Shine A Light Celebrates 1968

The usual powerhouse lineup will play the music of half a century ago in the annual concert to support the Light Up the Queen Foundation

When it comes to music, yesteryear can seem like yesterday, and that’s the feeling the annual Shine a Light concert will aim for by rolling back the clock to 1968 to create warm memories for those lucky enough to secure a ticket. Sponsored by the Light Up the Queen Foundation, the concert is set for Saturday, March 3, at The Queen in Wilmington. Tickets for the annual event have always sold out, but there’s still time to purchase general admission or the highly-sought-after VIP tickets, which include a Celebrity Chef menu executed by The CROP Foundation, open bar featuring Tito’s specialty cocktails and Twin Lakes craft beer, exclusive balcony seating, front pit access and more. This year’s concert will once again bring together an all-star lineup of scores of the most popular and revered musical performers in the Wilmington area. For many, 1968 was a year of turmoil, but from that chaos arose some of the best music of the 20th century, and it’s reflected in the set list for this year’s concert. “We have rock, country, jazz, blues, Top-40, and more,” says “Harmonica” Pete Cogan, a veteran of the concert series. “The magic of the show is that it takes everyone out of their own bands and puts you with other people you’ve never played with before. You get to meet other band members and their followers and that really opens up a lot of doors for you as a performer.” “The Light Up The Queen Foundation began in 2008 with a single arts education program and has developed and diversified over the years,” says Tina Betz, the foundation’s executive director. “The concert is by far our biggest fundraiser, pulling in well over a half million dollars in its seven-year run. The money raised allows us to serve about 3,600 children and young adults a year—well over 10,000 in total—through our programs. And we are just picking up speed.” After tackling the Rolling Stones’ catalog for the first few years of the event, organizers decided to fete all styles of music of 1975 three years ago and followed that by celebrating 1976 and 1977 in subsequent years. This year, the decision was made to step back even farther, to 1968, in a salute to a golden year of music.

Kat Pigliacampi, lead singer for Kategory 5, will rock out at this year’s show. Photo Joe del Tufo

John Cassidy, multi-instrumentalist for Kategory 5, likes the idea of celebrating 1968, but says slyly, “I hope we don’t go back to 1959 next year.” When horn player Alan Yandziak jokingly frets they might eventually run out of years and songs, Shine A Light Executive Committee member Tom Williams laughs and says, “Don’t worry, we still have a lot of quality songs from which to choose in coming years.” Guitarist Nick Bucci, regarded reverently by many area musicians, says that 1968 is right in his wheelhouse. “I had the opportunity to play on some Steely Dan songs during previous years’ shows,” he says, “but having a chance to emulate Jimi Hendrix [this year] is a challenge I’m looking forward to.” Bucci’s exalted standing in the musical community contrasts with Cole Petrillo, who will make his debut in the concert series this year. “I used to sneak into practices when my dad (Mike “Pops” Petrillo) would be rehearsing for past shows,” he says. “I hope to get to play on a song with him and also with Pat Kane (guitar),” who played his first Shine a Light show last year. This constant infusion of new performers helps keep the show fresh year after year. Singer Nihkee Bleu also made her debut last year and says her experience was “fun and awesome.” It reinforced in her that “people really love music from 40-50 years ago,” she says. “I spoke to people who could not make it to last year’s show and they were very disappointed. I wasn’t even born in the 1960s, but I think music from that era is more relevant today than it ever was.” Drummer John DiGiovanni, of Steal Your Peach, can relate. “This is my music, the music I grew up on. I was in high school in 1968.” He considers it an honor to be included, especially since a scheduling conflict prevented him from performing at last year’s show. Kat Pigliacampi, lead singer for Kategory 5, has her hair color (sort of) to thank for her first invitation to perform at the show, back when it featured The Rolling Stones’ music. “(Shine A Light Planning Committee member Rob Grant) called me up and said they needed another backup singer,” says Pagliacampi. “He told me they have a blonde, a redhead and needed a brunette, so that was how I first got involved.” She says that back then, “it was a lot more rogue, but still well organized.” Since The Stones don’t feature female lead singers, it was more “guy-oriented,” but she says she will miss the chance to do more disco and prog rock by not continuing on to 1978. Like everyone else, Pigliacampi is looking forward to this year’s show, citing “the spirit of unity. It’s all about the music.” While everyone involved tries to make each show better than the previous year, they also recognize the true focus of the event—the Light Up the Queen Foundation. Kathleen Ford, co-chair of the Shine A Light Committee, says, “The focus on arts education has resulted in even more—and larger—sponsors than ever this year, which allows us to serve more children than before.” With this year’s show offering an enhanced video production with some surprises, tickets are—as usual—going fast to this local musical event of the year. Check availability at LightUpTheQueen.Org/ShineALight.

Off-the-Wall Art on the Wall

…at Oddball Art Hall, that is, where ‘unique’ is the operative description

Most people would take umbrage at being called an oddball, but there is a thriving community of local artists who not only accept the term, but embrace it.

Welcome to the Oddball Art Hall, a celebration of art and artists that takes place the third Friday of every month at—where else?—Oddity Bar in Wilmington.

“I suppose I’m a bit different,” says illustrator Kristen Margiotta, one of the founders of the event, when asked how she is an “oddball.” She describes her paintings as “whimsical, dark and dramatic, which keeps people on their toes.”

Margiotta encourages the uninitiated to come experience it in person. “It’s unusual and not traditional,” she says. “The works speak for themselves.”

Walk into the Oddball Art Hall at 500 Greenhill Ave., between West Fifth Street and West Sixth Street, and you will encounter unique paintings, cutting edge photography, bizarre sculptures and much more; or, as photographer/artist Joe Hoddinott says, “a visual buffet of eclectic artwork.”

The concept had its beginning in late 2014, when Pat McCutcheon, the owner of Oddity Bar, approached Margiotta and illustrator Pat Higgins about doing a “drink and draw night” at his establishment.

Higgins, who describes his art as a mixture of “Harvey Kurtzman (Mad magazine), John Kricfalusi (Ren & Stimpy) and Chuck Jones (Looney Tunes) stuffed inside a blender with punk rock and craft beer,” quickly bought in. He and Margiotta sketched out their ideas, and the OAH was born.

Artists line the main room with their works while a DJ spins records and avant-garde videos play on the multiple television screens. Live model sketching takes place on stage next to the DJ, with the models often adorned in themed costumes, such as those by Ellen Durkan, who creates forged fashions from metal.

The venue itself is part of the attraction. Festooned in a palate of vibrant red and shadowy black, Oddity Bar would not look out of place in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, and many works from Oddball artists over the years decorate its walls. Photographer David Heitur sums up the event this way: “There is so much different and unique art going on in one spot,” he says, “There’s no need to go anywhere else.”

Gus Fink is an artist who says, “I never thought of myself as an oddball, but clearly I am.” Fink, like all OAH artists, is as much an attendee as a participant. With his wife, Emi Boz, they create paintings, plush toys, video games, apparel and comic books, among other works. Last year, they began making short films, thanks to the contacts and friendships they forged at the OAH.

Fink has lived in several major cities, including Chicago, Atlanta and Philadelphia, and has been living off his art for 20 years. “I love Delaware more than any other place,” he says. “The people here care and give.”

“Classic and surreal” photographer Tom Newforge is an artist whose work has sent him around the globe, including Iceland and the Vatican. Asked to provide one word to describe the third Friday event, his response is immediate: “Family. Everyone is extremely supportive of one another and I’ve never felt unwanted or not good enough.” He says this is in stark contrast to the ultra-competitive world of professional photography, where “one false step can lead to being ostracized.”

Mimi Sullivan, owner of the women’s boutique Bloom, is not an exhibiting artist but attends regularly. She sees the OAH as a vital cog in Wilmington’s cultural footprint. “It takes everyone’s effort to keep the local art scene alive and thriving,” she says.

To that end, one of the most enticing elements of the event is being able to see familiar local artists exhibiting new pieces as well as new artists sharing their work. “The Oddball Art Hall is an ever-changing collection of visual artists, photographers and designers,” says Sullivan.

Ric Frane, co-owner of the Talleyville Frame Shop and self-described “horror/monster/pinup artist,” says the OAH “is a great (event) for new artists who may not be ready for a gallery show” that showcases “outsider and lowbrow art.”

Many of the regular exhibitors at the OAH have received local, national and even international recognition. Newforge has won several “Best in Show” awards for his conceptual photography; Margiotta, along with illustrating the international Gustav Gloom children’s book series, has been featured in several art publications; Heitur’s work is hanging in Delaware’s Superior Court House and he has designed the cover of guitar virtuoso Vinnie Moore’s album, Ariel Visions; Higgins recently won a Silver Medallion for Digital Illustration and a Bronze Medallion for Poster Design from the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations; Fink and Boz design apparel for Hot Topic and create toys for Toys “R” Us; they also released a video game last year, Fright Show Fighter, which received positive reviews from the gaming community; Hoddinott won the Wilmington News Journal’s “Best Wedding Photographer” two years in a row and recently had a solo exhibit at the Delaware Contemporary; Durkan has staged and participated in numerous runway shows and her fashions have made the catwalk and display cases as far away as Paris, Australia and South Korea; Frane has illustrated many books, magazines, games and comics and has been featured in publications domestically and abroad, and he’s currently finishing work on the feature film Pale Horse.

These artists wear the oddball badge proudly. In fact, call them “normal” and they might be insulted. Expressing the spirit of OAH, Heitur says, “Normal (stuff) is boring.”

Another All-Star Extravaganza

The Shine A Light concert series continues March 4, with a spotlight on 1977. The fundraiser once again features scores of the area’s top musicians.

67 musicians representing 83 bands
1,240 rehearsal hours
126 volunteers
38 songs
Countless creative collaborations

And that was last year.

The Shine A Light On The Queen concert series has been a hit with the public from the outset, and this year’s event, The Shine A Light on ’77, promises to exceed those numbers on its way to another sell-out and another lucrative fundraiser for the Light Up The Queen Foundation.

Set for 8 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at World Cafe Live at The Queen in Wilmington, the concert will once again bring together an all-star musical lineup of scores of the most popular and revered singers and musicians in the Wilmington area. They’ll be celebrating the music of 1977, when punk and disco were bursting into full flower, signaling a new wave in pop music.

One change fans will note this year is the March date. In previous years, the concerts took place in February, when the chance of inclement weather was a greater variable. In 2015, a stifling blizzard hit the area on the day of the show, rendering many roads impassable.

Yet, says bassist Betty Bullington, “It was a full house. You never would have known the weather was so bad outside.”

For its first three years, the series was a musical tribute to The Rolling Stones. Two years ago, organizers switched gears and decided to fete the music of 1975. It was a 40th anniversary retrospective on what concert co-producer and performer Rob Grant describes as “a time when some of the best music was being made.”

“Besides, we ran out of Rolling Stones songs and, let’s face it, the ‘70s were cool,” he says.
“It [will be] a really big mix of funk, folk, disco, good old country and badass rock and roll,” says Shine A Light performer Davey Dickens Jr. about this year’s show. “There was a lot of stuff going on in 1977—and the 1970s as a whole—musically.”

A Worthy Cause

Grant, who sits on the of the Shine A Light Planning Committee, also performs at the event. He says it gives him and other musicians “an opportunity to play some great music with really talented musicians and performers while also knowing we are helping a worthy cause.”
“The Light Up The Queen Foundation began in 2011 with a single arts education program and has developed and diversified over the years,” says Tina Betz, the Light Up The Queen Foundation executive director.

“The concert is by far the biggest fundraiser for the Foundation, pulling in approximately a half million dollars in its six-year run. The money raised has benefitted over 10,000 young people through musical arts programs,” she adds.

The foundation also provides education on social issues and healthy living, along with education through music and art.

“The concert for the Light Up The Queen Foundation is a truly worthwhile event in a city constantly struggling with their arts programs,” says Joe Trainor, who is seen by many as a leader in the area’s music and theater scene. Trainor has organized many tribute concerts for bands such as The Eagles, Queen and Genesis, outside of his own extensive oeuvre of original work. When asked for one word to describe the event, he didn’t hesitate: “Community.”

“This event brings people together and provides an opportunity to play with others you don’t normally get to play with,” he says, adding that this spirit of community forces everyone to “up their game.”
Trainor enjoys the wider palate the tribute to an entire year offers versus celebrating a single band’s repertoire, because the gamut of music is both a challenge and a change of pace. Other musicians share that view.

“There are no songs we wouldn’t want to play [on the playlist],” according to Tony Cappella, the troubadour bassist from Montana Wildaxe, who also performs with approximately a dozen other bands. “If anything, it gives us a chance as musicians to step out of our comfort zones. We love new challenges and styles.”

Cappella’s own musical career began a few years before 1977. “There is a really good chance I might be playing on a song I haven’t played on in 40 years,” he laughs.

For the performers, the journey to the night of the show rivals the actual show.

Performers jamming at last year’s concert. Photo Joe del Tufo
Performers jamming at last year’s concert. Photo Joe del Tufo

“In a way, the show itself is a bit anti-climactic for the musicians,” says Lew Indellini, lead singer of Special Delivery. “Don’t get me wrong, we love performing for this event, but the meetings, discovering the playlist, the rehearsals and collaborating with some of the most accomplished musicians in the area is one of the best parts of this event for us.”

No Egos

“It’s great to have helped invent something all the performers look forward to,” says Shine A Light Committee member and event co-founder Kevin McCabe, “especially since I’ve looked up to many of these musicians for such a long time.”

Despite the high level of musical accomplishment of the individual performers, “there is no ego” involved, according to McCabe, who also performs. “Everyone has a lot of respect for one another.”

Last year’s show ran much longer than the intended three hours. At the first musicians’ meeting for this year’s show, Grant emphasized quicker change-overs between songs. Singer Dan McGowan and guitarist Mike Petrillo discussed additional production value.

“We believe adding more production value will enhance the experience for the audience,” says Petrillo.
The meeting also was an opportunity for “rookie” musicians—most of them younger—to meet the rest of the members.

“I couldn’t believe how passionate everyone is,” says Samantha Poole, who will be performing at her first Shine A Light event.

“The gig itself is one thing, but the relationships you develop are very special,” she says. “My father used to play in The Sky Band with Nick Bucci when I was 10 years old. I’ve performed onstage with Nick since then, but it will be amazing if I get to perform with him at this year’s event.”

Poole’s father will be in attendance, making it extra special for her.

Newcomer Pat Kane, the wunderkind 20-something guitarist, may be the youngest performer at this year’s event. He will share the stage with some of the “silverbacks”—the musicians who are his grandparents’ age.

“It would be great to continue to add more young musicians and singers each year,” says Poole, to continue what has quickly become a tradition and centerpiece event of the local music landscape.
The Light Up The Queen Foundation “helps feed and cultivate the local arts,” says Betz, “by bringing music to young people who may, one day, be up on that stage themselves performing in a Shine A Light event.”

Tickets are available at the World Cafe Live website, General admission is $60 and a limited number of VIP tickets are available for $250. Kathleen Ford, the Shine A Light Committee chair, says a portion of the price of the tickets is tax deductible. “But,” she adds, “don’t hesitate, because they are going quickly.”