Shine A Light on ’75: Can You Dig It?

Krista Connor

The fourth annual Light Up The Queen benefit on Feb. 21 switches from Rolling Stones covers to focus on ‘a crazy time’ in the music world

Three years ago, when he co-produced the first Shine A Light event, Rob Grant had no clue if it would attract a sizeable crowd, or how the audience would react to a group of area musicians playing Rolling Stones covers.

His worries were unfounded. The World Cafe Live at The Queen show sold out, and the crowd, as they say, went wild.

“The musicians rode that energy through one of the most exciting nights any of us had ever experienced,” says Grant.

After the show he was hanging out with one of the participating musicians, Michael Davis from The Bullets. Both he and Davis were dumbfounded.

“I said, ‘that was…’ and Michael finished my sentence with, ‘the best music thing ever in Delaware.’”

Shine A Light—now called Shine A Light On ‘75—is back on Friday, Feb. 21, on the Copeland Theater stage at The Queen. This time, though, the format will switch from Rolling Stones covers to focus on the best music of 40 years ago.

“We felt that three years of the Stones were enough,” says Grant. “We did a pretty comprehensive cover of the Stones’ catalog, and we wanted to keep the event fresh.”

He explains that organizers discussed playing other bands’ work, but they couldn’t decide on another group that offered a sufficient range of music. So they decided to focus on a particular year.

They chose 1975 because it represents what Grant calls “a crazy time” in the music world –the mid-to-late-‘70s. The music of the ‘60s had evolved and was still a dominant force, he says, while punk and disco were just starting to get traction; you could go from Zeppelin to Abba to Freddie Fender in a single segment. This year also marks four decades since 1975.

Grant says organizers will probably focus on 1976 and 1977 in the next two years before shifting themes again.

Shine A Light originated from an idea between two friends, Grant and Chip Porter, the event co-founder and guitarist/vocalist in area band Montana Wildaxe. In 2005 they founded Jam On The Brandywine, an annual September music event that is now the biggest fundraiser for the Brandywine Valley Association.

Porter had the idea for a winter show, and after a few meetings that included others area musicians, Shine A Light was born. A fundraiser for The Queen’s nonprofit Light Up The Queen Foundation, it has raised $158,000 since 2012. The funds help defray LUQ’s operating expenses and fund arts enrichment programs offered at no cost to schools located primarily in Wilmington’s underserved communities. Last year’s concert raised approximately $80,000, the most in the event’s short history.

This year, Grant says, there will be more horns and backing vocals, string instruments and a pedal steel guitar. Each song will feature a different lineup from 60 of the area’s most prominent musicians, who represent multiple generations of the local music scene. Davis from The Bullets, Grant from The Cameltones and Ben LeRoy from The Snap are just some of the artists who will perform.

“That’s what makes this event so special, because you get a mixture of musical chemistry from people who in their own way bring a lot to the table,” says Porter.

While the set list is top secret, it will contain a number of obvious and less-obvious choices—a mix of hits and obscure but cool songs, Grant says.

“What makes it work so well is that everyone checks their egos at the door and approaches this as a fun project with a bunch of their friends,” he says.

Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8:30. For more information visit queentickets.worldcafelive.com and lightupthequeen.org.

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