WILMINGTON — Live music and alcohol have long shared a relationship in the entertainment industry. An emerging trend is seeking to break the stigma of this alcohol-centric culture, including newly launched festivals like Sober Fest in New Orleans and Sundown Colorado.
Local concert promoter Anna Mann is shedding light on the movement to create a more inclusive and sober-friendly live music scene in Wilmington. She will be hosting The Hope Concert series at Hope Recovery in the Devon Park area of midtown for seven consecutive Saturdays, starting this weekend.
“I’ve been told for years that I can’t have a music event without alcohol,” Mann said, regarding other industry professionals. “I don’t believe this to be true. Live music can exist without alcohol.”
The first show of the series will take place Oct. 7 with The Queen’s Giant and Soul-R Fusion and end Nov. 18 with Tumbleweed and Amy Star Allen.
The majority of The Queen’s Giant, a high-energy rock band based out of Wilmington, subscribe to a sober lifestyle.
“We are not all sober,” lead singer Brendon Jacobsen clarified, “but recovery is definitely a part of our lives, which we love.”
The band consists of Jacobson on guitar and vocals, Christopher Rocca on keys, Austin Redwine on bass, and Will Walter on drums. Formed in 2021, the group fuses elements of blues, rock, country, and electronica. They group came together when Rocca reached out to Jacobsen — who had been playing solo for roughly five years — to start a band.
“I played a jam night at the Rusty Nail with Chris about five years before we formed, which planted a seed in our relationship,” Jacobsen said. “I was always told, ‘You’re not just going to get a phone call to start a band,’ and that’s exactly what happened.”
Jacobsen said in his younger years, before playing music, he partied more heavily. However, when the group banded, most of its members had left that lifestyle behind them.
“From the position we are in, having goals and trying to make music, being sober is like a secret weapon,” Jacobsen said.
Currently working on their first album — and with two singles, “Back Door” and “Back to my Heart,” already on streaming platforms — The Queens Giant is homed in on growing their fanbase. The group has played a number of popular spots in town, including Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Jimmy’s Wrightsville Beach, Katy’s Grill and Bar, and Bourgie Nights.
Gearing up for the first show of the Hope Concert Series, the band plans to make it a full production, strobe lights and fog machines included.
“I’ll tell you what, we’ve seen the recovery scene get wild,” Jacobsen said with a laugh. “You do notice a significant difference at times because of the missing ingredient, so we really need to come with excitement.”
Performing to a sober crowd can bring the nerves out, however, considering the band is the main focus; there are no inebriation-causing distractions.
”This is really good practice for us because the music doesn’t hook the crowd as easily when they are sober,” Jacobsen said. “We have to bring as many entertaining elements to the show as possible, which we are excited for.”
Putting together events on and off for almost a decade — such as Carolina Pines Music Fest from 2015 through 2019, Alt-Zalea Fest, and Annex songwriter sessions at the Brooklyn Arts Center — Mann has always wanted to do an alcohol-free concert series. But she said she “never had the right space for it.”
While attending the Spiritual Soul Center, which shares a building with Hope Recovery at 3403 Winston Blvd., Mann met Pastor Meg McBride for Hope Recovery. The nonprofit provides a hub for recovery groups — such as Al-Anon — and offers help to the homeless community.
“We support a day center downtown for people experiencing homelessness, in addition to a mobile shower trailer,” McBride said. “We also host on Wilmington’s coldest nights an emergency pop-up shelter for anyone who is unhoused to come and stay free of charge.”
Mann is not in recovery herself but grew up around substance abuse rehabilitation. Her father is a founding member of Launchpad Inc. — a recovery house system in Wilmington — and so rehabilitation is a passion that resonates strongly.
Mann said she shared many values with McBride and the outreach center’s work.
“My main goal is to create a sober concert experience for those that prefer or need a sober setting to enjoy themselves fully,” Mann said. “I’ve had family members in the past that experienced homelessness, so I am grateful for what Hope Recovery is doing.”
The majority of ticket sale proceeds will go directly to Hope Recovery’s efforts and the rest will pay the bands.
“The fact that some of the proceeds can be used to support Hope Recovery’s efforts to aid the local homeless population is a perk that I’m thrilled about,” Mann said.
Snacks and posters will be sold on site, but instead of alcohol, mocktails by local business Mocksie will be available instead.
“We wanted to offer something a little fancier than water and sodas,” Mann said.
Mocksie owner Carter Jewell started the business at the end of 2022 and said its goal is inclusiveness for those seeking a healthy lifestyle: “Mocktails don’t remind attendees of alcohol and lets everybody party in peace.”
Although the events will be focused on the music, Mann has planned a special show for Oct. 28, when Strange Raven and RTHBNDR (pronounced “earth bender”) take the stage. There also will be a costume contest in honor of Halloween, with prizes given to best dressed. Mann said the only request of attendees is to avoid full face masks.
Seven-week concert series schedule:
- Oct. 7: The Queen’s Giant with Soul-R Fusion
- Oct. 14: Crystal Bright with Delia Stanley
- Oct. 21: The Coastal Collective with Ethan Hanson
- Oct. 28: Strange Raven with RTHBNDR
- Nov. 4: Smokey Dunes with Matt & Rae
- Nov. 11: Abigail Dowd with Nate Gerry
- Nov. 18: Tumbleweed with Amy Starr Allen
Doors will open at 7 p.m. at 3403 Winston Blvd. for each show with $10 tickets available online here or at the door.
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