5 Questions with Gad Elmaleh

The French comedian will perform at World Cafe Live at The Queen on Feb. 7

Chances are you haven’t heard of Gad Elmaleh. And he kind of likes it that way.

At least for now.

Imagine: a standup comedian who truly enjoys his anonymity; who’d rather you not know his background before you watch him perform; who’d rather you not know that in France he’s considered one of the funniest people alive.

“It’s refreshing,” says Elmaleh of his newly discovered privacy here in the United States. “To just stand somewhere and stare at people with nobody recognizing me, it’s great. Because I get to live the situation, and to experience it, and enjoy it.”

After more than two decades in comedy in France, and with several TV shows and 22 movies to his credit, Elmaleh took the biggest chance of his career: He moved to America.

Here is a guy known as “the French Jerry Seinfeld”; who broke records by selling out L’Olympia in Paris seven weeks in a row; who was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by France’s Minister of Culture. And he’s essentially starting over at age 45.

“I worked very hard on the English,” Elmaleh says during a recent phone interview, his voice revealing not only a French accent, but an animated eagerness and, at times, a sober earnestness. “Two years ago, we couldn’t have had this conversation.”

A stranger in a strange land that keeps getting stranger with every passing day, Elmaleh is currently on tour and will be playing World Cafe Live at The Queen on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

“I want to do stand-up,” Elmaleh says. “And what you get from this experience—mentally, physically, emotionally, everything—it’s very hard to find this, and retrieve this, and get this with the cinema. It’s a ride, doing stand-up, a crazy ride [with] risk and pleasure and disappointment and fear and anxiety and reinvention and trying every night.

“Starting over is a big challenge.”

Here, he discusses his passion and why he did what he did—leaving great success behind in his homeland.

O&A: What has been the biggest obstacle for you in coming to America to do comedy, other than having to learn the language?

Elmaleh: I think the language is really not the main thing. Obviously, it’s very hard, and you have to write and translate. And talk in English every day with Americans. And watch TV and [understand] it.
But the really shocking, surprising thing [is playing comedy clubs] unannounced. They have no idea who’s going to be there. It’s just 100 percent Americans who have no idea: “Who is this guy with the weird name trying to do jokes in English?”

And the great thing is I feel I need to earn those laughs. It’s not only that I feel—I have to. Because if I’m not funny there…they’re not going to be nice to me or be like, “Oh, he’s traveling from France, let’s give him a break.” And I love that. It’s a good thing. But it’s also very hard. Because when you bomb, you bomb seriously. It’s humbling.

So when I perform in front of 12,000 [in France] and then I go to the Comedy Cellar in New York in front of 100 people who have no idea who I am, it’s a really, really big challenge. And I love it.

Elmaleh has been called “the French Jerry Seinfeld.” Photo Jon Asher
Elmaleh has been called “the French Jerry Seinfeld.” Photo Jon Asher

O&A: When you were on the Jim and Sam Show [featured 8-11 a.m. on Sirius 206 and XM 103], Jim Norton—who has 26 years of experience in comedy —was talking about how after a bad show he questions himself. And this is a veteran comedian questioning himself. Is it like that?

Elmaleh: You know, it’s both. Because I have this thing in the back of my head all the time that says you have nothing to lose. What’s the worst-case scenario? “Oh, that guy with the bad accent was not funny?” It’s okay. It doesn’t matter. It’s a little painful. But it’s not that bad.

Just go home, and I write and rewrite. And listen to my sets, because I record every single set. But I’m lucky that I already made my career in France and made my money and earned my life and had my kids and all that. If I had to struggle and make a living with the standup comedy in the U.S., starting over, I would die. It would be impossible for me.

O&A: There’s this comparison to Jerry Seinfeld. People have been calling you “the French Jerry Seinfeld.” Does that work for you?

Elmaleh: I think it’s kind of lazy to compare people. But it’s good when they compare you to the right person, the person you admire. I do observational comedy…And [Seinfeld and I] have been connected even before we met. Then we became friends, and I went on his show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I open for him often. I travel with him. He comes to Paris sometimes, and performed in Paris in English one night, which I helped arrange.

I always say as a joke, and also to him, that they can compare me to Jerry Seinfeld the day that he performs an hour in French.

O&A: What was that day like, when you did Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Seinfeld? It looked like you had fun. Had you two met before that?

Elmaleh: Yeah, we were friends before. He was really interested in my challenge. He doesn’t understand why I need to come to America to do this. He always makes fun of me and says [in animated voice], “It’s like if you say, ‘OK, I’m going to go to Italy and start a pasta factory, and then I’m going to go to Germany and start building cars!”

And he’s making fun of me and he says, “You know it’s standup comedy. You’re from France. You should stay there.”

But I want him to understand… standup comedy was born in the U.S. If you play soccer you want to be with the best team. If you play baseball, you want to be in the city where baseball is No. 1. So I came to New York.

O&A: You were in the Woody Allen movie Midnight in Paris. You played the detective. And a theme in that movie was that people kept looking back in the past for a golden age. Everyone was looking back into the past. That said, when was the “Golden Age of Comedy” for you? Were there comedians that inspired you? Or would you say now is the best time for comedy?

Elmaleh: It’s funny, because I’ve been inspired as an artist not only by comedians. And it’s really interesting how you can be inspired by different role models that are not necessarily comedians.
The shock that I had when I saw Charlie Chaplin, when I was a kid. And the movie was The Kid. I was a little boy in Casablanca, Morocco. It was a shock. It was really an important moment for me.
Also, I don’t know why, but I also immediately thought of Frank Sinatra. I don’t know why. When I put on a song from Sinatra, it’s not only the music that I hear, I hear a whole time. A time, an epoch, a way of life.

There’s a whole atmosphere. There’s a whole environment. And if I could go back in time, I would really love to attend one of his concerts, and hang out with him, and [see] him hang out with the Rat Pack. There’s something really classic that I’m nostalgic about. Maybe I’m just getting old, but that’s what inspires me.

 

All In the Timing

Davey Dickens Jr. picked up a guitar six years ago. Next month, his band releases its debut album.

It’s funny how much difference five years can make in a person’s life.

Take local country musician Davey Dickens Jr. for instance. It wasn’t until 2011, when Dickens was 32 years old, that he started playing guitar. Yet, just five years later, in March 2016, he found himself in one of Wilmington’s most esteemed recording studios, performing and recording his songs with some of the area’s most seasoned musicians—members of the then newly formed Davey Dickens Jr. and the Troubadours.

“I’d never stepped foot in a studio, ever,” Dickens says, his voice betraying amazement at where he is today: His band releases its debut self-titled album on Feb. 16 at World Cafe Live at The Queen.

The album features eight songs penned by Dickens and touches on life’s challenges as well as some of its joys. Montana Wildaxe co-founder and guitarist Kurt Houff encouraged the project early on.

“Kurt and I got to be pretty good buddies,” Dickens says. “He started coming up to the house, and we did a couple of song-writing sessions. [Then] we started playing out a lot as The Troubadours.”

The Troubadours came to include a former bandmate of Dickens, Dave Van Allen, on pedal steel, along with Houff’s fellow Montana Wildaxe bassist Tony Cappella and former Caulfields drummer Ritchie Rubini, who did double-duty as producer during the band’s sessions at Studio 825 last year.
“I’m so blessed to have such a force,” says Dickens.

For Dickens, those blessings included attracting the interest of Johnny Neel, famed keyboardist most known for his time with The Allman Brothers. After getting a copy of Dickens’ material, the Wilmington-born Neel agreed to return to his native state to play on the album.

While Dickens is somewhat amazed at the band’s success, he isn’t resting on his laurels. “We’ve got a lot more material,” he says.

Davey Dickens Jr. and the Troubadours play Upstairs at World Cafe Live at The Queen on Feb. 16. Advance tickets are $10 and include a copy of the new album plus a band t-shirt. More details at worldcafelive.com.

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, WorldCafeLive.com. 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.”

Tuned In – Jan. 2017

Not-to-be-missed music news

Firefly: Now A Fan-Curated Music Festival

Firefly Music Festival, the East Coast’s largest music and camping festival, has taken fan engagement and interaction to a new level. Through a variety of consumer-focused initiatives, including fan surveys, votes and contests, Firefly has become the first-ever fan-curated music festival.

Since the festival’s inception in 2012, the organization has embraced fan feedback regarding the acts they would most want to take stage at The Woodlands in Dover. This which has directly impacted the lineup each year. Moving forward, Firefly organizers will be incorporating fan feedback into additional major decisions and changes for the festival. Examples of fan voting options include the lineup, merchandise designs and products, attractions, cocktails and food, camping and festival amenities, and more.

This summer’s Firefly is June 15-18 at The Woodlands. Ticket sales and the lineup will be announced soon. Four-day general admission passes will go on sale at the initial price of $289 and VIP at $699. General tent camping will start at $169.

To create a profile and begin voting on a variety of attractions and topics for Firefly 2017, fans can head to FireflyFestival.com and view the Community Page.

A Neil Young Tribute

On Sunday, Jan. 15, at World Cafe Live at The Queen, tribute band Broken Arrow will play the music of Neil Young—both the electric guitar-driven favorites and the country flavored classics with pedal steel and acoustic guitar. Veteran Philadelphia rockers Joe Mass, Larry Freedman and Danny Gold promise “good old Neil with some improvisational interstellar jamming and a few very cool departures and side trips,” according to their website.

Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8. Tickets are $12 in advance and $14 day of show. Visit worldcafelive.com for more information.

Donny McCaslin Comes to Town

Saxophonist Donny McCaslin and his band—the Donny McCaslin Group—are coming to Arden Gild Hall on Saturday, Jan. 14. The band is featured on the David Bowie album Blackstar, which has garnered significant worldwide acclaim since its release last January. A three-time Grammy nominee for Best Instrumental Jazz Solo, McCaslin was raised in Santa Cruz, Calif. After playing in his father’s band as a teenager, he attended Berklee College of Music and, in his senior year, joined the Gary Burton Quintet. From there he toured with various artists and received dozens of awards while recording 11 CDs.

The Jan. 14 show is at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 for members and $25 for general admission. The concert also features Tim Lefebvre, Mark Guiliana and Jason Lindner.

Pressing Strings at Grain

Pressing Strings, a trio based out of Annapolis, Md., blends American roots, blues, folk, rock and reggae. They’ll be at Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen in Newark on Saturday, Jan. 7. The music stems from lead singer Jordan Sokel’s bluesy and soulful songwriting and is firmly anchored by drummer Brandon Bartlett and bassist Nicholas Welker. The band released two recordings last year, Five from Three (March), a five-track EP done mostly live with minimal overdubbing, and Most Of Us (summer) on which the band teamed up with producer Scott Jacoby (John Legend, Jose James, Vampire Weekend) and engineer/producer Neil Dorfsman (Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits, Bob Dylan).

For more information, visit pressingstrings.com. The show starts at 9 p.m.

Playing the Ace of Hearts

Local jazz, blues and funk quartet Ace of Hearts is performing Thursday, Jan. 19, at Gallucio’s Restaurant at 1709 Lovering Ave., Wilmington, from 8 to 11 p.m. The group melds guitars with electric bass and drums. Ron Sherr is on guitar and vocals, Dillingham McDaniel plays electric bass, Harry Spencer is saxophonist and Desmond Kahn plays drums. Check the band’s Facebook page—The Ace of Hearts Delaware—for more upcoming appearances.

Tuned In – Dec. 2016

Not-to-be-missed-music-news

Reeds Refuge Music Video Release
Reeds Refuge Center, the nonprofit on Pine Street in Wilmington that helps at-risk kids grow through the performing arts in a secure, nurturing environment, premiered a major video at World Cafe Live at The Queen on Nov. 22. The video, Believe, was created as a collaboration between 105 local children and artists in Wilmington, with varying socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, celebrating unity and oneness. The premiere included live performances by the children and artists who participated in the creation of Believe.

“This project will show that children and adults from all walks of life can come together in unity, breaking the racial barriers that divide us,” says founder Fred Reed.
Watch the video at reedsrefugecenter.org.

Mean Lady Releases New Single
Last month Newark mainstay Mean Lady dropped a new single, “The Ghost,” with the promise of an upcoming full-length album, Nature.

The duo of Sam Nobles and Katie Dill have been on hiatus for a couple of years since vocalist Dill moved to Los Angeles after recording rough demos of “The Ghost” and other songs on the upcoming album in 2014. Since then, says keyboardist/bassist/producer Nobles, the songs have been collecting dust, but the pair recently decided to polish and release them.

“We sent the tracks back and forth online to share notes and ideas. We’re hoping to have a full, 10-song album out within the next month or two,” says Nobles.

“The Ghost” delves into human nature—or rather, its dark side, says Dill.

“It’s a song about evil. Like, ‘Hey, we are all responsible for the evil ones and what they decide to do, and hey, we are all responsible for what the little ones say because they are learning from our example.’ It’s also about not leaving people behind who are evil—if you love yourself more than you love them, then you keep the cycle of evil going.”

Listen to the single at meanlady.bandcamp.com.

‘Freak Folk Cover Band’ Debuts Dec. 17
New Castle County Community Orchestra’s inaugural concert “Psych! Not,” is set for Saturday, Dec. 17, at 1984 in Wilmington. The self-labeled “freak folk cover band” plays ‘90s grunge songs—with a catch. This show is intended as an audience sing-a-long. Local band Cadillac Riot will join NCCCO.
For more information, visit 1984wilmington.com.

Video Games Live Concert
Video Games Live is an award-winning immersive concert event featuring music from the most popular video games of all time. Created, produced and hosted by well-known game industry veteran Tommy Tallarico, it features performances by top orchestras and choirs along with exclusive synchronized video footage and music arrangements, synchronized lighting, well-known internet solo performers, electronic percussion, live action and unique interactive segments to create an explosive one-of-a-kind entertainment experience. Tickets are on sale now for the May 20 event at The Grand, featuring the Delaware Symphony Orchestra.

For more information, visit tickets.thegrandwilmington.org.

Dickinson Theatre Organ Christmas Concert
Celebrate the holiday season with the Dickinson Theatre Organ Society. On Saturday, Dec. 3, some of the best musicians in the First State are joining critically-acclaimed organist Scott Foppiano at John Dickinson High School Auditorium for a Christmas music spectacular.

Seasonal favorites will be played from 7-10 p.m. featuring guest performances by Johannes Brass, Caroline Quinn, Jackson Caldwell, Alex Weir, Michael Marinelli and more.

For 40 years, the DTOS has presented concerts by the finest theater organists while enhancing the Mighty Kimball Pipe Organ into an instrument capable of presenting the full palette of musical expression from classical to pop. Housed in Dickinson High School, it is presently the fourth-largest theater pipe organ in the world.

Tickets, available at dtoskimball.org, are $15.

Singing Southern Sisters at The Queen
On Thursday, Dec. 8, Muscle Shoals, Ala.-natives The Secret Sisters—siblings Laura and Lydia Rogers—will bring their southern-roots sound to World Cafe Live at The Queen.

Growing up surrounded by the sounds of the South and the music emanating from Muscle Shoals, the sisters were heavily influenced by a range of American musical styles, including country, bluegrass and gospel, as well as classic rock and pop. They listened to George Jones and Loretta Lynn, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, The Ramones, Fiona Apple and Rufus Wainwright.

Now the duo is working on their third studio album, which is expected to release in early 2017.
Tickets for the show, starting at 8 p.m., are $15. Visit worldcafelive.com for more.

Montana Wildaxe: 30 Years and Still Jammin’

And they’re as popular as ever. Catch them at The Queen Dec. 29.

There are a handful of Delaware bands that have been around for years and years: Love Seed Mama Jump, The Bullets, Dr. Harmonica & Rockett 88 and The Cameltones are just a few that come to mind. They all include plenty of cover songs in their acts, and they’re all still playing regular gigs, whether it’s throughout the summer at the beach or even this month in Trolley Square.

But Montana Wildaxe trumps them all, having played the local scene for more than 30 years. Their unique blend of Grateful Dead and Allman Bros. covers, psychedelic rock, and jam band improvisation attracts hippies and hipsters alike. It’s a style and vibe that’s difficult to describe unless you’ve seen them live.

These days, “Montana,” as fans affectionately call them, are as popular as ever, even though they play less than a handful of dates each year. While that statement might not make sense on the surface, it’s a matter of simple economics; the diminishing supply of live performances has resulted in an increase in popularity and demand, both with diehard fans and the venues still fortunate enough to host the band.

Uncovering the Cover Band

Back in the ‘80s, the music scene was a whole lot different, according to Montana Wildaxe bassist and vocalist Tony Cappella. Original bands dominated the scene in the tristate area, and now-defunct Wilmington hotspots like The Barn Door and The Coyote Café featured live and local originals most nights of the week.

“There were a ton of original bands back then, really, and if they had any chops, they had no problem finding venues to play in Delaware,” Cappella says. “I think a lot of it sparked from acts like George Thorogood and The Hooters, who really opened the door. Everyone who could play an instrument jumped on the bandwagon, hoping to be the next big thing.”

Cappella joined Montana Wildaxe in 1987, just a few years after Kurt Houff (lead guitar, vocals) and Chip Porter (rhythm guitar, lead vocals) had started the band with a few other musicians. The current lineup that includes keyboardist Dan Long, percussionist Tim Kelly, and drummer/vocalist Glenn Walker would form in full by 1991.

Porter says he and Houff decided to become a jam band for two reasons: they wanted to improvise musically, rather than being boring or repetitive, and their vocal and guitar abilities somewhat mirrored the godfathers of the jam band, the Grateful Dead.

“I’d probably seen the Dead 100 times by the time we started the band,” says Porter. “Jerry Garcia’s guitar solos were the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. Plus, we could sing like Garcia and Bob Weir, who were some of rock’s greatest poets ever.”

Houff says the arrangement of the songs and the style of the music are big reasons why the band has stayed together for so long, even if in a somewhat limited capacity the last decade or so. “Each song, each night is up for specific interpretation. Each and every moment is the product of all the preceding moments.”

Houff says he knew the band would be successful from the get-go, but didn’t know it would be a lasting part of his life until sometime in the ‘90s. For Cappella, however, the first gig he played with Montana Wildaxe set the tone for decades to come.

“I remember my first show with Montana, downstairs at the Logan House. The place was packed and the smell of weed was in the air,” Cappella says. “I’m not sure I’d ever seen a cover band get a crowd like that before. From then on, any Deadhead within spitting distance knew about us, and they came out in droves to see us play.”

Low Supply, High Demand

After nearly 20 years of hitting it hard on the local circuit, the members of Montana Wildaxe decided to play fewer shows as they moved closer to middle age, with families and full-time jobs taking up much of their time. But rather than fade into the music scene ether, they’ve continued to show up.

“I think our musical chemistry is the main element that has kept us together for so long,” Walker says. “We are all very good listeners while we play and can pick up and follow subtle variations in the music as it’s being played. The crowds are proof that it works.”

Staff members at World Cafe Live at The Queen on Market Street feel as if it works pretty well, even though Montana only plays there two or three times a year (including an upcoming annual holiday show on Thursday, Dec. 29). Director of Programming Christianna LaBuz is a longtime fan who is especially looking forward to jamming with Montana.

“Their shows are a social event that everyone—the fans and our staff alike—always look forward to,” LaBuz says. “They’re wonderful humans to deal with on a professional level from beginning to end and their music is phenomenal. The guys also play with so many other folks and contribute their talents toward many of the collaborative shows we present throughout the year.”

When Kelly’s Logan House General Manager Tim Crowley was asked to plan a 60th birthday party for one of the bar’s most esteemed guests, the idea of featuring a live band upstairs was suggested. Crowley booked Montana Wildaxe without blinking an eye.

“They’ve been playing here for years, so there is certainly a longstanding connection between Montana and Kelly’s, but it’s more than that,” Crowley says. “If we have a big event and I have my druthers, Montana Wildaxe is my first choice because they always have a great crowd and bring an incredible, fun vibe.”

For Cappella, the high praise comes as a welcome surprise. “I think we can actually be a pain in the ass to deal with,” he says, laughing. “But I guess that’s with each other since we’ve been together so long. It’s nice to hear, though.”

A Literal Connection

So, what’s with the name, many people ask. Who is from Montana, and what does “Wildaxe” even mean? The genesis, it turns out, goes back to the band’s college days in the ‘80s at the University of Delaware. One of Porter’s roommates, an English major, coined the name while reading the Kurt Vonnegut classic, Slaughterhouse-Five.

“It was a big house, and one of the many people coming and going gave the name to our bassist at the time, who was always wearing a cowboy hat while he was practicing,” Porter says. “The character from the book was named ‘Montana Wildhack,’ but we changed the ‘hack’ to ‘axe,’ to reference the guitar. The ‘Montana’ part fit because of the big hat he wore.”

It’s a story that every band member is familiar with, even if they’re not familiar with Vonnegut’s sci-fi story. Neither Porter, nor Long, nor Walker, nor Cappella have read the book. Only Houff, who coincidentally shares the same first name as the novel’s author, has read the World War II satire.

“The biggest parallel I made when we stuck with that name is that Vonnegut writes the book in these flashes of going back and forth in time,” Houff says. “I’ve always felt like music has the ability to do that, to transport us to different places in our minds.”

Tickets to Montana Wildaxe’s Dec. 29 show at The Queen are on sale at worldcafelive.com for $13, or $15 the day of the show. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show begins at 8.

A Toast to Holiday Events

We’ve compiled a list of every manner of merriment to help get you into the bell-ringing, carol-singing, candle-lighting, reindeer-sighting, eggnog-guzzling, mistletoe-nuzzling mood. Happy Holidays to all!

Longtime Holiday Traditions

Yuletide at Winterthur
Now–Jan. 8, 2017 | Winterthur Museum & Gardens
Yuletide is one of the most beautiful times at Winterthur, with tree displays adorning the rooms and the Conservatory; sparkling trees and American Christmas vignettes—scenes inspired by Currier & Ives, holiday decorations from Mississippi in the Civil War era and the White House in the early 1900s. New this year in The Galleries stair hall: a 6×3-foot, slate-roofed, fully electrified dollhouse inspired by Queen Mary’s dollhouse, created by Nancy McDaniel and donated to Winterthur.

A Longwood Christmas
Now–Jan. 8, 2017 | Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pa.
The sounds of the season resonate through the gardens in this year’s musically inspired display. Highlights include an 18-foot Fraser fir adorned with a garland of musical instruments in the Music Room; holiday horticulture showcasing more than 6,000 seasonal plants; organ sing-alongs, strolling carolers and performances throughout the estate; and three fire pits—at the Hour Glass Lake Pavilion, Peirce-du Pont House Plaza and Dogwood Plaza—available (weather permitting) for guests’ enjoyment from 4:30–10 pm.

Family Holiday Fun

Breakfast with Santa
Saturday, Dec. 3, 11 am | Delaware Museum of Natural History
Enjoy a special pancake breakfast and a visit with Santa. Get your picture taken with him and let him know if you’ve been naughty or nice. Afterward, take an afternoon tour at the Museum. Tickets are $5 for members and $9 for non-members. Pre-registration is required at delmnh.org.

Holiday Sing!
Sunday, Dec. 4, 3 pm | The Music School of Delaware, Wilmington Branch
This musical sing-a-long for the whole family is hosted by the Early Childhood Department of the Music School and marks their 26th annual seasonal celebration. Music School faculty and friends provide instruments, singing and fun. Free, and good for ages 1½ and up.

Chesapeake Brass Band
Holiday Concert
Saturday, Dec. 10, 7 pm
Grace Episcopal Church, Wilmington
This 35-piece award-winning brass band presents a high-spirited performance of classical, traditional and popular holiday favorites. This event is free.

Holiday Family Festivities at the Delaware Art Museum
Saturday, Dec. 10, 10:30 am
Delaware Art Museum
Enjoy a host of family-friendly activities at the Museum this holiday season. In Kids’ Corner, explore a geometric winter wonderland, add to the interactive igloo and build 3-D snowflakes. Families can also take a wintry walk through the Copeland Sculpture Garden to search for geometric shapes. Free with museum admission.

Legos & Latkes for Kids: A Pre-Chanukah Program
Sunday, Dec. 18, 12:15-2 pm
Chabad Center for Jewish Life, Wilmington
This popular, community-wide event helps parents and kids enter Chanukah with spirit—by making their own Lego Menorah and delicious latkes. Cost is $12-16 per Lego Menorah set, and online registration is required to guarantee a Menorah. Register at ChabadDE.com/register.

Chanukah Family Fun Festival
Tuesday, Dec. 27, 5-7 pm
Chabad Center for Jewish Life, Wilmington
Bring the whole family to this party, which will feature a public menorah lighting, a professional entertainer, a delicious Chinese buffet dinner, a moonbounce, games, Chanukah crafts, festive Jewish Music, face painting, prizes and more. Early-bird tickets (purchase before Dec. 23) are $20 for adults and $12 for kids. Register at ChabadDE.com/ChanukahEvents.

Holiday Theatrics

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some!)
Friday, Dec. 2–Saturday, Dec. 10 | Chapel Street Players, Newark
Instead of performing Charles Dickens’ holiday classic for the umpteenth time, three actors decide to perform every Christmas story ever told—plus Christmas traditions from around the world, seasonal icons from ancient times to topical pop culture, and carols too. A madcap romp through the holiday season! Tickets to $18.

Christmas by Candlelight
Now–Friday, Dec. 23 | The Candlelight Theater, Arden
Back by popular demand, this heartwarming yuletide celebration features some of your favorite holiday tunes performed by some of your favorite “Candlelighters.”

A Christmas Carol
Wednesday, Dec. 7–Friday, Dec. 30
Delaware Theatre Company, Wilmington
Ebenezer Scrooge returns to the DTC stage as he transforms from a stingy miser to a man who generously celebrates the spirit of the season all year long. Don’t be left out in the cold for this stunning adaptation of a timeless holiday classic. Tickets are $40-50 and available at delawaretheatre.org.

Sparkling Holiday Dance

Wilmington Ballet Academy of the Dance —
50th Annual Nutcracker
Saturday, Dec. 3 and Sunday, Dec. 4 | The Playhouse on Rodney Square
Kick off the season with one of Wilmington’s most enduring holiday traditions—the story of young Clara on Christmas night as she is tangled in a battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King in the Land of Sweets. Wilmington Ballet’s performance features New York City Ballet principal dancers Abi Stafford and Adrian Danchig-Waring as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Live music will be provided by the Wilmington Ballet Orchestra and Chorus, and the beloved Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble will perform. This year, Gov. Jack Markell and First Lady Carla Markell will make a cameo appearance in the Dec. 3 2 pm show to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

Christina Cultural Arts Center — Eleone Dance Theater’s 25th Anniversary of “Carols in Color”
Sunday, Dec. 11, 4 pm | The Grand Opera House
For a unique holiday treat, check out this one-day-only performance in Wilmington. “Carols” is a stirring holiday musical that retells the story of Christ’s birth according to the gospel of St. Matthew using contemporary music, exuberant dance and powerful narration. Tickets are $25-35, available at tickets.thegrandwilmington.org or 800.37GRAND.

First State Ballet Theatre — The Nutcracker
Saturday, Dec. 17, 2 and 7 pm and Sunday, Dec.18, 2 pm
The Grand Opera House, Wilmington
Delaware’s only professional ballet company presents Wilmington’s favorite holiday tradition, The Nutcracker. Experience the magical journey through the land of sweets in FSBT’s lavish production. Tickets are $14.99-45 and are available at tickets.thegrandwilmington.org or 800.37GRAND.

Do You Hear What I Hear? Holiday Music!
Thursday Noontime Concert — Cartoon Christmas Trio
Thursday, Dec. 1, 12:30 pm | First & Central Presbyterian Church, Rodney Square
Market Street Music welcomes back the Cartoon Christmas Trio for one of downtown’s favorite holiday traditions. Jazz music from the beloved cartoon “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will fill the sanctuary of First & Central. The concert is free to attend, but donations are gratefully accepted.

First State Symphonic Band Christmas Concert
Friday, Dec. 2, 7:30 pm | Emmanuel Presbyterian Church
First State Symphonic Band gets you into the season with some of the most popular holiday music—Tchaikovsky’s Suite from The Nutcracker, Symphonic Prelude on Adeste Fidelis and medleys of popular and traditional Christmas carols. The concert will conclude with the Leroy Anderson classics, “A Christmas Festival” and “Sleigh Ride.”

Festival Concert — Mastersingers of Wilmington Nativity Carols
Saturday, Dec. 3, 7:30 pm | First & Central Presbyterian Church, Rodney Square
Market Street Music’s holiday concert features its own Mastersingers with conductor David Schelat and organist Marvin Mills. Their program includes music by Marvin Mills, Neil Harmon, Paul Manz, Jonathan Dove and more. Tickets are $20 ($25 at the door) and are available at marketstreetmusicde.org.

A Jazz Christmas — featuring The Wilson Somers Trio
Sunday, Dec. 4, 7:30 pm | Laird Performing Arts Center at The Tatnall School
Emmy Award-winning composer and pianist Wilson Somers leads his jazz trio—Somers on piano; Pete Paulson, contrabass, and Glenn Ferricone, percussion—along with guest artists Ed Kirkpatrick, tenor saxophone; Wes Morton, vibes; The Tatnall Singers and singer Annie Fitch in traditional and contemporary treatments of holiday favorites, all to benefit Family Promise of Northern New Castle County. Tickets are $15-20 and are available through the event Facebook page, facebook.com/jazzchristmas.

An All-Star Christmas
Sunday, Dec. 4, 8 pm | World Cafe Live at The Queen, Wilmington
A star-studded seasonal celebration featuring regional music scene faves Jimmy McFadden, Kevin Walsh, Billy Penn Burger, Steve Prentice, Samantha Desper Poole, Chris Duncan, Ritchie Rubini and Tony Cappella. Tickets are $12 and are available at ticketfly.com.

The Wilmington Children’s Chorus Annual Candlelight Holiday Concert
Saturday, Dec. 10, 7 pm & Sunday, Dec. 11, 5 pm | First & Central Presbyterian, Rodney Square
Join the Wilmington Children’s Chorus as they celebrate the season, showcasing holiday music from around the world. The performance features all 150 members of the Youth Choirs, Select Choir, Young Men’s Ensemble and Chamber Choir at First and Central Presbyterian Church. Tickets are $10-$20; call 763-3637 to order.

Holiday Choral Concert
Sunday, Dec. 11, 4 pm | St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, Wilmington
The Music School of Delaware’s Delaware Women’s Chorus and Adult Jazz Choir join the Choir from St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, singers from New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church and Brandywine Brass in performance. Music for chorus, chorus with brass quintet and brass quintet alone will round out the program. A community carol sing will follow the concert. Admission is a non-perishable food item.

Thursday Noontime Concert — Center City Chorale’s Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
Thursday, Dec. 15, 12:30 pm | First & Central Presbyterian Church, Rodney Square
Market Street Music continues its musical holiday celebration with delightful carol arrangements sung by Wilmington’s Downtown Choir, including brilliant arrangements of well-known carols by Howard Helvey. Guest pianists Neil Harmon and Hiroko Yamazaki join the chorale. The concert is free, but donations are gratefully accepted.

Halls that Are Decked

Rockwood Holiday Open House
Friday, Dec. 2, 6 pm | Rockwood Museum
There’s something for the entire family at the 16th Annual Holiday Open House: live entertainment, children’s activities, refreshments, free photos with Santa, museum tours and a festive light display in the gardens of the Mansion and Carriage House; and New Castle County Youth Entrepreneur’s Secret Santa Shoppe, selling gifts for the whole family. Entertainment includes Delaware Arts Conservatory performing excerpts from The Snow Queen; Delaware Children’s Theatre performing a preview of Willy Wonka; the Imagination Players; Kathryn Ciminello Dance Troupe; Cab Calloway Middle School choirs; the UD Children’s Choir and more. The event is free to attend, but families are asked to bring a nonperishable food item or new mittens, hats or scarves for the Giving Tree.

Holiday House Tour
Saturday, Dec. 10, 9 am | Delaware Art Museum
The Museum’s holiday house tour enters its 30th year. Start at the museum with artisan shopping followed by a tour of historic Greenville houses decked out for the holidays. Homes open at 10 am. Proceeds benefit the Museum’s educational programs. Tickets range from $25-60 and are available at DelArtHolidayHouseTour.org.

Old Fashioned Christmas at Bellevue Mansion
Now – Dec. 18, 10 am-4 pm | Bellevue State Park
Step back in time into the beautifully decorated Bellevue Mansion at Bellevue State Park. Visit with Father Christmas, sit and listen to the storyteller, view the train display, custom-designed for the holiday by the First State Model Railroad Club. The Mansion provides not only an old-fashioned experience but also many holiday picture-taking and “selfie” opportunities. Tickets are $15 (children under 2 admitted free) and are available at eventbrite.com.

Hagley Twilight Tours
Tuesdays & Wednesdays, Dec.13-14 through Dec. 27-28, 4:30-7 pm
Hagley Museum
Enjoy a rare opportunity to see Eleutherian Mills—the first du Pont family home in America—dressed for the holidays with softly glowing lights, lace, fresh greenery, poinsettias, and dried flower arrangements. Admission is free for members and $10 for non-members. Space is limited and reservations are required. Call 658-2400, ext. 261.

Holiday Greens Workshop
Saturday, Dec. 3, 9 am | Delaware Center for Horticulture, Wilmington
Add sparkle and beauty to your holiday decorations at the annual Holiday Greens Workshop. Create a beautiful wreath or table arrangement from an unusual collection of fresh greens, dried flowers, seeds, fruit and ribbon. Experts will be on hand to provide guidance. Bring hand pruners and gloves to work with prickly materials. Tickets are $45 for members and $55 for non-members. Space is limited, so reserve by calling 658-6262.