Corey Groll keeps Bandstand’s music playing all summer long
It’s about 4 p.m. the day of Rehoboth Beach’s annual fireworks display, and Rehoboth Beach Bandstand Program Director Corey Groll is beginning to get things in order for the night’s show.
Local band The Funsters has been performing the night of the fireworks for nearly 20 years. Groll and sound technician Scott Chambers are there a couple of hours before the band starts to ensure microphones and speakers are in good working order. The Funsters go on stage at 8 p.m., play up until the fireworks, then resume once the show concludes.
“The night is unofficially called Funsters and Fireworks,” said Groll. “They’re the only band all summer that will get two sets. At this point, it’s a well-oiled machine.”
While the fireworks are going off, Groll has a patriotic melody playing over the speakers. They used to have it down to an exact time, but now it’s about 20 minutes, he said. Sometimes it runs a little short or a little long, he said.
The goal of having The Funsters after the fireworks, in theory, is to keep some people at the Bandstand to help with the traffic, said Groll, acknowledging he’ll be there until at least 11:30 p.m. or midnight.
“It turns into a dance party afterward,” he said. “I don’t start thinking about leaving until the line of brake lights is gone from Rehoboth Avenue.”
This is the 61st season for free weekend entertainment at the Bandstand. Groll, 46, has been the Bandstand’s program director for 20 years, taking over from Ruth Hayes. Before that, beginning in 1993, he was the Bandstand’s sound technician. Groll doesn’t remember exactly when he began working at the Bandstand, but it was before he had a driver’s license, because his parents had to drop him off for at least the first summer.
Groll got his start as an intern, just helping out where needed. He was high school friends with the son of former City Manager Greg Ferrese and a drum major at Cape Henlopen High School.
“It was a great summer job,” he said.
Groll’s involvement on any specific night depends on the band.
When the military bands come in, he’s basically there to make sure the power works, he said. They come with their own equipment, and every person has a designated assignment to make sure the program goes off, he said.
A band like The Funsters has their own sound guy, who is also a local and has been coming to town for years, so there’s not a whole lot for Groll to do.
“On a night like [fireworks night], our job is to manage the Bandstand and make sure everything is running the way it’s supposed to,” he said.
Bands almost never cancel, said Groll, able to only think of a couple of times it’s happened recently. More often than not, a band has backup musicians who can fill in when needed, he said.
“We don’t want a dark stage when there’s supposed to be a performance,” said Groll.
Other times, there will be a drummer or a guitarist who plays in three different bands over the course of a summer. When working with some of the local bands, that’s just the way it is, he said.
Groll said he takes pride in the performers the Bandstand books. These are free shows featuring performers who have ticketed events everywhere else they go, he said.
He’ll do it, if necessary, but Groll said he hates canceling a show because of the weather, and he never makes the call based on percentages of rain. He relies on the radar, he said.
“It can feel like we’re on an island here sometimes. The rain will be just north of us or just south, but will then just skip right past us,” he said. “You can be holding the phone and just watch the percentages change.”
Bad weather is one of the few headaches Groll can’t control.
“It’s the worst to cancel a show. You don’t want to be wrong, but you also don’t want to be wrong with the musicians and people here,” said Groll.
Over the years, the quality of the sound system for the Bandstand has increased tremendously. What was a couple of speakers and a couple of monitors is now a high-quality setup, with top-of-the-line speakers. The Bandstand had new speakers installed this spring and if the conditions are just right, the sound really travels down Rehoboth Avenue, said Groll. Additionally, the new speakers make it so there are no holes in the coverage area, he said.
The sound for a show like the one on fireworks night is tricky, because there’s a need to have the music reach the back of the Bandstand area and drown out some of the surrounding noise without blowing out the ears of the guests in the first two rows, he said.
Groll, who also works as a driving instructor for Cape Henlopen High School, said planning for next summer’s lineup begins almost immediately after the current summer series ends. There are calls and emails throughout the winter from people wanting to know which musical acts are coming because people will book their vacations based on who is scheduled, he said.
The summer lineup changes from one year to the next because, Groll said, duplicating the schedule is not the quality anyone is looking for. He said there are a few mainstays that come every year, but, generally speaking, he tries to get 40 new acts every summer to go along with 60 returning.
“The Funsters on fireworks night is a tradition. They’re enjoyable, and we’ll have them coming back as long as we can,” said Groll.