The Music Scene in Southern Delaware

There was a time when live music venues were slim pickings along Sussex County coastal towns…

Some were clustered along Route One in Dewey with the Rusty Rudder and the Bottle and Cork among the few choices. The latter is still going strong after 86 years. It primarily caters to the 20-something crowd now but seniors occasionally have been spotted reliving a more youthful time. The building is worth a visit from a historical perspective with its colorful façade.  

The Rudder attracts a range of ages and family groups. So does The Lighthouse – part of Hyatt Place and across a small beach from The Rudder. These open-air venues boast breathtaking panoramic views of Rehoboth Bay and are perfect spots for sunset dining and entertainment.  

Nalu is a relative newcomer to Dewey’s music scene.  This unique Polynesian-style restaurant would likely appeal more to those who prefer dining later and maybe catch a first set. Bands like Hot Sauce don’t start until 9 pm.  Rounding out Dewey’s music scene are Northbeach and Starboard. Both skew to the “youth crowd” but Jimmy’s Grill offers up a helping of fried chicken with music on the side.  

In recent years, the music scene along beach towns has exploding perhaps because of the influx of urban dwellers who savor their entertainment and grew up with rock and roll. 

The “new” Dogfish Head Restaurant in Rehoboth was built for music and much of it takes place during typical dining hours. Styles range from rock to acoustical guitar.  Starting at 5 pm on Sundays, Rigby’s is the “go-to” place for tunes from the 60s to the present, compliments of Ed Mills and his acoustic guitar. Consider karaoke a musical option? Try Rigby’s on a Wednesday, Friday or Saturday.  

Bluecoast, Thompson Island Grill and The Pond all located along Coastal Highway (and with plentiful parking) offer up a mixed bag of musicians ranging from guitar accompanied country to an all-ladies rock band. Some acts start around 5 pm and others later.   

Big Chill Surf Cantina may be just the ticket for the young at heart looking for a casual beverage and/or very informal eats. Think Key West venue with a food truck. Retired beach bums or wanna-bies will love it. This beach bar on the highway hosts music that starts either at 5 pm or 7 pm. Several times a week.  

The American Classic Golf Course is an unlikely venue for music, but the current management has figured out a way and the setting is hard to beat.  

North up Route 1, in the Paynter’s Mill community, is Sydney’s Restaurant and Lounge. This is not the same Sydney’s previously located in Rehoboth but the passion for music is the same. This rather large venue offers acts range from a Carol King-style piano vocalist to beat-thumping rock-oriented bands. The energy in the room is contagious! 

The Milton Theater has continued its Quayside music entertainment started during the pandemic. The outdoor venue is right next to the theater in the heart of town and is within walking distance of every eatery in Milton. It’s a change of pace from bustling Route 1.  

So many eatery/music venues have opened their doors in and around Lewes. Crooked Hammock is a great choice for those with grandchildren. Relax in a hammock and listed to music while the grandkids play a game of cornhole.   

Irish Eyes in Lewes combines music with a splendid view of the canal and its myriad of fishing and touring boats making for a double dose of ambience.  

Lastly, on summer weekends, the Rehoboth Bandstand never disappoints with it free concerts but that is a whole other story.  

By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist

Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Ophrah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland and Towson University, lived in Washington, DC for 21 years and has been a full time resident of Rehoboth Beach and Milton since May 2019.  

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