“Pet Sounds”: One More Time

“Pet Sounds”: One More Time

Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson brings final ‘Pet Sounds’ tour to Kirby Center

Fifty years after the release of “Pet Sounds,” the album’s composer and primary vocalist treats fans to a tour full of good vibrations before muting the record.
Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson kicked off an international tour of the 1966 album at the beginning of last year, only to extend the tour for an additional 37 shows this year.
And Wilkes-Barre made the cut.
Wilson brings his “Pet Sounds: The Final Performances” tour to the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts Tuesday, May 2, at 8 p.m. as a part of the venue’s PNC Celebrity Series.
“We do it on stage exactly like the record,” Wilson said in a recent phone interview. “We duplicate it.”
For longtime Beach Boys fans, this concert will be one for the ages, as Wilson said this is the last tour he will perform “Pet Sounds” in full. Joining him on the tour are former Beach Boys members Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin.
Although the tour marks the 50th anniversary of the album, Wilson said it feels like just yesterday when it was released.
“I think the harmonies and the melodies are what people like most,” he said.
According to the California native, the trio performs “Pet Sounds” in full during each show, while also highlighting a number of other Beach Boys favorites, including favorites such as “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows” and “Caroline, No.”
Due to his unique approach to song composition, Wilson is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and influential figures in popular music. He co-wrote, arranged, produced and performed more than two dozen Top 40 hits with the Beach Boys. “Pet Sounds” was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998, along with the singles “I Get Around” in 2017, “California Girls” in 2011, “In My Room” in 1999 and “Good Vibrations” in 1994.
“The day we recorded ‘Good Vibrations’ was the highlight of my life,” Wilson said. “The guys said, ‘Hey Brian, this is going to be a No. 1 record.’”
Wilson’s life was recently documented in the critically-acclaimed 2014 film, “Love & Mercy,” starring Paul Dano and John Cusack. The 74-year-old also released his second book in October, “I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir.”
He said he still pulls inspiration from people and music around him, including his wife, Paul McCartney and the late Chuck Berry. Even though this tour marks the final one for “Pet Sounds,” Wilson said he is nowhere near ready to retire from performing.
“Well I have to do something to look good,” he joked. “I might record a record later on this year. I haven’t written for a few years, but I’m going to be getting back into it soon.”

— charlotte l. jacobson

If you go
What: Pet Sounds: The Final Performances featuring Brian Wilson
When: Tuesday, May 2;
doors open at 7 p.m., show at 8
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $59.50 to $125, available through the box office, 570-826-1100 or
kirbycenter.org. For more information,
visit brianwilson.com.


Behind the Grey returns with new lineup

Behind the Grey returns with new lineup

Behind the Grey is coming back strong Friday at the Other Side, Wilkes-Barre, with a new lineup and fresh music down the pipe. The metal band consists of, from left: Grant Williams, bass; Mike Boniewicz, drums; Dom Vito, vocals; Will Perna, guitar; and Daniel McDonald, guitar.

Nothing can stop Behind the Grey from doing what it loves — making music and performing for its fans.
And after a year of ups and downs for the band, both personally and professionally, the group is coming back strong with a new lineup and fresh music down the pipe.
The lineup consists of original members Will Perna on guitar, Mike Boniewicz on drums and Daniel McDonald on guitar plus new vocalist Dom Vito and new bassist Grant Williams. The group also recently signed with the Inner Light Agency and manager Damon Moreno to help with its development and to rebrand the band after the recent changes. According to Perna, the management agency will help with the release of Behind the Grey’s next album by helping it get its music out to labels, booking agencies and other media.
Behind the Grey went On the Record to discuss the new lineup, upcoming music and more.

How did you each find your way to music?
Will Perna: I got into music later in my teens. I didn’t start playing guitar till I was 16 or 17 years old. A friend of mine introduced me to a band called Deftones, and I was hooked. Once I saw them, I said, “I want to do that for the rest of my life.”
Grant Williams: Dad was a guitar player, but I was never interested. When he died, I picked up music almost as a way to repay some kind of debt I owed him. Trying instruments led me to bass, and I knew it was where I belonged almost instantly. 
Dom Vito: My great-grandfather was a vocalist and a guitar player. He inspired me at a young age and was my motivation to initially become a musician.
Daniel McDonald: Seeing a cover band in the ’90s got me into wanting to play, and around that time my oldest brother started playing in a band. I was bit by the music bug. 
Mike Boniewicz: I was a drum tech/roadie for a cover band when I was 13. It pushed me to want to play.

How are you feeling about your first performance together as a full band?
WP: We’ve all played together for years, but this will be the first time we’ve been in a collective project together. We’re very excited to get out and play for everyone. We’re going to come out swinging!
DV: (Friday) will be our first time performing alongside of Grant on stage. It’s a very exciting feeling to have such a great and reputable musician in this group. Also very excited to showcase some of the new music we’ve been working on.

Is your next album going to be very similar musically to “Through the Grip of Tyrants,” or are you taking it in a new direction?
WP: The new material still has “our sound,” but it has grown. Personally, I really wanted to push the envelop with the new material. I wanted the heavy to be heavier and the big choruses to be bigger. We don’t have a title or release date yet. We’re very much in the beginning stages, so we’re just not there yet.
DV: The writing process has been going very smoothly with the new lineup. Our music isn’t changing; however, we have been experimenting with a slightly different feel for the new material as well as trying to progress and mature as musicians in the process. We’re trying to simply present a new flavor to our music while keeping our original sound as the foundation.

How have you changed as a musician over the years? 
WP: I’d like to think I’ve grown as a songwriter. Being able to “cut the fate” out of a song and make it as strong as it can be. I’ve been trying my best to look at our music and songs as a whole rather then just sections and take the listener into account more. 
GW: I’ve exposed myself to more genres of music. You’ve gotta get out of your comfort zone to do any kind of growing. Music is certainly no exception.
DV: I’ve progressed as a musician more then I ever have over the past few years. On my down time, I’ve been recording my own solo album while also writing/recording various songs and experimenting with different genres of music for the sake of becoming a better writer and a solid player of the instruments I do play. Music is my life. It’s all I ever do with myself.
DM: I started as a blues-style guitarist to a more hard rock/metal guy. Then I stopped for five years. When I started back up, I was trying to learn all the stuff I never learned. I am now where I want to be.
MB: I’m definitely open to more styles of music and trying anything to learn more about any of these to help grow.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a musician? 
WP: Money and time will always be against you as a musician, no matter where you’re from. It feels like you have your whole life to write your first album, then the pressure comes and feels like you have just a small window of time to write the follow-up and make it better then the first. Plus, recording and releasing albums is expensive.
DM: Meeting people that understand what that means and what it takes to be (a musician). … It usually means working a full-time job and practicing three time a week, plus shows. Everything else is family. I’m not a slacker like others like to think.
MB: Money, places to play and finding people worth playing with.
DV: Confidence was always my biggest issue. I went through stages of doubting myself, whether or not I was cut out for doing this. However, the more I beat myself up, the harder I worked.

What are your future goals for your music? Do you have anything else you’d like to add that is important for people to know about the band?
WP: We have plans to release new music in the near future, just to give a taste of what the new album will hold.
DV: I can only hope to someday make a living off of doing what I love to do most, which is indeed music. I want to tour and write/record as much as possible, and I’m hoping to do so alongside my brothers in this band.
DM: I  just want to be able to keep playing until I die. If I can make a living, that is a plus. My band is the greatest group of friends; we always have each other’s backs. 
MB: Make and release new music, get on the road and see where it goes from there.

— charlotte l. jacobson


Meet the band
Founded: 2013
Genre: Hard rock/Metal
Based out of: Scranton
Members: Dom Vito, vocals; Mike Boniewicz, drums; Daniel McDonald, guitar; Will Perna, guitar; and Grant Williams, bass
For fans of: Deftones, Sevendust and Killswitch Engage
Online: behindthegreymusic.com, Behind the Grey on Facebook
Up next: Friday, 7 p.m., the Other Side, Wilkes-Barre
April 22, 1 to 5 p.m., Misericordia Spring Jam,
Wells Fargo Amphitheater, Dallas; May 6, 9 p.m., The V-Spot, Scranton

Meet filmmakers, see variety at Dietrich Movie Festival

Meet filmmakers, see variety at Dietrich Movie Festival

Travel through Kolkata via Google Earth to figure out a young boy’s past, take a deeper look into a black family torn apart by generational divides and racial inequality in 1950s Pittsburgh, or learn more about the stray cats of Istanbul at this year’s Dietrich Theater Spring Film Festival.
The annual event kicks off Friday at the Tunkhannock theater and runs through April 27, screening 23 films ranging from Oscar nominees to foreign films to documentaries. Tickets are $8.50.
“The biggest challenge, personally, is picking the films,” said Ronnie Harvey, the theater’s assistant general manager. “It’s hard to get it down to those core films, while getting advice from patrons coming to the films and other people that work with me.”
Harvey noticed the festivals’ appeal to not only regulars who enjoy the films chosen each time but also new people looking for something different from the superhero flicks and children’s movies often on the marquee.

“Before the Flood”

“I think they like that they can see all of these really well put-together films in a package,” Harvey said. “They turn it into a kind of game for them, to see how many (films) they can see in the festival. They do really like to be able to see quality films that other places in the area aren’t showing or, if they do, it’s only for a very short period of time.”
An opening night gala kicks off the festival with screenings of “Lion” and “20th Century Women”; a buffet of hors d’oeuvres from Twigs Cafe, Epicurean Delight, the Fireplace Restaurant and Ma Greenley’s BBQ; wine and beer provided by Nimble Hill; and dessert by Epicurean Delight. Gala tickets are $40 and must be reserved in advance.
Among the films chosen for this edition of the festival, three — “Land of Mine,” “The Salesman” and “Toni Erdmann” — were nominated for best foreign language film at the Academy Awards. Also slated are two films with local ties: “All in Time,” directed by Wilkes-Barre native Chris Fetchko, who will host a question-and-answer session after each screening, and “Completely Normal,” co-written by Scranton native Heather Davis, who will answer questions at the April 20 showing.
In honor of Earth Day, a question-and-answer session with Dr. Susan Kenehan follows the April 22 screening of “Before the Flood,” which examines climate change around the world and features Leonardo DiCaprio.
Other films set to screen include “Elle,” “Fences,” “The Founder,” “I, Claude Monet,” “I Am Not Your Negro,” “Jackie,” “Julieta,” “Kedi: The Cats of Istanbul,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “Neruda,” “Nocturnal Animals,” “Paterson,” “Things To Come,” “A United Kingdom” and “Year by the Sea.”
A post-festival film discussion takes place Friday, April 28, at 1 p.m., and gives people a chance to discuss the films with other enthusiasts. Harvey will facilitate the discussion.
“My favorite part is seeing the people who really enjoy what they are seeing and talking about it,” he said. “I love seeing people after a showing, seeing strangers who have become friends and having discussions. It just shows that movies are the great American art form. You can change a mind, you can impact someone’s life in the positive, just from a movie.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

If you go
What: Spring Film Festival Opening Night Gala
Where: Dietrich Theater,
60 E. Tioga St., Tunkhannock
When: Friday, doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Details: Tickets are $40, and reservations are required. Call 570-996-1500. For more information, visit dietrichtheater.com.


Noon: “Land of Mine”
2:15 p.m: “Completely Normal”
4:15 p.m: “Jackie”
7 p.m.: “Fences”
9:45 p.m.: “Elle”

Noon: “Before the Flood”
2 p.m.: “Lion”
4:30 p.m.: “20th Century Women”
7 p.m.: “Paterson”

Noon: “Kedi: The Cats of Istanbul”
Noon: “The Salesman”
2 p.m.: “Neruda”
2:30 p.m.: “Julieta”
4:30 p.m.: “Things To Come”
7 p.m.: “All in Time”

Noon: “The Founder”
Noon: “Manchester by the Sea”
2:30 p.m.: “Year by the Sea”
2:45 p.m.: “Elle”
5 p.m.: “A United Kingdom”
7:30 p.m.: “I Am Not Your Negro”

Noon: “I, Claude Monet”
2 p.m.: “Paterson”
4:30 p.m.: “Fences”
7:15 p.m.: “Land of Mine”

Thursday, April 13
Noon: “I Am Not Your Negro”
Noon: “Lion”
2 p.m.: “Jackie”
2:30 p.m.: “Toni Erdmann”
4:30 p.m.: “Kedi: The Cats
of Istanbul”
7 p.m.: “A United Kingdom”

Friday, April 14
Noon: “Fences”
Noon: “Neruda”
2:15 p.m.: “Year by the Sea”
2:45 p.m.: “Before the Flood”
4:45 p.m.: “Paterson”
7:15 p.m.: “The Salesman”
9:30 p.m.: “Nocturnal Animals”

Saturday, April 15
Noon: “20th Century Women”
2:30 p.m.: “Julieta”
4:45: “Lion”
7:15 p.m.: “All in Time”
9:30 p.m.: “The Founder”

Sunday, April 16
Noon: “Manchester by the Sea”
2:45 p.m.: “The Salesman”
5:15 p.m.: “I Am Not Your Negro”
7:15 p.m.: “Toni Erdmann”

Monday, April 17
Noon: “Land of Mine”
Noon: “Things To Come”
2:15 p.m.: “Elle”
2:30 p.m.: “A United Kingdom”
5 p.m.: “Julieta”
7:15 p.m.: “20th Century Women”

Tuesday, April 18
Noon: “Before the Flood”
Noon: “Neruda”
2:15 p.m.: “The Founder”
2:30 p.m.: “Kedi: The Cats
of Istanbul”
4:30 p.m.: “I, Claude Monet”
7 p.m.: “Lion”

Wednesday, April 19
Noon: “Land of Mine”
2:15 p.m.: “Nocturnal Animals”
5 p.m.: “I Am Not Your Negro”
7 p.m.: “Jackie”

Thursday, April 20
Noon: “Elle”
Noon: “Fences”
2:45 p.m.: “The Salesman”
2:45 p.m.: “Year by the Sea”
5 p.m.: “Julieta”
7:15 p.m.: “Completely Normal”

Friday, April 21
Noon: “20th Century Women”
Noon: “The Founder”
2:30 p.m.: “Jackie”
2:30 p.m.: “Lion”
4:45 p.m.: “Neruda”
7 p.m.: “Manchester by the Sea”
9:45 p.m.: “Paterson”

Saturday, April 22
Noon: “Before the Flood”
2:15 p.m.: “A United Kingdom”
4:30 p.m.: “Land of Mine”
7 p.m.: “Elle”
9:45 p.m.: “Nocturnal Animals”

Sunday, April 23
Noon: “Jackie”
2:15 p.m.: “Fences”
5 p.m.: “All in Time”
7 p.m.: “Lion”

Monday, April 24
Noon: “Neruda”
Noon: “Toni Erdmann”
2:15 p.m.: “Manchester by the Sea”
3:30 p.m.: “Jackie”
5 p.m.: “Completely Normal”
7 p.m.: “Things To Come”

Tuesday, April 25
Noon: “I Am Not Your Negro”
Noon: “A United Kingdom”
2:15 p.m.: “Year by the Sea”
2:30 p.m.: “Paterson”
5 p.m.: “I, Claude Monet”
7 p.m.: “The Salesman”

Wednesday, April 26
Noon: “Julieta”
2:15 p.m.: “Things To Come”
4:30 p.m.: “Kedi: The Cats
of Istanbul”
7 p.m.: “20th Century Women”

Thursday, April 27
Noon: “The Founder”
Noon: “Jackie”
2:15 p.m.: “Fences”
2:30 p.m.: “I Am Not Your Negro”
4:30 p.m.: “Toni Erdmann”
7:30 p.m.: “Lion”

Friday, April 28
1 p.m.: Post-festival discussion

‘Greatest Show’ says goodbye

‘Greatest Show’ says goodbye

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus brings farewell tour to arena

Ivan Vargas didn’t run away with the circus — he grew up in it.
The sixth-generation circus performer said that out of his 26 years of life, he spent less than three years outside Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
But at the end of May, Vargas’ streak ends when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey disassembles the Big Top permanently. Locals will have a chance to say goodbye when Ringling’s world-renowned Circus XTREME tumbles into Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza from April 6 to 9 for its final round of performances.
Part of the circus’ Clown Alley, Vargas never thought Ringling Bros. would close entirely but rather that it would adapt and evolve into a different type of circus. But even he noticed the decline in attendance in recent years, far from the days when the circus would to turn away people from sold-out shows.
“It’s been my home,” Vargas said. “I want people to come experience this, even if it’s for a few hours. Coming to the circus is magical. It’s been around for 146 years, and I’m so happy to be a part of that; I want to share that with everyone. There are only a couple months left, and I want everyone to see this great institution before there’s no more. It’s like inviting people into my home one last time.”
Growing up in the circus didn’t seem strange for Vargas, but he knew it was something special.
“I’d go to school and walk past 12 elephants, and then get out of school and go practice,” Vargas said. “We’d play (to see) who can do the highest back flip or jump off the highest apparatus. My monkey bars were the trapeze.”
Vargas carries on family tradition as the sixth generation of circus performers on his father’s side and fifth generation on his mother’s. His family formerly performed with the Flying Vargas trapeze troupe, which toured with Ringling Bros. When the troupe disbanded, Vargas’ parents stayed with the massive show — his father working with the animals and his mother helping with costumes.
“Obviously I wanted to follow in my family’s footsteps because it’s such a fun lifestyle,” Vargas said. “It’s so different than what I would consider somebody else’s norm. … My passion was always to perform, ever since I was 3, 4 years old, dancing to Michael Jackson music videos for my family. I always wanted to entertain. I love to entertain.”
Families attending the last performances of “The Greatest Show on Earth” can expect to see acrobats fly high in the air, sit at the edge of their seats to view the exotic animals and laugh along with Vargas and the rest of Clown Alley.
Although the circus maintains the same structure for each performance, being a clown allows flexibility depending on audience interaction. Vargas explained that the clowns are both audience members and performers because of the way they react to the other circus performers.
“It is the last chance to see Ringling Bros., and it’s still a great show,” he said. “Even though it has changed from when parents or grandparents came to the show, we still have a ringmaster, animals and acrobats. There isn’t anything like Ringling. It’s such a unique experience that you don’t want to miss out on it.”
Between living on the circus train and traveling across the country to meeting new people each time performers join the show, the change in lifestyle coming later this spring likely will be a hard adjustment for Vargas at first. But no matter what, the performer said, he wants to continue to entertain people in some way after Ringling closes.
“I’ll definitely miss being a part of Clown Alley — even if somewhere else I’m a clown,” he said. “Waking up early in the morning and then going to the arena or the venue to put on your makeup — there’s 12 friends there. We’re all from different backgrounds, have different life lessons, but we’re all there because we all love being clowns. I’ll miss hanging out with those silly people. We’ll make each other laugh, and we’ll get into character as we’re putting on our costumes. We start our circus day way before the first audience member enters the arena.”
— charlotte l. jacobson


If you go
What: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
present Circus XTREME
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp.
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.; Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m., 3 and 7 p.m.; Sunday, 1 and 5 p.m.
Details: Tickets start at $15 and are available at the arena box office, ticketmaster.com and
800-745-3000. For more information, visit
ringling.com or mohegansunarenapa.com.

Alexis Sings the Blues

Alexis Sings the Blues

Kirby Center hosts performer to celebrate release of live album

Alexis P. Suter said she got her start in music in the womb.
“My mother was, and still is, a singer,” she said. “She sang all over the world. My mother sang; she taught me to sing. All of us just started from very young with recitals at church, and we blossomed from that.”
The blues singer brings her bass/baritone vocals to F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Friday at 8 p.m. to celebrate the release of the “Alexis P. Suter Ministers of Sound — Live from the Briggs Farm Blues Festival” album.
Citing musical influences ranging from Barry White to Creedence Clearwater Revival, Suter said she listened to everything she could when she was younger, including the music forbidden in her strict, religious childhood home.
“Music back then was very different than what it is today,” she said. “It was more based on love and care, and it was very easy to grasp, to let it hold onto you. Those were the types of songs that motivated me.”

The live album
Not only does Suter return to the Briggs Farm festival in Nescopeck year after year to perform but it also is among her top five favorite festivals, partly because the Briggs family always has treated her like family.
“There are so many things to love about that place,” she said. “If I was just a regular camper coming to see that festival, I would probably feel the same way. It’s so electrifying and nuturing. … The land itself is so beautiful. I would advise anyone to put it on their bucket list.”
And although Suter recorded live albums before, she said she had a different feeling when recording at the Briggs Farm Blues Festival.
“The audience participated in making what it is, the whole atmosphere of it,” Suter said. “The love that is shown when you’re there, you cannot fail. The energy in the CD reflects everything about that farm. Everything about that energy and the people that go there. It was just a beautiful experience.”
For the Kirby Center concert, the gospel and blues singer said she certainly will attempt to recreate the vibe of the Sunday morning gospel set at the festival, and maybe add in a couple bonus songs.
“People that come to see me know that my message is love, unity, understanding, confidence,” Suter said. “We have to love each other. We have to build with each other. There is so much going on in the world right now. This message is more important than anything ever. I’m not going to stray away from it.”
— charlotte l. jacobson


If you go
What: Alexis P. Suter Ministers of Sound
When: Friday, 8 p.m.; doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts,
71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the day of the show, avialable at the box office, 570-826-1100 and kirbycenter.org.

Sex and the Stage

Sex and the Stage

Actress Kerry Ipema shares laughs during one-women parody

“Sex and the City” fans rejoice — a one-woman parody is coming to town.
Comedian and actress Kerry Ipema brings her show, “One Woman Sex and the City: A Parody of Love, Friendship and Shoes,” to F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts tonight at 8 as a part of the Live from the Chandelier Lobby series.
Under the creative direction of T.J. Dawe — known for his productions of “One Man Star Wars Trilogy,” “One Man Lord of the Rings” and “PostSecret: The Show” — Ipema takes audiences through a one-woman version of all six season of the smash HBO television show.

Kerry Ipema rehearses her performance of One Woman Sex in the City, her debut show at this year’s Fringe Festival. July 12, 2016 (GREG GALLINGER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

“I play about 24 characters in the show,” she said. “It sounds exhausting, but it’s quite fun. I play all of the women, their boyfriends and the secondary characters.”
The production, which Dawe and Ipema co-wrote, pulls from each of the series’ 94 episodes and crams the important bits into an hour-and-a-half live display.
Ipema not only jokes her way through the show but also fuels part of it with audience participation. Audience members can write down their “deal breakers” and crazy date stories to give to the comedian, who then reads them live.
“We create this brunch-like atmosphere,” Ipema said. “There is this intimacy of sharing these stories and deal breakers.”
Although Ipema shares the first name of the main character Sarah Jessica Parker portrayed in the TV series with a slightly different spelling, her favorite of the show’s four leading ladies to play is Samantha.
“She is all sorts of fabulous and candor,” Ipema said. “She always has these really incredible one-liners. Every line she gets a big laugh and applause. It’s full of shock value. … She’s pretty sexually progressive, and that comes across. And she uses a lot of puns in the show. … It wouldn’t be a ‘Sex and the City’ parody without a lot of good puns.”
One woman approached her after the show one night to thank her, claiming to feel more empowered after watching the display of strong women. Allowing audiences to revisit the four girls became an outlet for women to laugh along with their favorite characters once more, while also strengthening their friendships, Ipema said.
“One reason I love the show, which is coming clear through touring, is how important ‘Sex and the City’ is to female friendships,” she added. “You see their personal relationships on that show, and it brings to light the importance of female friendships. The show was a huge beacon for women. People saw themselves in those four women — Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte.”

— charlotte l. jacobson


If you go
What: “One Woman Sex and the City: A Parody of Love, Friendship and Shoes”
When: March 23, 8 p.m.; doors at 6:30 p.m.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Tickets: $27.50 in advance; $30 day of show
Contact: 570-826-1100
Online: kirbycenter.org

This is Country Music

This is Country Music

Brad Paisley takes tour to Mohegan Sun Arena with Lindsey Ell, Chase Bryant

Canadian-born musician Lindsay Ell always admired Brad Paisley’s guitar skills. She event worked through the guitar solo of “Old Alabama” on repeat until she could play it perfectly.
“If you told me I would be standing on stage trading licks with Brad Paisley, even a few years ago, I wouldn’t believe it,” Ell said.
The Grammy Award-winning country superstar strums his way into the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza tonight with support acts Ell and Chase Bryant for a show chock-full of country music and spectacular guitar performances.
“People can definitely expect surprises throughout the show,” Ell, 27, said. “It’s a really cool concept. … We were talking backstage, and (Paisley) mentioned that it would be so cool to have a tour of just guitar players. I mean, who else has done that before? It’s a really special lineup. People can definitely expect to be well-entertained for the show.”
Paisley, 44, captured the nation’s attention after releasing his first album and receiving the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Male Vocalist of the Year award in 1999. Since then, the singer-songwriter added three Grammy awards, two American Music Awards, 13 Academy of Country Music Awards and 14 Country Music Association Awards to his shelf.
For Ell and Bryant, the chance to tour with Paisley immediately shot to the top of their favorite memories as musicians.
“We’re all nutcases on stage,” Bryant said. “If you’re not, it’s not fun. Most of my stuff is all high-energy on stage. We give people what they came to see.”
Like many musicians, Orange Grove, Texas, native Bryant, 23, grew up in a musical family. His grandfather played piano in Roy Orbison’s first two bands and later for Waylon Jennings, while his uncles co-founded the country group Ricochet.
“As a songwriter, going out every night, hearing the fans sing back to you and getting to play some of your favorite songs, including stuff you haven’t written, it’s always a fun thing to do,” Bryant said. “Playing songs that inspire you on a daily basis is great.”
Randy Bachman, founding member of the Guess Who, discovered Ell when she was just 15. Although she picked up the guitar at 8, she said Bachman truly taught her how to play it. Her musical tastes changed from country to jazz and blues during this time, but her style reverted back to her country roots after moving to Nashville eight years ago.
Now, the artist is working toward finishing her new record with Kristian Bush of Sugarland.
“I feel like I have been writing this album for the last 15 years,” Ell said. “The way we are putting this record together, I feel like I’m finally finding me and recording it in concrete.”
Although neither Bryant nor Ell experience true nerves when performing, they both agreed that the rush of adrenaline that comes from walking on stage is beyond thrilling.
“I feel very grateful to wake up every morning and do what I love,” Ell said. “To write about my life and have people connect with it — that’s a crazy concept to imagine, let alone live it.”
— charlotte l. jacobson


If you go
What: Brad Paisley with Lindsay Ell and
Chase Bryant
When: Tonight, 7:30
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Details: Tickets start at $39.50, available at the box office, 800-745-3000 and ticketmaster.com.

Dietrich Film Festival looks to open viewers’ eyes

Dietrich Film Festival looks to open viewers’ eyes

Dietrich Theater’s second Winter Fest transports viewers through reality and fiction with its selection of independent and international movies.
The festival curators assured they would open audiences’ eyes to some lesser-known films while also presenting several Oscar-nominated pictures among the 14 films the Tunkhannock theater will screen from Friday, Feb. 17, through Thursday, March 2.
“We want to serve the community with the art and independent films that they are looking for,” assistant general manager Ronnie Harvey said. “By doing (festivals) seasonally, we are able to give people the product we may have not gotten to, that they would have missed out on seeing in theaters.”
The festival features Oscar and Golden Globe nominees, including “Hell or High Water,” “Moonlight” and “Loving.” Other festival films include “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week,” “The Brand New Testament,” “Denial,” “The Dressmaker,” “The Eagle Huntress,” “Embrace,” “Harry & Snowman,” “Peter and the Farm,” “Queen of Katwe” and “Seasons.” Tickets for matinee and evening screenings are $8.50, excluding the opening night gala and preview day, and do not require reservations.
“I’m personally excited about all of the films because I pick them, let’s be real,” Harvey joked. “But what we try to do with the film festival is to mix in a lot of different genres and a lot of different subject matters to appeal to a broad swath of people. There is something here for everyone.”
The gala kicks off the festival Friday, Feb. 17, at 6 p.m. and includes beer, wine, hors d’oeuvres and screenings of “A Man Called Ove” and “Loving,” with dessert during intermission. Tickets are $25 and must be reserved in advance.
A post-festival film discussion takes place Friday, March 3, at 1 p.m. and gives people a chance to discuss the films with other movie enthusiasts. Harvey will facilitate the discussion.
“I think what I like most is just seeing the reaction from the audience,” he said. “It validates that we’re doing the right thing and we’re giving them what they want. That’s why we’ll continue to do these festivals. They not only help us financially but also benefit the community.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

If you go
What: Winter Fest
When: Feb. 17 to March 2; opening-night gala is Friday, 6 p.m., and $25 (advance only)
Where: Dietrich Theater, 60 E. Tioga St., Tunkhannock
Details: Tickets for matinee and evening screenings are $8.50. Call 570-996-1500 or visit dietrichtheater.com for more information.

Saturday, Feb. 18
Noon: “Harry & Snowman”
2 p.m.: “Peter and the Farm”
4 p.m.: “The Eagle Huntress”
7 p.m.: “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week”
9:45 p.m.: “Hell or High Water”
Sunday, Feb. 19
Noon: “Queen of Katwe”
2:30 p.m.: “A Man Called Ove”
5 p.m.: “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week”
7:45 p.m.: “Denial”
Monday, Feb. 20
Noon: “Seasons”
Noon: “Peter and the Farm”
2:15 p.m.: “The Dressmaker”
2:30 p.m.: “Harry & Snowman”
5 p.m.: “Hell or High Water”
7:15 p.m.: “The Brand New Testament”
Tuesday, Feb. 21
Noon: “The Eagle Huntress”
Noon: “A Man Called Ove”
2 p.m.: “Loving”
2:30 p.m.: “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week”
5 p.m.: “Embrace”
7 p.m.: “Harry & Snowman”
Wednesday, Feb. 22
Noon: “Peter and the Farm”
2:30 p.m.: “Loving”
5 p.m.: “Queen of Katwe”
7:30 p.m.: “The Dressmaker”
Thursday, Feb. 23
Noon: “Harry & Snowman”
Noon: “Embrace”
2 p.m.: “Denial”
2:15 p.m.: “Moonlight”
4:30 p.m.: “A Man Called Ove”
7 p.m.: “Queen of Katwe”
Friday, Feb. 24
Noon: “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week”
Noon: “The Dressmaker”
2:30 p.m.: “Loving”
2:45 p.m.: “The Brand New Testament”
5 p.m.: “Seasons”
7:15 p.m.: “Hell or High Water”
9:30 p.m.: “Moonlight”
Saturday, Feb. 25
Noon: “Peter and the Farm”
2:15 p.m.: “Embrace”
4:15 p.m.: “The Eagle Huntress”
7 p.m.: “A Man Called Ove”
9:30 p.m.: “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week”
Sunday, Feb. 26
Noon: “Moonlight”
2:30 p.m.: “Queen Katwe”
5 p.m.: “Loving”
7:30 p.m.: “The Dressmaker”
Monday, Feb. 27
Noon: “The Brand New Testament”
Noon: “Hell or High Water”
2:15 p.m.: “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week”
2:30 p.m.: “Denial”
5 p.m.: “Peter and the Farm”
7 p.m.: “A Man Called Ove”
Tuesday, Feb. 28
Noon: “Seasons”
Noon: “Loving”
2:30 p.m.: “The Dressmaker”
2:45 p.m.: “Harry & Snowman”
4:30 p.m.: “The Eagle Huntress”
7 p.m.: “Embrace”
Wednesday, March 1
Noon: “Moonlight”
2:30 p.m.: “Denial “
5 p.m.: “Queen of Katwe”
7:30 p.m.: “Hell or High Water”
Thursday, March 2
Noon: “A Man Called Ove”
Noon: “The Eagle Huntress”
2:15 p.m.: “The Brand New Testament”
2:30 p.m.: “Seasons”
4:30 p.m.: “The Beatles: 8 Days a Week”
7:15 p.m.: “Loving”
Friday, March 3
1 p.m.: Post-festival discussion

Metalcore band cuts teeth in NEPA but looks beyond

Metalcore band cuts teeth in NEPA but looks beyond

Toothless didn’t take its name from the main character of “How To Train Your Dragon,” but the band rolls with the link.
After connecting through Luzerne County Community College’s music recording technology program, the five-piece metalcore band from Shavertown found its groove to play in and around Northeast Pennsylvania.
Toothless gained local fame through its reach across subgenres of metal, pulling influences from various hardcore and mathcore national acts. And despite its name, the band put some serious bite in its music, proven by its Steamtown Music Award win for Metal Act of the Year in 2016.
Now the quintet — made up of Travis Antoniello on vocals, Eric Novroski on guitar and vocals, Brian Zannetti on guitar, Scott Wood on bass and James Slattery on drums — expands its shows to reach past NEPA to Philadelphia and Maryland.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
James Slattery: My dad bribed me to take drum lessons with “Star Wars” toys when I was 4. I hated it at first but eventually grew to love it.
Scott Wood: Musical family.
Brian Zannetti: My dad had guitars around the house, and I started bugging him for guitar lessons when I was 10.
Eric Novroski: I started playing drums when I was 6 and picked up guitar when I was 13. My dad is a guitar collector, so it was easy to pick up a guitar when I wanted.
Travis Antoniello: I picked up my dad’s bass when I was around 9. He started teaching me some chords, and I eventually got my own, little, mini acoustic.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed together?
TA: Our first show was at the Otherside in Wilkes-Barre. James bled everywhere, Eric was wearing short shorts, Scott was wearing Daisy Dukes and knee-high socks, I was wearing an ugly Christmas sweater (not for long), and Brian hadn’t joined yet.

Q: What is the process for writing music?
SW: Eric and James yelling at each other.
EN: It is a lot of back and forth. We like to work together as a team to have all of our creative minds come together in a song.

Q: How have you changed as a musician?
TA: Being involved in concert and marching band throughout high school helped me learn a lot of music theory and things I otherwise would’ve been oblivious to. Being able to apply all of those skills has been extremely helpful.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories?
EN: It’s hard to narrow it down. There are so many good memories I have from this band. At one of our shows, James ended up wearing a gigantic Trump mask, and we had a Trump “wall of death.”
TA: One of our fans hand-hammered a steel battle shield with our “T” logo on it. It’s awesome.
SW: Playing Halloween shows, collectively dressed as Lt. Dangle from “Reno 911.”
BZ: During a show, I tripped over a cable and almost fell into Eric’s rig.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed?
JS: Over the past 10 or so years, it seems like there are just less and less bands popping up or sticking around. It wasn’t uncommon 10 years ago to go to a local show and consistently see 50 to 100 kids coming out. It seems as time goes on, there is just less and less interest in the local scene in the area, both with forming bands and coming out to shows, which I think has a lot to do with the constantly decreasing number of venues that support original, local music. With that being said, there still are some awesome bands popping up and a solid group of people dedicated to keeping the scene alive, at least in this genre of music.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
TA: We are striving to make this our career. Being on the road and playing shows as much as we possibly can, seeing the world doing what we love to do, meeting new people and experiencing new things.
— charlotte l. jacobson

Meet Toothless
Founded: December 2015
Based out of: Shavertown
Members: Travis Antoniello, vocals; Eric Novroski, guitar and vocals; Brian Zannetti, guitar; Scott Wood, bass; and James Slattery, drums.
For fans of: Norma Jean, Every Time I Die and the Dillinger Escape Plan
Genre: Metalcore, with hardcore and mathcore influences
Online: toothlessbandpa.com, toothlessbandpa.bandcamp.com, Toothless Band PA on Facebook, @toothlessbandpa on Instagram and Twitter

Maniscalco brings observational comedy to the Kirby Center

Maniscalco brings observational comedy to the Kirby Center

Sebastian Maniscalco began his career in comedy by sharing stories around his childhood kitchen table.
“I was never a class clown, but I was always an observer of people’s behavior,” he said. “So I’d relay them to my family.”
The 2016 Laughs’ Stand Up Comedian of the Year brings his “Why Would You Do That?” tour to F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts for two performances on Saturday, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets start at $42.75, and Maniscalco will donate $1 from each ticket sold to his charity, “Tag You’re It,” which supports research in Alzheimer’s disease, children’s education and the U.S. military.
Pulling from influences ranging from Jerry Seinfeld and Johnny Carson to Eddy Murphy, Maniscalco said his on-stage persona mirrors his true personality, but amplified.
“Off stage, I’m just kind of mellow and laid-back,” he said. “But on stage, I like to be animated and act out some of my bits. People enjoy that part of my act. But it’s a heightened reality.”
After moving from his working-class family home in Chicago to Los Angeles in 1998, the comedian said, he “hit the ground running.” Maniscalco worked as a waiter in the Four Seasons hotel while simultaneously trying to build a name for himself as a legitimate comedian.
Eventually, he caught the attention of actor Vince Vaughn, who cast him in “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show.” And from then on, Maniscalco has worked non-stop.
Some of the comic’s standout moments include doing an episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” with Jerry Seinfeld, appearing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and traveling to places around the world.
One of the challenges that remains true for Maniscalco is the ability to keep people coming back to watch him, even now after a nearly 20-year career.
“You don’t want to come out and have a bad show,” he said. “I keep writing new material, keep it current, keep it fresh. That’s the challenge. With YouTube and Netflix, the audience wants to see new stuff when they come to see you. I’m always writing.”
But certain aspects of his life come as a blessing when it comes to writing. Maniscalco and his wife are expecting a baby in May, so on tour he talks through his experience as a soon-to-be father.
“The more relatable it is for the audience, the more they enjoy it,” he said. “I’m not the type of guy that writes stuff on a piece of paper. I’ll re-enact a story that hopefully relates to the audience.”
In order to reach a wider audience and “broaden (his) creative juices,” Maniscalco said, he hopes to appear in more television and movies in the future. Also, his podcast with Pete Correale, “The Pete and Sebastian Show,” recently moved to Sirius XM radio on Friday nights.
“There’s nothing better than making a room full of people laugh,” Maniscalco said. “It’s an energy you feed off of, almost a teeter-totter of laughter and performance.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

If you go
What: Sebastian Maniscalco — Why Would You Do That? tour
When: Saturday, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $42.75 to $253 (with meet-and-greet), available at the box office, kirbycenter.org and 570-826-1100.

Punk Rock Flea Market

Punk Rock Flea Market

Local art, vintage goods available at Punk Rock Flea Market

Iterations of the punk rock flea market popped up in cities across the country, from Philadelphia and Seattle to Asbury Park and El Paso, for many years. So it’s no surprise that Northeastern Pennsylvania wants to join the trend.
The inaugural NEPA Punk Rock Flea Market takes over Wyoming Hose Company No. 2 on Sunday for an all-day event touting dozens of art vendors, live music and more. Entry is $2, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to support the Walk to Cure Arthritis in New York City.
Although the idea may be recycled from similar events around the country, Mike Campas said the initial response overwhelmed him and fellow event organizer Mike Vee. What started out as a small flea market to be held in Campas’ Larksville glassworking studio quickly grew too large for both that location and Coal City Tavern, the second proposed venue.
“There was immediately a much larger interest than we ever imagined, and the interest continues to grow,” Campas said. “Venue changes have been the bigger challenge. Challenging, but fun and rewarding as well.”
For the first NEPA Punk Rock Flea Market, patrons can expect a wide variety of goods from art and handmade pieces to vintage wares, vinyl records and crafts, among other vendors. Beverages for adults and children, as well as baked goods, will be available for purchase.
Scranton artist Ariell Stewart plans to sell her custom mandala art under the name Mandalas by Ariell. Stewart creates hand-painted mandalas primarily on wood but also on wine glasses, mugs and keychains. She also offers do-it-yourself kits for people to create mandala art on their own.
“I’m always thrilled to be part of the art community and be involved in events like the Punk Rock Flea Market,” Stewart said. “I think any time a group of artists and artisans come together to show their work and skills is amazing.”
Campas, a self-taught glass artist, also intends to set up a booth to sell his glass pieces, including borosilicate glass marbles.
Live entertainment is scheduled throughout the day, including balloon animals for the kids, magician and illusionist Alister Black, music by Janson Harris and comedian Elliott Elliott.
“The best part has been the large interest and response from the local community,” Campas added. “Personally, I’ve reconnected with some old friends, which is great. I love that this started as an idea and manifested into something physical without large expense. Motivation and focus go a long way, and this is an example of such.”
For now, the duo hopes to hold this event on a semi-annual basis, with the next one a two-day market for Memorial Day weekend.
“This event’s focus is creativity and community,” Campas said. “Anyone and everyone is encouraged to engage.”

— charlotte l. jacobson

Stand Up Guys

Stand Up Guys

Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy take comedy tour to Wilkes-Barre

The first time Jeff Foxworthy performed in Northeast Pennsylvania, he noticed the people resembled those he grew up around.
“It’s funny. As a guy who grew up in Georgia, I think back to the early days when I was doing the ‘You might be a redneck…’ bit,” he said. “And I thought we had exclusive rights to (rednecks) in the south. Then I went to Pennsylvania and thought, ‘They are kind of like we are. They have them, too.’ And it’s not a bad thing. They’re no different than who I grew up with.”
Foxworthy and fellow Blue Collar comic Larry the Cable Guy take their dynamic comedy tour, “We’ve Been Thinking,” to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre Twp., on Friday night for a double-header.
For the stand-up veteran, touring with Larry remains just as fun, even a decade after the conclusion of the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour,” which featured both performers plus Bill Engvall and Ron White.
“I’m having as much fun as I’ve had since the ‘Blue Collar’ tour,” said Foxworthy, 58. “And we just enjoy each other. We make each other laugh. I think that’s why the ‘Blue Collar Comedy Tour’ was a success — people could tell we liked each other.”
In order to create a reminiscent but fresh iteration of those shows, both Foxworthy and Larry went back to their roots and began performing again in small clubs to come up with new material.
The Wilkes-Barre show kicks off the second leg of the duo’s tour following a holiday break, and Foxworthy said he is ready to get back out on the stage. Each comedian does a 45-minute set before coming together for a lights-up question-and-answer session.
“We’re so lucky,” Foxworthy said. “Most people don’t stay in stand-up very long. They use stand-up as a springboard to movies or TV. But we’ve been doing stand-up for 30 years, and we still love doing it.”
Looking back on his childhood, Foxworthy recalled saving up his allowance to buy comedy albums and listening endlessly to the recordings of Bob Newhart, Flip Wilson and Bill Cosby. But it wasn’t until after he began a job for IBM that he realized he might want to pursue a different career.
“Now looking back, I think I was born to do this,” he said. “I learned early in life that little magic power of being able to make people laugh. I didn’t know you could do that for a living. I thought you had to have real job.”
After several of his friends at work entered Foxworthy into a comedy contest, he was hooked.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” he said. “I remember that first night on stage, I was scared to look at people. But I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what I want to do.’”
Today, Foxworthy remains one of the largest-selling comedy recording artists in history, with multiple Grammy Award nominations to boot. He starred in his namesake sitcom as well as hosted popular TV shows such as “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” and “The American Baking Competition.”
“I never got into stand-up thinking this would get me a sitcom,” Foxworthy said. “The frustration of sitcom is that I had a room full of writers that didn’t necessarily want me in the writing room. … (With stand-up) you get to talk about the things you want to talk about and have your own viewpoint on them.”
And after a lifetime of achievements, including performing at the White House for presidents and appearing on five iterations of “The Tonight Show,” Foxworthy continues to enjoy bringing laughter to people across the country.
“It’s very satisfying,” he said. “There is a lot of satisfaction even at this point, to be able to work on new stuff and that people still like it. And at the end of the night, Larry and I get standing ovations. We just kind of look at each other and giggle like, ‘We’re still getting away with this.’ Thirty years in, we still do our jobs well. It gives me that kind of lucky feeling that, golly, I still love what I do. And that’s pretty stinkin’ cool.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

If you go
What: Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy’s “We’ve Been Thinking” comedy tour
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Details: Tickets are $22 to $59.50, available at the box office, 800-745-3000 and ticketmaster.com.

The Pallbearers

The Pallbearers

Actor Tim McDermott likes to be challenged when it comes to taking on a theatrical piece, and Gaslight Theatre Company’s latest production does just that for him.
“I keep finding things about my character, like certain lines or the way he says things,” McDermott said. “It’s more than just jokes. The more I read it, the more layers I find for me and the other characters.”
Audiences can discover the layers of the black comedy, “The Pallbearers,” beginning tonight at 8 p.m. in the East End Centre, with performances through Jan. 29.
The play, written by Miners Mill native B. Garret Rogan, takes place amidst the country’s opiod epidemic, with a bit of gallows humor sprinkled in the mix. It explores the lives of a group of high school friends and their struggle to connect with a drug-addicted classmate in a cynical manner.
Director Dave Reynolds warned that the production is suitable only for mature audiences, but that should not alienate people from attending based on taste.
“I would want people to come see the show because, A) it’s funny, topical and unique to NEPA. Well it’s not unique to here; actually, it’s an epidemic,” Reynolds said. “It certainly seems like everyone is touched by (addiction). I haven’t seen or read anything that treats this subject matter the way this does. … I love (Rogan’s) writing. He’s extremely funny in a dark way. It’s very irreverent, but poignant.”
“It’s funny, funny, funny — then he hits you with a profound truth, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I didn’t think of it that way,’” McDermott added. “So I think that will appeal to audiences.”
Gaslight Theatre Company gives local playwrights the chance to produce their shows in front of an active audience. Rogan wrote for Gaslight’s “Playroom” series previously, but this is his first full-length play to be performed there.
Anne Rodella, who plays Clara, said she was most excited to be part of the show’s original cast.
“I don’t know that I was ever in an original piece before where no one had performed it yet,” Rodella said. “Bringing a show that the area has never seen, where a local writer worked on (it), is neat. Our parts are ours. If this is done somewhere else and they cast someone as Clara, I still played Clara first.”
The last few weeks of rehearsals coincided with the release of an NBC News article identifying heroin as a major cause of unhappiness in Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding region.
“Addiction in general, it’s like people get off one and hop on to another,” McDermott said. “Everyone has that need to fill the void.”
For Reynolds, Northeast Pennsylvania’s influence was clear.
“The show is not blatantly set in NEPA, but it’s definitely set in NEPA,” he said. “It’s very here, with a church and a bar on every corner.”
Having the area as the background created an easier connection for the actors, most of whom grew up in and around the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton region.
“This character is the most similar to me,” Rodella said. “A lot of it rings true from what she says to what she does, and what people say about her. Clara is like the audience, because she’s an outsider. She comments the most on other people and learns about them at the same speed as the audience.”
In addition to guaranteed belly laughs, the play is structured to speak to its viewers to force them to think more deeply about the context.
“Gaslight thrives on shows that don’t really end at the end of the performances,” McDermott said.
— charlotte l. jacobson

If you go
Where: Gaslight Theatre Company, 200 East End Centre, Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Dates: Jan. 19 to 29; Thursdays to Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.
Details: Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors, available on ticketfly.com or at the door. Visit gaslight-theatre.org or the group’s Facebook page for more information.

Scranton band E57 looks to next goal after releasing EP

Scranton band E57 looks to next goal after releasing EP

The guys in four-piece rock outfit E57 grew from highly musical backgrounds, from families full of musicians to “stealing” their parents’ cassette tapes. So ending up with instruments in hand, writing their own music, never seemed like a stretch of the imagination.
Now the quartet — made up of Johsua Zurek on vocals and guitar, Michael “Duds” McDonald on lead guitar, Chris Sheerin on bass and A.J. Lanieski on drums — performs all over the region and released an EP, “Ep57.” The record is a mix of upbeat, happy songs with funky tunes and some “straight-up rock” the group performed over the years. It is available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music.

Q: Where did your band name come from?
Joshua Zurek: Well, Duds and I were hanging out one time… My old car had a display above the rear-view mirror that read what direction the car was facing and what the temperature was outside. I remember asking him, “Well, we’re never going to come up with a name, so do you just want to use that?” as I pointed to the display reading ‘E57.’

Q: Tell me about “Ep57.” How long have
you guys been working on it? And what is the sound like?
Chris Sheerin: “Ep57” is a compilation of songs new and old that we’ve been playing during our time as a band. Songs like “Pinch Better” and “Angels” are older songs Josh and Duds wrote before I joined the band. Then we have newer songs like “Say My Name” and “Tomorrow’s Too Late.”
A.J. Lanieski: For the time I’ve been with them, it’s been energetic, and they’re all dedicated to the music. The sound is a nice blend of Josh’s catchy vocals and rhythm mixed with Mike’s awesome leads and solos, topped off with great bass lines rolled out by Chris. Everybody works well together, and it shows in the music.

Q: How have you changed as a musician over the years?
JZ: I like to believe I’ve become more open-minded to music I listen to and music we write. Back in high school, I listened strictly to heavier music and tried to force myself to write heavier stuff myself. Now, I don’t try to force myself to listen to anything or to write a certain way. I listen to whatever I’m in the mood for and play whatever I’m having fun with.
Michael “Duds” McDonald: I started out just learning classic rock tunes and playing for family. When I started playing original music, I naturally went for a fast solos, shred vibe. Playing with E57, I’ve learned to not go overboard and really write what fits better musically, and adds to the song, rather than what sounds fancy.
AL: I started out with classic rock, grunge, thrash metal and punk. Music of that nature. As time went on, I branched into a slower style… E57 brings a lot of energy and makes it a lot of fun to play, allowing me to mix all the styles I’ve enjoyed and be creative and wild as possible.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a part of this band?
JZ: There are a lot of favorite memories I have from this band. We were nominated for best local alternative act in the Scranton Music Awards this past summer, which was surreal.
MM: Seeing the growth of the band has been really exciting. From jamming in a bedroom to opening up for the Ataris at the Leonard (Theater) — it’s a great feeling to see our progression.
CS: Recording the EP at JL Studios was definitely a highlight, especially with how well it came out. Getting to play the FuzzFest Battle of the Bands this year was another great memory. We didn’t win, but we got to play with all these great local bands like Black Tie Stereo and Jung Bergo for a chance to open for Weezer.
AL: Hanging out and laughing at stupid stuff is a great time aside from playing. Opening at the Leonard Theatre for the Ataris was a wild experience. And the following gigs introduced me to some awesome bands and people.

Q: How has the Northeast Pennsylvania music scene changed over the years?
MM: I’ve only been a part of the scene for about two years, but the talent is endless. The support for local musicians is growing.
CS: I think it’s gotten bigger and better in a lot of ways. When I was growing up, the local scene was much smaller, and the vast majority of bands were either pop punk bands or screamo/hardcore bands, but now there are so many different bands and genres. I would only say there’s one downside to the local music scene, and that is that the shows and venues aren’t as big as they used to be. There used to be a lot more all-age venues and places for bands to play, which helped bring a larger, more diverse crowd.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a musician?
JZ: Back in the summer, I started wondering if I should give up music. I won’t get much more into it, but it was definitely one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make. I’m glad I didn’t give it up; that would have been a huge mistake.
MM: Believing in my abilities.
CS: Just keeping up with it. Balancing my work life, social life and band life is a challenge.
AL: Balancing life, fighting existential dread. It’s not easy to make your own way.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
JZ: Some of our goals are to definitely get more shows, get bigger shows and to do our best to expand our music out and get it heard.
CS: Releasing our EP was a big goal of mine that I’m happy we accomplished. Next big goal would be to record and release a full-length album.
— charlotte l. jacobson

Meet the band
Founded: 2014
Based out of: Scranton
Members: Joshua Zurek, vocals and rhythm guitar; Michael “Duds” McDonald, lead guitar; Chris Sheerin, bass guitar; and A.J. Lanieski, drums.
For fans of: A Day To Remember, Say Anything, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blink-182
Online: facebook.com/E57Band,
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North East Skate Crew marks 20 years with film

North East Skate Crew marks 20 years with film

When T.C. Harding, Brent Postupak and Jason Pearce created North East Skate Crew in 1996, Postupak chose purple as its color.
In celebration of the group’s 20th anniversary, Harding went back to its roots to co-produce the skate crew’s latest film, “Purple.”
“It has multiple meanings,” he said. “We’re honoring where it started, honoring Brent (who died in 2010). Hopefully we’ll be around for another 20 years.”
The full-length skateboard video screens at a premiere party at Downtown Arts, Wilkes-Barre, on Thursday, Dec. 29, with doors opening at 6 p.m. and the film airing at 8:30. Tickets are $5, and a portion of the proceeds benefit the local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“Purple” is the 12th skate video produced by North East Skate Crew, or NESC, with Harding and co-producer Jonathan Borthwick at the helm. It is a compilation video of nearly 25 skaters, with footage from Boston to Florida, California and Colorado that also pays homage to the prior films and the group’s lasting success.
About 50 people helped create the film, including skaters, videographers, photographers, editors, volunteers and those organizing the premiere.
“(The film) is a celebration of skateboarding,” NESC member James Gidosh said.
For its first film, NESC hosted the premiere in a private home. When 150 people showed up, the members realized that was the last time they could host an event on their own.
From then on, they held many premieres at the now-shuttered Cafe Metropolis, and even over-sold the largest theater at R/C Wilkes-Barre Movies 14 with 580 guests.
“We know how to throw an event,” Harding said with a smile. “People do show up, for whatever reason. It’s not just about skateboarding, but also about the creative landscape of NEPA.”
Local bands Sucker and Royal Hell will perform during the pre-party, and photography and other art by NESC members will be displayed. A bake sale and raffle basket drawing also will take place to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“We’ve had some people from the crew succumb to the disease, so it really hit home for some of us,” Harding said of their beneficiary. “It’s also a big issue in the area for kids in general. With the power of the internet, people can be bullied 24/7. And it’s something people don’t want to talk about.”
NESC also will collect coats to donate to the Clem-Mar House, which helps people suffering from addiction.
Although the public’s love for skateboard culture hasn’t improved much in 20 years, the NESC founders found it important to create their own organization for an activity they held so close to their hearts.
“There was so much politics with parents and coaches in (organized) sports, but with skateboarding you and your friends dictated everything,” Harding said. “We were taking a stance against people telling us skateboarding was bad, because we all had a passion and love for it. And the proof is in the pudding; here we are 20 years later and still going.”
For many, NESC is a close-knit brotherhood. The 30-somethings of NESC, like Harding and Gidosh, paved the way for the younger generation by supplying a support group of like-minded people. Gidosh said he never envisioned the positive influence they would have on some of the younger members, but he is happy for it.
And the all-ages aspect of the sport is apparent during “Purple,” with featured skaters ranging in age from 17 to 40.
The Other Side in downtown Wilkes-Barre will host the film’s after party, with local DJ sets from Conscious Pilot, Poison Thorn and Fantasy Camp plus a surprise guest DJ. Tickets for the 21-and-older event are $5 or $2 with the ticket from the video premiere.
“Skateboarding has always been there for me in the toughest of times and in the best times. It’s always helped me,” Harding said. “There were definitely points when I thought I was too old to be skateboarding, but when skateboarding isn’t in my life, it seems I’m at my worst, and when it is in my life, I’m at my best.”
— charlotte l. jacobson


What: NESC presents “Purple”
When: Thursday, Dec. 29, 8:30 p.m.; doors open at 6.
Where: Downtown Arts, 47 N. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre
Details: The pre-party starts at 6 p.m. with local bands Sucker and Royal Hell performing. The film airs at 8:30. Tickets are $5, and a portion of the proceeds benefit the local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
What: After party
When: Dec. 29, 10 p.m.
Where: The Other Side, 119 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $5, or $2 with film ticket from the premiere. The event is 21 and older.