in this city is amazing,” Grozier said, noting the enthusiasm he’s seen from surrounding businesses and residents alike. “We want to be sure to honor that.”

Community engagement will surely be part of the responsibilities of Trenton Banks, the new general manager of The Queen. Banks—now a downtown Wilmingtonian along with wife Jaclyn and their two young sons—has been busy discovering the surroundings of his new gig.

“We’ve definitely been exploring,” he said. They’ve traveled along Market Street, down to the Riverfront, and have made visits to La Fia and Chelsea Tavern. “As a [new] Wilmington resident, I’m excited to meet fellow residents and support neighboring businesses,” Banks said.

He seems enamored with his new venue and what it offers. “It’s such a gorgeous, spacious building, the possibilities are endless,” he said. “There is underutilized space; we’ll look at how best to serve the needs of the community as we get up and running.”

Banks and Live Nation have plans for concerts, special events and local nights. He noted the addition of the bar inside the corner of 5th and Market, which he envisions as a great enhancement to the neighborhood on both show and off nights, since it will be accessible to both concertgoers and the public.

Shine a Light to Return

Banks said that Live Nation’s involvement will encompass the larger community. “We’re 100 percent committed to supporting and advocating for local arts and community initiatives, and plan to be an active partner,” he said. In fact, at the June 14 event, the team confirmed Saturday, March 3, as the return of Shine a Light, the annual fundraising concert for the Light Up the Queen Foundation. Banks also announced a July 23 job fair for local staffing at all levels.

Asked how the community can support in return, he said, “We only ask that you come out to shows, embrace live music and give us your feedback and ideas so we can work to deliver a world-class venue in the heart of Wilmington.”

Buccini/Pollin Group’s overall vision for The Queen seems to align well with Live Nation’s plans. “Our goal is to fully maximize this space and the music experience in downtown Wilmington, but also to create a more varied talent base—everything from music to comedy,” said Buccini. “Live Nation has the ability to make that happen for us.”

Smiling, he added, “Wilmington is growing up.”

Later, I walked back to my car at 6th and Shipley and noticed a band of blue confetti had migrated there. I smiled myself, hoping it was a symbol of the burgeoning excitement, liveliness and transformation that will benefit all parts of Wilmington.

Firefly Artist Spotlight: Wilderado

Wilderado (Band), photo by Ryan Alexander

With Firefly in their sights, this L.A. four-piece stopped in at the Trolley Tap House to talk new music, Firefly, and local cuisine.


O&A:
How long have you guys played together?

Wilderado: As a four-piece, I think we’re coming up on two years. We used to have five. Got rid of someone, added someone. We recently split ways with our fifth member. That was a couple years ago. It was mutual, he had his own thing. Then we were looking for another bass player, but then we decided we liked the four-piece better, so Colton picked up bass. And we have a four-person van, so we don’t have room for a fifth.

O&A: Are there any tracks or releases you would like people to check out?

Wilderado: We have a single, “Morning Light,” that we’ve been putting a lot of attention behind on Spotify and I think that most of the fans around know that song. Probably more so than the rest of them. That and “Rubble to Rubble.” We’re getting ready to record some new music and we’re playing some new music in our set. Which is fun for us. I think you can expect that.

O&A: Especially on the day you’re playing on, are there any other Firefly bands that you know or recommend?

Wilderado: Kaleo is playing the day we are. We’ve played a couple festivals with them. They’re really nice guys. Maggie Rogers is really cool. Franz Ferdinand, yeah! Weezer, dude! So, on Friday, Judah & the Lion are playing, and we just got off the road with those guys. And they’re great dudes. They play booty popping banjo music. I guess that’s what they call it. We love those guys. Saturday, there is a band called Mondo Cozmo; they’re cool. I heard they’re incredible live. More people on stage than I expected. They have a lot of support right now. The Shins, we’ve worked with their drummer, who has mixed some of our stuff. Never met him, but he produces some really great stuff. We love emailing him. Oh, yeah, Rainbow Kitten Surprise – we’re going on the road with them.

O&A: What are some of your plans after playing Firefly?

Wilderado: We’re going to head home. We’re going to go back to L.A. We have a lot of new music. We’re going to record that when we get back. We have some dates in California and Colorado, but nothing major. We have titles for all the songs, but no name for the collective work. We’ve been doing a release through Spotify, about a song a month, and that has been cool. It keeps new stuff on the radio. It will be put up as soon as we can. We’ve been trying to figure out our song as a band and we’ve been putting out songs one by one waiting for more of a collective feel and making sounds we enjoy playing.

O&A: So, what do you think of the scrapple?

Wilderado: Basically, my definition is it tastes like chicken-fried-steak-fried-flavored oatmeal. Double-fried oatmeal, yeah. As a soup. It’s exactly like a dish I ordered at college, at Memorial. Yes, that is the specific steak.

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It was great sitting down with Wilderado  at the Trolley Tap House and we highly recommend checking out their set at Firefly Music Festival on Thursday, June 15. They go on at 5:30 p.m. at the Lawn Stage. If you would like to purchase some of Wilderado’s music, visit http://wilderado.co