Summer is the time for enjoying a night outside listening to some great music.
Philadelphia has plenty of options for outdoor concerts, from Festival Pier to the Mann Center for Performing Arts or taking a ferry to BB&T Pavilion.
But over in Wilmington, there is a growing music scene that you might not know about.
And on July 21, you can enjoy some local music outside there with a healthy dose of feminism courtesy of the fifth annual Ladybug Festival, which features all local, female musicians.
For Wilmington native Jeremy Hebbel, the growing popularity of Wilmington as a stage for local musicians is a personal feat.
Hebbel was working as a guitar tech at a local music store when a customer brought in her daughter’s guitar, upset that her daughter would be without a guitar for six to eight weeks while hers was getting repaired.
Hebbel offered the woman his guitar for her daughter to use in the meantime.
The woman ended up being Gayle Dillman, his now-business partner and co-founder of Gable Music Ventures, which the two co-own and helped revitalize the once-static music scene in Wilmington.
It started with Hebbel helping Dillman’s daughter’s duo get off the ground. He was looking for a place for them to play, which proved rather difficult.
“It became evident very quickly there was no place in Wilmington for two 15-year-old girls to play their original music,” Hebbel recalled.
Dillman wanted to fix that and start a business, which then became Gable Music Ventures.
They started renting out spaces in the city for musicians to play, including the Bernard and Ruth Siegel Jewish Community Center, which was where they held their first show. It’s also where Hebbel spent his summers growing up.
While the bar scene proved solid ground for cover bands, “there was a struggling if at all original music scene in Wilmington, especially for younger kids,” Hebbel said of the time Gable started.
They help musicians find venues for shows in the area — from restaurants looking to hire entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights to farmers markets — and help them gain exposure.
For Hebbel, who grew up in a musical home and fostered his love of music by being involved with organizations like the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), what he’s doing now is a dream come true.
Especially since he doesn’t think he has the temperament to be a full-time musician anymore, he laughed, though he has been in bands himself as a drummer.
“I love what I’m doing now because I get to basically find these performers that are really trying to make it and give them a series of opportunities to grow along the way and grow with them,” he said. “I found what I’m meant to do.”
Gable Music Ventures has become known for a few musical staples in the area now. At World Cafe Live, which had opened in Wilmington around the same time Gable started and proved an early beneficial relationship, on Wednesdays they put on a variety show called “Wilmo Wednesdays.”
“There’s six or seven acts that play every week, we’ll have comedy, poetry, puppetry — I like keeping the audience on their toes,” Hebbel said.
The other big thing is the Ladybug Music Festival.
If your first thought was that it sounds like another buggy festival taking place in Dela-ware, you’re on the right track.
When the Firefly Music Festival in Dover was first announced five years ago, it was a big deal because the state of Delaware had never had anything like that before, Hebbel recalled.
However, many who wanted to go couldn’t afford it and there were some musicians who might have felt slighted by not being asked to be included, since it was in their home state.
Thus Ladybug was born.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to do a free event and have all local artists and do it a day before Firefly,’” Hebbel said. “We knew we wanted to have a bug theme, and Gayle said Ladybug.”
The “lady” in Ladybug inspired an idea — making the festival all female performers, “which is amazing because women are so underrepresented in the festival circuit. Everything came together beautifully.”
When you look at some of the festival circuits, he added, of the 80 to 100 acts they feature, maybe 15 are women, and fewer are headliners.
“It’s really kind of cool to have this event for women celebrating women in music. It’s an empowerment thing.”
Making the festival free worked out because at the same time they began planning it (which took about six weeks), local business owners on the block where they were planning Ladybug had come to them and suggested doing a block party — the perfect venue for an outdoor music festival.
“We thought we would just do it once, but it was one of those things that you know you’ve got something right,” Hebbel said.
Firefly has since moved to mid-June, but Ladybug continues to take place the third Thursday of July each year.
“It was so cool and well-received that we were like it’s all right on its own, so we kept it on the third Thursday,” Hebbel said. “We built on it a little bit every year with more artists and an outdoor stage and now it’s massive.”
This year, there will be about 50 performers in a five-hour time period, with headliners including Caroline Rose, who has been touring with Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, and Nadjah Nicole. You may recognize the latter if you watched the last season of The Voice.
Attendees will have the chance to see emerging artists and experience unfamiliar music across all genres. While Firefly features more indie rock bands that your hipster cousin probably knows, Ladybug features all types of music.
“We really go out of way with this event to represent everybody,” Hebbel emphasized. “Not just all singer-songwriter or one genre. We have jazz, blues, country, rock and roll, punk, metal, hip-hop, children’s music — so many different things going on.”
He hopes that the festival — which also will include vendors with arts and crafts — will create a relaxing vibe and allow guests to enjoy new music, as well as the nearby businesses.
“Very infrequently do people in Philadelphia travel to Wilmington to see live music,” Hebbel noted. “I enjoy reversing that flow a little bit, it’s free parking in the city after 6, and it’s quiet and cool, there’s great places to eat and drink.”
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