Live on Lovering

By Matt Morrissette

Any musician or patron of the Delaware music scene is aware there are life cycles in the health and viability of established live-music venues. The pandemic caused a major rupture, followed by the closure of the historic Jackson Inn in March 2023.

However, where there’s a will there’s a way, and several new hosts have risen to fill the void.

Kelly’s Logan House has returned as a venue for live music in Wilmington via longtime local musician Pete Romano. Spaceboy Clothing has moved to new space on Market Street and provides space for small Downtown performances, a nice complement to the larger shows offered by The Queen.  And record stores such as Squeezebox Records in Wilmington as well as Rainbow Records and International Groove Records in Newark host multiple shows each month.

 To this list, you can add both a new establishment in a well-known spot and an historic venue — both of which happen to share the well-traveled corner of Lovering Avenue and Augustine Cutoff in Wilmington. 

Founded in the 1970s in a building built in 1865, Gallucio’s is a Forty Acres neighborhood go-to for comfort Italian and bar fare. It has a rich history of hosting live music, including the great local guitar slinger and namesake, Anthony Gallucio, who played to packed houses with his band every Monday night for more than 20 years starting in 1993. Gallucio’s also hosted acoustic music with a variety of bands on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and had a popular jazz night on Thursdays that lasted well into the 2000s.  

But as it’s been for many businesses, the pandemic forced a reboot. So, Gallucio’s had to adjust its strategy if it hoped to stay vibrant and competitive. 

“We have always been an eating and drinking establishment with pizza building the empire, but we certainly had to reestablish our entertainment after the pandemic,” said Gregory “Gador” Dorak, Gallucio’s longtime general manager. “I had thought of [live music] as the icing on the cake before, but it has become a much more needed offering to both our established regulars, as well as an attraction for new customers.” 

So, Dorak worked with The Bullets, a well-established roots-rock and rockabilly outfit, to move their decades-long Thursday night residency to Gallucio’s in April of 2023. The Bullets had been a mainstay at the now-closed Blue Parrot, The Oddity Bar, and for a brief time, at the Jackson Inn.  

According to Dorak, the move came after a conversation with Delaware music scene stalwart and bassist Jacque Varsalona (also a Bullets fan), who told Dorak that the band needed a new home.

“They’ve been breaking the fun meter ever since,” says Dorak.

Next-Door Neighbors

 The new kid on the block is Finnegan’s, which occupies the building that was home to Rockford Tavern and Halligan’s Bar. It’s the brainchild of Paul Degnars and his partner in both work and life, Melissa Zimmerman, who supplies the interior design and realty acumen to compliment Degnars’ experience in the hospitality industry.

 In a twist that is very Delaware, Degnars’ passion for both live music and the bar biz was partially developed at Gallucio’s, where he worked while in his 20s. 

“I was bitten by the small-live-music-venue bug during my time living in Greenville, South Carolina,” says Degnars. “I managed a brewpub that had live music three or four nights a week and really fell in love with it. 

“That time, combined with experiences over my life in Delaware at Gallucio’s, The Stone Balloon, Logan House, The Barn Door, and Bottlecaps, always kept the idea [of opening my own venue] in the back of my mind

Finnegan’s has live music four nights a week with an emphasis on getting things going early to accommodate an older crowd. They host acoustic music on Thursdays and a local band or DJ every Friday and Saturday. Sunday nights are reserved for a well-attended open mic night hosted by local musicians Genesis Z and Augi Parodi. 

Much like the beloved 1984 and Oddity Bar combo that dominated the local live music scene before the pandemic, Gallucio’s and Finnegan’s view themselves as in cahoots rather than in competition. Their goal is to create an option that caters to those aging out of the Trolley Square bar scene, folks coming from the Route 202 corridor, and those simply interested in seeing some great local music.

“I do not feel competition with Finnegan’s at all,” says Dorak. “We are a partnership. If they’re having entertainment, some of their patrons will come in for dinner or order take-out to eat there. I’ve always thought of Finnegan’s and the places that preceded it as our fourth dining room.” 

Degnars agrees. “Our goal is to create a sort of Wonder Twins destination where we complement each other. Seeing as we don’t have food, I and the staff try to recommend ordering at Gallucio’s as much as possible.”