Ladybug Festival Returns, Showcasing National, Local Female Music Talent

Sweet Leda headlined at 2014’s Ladybug Music Festival.

Delaware’s Ladybug Music Festival, now in its seventh year, is making waves…or flapping wings, if you will…with its 2018 trajectory. This annual celebration of women in music has attracted the attention of Billboard Magazine, which in June, quoted co-founder Gayle Dillman as saying, “I am not a rocket scientist. I am just a driven woman who wants to see better and more for women in this world, in this country, and specifically in the music scene.”

The July 20-21 festival is still free, and for the second year in a row Ladybug is a two-day affair, drawing approximately 10,000 attendees. For 2018, festival producers Gable Music Ventures have added the No Bro Comedy Show on Saturday night, as well as Little Ladybugs, a two-hour Saturday afternoon session featuring three kid-friendly artists and face painting by Dori Fostok.

Earning national attention: In June, 2018, Billboard Magazine featured an article about the Ladybug Festival. Nalani & Sarina performed 2017. Moonloop Photography

Since inception, Ladybug has staged over 300 female solo artists and femme-fronted bands including Grammy-nominated Mary Lambert, Caroline Rose and Larkin Poe. In 2018 alone, the festival has scheduled 75 acts, with the Saturday night headliner, rock-n-roller Lauren Ruth Ward, flying in from Los Angeles. Ladybug is known for hiring the best female sound engineers and production staff, as well.

Ladybug has powerfully invaded the east coast music scene, drawing the large majority of its 2018 acts from the mid-Atlantic region, with twenty percent of the bill hailing from Delaware. Gable has a Delaware expansion in the works, too. In September, the Ladybug Music Festival will present a one-day sister festival in Milford, Delaware, drawing patrons from Kent and Sussex Counties, the Eastern Shore, and no doubt attracting curious music lovers from Washington, D.C. and beyond.

Dillman says, “Female-fronted acts account for a little more than ten percent of festival lineups across the country…we continue our work as a disrupter of the status quo and create a more inclusive culture.”

Wilmington native McKinley Short performed for Ladybug Festival audiences in 2013 and 2016 and returns this year.

One young artist returning to Ladybug is experiencing her own career trajectory. Singer-songwriter McKinley Short is a Concord High and University of Delaware alumnus who recently defended her thesis – which in her course of study is a five-song EP – for a Master’s degree from Berklee College of Music.

Berklee is pretty cool, but Short has one-upped her fellow music students by pursuing a degree – Master of Music Production, Technology, and Innovation – that is only offered at Berklee Valencia, in Spain. She will return to Spain in the fall for a campus fellowship.

Singer-songwriter McKinley Short graduated from Concord High School and attends the Berklee School of Music

The daughter of State Representative Bryon Short, she was pursuing a career as a music teacher and decided that she should first explore the singer-songwriter side of herself before committing to a classroom. With this degree, she’s learning recording techniques, electronic production and sound design, videography and editing, as well as computer coding for audio-reactive visuals. These skills complement her piano and acoustic guitar skills, as well as her newly acquired MIDI keyboard talents.

Short says, “Although I never had any experience with technology, I wanted to learn about production and recording because it was the part of my artistry that I was lacking.  And I knew that learning how to produce and record my own original music would not only teach me a new skill but also take my songwriting to the next level because I would have so many open doors to new methods of creativity.”

Her EP, written and produced entirely on her own, with some recording and mixing by Berklee colleagues, is due for release this summer.

Short hopes that the production and recording skills she’s picking up at Berklee take her songwriting to the next level.

Short describes her style, “I’ve kept the same vocal and lyrical style that I’ve always had, mostly popular melodies with influences from acoustic soul and jazz. The music on the EP experiments a lot with the intertwinement of acoustic and electronic sounds. I’m using digital synths to create new instruments from scratch,” adding, “I collaborated with electric guitarists, pianists, and trumpet players who brought their own flair to each of my songs with their featured solos. This EP in particular is characterized by hip-hop beats, feel-good chord progressions, samples and original sound design blended together to create a carefree and fun vibe.”

Hoochi Coochi on the main stage at Ladybug’s 2017 event. They will also perform at the inaugural Ladybug event in Milford on Sept 22, 2018.

Short joins 75-plus acts for Ladybug, including around twenty from Delaware. Hoochi Coochi is the one Delaware act hailing from outside of New Castle County: this Dover “Indie Blues” group is made up of fifty percent women, and three-quarters of the members are people of color, and they’ve been tearing up Delaware stages for a couple of years now.

A main stage favorite last year, Hoochi Coochi will perform this year at the Ladybug Festival in Milford.

Wilmington’s Kategory 5 with Kat Pigliacampi – Rock and Roll

If you want to catch all the Delaware acts, here’s a list: Kategory 5, a rock and roll group led by Kat Pigliacampi, will be a highlight, and Grace Vonderkuhn (Garage Glam Rock), Angela Sheik (Alt Pop/Anti Folk/Trip Hop) and Olivia Rubini (Pop) will bring the energy.

Stacia LaChole (R&B / Jazz / Soul / Pop), LADYY (R&B Funk Soul), An LeTreece (Soul / Funk), Nihkee Bleu (Soul/Rock Singer-Songwriter) and Terretta Storm (Rock Soul Pop) will bring the soul sounds.

Wilmington’s Terretta Storm – Rock-Roll-Pop

Kiera Sankey (Jazz Singer-Songwriter), Ava Awitan (Singer-Songwriter), Chloe Rae (Singer-Songwriter), Erin Kelsey (Folk Singer-Songwriter), Evangelina (Singer-Songwriter), Sharon Sable (Jazz) and Lauren Kuhne (Singer-Songwriter) will bring sweet melodies.

Wilmington’s Lauren Kuhne (singer-songwriter) will perform sweet melodies

The Ladies of Fearless Improv, featuring comediennes from the resident improv troupe of City Theater Company, will bring the laughs to the debut No Bro Comedy Show.

Highlights of the out-of-town lady rockers include:

  • Phoebe Legere, descended from one of the original Acadian families in North America, and a direct descendant of Madockawando and numerous Mayflower passengers, fronts a family-friendly ensemble that blends elements of Acadian, Abenaki, Cajun, jazz, country, folk and blues into a spicy gumbo. She plays seven instruments, including piano, accordion and guitar, and her talents include singing, writing songs and playwriting.
  • Nalani and Sarina are New Jersey twins getting a lot of attention for their distinctive blend of traditionalist soul-rock and modern pop. Their video for “Get Away” was in regular rotation on MTVU.
  • Bronnie is British singer-songwriter and pop-rock artist working out of Philadelphia. She has undertaken nine tours of the UK and Ireland and was nominated for Best New Artist of 2016 by Celebmix. She won Ryan Seacrest’s Worldwide Cover Song Contest in 2014.
  • Baltimore-based pop duo, Cecilia Grace, is known for the interplay of their vocals that complement each other in harmony, rhythm and tone to seemingly create one melody. The singer-songwriting sisters, Cecilia and Tessa, have been inspired by sibling groups like the Bee Gees, Wilson-Phillips, Aly and AJ, and the Jonas Brothers, as well as Taylor Swift and Maroon 5. Gigs have taken them from Baltimore to Nashville to Sacramento to the Philippines.

The Ladybug Music Festival begins at 5:30pm on Friday, July 20th, in the area of Third and Market Streets in Wilmington. The Festival moves up to the 500 block of Market Street for Saturday shows, which start at 2:15pm and go until well after dark. Parking in Wilmington is free after 6pm Friday and all day Saturday.

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About the Contributor

JulieAnne Cross

JulieAnne Cross

JulieAnne Cross has built a career around making her home state a fun place to live, working with restaurateurs, festivals, artists and arts organizations to bring people together for good times.