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It’s been 11 years since the first Wilmo Rock Circus, a pop-up show in a then-empty Riverfront space — a popular, some might say legendary, show for the then-new Gable Music Ventures.
The summer after, in 2012, The Ladybug Festival was launched and would become Gable’s most successful, nationally-known event, and reportedly the largest festival to feature all woman-fronted acts in the US.
But that’s another story.
The return of the Rock Circus has been gradual and, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, interrupted, with the 10th anniversary of its first show in November 2011 postponed as a relatively laid-back event at Theatre N.
This year, on Feb. 18, it will have its big comeback at, and in collaboration with, The Queen and its owners Rob and Chris Buccini.
While it isn’t exactly what you’d call a “mainstream” event, it’s a long way from the underground popup show in 2011 — a reflection of Gable’s growth over the last decade.
“We’re taking over the venue,” Gable cofounder Gayle Dillman told Technical.ly. “We’re going to be using the Crown Bar upstairs, and we’re using the main hall as well, with music running simultaneously on both stages.”
A total of 11 bands will be performing this year, including headliner Low Cut Connie of Philly; Cuban-born, Nashville-based quintet Sweet Lizzy Project; and Brooklyn punk band Monte, as well as local bands Lauren and the Homewreckers and Gunpowder Milkshake.
“Which is also a change for us [from] prior years,” noted Dillman. “We didn’t have a headliner. We stepped up the game to get a nationally recognized band like Low Cut Connie. We have more skin in the game as a business.”
They’re also leaning in on the circus theme, with two ringmasters, circus-style entertainers and festival-style food by vendors from the Wilmington Kitchen Collective — a business incubator for food startups.
“The Queen doesn’t offer food surplus anymore,” said Dillman. “So I got this idea to reach out to the Kitchen Collective, run through Wilmington Alliance. We’ve hired Antinette [Watson], whose business is The Stand, and she is going to be coming to make hot dogs and popcorn and french fries and stuff like that; and [Shavonne Fair of Hybrid Bakery] is going to be doing desserts. It’s really cool to support these women in their businesses and to make sure, as a community, we are willing to reach out to support other businesses.”
It’s part of Gable’s core mission of not only building a music scene in Wilmington but supporting Delaware’s economic development via the creative economy.
“I like to say I think that we’re beginning to have a cultural shift, with people understanding that the creative economy doesn’t happen just because you say you want it to happen,” Dillman said. “It happens because you support it. You go and you buy a ticket and you show up at an event. It’s people understanding it’s not whether or not they’re going out it’s where they’re going. I think Delaware is so poised to be a real leader in how to creatively present music. And, you know, the creative economy has billions of dollars of impact. It’s not like it’s insignificant. It’s very significant.”
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