Kali Ma and the Garland of Arms began as a solo project for Jami Kali.
In 2014, the Wilkes-Barre musician released her first album, “Holy Drone,” but hoped to expand her project into a full band.
“Ray Novitiski and I found one another,” the vocalist explained. “He brings artistry into his guitar playing by adding color and texture to sounds. He’s also one of my favorite songwriters. In 2017, Shiny Montini and Matt Chesney joined the crew and completed us. A solid rhythm section is essential for our musical vision.”
In July, the quartet released its debut, self-titled album, and the indie group recently went On the Record to discuss the creation of the album and what’s in store for the future.
Q: How did you choose your name, Kali Ma and the Garland of Arms?
Kali: At birth, my parents named me Kali, after the Hindu goddess of the same name. Almost two decades later, I dressed as the goddess herself for Halloween. Loaded with symbolism that I’ll leave for the reader to Google, heads are strung around Kali’s neck and, in a similar fashion, arms suspended around her waist. I decapitated and de-limbed some unfortunate Barbies and Kens, hung them on string, and my outfit was complete. At the Halloween dance party I attended, things got wild, and my garland of arms went missing. “Has anyone seen my garland of arms?” No one had. Years later, it was exposed that the garland was hanging on an acquaintance’s apartment wall in Philadelphia.
Q: What do you hope for your audiences to experience while seeing you perform?
Kali: When I sing to the audience, there is a sensation inside of me similar to the feelings that would accompany the pouring of one’s soul out into open ears, the type of ears that are willing to hear, not just listen. I hope this type of hearing accompanies feelings of satisfaction, bliss and oneness.
Novitski: We have a lot of alternating dynamics. You can expect it to be laid back in places and high energy in others. We put a lot of thought into each set list. The key and the mood of one song will dictate what we choose for the next song to create a flow. We want the crowd to feel as though they experienced something more than just a band playing a bunch of songs. When we aren’t up on the stage, we also just like to hang with everyone and have some drinks and laughs.
Q: You just released your self-titled debut. Can you talk about its creation and your process in writing and recording?
Kali: All four of us are songwriters, and the eclectic ideas we bring to the jam room really shape the songs we create. I’m so thankful to have crossed paths and begun collaborating with humans as talented and inspired as these three.
Novitski: Everything happened so fast. I can’t believe how easy it was. I can only assume having four song-smiths in one band was the factor. We record every new song in its infancy, listen to it later, critique ourselves, make improvements where needed, then build off of the foundations. We have a lot of fun while writing and recording. We get along very well, laughing and joking as much as we play our instruments. As for our debut album’s recording process, I recorded everything in a tiny room in our old apartment. I’m blown away by the high-quality sound we achieved in that little room. Making music with this band is like a holiday every week. I love these cool cats.
Q: Do you have any future goals for the band?
Kali: We shall continue to evolve together and offer to the world whatever magic we may possess. We wish to express ourselves, inspire others and to connect with the world we live in.
Hometown pride means a lot to Nanticoke-based band Send Request.
Images of parks, ice cream shops, diners and schools from across the Luzerne County town appear in the band’s most recent music video, “Falling to Pieces.”
“We wanted this video to showcase the places and people who made us who we are today,” the band wrote on its Facebook page. “This is where we call home.”
The pop-punk outfit comprised of Andrew Blank, vocals and guitar; Derek Holminski, guitar and vocals; bassist Aron Wood and drummer Jonathon Labenski, recently signed to SharpTone Records, which produces popular bands such as We Came As Romans and Miss May I.
The quartet recently went On the Record to discuss how the band came to fruition and its new album, “Perspectives,” which hits record stores Friday, Aug. 24.
Q: How did you choose your band name, Send Request?
Holminski: I was on Internet Explorer downloading Google Chrome, and in the bottom left corner it said “sending request.” I just dropped the “ing.” We ended up using the name by all of us writing five band names and mixing them up in a salad bowl. We drew each name and pinned them against each other tournament style, until Send Request won.
Q: What was the path that lead to the creation of Send Request, and how long have you been working together as a group?
Blank: We all went to the same high school. I was 16 and doing this cover band with Jon at the time but also sharing an interest with Derek about writing songs and touring. Ultimately, the cover band came to an end, and Send Request was created not long after that. Derek got in touch with Aron, and I got back in touch with Jon, and five years later here we are still riding the same wave. I can solidly say we have no plans to stop. Music is our passion.
Q: Do you perform outside of NEPA? If so, where have you toured, and how often?
Labenski: We make our way out of the Northeast occasionally. We have done a few shows in the Philadelphia area and the Allentown area. We have also had the pleasure of building a fan base in the Williamsport area. Throughout the years, we have also done shows in New Jersey and New York.
Q: Describe a Send Request live show. What do you hope for your audiences to experience while seeing you perform?
Wood: A Send Request live show in its purest form is best described as hitting up all your friends and just hanging out and having the best time you possibly can. As a band, we try to connect with our fans both on and offstage and are happy to say that we are friends with all of our fans new and old. Connecting through music is what we live for, and being able to meet all the amazing people we have through it makes it that much better.
Q: What do you enjoy about performing in and around NEPA? Has the music scene here affected your sound as a band?
Holminski: I mean, it’s always awesome to play in our home. Getting to see all the friends we have made over the years jam out with us is something extremely special. There isn’t much pop-punk in the area, so that is something we are definitely trying to change.
Q: Your album, “Perspectives” is coming out this month. What was the songwriting process like for this record? Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Blank: “Perspectives” is a conglomerate of different emotions all bundled into 10 tracks. Each song lyrically has a story that comes from personal experience, so the record almost feels like a diary to me. The songwriting process was slow, but I wanted everything to feel as natural and as relatable as it could be, and I’ve learned things like that take time, so I was patient and really let the songs write themselves in a way. I can honestly say I’m really happy with the album as a whole, so I can’t pick favorites when the whole thing is just that good.
Q: Has being signed with SharpTone Records affected your outlook for the future of the band?
Blank: If anything, it’s made us buckle down more. We want to be the best we can be, so we’ll just keep grinding.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add that you think people should know about Send Request or your upcoming record release?
Labenski: This new record is gonna hit really hard. All of it is emotionally driven, and that is definitely a different speed for this band. It is this band’s best work to date.
Find Send Request on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and www.sendrequestband.com
When respected and beloved drummer Tommy Wynder of Exeter died June 22, the people of Northeast Pennsylvania’s music scene banded together to honor their friend.
“Basically, the way local musicians are is that we’re a super tight-knit group of people,” musician Dustin Switzer said. “When something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.”
To celebrate Wynder’s life, dozens joined together to create the benefit concert “For Tommy: A Celebration of Life,” which takes place Sunday, Aug. 12, from 4 p.m. to midnight at River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 S. River St., Plains Twp.
The memorial and benefit concert features live music from a variety of local bands, many of which Wynder played with, including the Five Percent, M80 and Nowhere Slow. Other live acts include Andrew Jon Sleboda of Option, a Soul reunion, Proud Monkey, Brian Quinn of Candlebox and a super jam of musicians to end the night.
The Five Percent. The band members are, from left, Brian Keating, Matt Ralph, Tommy Wynder and Neil Nicastro.
“It’s ironic; some of the guys coming back for the benefit, we haven’t seen each other in like 20 years,” said Greg Riley, Wynder’s longtime friend and former bandmate. “It’s a very unique and eclectic evening with the acts assembled. There are all different types of music, people from all different walks of life. It’ll be really interesting.”
Some of the top chefs in the region — including Jim Guasto of Grico’s, Michael Langdon of Alter House, Chris Mullin of Glenmaura National Golf Club, Gene Philbin of Peculiar Slurp Shop and John Tabone of Bar Pazzo — will provide street-styled food.
Various raffles also will be available and include such goodies as a Nintendo gift basket, one month of guitar lessons with Neil Nicastro, a private Proud Monkey acoustic house show and two VIP meet-and-greet tickets to see Breaking Benjamin at the Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Scranton.
All proceeds from the concert benefit an educational fund for Wynder’s two teenaged daughters. Switzer hopes to hold this show annually at various venues to keep Wynder’s name alive and celebrate him “for the talent he was.”
Riley, whose children referred to the late musician as “Uncle Tommy,” spent hours traveling and performing live with the Wynder in the Five Percent. He recalled Wynder as someone who “made a room fun” with his humor and wit.
“One of Tommy’s best qualities was he was personable and accepted everyone,” Riley said. “That’s why he was so successful in the realm of being a musician. He focused on all different styles of music. He was so accepting of everything and everybody. … It was very easy to work with him.”
Switzer and Riley agreed that those who played with Tommy were made better musicians for it.
“When you look at the groups he’s played with and the success he’s had with those groups, any one of those groups would say that he made them a better band,” Riley said. “That’s kind of hard when you’re on a drum kit in the back of the band, but he could command a drum kit on that stage. Everyone around him was better because of it.”
As a child in Louisiana, Kenny Wayne Shepherd grew up surrounded by music.
With the influence of a radio DJ for a father, the blues musician picked up his first toy guitar around 4 years old, and his first real guitar at 7 after seeing Stevie Ray Vaughn perform live.
“Seeing (Vaughn) was really when I was like, ‘I want a real guitar so I can do this,’” Shepherd said. “I spent several years just sitting around, playing guitar and learning, practicing. By the time I was 13, I was on stage. I didn’t really realize that I wanted to do this for a living at the time, but I loved music.”
Now audiences can hear that love for themselves when the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band and the Beth Hart Band perform Thursday, Aug. 2, at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre.
More than two decades into a recording career, Shepherd built a powerful reputation as an extremely talented blues guitarist and a riveting live performer. Eight of his 10 studio albums hit No. 1 on the Billboard blues charts, and the band holds the record for the longest-running album on those charts with his sophomore release, “Trouble Is…”
Over the years, the artist received five Grammy Award nominations and two Billboard Music Awards.
About a year ago, the group released its most recent record, “Lay It Down,” which debut at No. 1 on the Billboard blues chart. The band’s 10th studio album explores various genres spanning from blues and rock ‘n’ roll to R&B.
“The material is different,” Shepherd noted. “I don’t want to repeat myself. I like to try different things on different albums. I never wanted my fans to feel like they’re going to know what the record sounds like before they’ve even heard it.”
Shepherd wrote all of the songs on the record, with a variety of co-writers. His favorite tune on it is “Diamonds and Gold” because of the sheer enjoyment he gets out of playing it live for his fans.
“I think that for us, we’re a live performance-based band,” Shepherd explained. “We go and make records, but the albums we make are the vehicle for us to get out on the road and get the music to the people. We’ve built a reputation over the last 25 years that the essence of what we do is live on stage every night. We try to improvise, we jam on some things — it’s a loose situation. We do something different on any given night.”
Although the artist finds it hard to choose just one highlight that sticks out in his career, he finds that the relationships he builds with other musicians became the most valuable aspect of his journey.
“Being on the road for 25 years and playing every night, I think that’s really what helps you to master your craft and help you refine who you are as an artist and what you like to do,” he said. “Over the years, there’s more substance in my music. I’ve become a better entertainer, a guitar player and a better singer. … I’ve just grown as an artist and an individual.”
With a band name like Jukebox the Ghost, one would assume there is a deep story behind it.
“It’s one of those stories that’s a little more disappointing than it should be,” vocalist and pianist Ben Thornewill admitted.
“We had a previous band name that we didn’t like. … It honestly came down to having something Google searchable,” he said. “Jukebox the Ghost is such a stupid combination of words, so it’s very easy to find.”
Fans can catch Thornewill and bandmates Tommy Siegel and Jesse Kristin this weekend at ALT 92.1’s Furnace Frenzy in Scranton.
The show takes place Saturday, July 21, at 4 p.m. at the Iron Furnaces, 159 Cedar Ave. Tickets to the Times-Shamrock Communications radio station’s concert are $20, and can be purchased at eventbrite.com.
Other acts on the bill include headliner Dirty Heads plus lovelytheband, L.I.F.T., Brother Sundance and Morgan Saint.
The Brooklyn-based trio met in 2003 while attending George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and released their first album as Jukebox the Ghost, “Let Live & Let Ghosts,” in 2008. Although at its inception the group had no idea where they were heading, their individual backgrounds created a unique sound of indie and pop.
“Between our drummer’s punk rock past, our guitarist’s jam band sort of background and I’m a classical pianist, we each have our own sound,” Thornewill said. “I think if we sat down and thought about it, we would have said, ‘This is a terrible idea.’”
Nearly 10 years of touring and thousands of live shows proved that the mashing of genres and musical backgrounds created a wonderful, funky recipe for success.
Earlier this year, the piano pop outfit released its fifth studio album, “Off To the Races,” and its first single, “Everybody’s Lonely,” achieved national radio play — a first for the band.
“I think every record feels like a reinvention, or it has felt for us,” Thornewill said. “Every time we make a new one, we think, ‘Oh well, now we’ve hit our stride.’ Our song hit national radio success for the first time, and that’s a good feeling. We feel great about that, because we’ve been touring for so long we feel like we’ve earned this.”
“Everybody’s Lonely” pokes fun at songs on the radio that focus solely on love or “drinking too much,” but through poppy piano beats and catchy tunes, it also shines a light on the fact that loneliness is rampant.
“I’ve always had the belief that you can make joyful-sounding pop music with darker lyrics, having something a little more substantial,” Thornewill explained. “And ‘Everybody’s Lonely’ is no exception. A lot of our music you can surface-level jump around and feel joyful, but if you dig a little deeper and process the other layers, there are deeper experiences within the song.”
Much of the layered harmonies and guitar solos on the new album took heavy influences from Queen — a result of the band’s annual October tradition, “HalloQueen.” At these shows, Jukebox the Ghost performs a set of its own songs, and then a second set dressed up as Queen, performing live “as the band.”
These concerts not only pushed the musicians to dig deep into the classic rock group’s sound, but helped them to embrace that sound and mold it into their own. This fall, the band plans to continue that tradition with the fourth annual HalloQueen.
“Fundamentally, we’re a fun band,” Thornewill said. “We’re an entertaining band. Our live shows are silly and self-aware — it’s a party.”
Scranton singer-songwriter Amanda Rogan was diagnosed with her first chronic illness, hypothyroidism, at 13.
Not long after, she also learned she had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. And at 24, Rogan developed endometriosis, which caused her to undergo several serious surgeries in the span of a year.
But through all of her doctors’ appointments, surgeries and even a cancer scare, writing, recording and performing her music remained a source for healing and positivity.
“I try to talk about my struggles to help other people, for them to see that they are not alone and maybe find some sort of comfort or inspiration in my personal story,” the 26-year-old said.
In April, Rogan, who performs under the moniker Sweetnest, released her debut album, “Until Now.” She recently went On the Record to discuss the creation of that album while dealing with her chronic illnesses and what she plans for her future as a musician.
Q: How did you choose your stage name, Sweetnest?
A: I was in recovery after my latest surgery when I began to read more and write more, paying attention to words and phrases that I liked, specifically ones that carried a warm and comforting feeling. I eventually came across sweetness, which is a word I’ve always adored and called my loved ones. I then decided to try “Sweetnest” (as a play on words) and define it how I personally wanted to understand it. That definition is a safe space, one of comfort and authenticity. A place to be held and supported, always in existence, within or outside of the self. This message is also written on the back of the physical copies of “Until Now.”
Q: You just released your debut album, “Until Now.” How long were you working on writing and recording it?
A: The album itself took roughly six months to record, produce, mix and master. It was all done at JL Studios in Olyphant. They were remarkable and made the process much smoother for me. As for the songs, some of them are 12 years old, while others are less than a year old. And since all of my songs consisted mainly of just ukulele and vocals, nearly all of the instrumental was written and formed in studio. Focusing on creating this was a saving grace and perfect place to put my energy during a very stressful and scary time in regards to my health.
Q: How does it feel to have your music out there for people to consume whenever they choose?
A: It really feels amazing, honestly. I finally feel like I have something to show for all of my years of writing and playing music, and I really am proud of it all. I used to walk around and say, “Hey! I have a bunch of original songs,” but when people asked how they could listen to them, there wasn’t a way. But now I am beyond happy that people can access it and have it as their own. I’ve always dreamt of my music having a place in others’ lives.
Q: What are some of your influences, either musically or non-musically?
A: Musically I have had a lot of different influences. I was raised on Motown and classic rock, but my music taste is all over the place. Some of my biggest influences include Conor Oberst, Daughter, Regina Spektor, Dry the River, Andy Hull, Bowerbirds, Justin Vernon, Amy Winehouse, Ben Howard, No Doubt, Dear and the Headlights, Hayley Williams, Panic, Tegan and Sara, Carole King, and the list goes on and on. As for non-musically, I’m influenced and inspired by kindness, empathy, pain, passion, movement, color, connection. I’m inspired by loneliness as well as love. My hard-working family as well as the individuals living in their own power and truth (which encourages me to do the same). I’m also heavily inspired by water, nature, plants and animals as well as simple things that help (make) navigating this life a little easier: painting, art in general, touch, laughter, books, learning, helping others, etc. I feel it all trickles into my art, writing and music as well.
Q: What do you enjoy about performing in and around NEPA? Has the music scene here affected your sound?
A: There’s a real sense of community within the NEPA music scene. Everyone is ready to support one another and lift each other up. In the past, I was familiar with the art side, but deep down I wanted to be heavily involved with music. I felt like an outsider until Matt (my guitarist) introduced me to other local musicians that I clicked with. That’s when I really began to feel this may be a place for me. I feel like I have my own style musically, but I was definitely influenced by the amazing drive and natural talent of many local acts.
Q: What do you hope to achieve in 2018 and beyond as a musician?
A: I hope “Until Now” reaches as many people as possible. I hope it resonates with them and, like I said before, can hold a space in their lives. This album has every part of me in it, and I can only hope some success can come from it. I’m really grateful for the positive feedback I’ve received so far, and I am looking forward to playing more live gigs, writing new material and getting back into the studio to create. I’m also looking forward to collaborating with other musicians and getting to know more people in the community.
A 40-pound head might sound strange to some, but for the past 22 years, it has been the namesake of a Luzerne County band.
The four-piece group, which describes its genre as “the other music,” came together in 1996 first as a cover band and then moved into writing its own music. Although sometimes the group performs as a two-piece unit known as 20lb Head or as a trio dubbed 30lb Head, it primarily plays as a quartet under its main moniker, performing both covers and original music.
The quartet is comprised of Jason Egenski on vocals, Steven Egenski on guitars and vocals, Gary Mikulski or bass and vocals and Mike Zubritski on percussion. Jason Egenski recently went On the Record to discuss the band’s past, present and future as a staple in Northeast Pennsylvania.
Q: Where did the name 40lb Head come from? How did the band form?
A: The long but abridged story behind the name is best laid out this way: One head equals eight pounds; five heads (yes, five) equals 40 pounds. Five heads together equals one big “40lb Head.” We never ended up with that fifth member, so we just upped the weight of one head to 10 pounds since 32lb Head doesn’t roll off your tongue quite as nice. Makes sense, right?
Q: What is a 40lb Head live show like? How would you describe the experience from the stage and for the fans?
A: Well, the best way to enjoy us is to grab a beer and watch a couple of your friends get together and have some fun. It’s like playing frisbee or corn hole with friends. Sometimes the bag is falling in the hole every other toss. Sometimes you miss a catch or the frisbee curves because you held onto it too long. Sometimes it’s the wind. Mostly winning though but never taking score.
Q: What are some of the biggest influences (musical or non-musical) to your sound?
A: We all have similar tastes in music. But when you start “taking exits off the highway and a couple turns and end up on a dirt road, the rabbit holes get deep.” Ya know what I mean?
Q: Do you perform covers or write original songs?
A: We started in 1996 as a cover band. It was tricky picking songs everyone enjoyed, but we broke out the abacus and found our lowest common denominator. In just a couple years, we were diving into writing original music. We put three albums out years ago — “Savior Self” in 1998, “Hills and Valleys” in 2000 and “Third Shift” in 2002. We were young then, and full of piss and vinegar. No careers yet, no families — plenty of extra time. Those were the days. Now, some 20 years later, we’re still having a blast throwing an original in there now and again along with “playing frisbee” with our cover songs.
Q: What do you enjoy about performing in and around NEPA? Has the music scene here affected the band’s sound?
A: There’s no place like home. I see a lot of complaining going on on Facebook about this area, but I love Northeastern Pennsylvania. Our roots are deep here. As far as I see it, our canoe is perfectly positioned in the river to “go with the flow” so to speak. It has been a relatively smooth sailing and enjoyable operation, and we are all very fortunate and grateful for that.
Take a ride down historic Route 66 this summer without leaving Northeast Pennsylvania.
Pauly Friedman Art Gallery at Misericordia University, Dallas, presents the exhibit, “America’s Road: The Journey of Route 66,” from Saturday, June 16, through Sunday, Aug. 12. An opening reception kicks off Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. and will feature live music and light refreshments.
Curated by NRG! Exhibits, the show shares the history and fascination with the nearly 3,000-mile road that cuts through eight states. It features photographs, narrative, music and objects from the route often referred to as the “Main Street of America.”
“We want to reach a family audience this summer now that the students are gone for vacation,” gallery director Lalaine Little said. “We wanted something that was highly interactive and emphasized a travel theme.”
Interactive segments of the exhibit include a drive-in theater experience, a “Guess the Artist” radio show and a “Populations Change Over Time” map.
The main draw of the exhibit is a photo essay by photographer and author Russell Olsen, who researched and photographed 75 classic Route 66 service stations, motor courts and cafes. The sites are juxtaposed on display with images from the mid-20th century and today.
“The nostalgia really hits for me; I’ve only been in the area since 2005, but as I drive up and down our own thoroughfare, we see signs of businesses, big spots and landmarks,” Little said. “Route 66 is the same experience, from road trips with the family, the familiar places you stop, the same games you play in the car, the songs you sing. It’s very much centered around family togetherness and sharing experiences.”
Route 66 opened on Nov. 11, 1926, as one of the original highways in the country, running from Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before ending in Santa Monica, Calif. Although the road is no longer a part of the U.S. Highway System, several states adopted sections of the road and created the state road network known as State Route 66, with parts of the historic route designated as a National Scenic Byway.
To further interest in the exhibit, the gallery partnered with the Northeast Pennsylvania Region Antique Automobile Club of America to host a Car Cruise on campus Saturday, July 7, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a rain date of Sunday, July 8. The event is free to spectators and exhibitors, but any donations made will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
A special event for children is scheduled for Wednesday, July 18, from 5 to 8 p.m., featuring a showing of the Disney-Pixar film “Cars III.” Families are invited to visit the exhibit, where children will receive an art car kit and goody bag. They can buy dinner at Misericordia’s Chick-fil-A Express and go to the dining hall to work on their cars and watch the film. Prizes will be awarded at the end of the night.
“We want folks to get a sense of the range of artifacts that are available. We want people to get the sense of being able to have a stay-cation or appreciate attractions around here at home,” Little said. “We have both a thriving arts community of people who participate and community of people who like to look at and interact with art. We want to be able to serve those folks who can’t necessarily get out to New York or Philadelphia or other collections. We want to bring as much of that here as possible.”
Sean Flynn found inspiration for his solo act in a bottle of whiskey. The 30-year-old musician decided that
while creating his folk project—American Buffalo Ghost—he wanted to use the idea of the buffalo
“out on the plains of the West.” “I guess I have this love of the idea or the dream of what that kind of America was, and I think the image of the buffalo is channeled into that,” Flynn said. “One day when I was writing some songs, I was having a glass of Buffalo Trace Whiskey and saw the bottle, and (the name) just kind of clicked. The whiskey convinced me that it was a good idea.” Flynn took some time to go On the Record to discuss the project, his new album and what it is like for him to work solo after being in a band for many years.
Q:Tell me about this new project, American Buffalo Ghost.What’s the sound like, and how does it differ from what you’ve done before?
A:The sound of American Buffalo Ghost is rooted in American folk and Americana music. It can go from a wide range of sounds, some of it bluegrass, old-time jazz, country, folk and blues. It’s just rooted in the very fabric of old-time American music and acoustic music. I think I essentially wanted to take the whole idea of “The Anthology of American Folk Music” and condense it down to one guitar and voice. I think that sound has always slipped into any kind of music I have ever played. It just happened. All the other music projects I have been involved with, I always winked at that sound, but with American Buffalo Ghost, it IS the sound.
Q: What made you decide to go solo?
A: I really think it stemmed from the fact that I was seeing a bunch of my friends in the local music scene go off and chase their passion projects, and they all turned out to be amazing. I just kind of felt it was the right time to do something like that. I have been part of the alt/punk scene for so long now, and I just wanted to spread my musical wings. I know this music, I love this music, and I should be able to play this
kind of music.
Q: What can you tell me about your album, “Songs of the Great Remember?”
A: People might find this odd or funny, but it really came about from a Steve Martin album. He has a bluegrass band, and one of his songs is called “The Great Remember for Nancy.” I would listen to that tune and just got lost in a world. I would create a whole little scene in my head, and it was so striking that I knew I wanted to capture that feeling. There is a song on (my) album called “September,” and the lyrics are basically just what I would see in my mind when I listen to that song. That song originally set the tone for the whole album, and it was going to be all kind of like that. As I worked on the album more, the songs started to change as they always do, but I made sure that that song stayed the same. The record is really wild in spots. There is some country honky-tonk stuff that sounds like a wild Saturday night, there are country ballad-type songs, there is a song that is straight up French Quarter in New Orleans and has horns and a ’20s sound, and there are songs on there that are just me finger picking alone.
Q: What is it like performing as a solo artist versus with a band?
A: I love it. I have no set lists when I play solo. I go off the room completely, and that dictates what I play. When I’m playing some bar shows, I’ll keep it up-tempo and play English drinking songs or old jazz songs that were made to be played in that type of place.When I’m playing a coffee house or an intimate place, I can break out the finger-picking songs and different types of covers. I was lucky enough to get some great
musicians to play with me, and we are starting to play shows here and there as a full American Buffalo
Q: What do you hope to achieve this year?
A: My goal is to get the album out to as many people as possible and get on the road more. I already am starting to get shows out of the NEPA area, so that is the start. I just want to keep getting better at my instrument and getting better as a songwriter. It doesn’t matter who you play to or where if the songs and performance aren’t genuine and solidified. That’s a goal I could spend my whole life chasing, and that’s what makes this so fun.
Apathy never suited musician and feminist icon Ani DiFranco.
From the moment she decided to enter the music industry as a teenager, she felt confident about what she didn’t want as an artist.
“I just had big ideas when I was a little person; one of them was that big business and the interests of big businesses contradicted the business of art and democracy,” DiFranco said in a recent phone interview from her New Orleans home. “I just didn’t want to participate in it, you know? When I started out on the road to having my own record company and doing my career independently, I didn’t have a big plan. I just knew what I didn’t want to do. I met people in the music industry — label people — and thought, ‘Yeah, this is the world I don’t feel right in.’”
At just 19, DiFranco created Righteous Babe Records, through which she has since produced 20 of her records, which follow in the footsteps of folk singers and activists Woodie Guthrie and Pete Seeger in their socially aware music with outspoken, political lyrics.
Now fans can catch DiFranco, with opening act Gracie and Rachel, in Wilkes-Barre on Friday, May 11, at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the concert starts at 8.
The audience can expect to hear a wide variety of DiFranco’s politically charged music, which offers a range of perspectives on topics old and new. Most recently, she released the album “Binary” in June 2017.
“It’s a pretty political record,” DiFranco said. “The title track is kind of a reflection on the way I’ve come to see my whole world, that existence itself is something that’s made up of relationships. Nothing exists except in relationship to something else. … That sort of theme, which is not disconnected from my feminism, weaves through a lot of the songs and kind of binds the record together. Like all of the records, it goes a lot places and says a lot of things.”
One of the singer-songwriter’s favorite tracks of the record is “Play God,” which touches on the issue of reproductive freedom being a civil right. This song came to fruition when DiFranco decided she was tired of waiting for someone else to write a song about how she felt on the topic.
“I want to hear more politically conscious songs in my world, things that help me to articulate myself — what I think and what I feel,” she added. “It ends up being me trying to write the songs I want to hear. Like, (expletive) somebody’s gotta write this one.”
After nearly 30 years in the music industry, DiFranco is a fairly decorated musician — garnering nine Grammy award nominations and one win — and activist, with awards including the National Organization for Women’s Woman of Courage Award and the Woodie Guthrie Award, given for being a voice of positive social change.
“There are definitely more people politically active (nowadays),” DiFranco said. “It’s so, so great. I’m sure there’s a way to look at this current political situation, like it had to happen to shake us awake. There were so many complacent, so many numb, so many lost in their disillusionment. This kind of political, social crisis has been extremely effective.”
Major protests, such as the Women’s International March, and the #MeToo campaign gave DiFranco hope that people still care and want to make connections with one another on a grander scale. Much of the root of activism, DiFranco said, is about “supporting and inspiring each other.”
“That’s part of what I love about my job, is being out there, engaging with people and talking to people,” she added. “It makes me feel more alive and definitely more hopeful. You can imagine my shows are gatherings of communities who sometimes find themselves on the outskirts of the status quo. I love my job more than ever.”
Getting real with Ani DiFranco
Q: Do you think you could have been as vocal of an activist as you are without your music?
A: I think my music has been a great tool for me as an activist, if you can look at it that way — it all comes from the same place. I used to love painting, I used to love dancing, I used to do different things. But my job sort of shook down to music and activism. It’s really like all of the things I’ve done have come from the same place. I don’t even see them as being separate endeavors. It’s all my attempt to connect myself to other people to uplift myself, and maybe other people along the way if I’m lucky. It’s all the activism — the art — it’s all the same to me.
Q: Do you ever worry about being too outspoken? How do you think others conquer that fear?
A: I think that fear gets you nowhere in this world. Just when you were asking that question, my mind flashed to in the late ’90s in Buffalo, New York, where I grew up and lived. There was an abortion provider that was shot in his kitchen by a violent anti-choice person. I am very outspoken on reproductive freedom. I was playing to these big audiences, and that was around the time laser pointer pens just came out. I remember being on stage and seeing this red pinpoint light moving across my chest and my head. These moments of mortal fear, of what it can be to be “outspoken,” to stand up in your truth and say it. But mostly on the other side of the coin, I have felt it has made me freer, it has made me happier, it has made me stronger. People have reacted a lot negatively to my outspokenness, but what hit me harder every step of the way was people that came with gratitude and solidarity. All the anger that came my way, it didn’t matter compared to that.
Q: If you give one piece of advice to the young women in America, what would it be?
A: Don’t be afraid to really embody your own truth, your own reality. There’s a lot about women and the way we think and process the world that is an aberration to the status quo, with patriarchy being the defining factor to all of the world’s societies. Women have to be really intrepid with the way they think and act to see and recognize and embody their own ways of knowing. I think, the more that we can do this — strike a gender balance in society, politics, culture — that is going to be the beginning to the road to peace on earth. Feminism is the final frontier. We can’t start with the fundamental act of patriarchy and get peace. Balance is what peace is made out of. It will take the feminist efforts of all of us.
Criss Angel knew he wanted to pursue magic at 6, when his aunt Stella showed him a card trick.
“I was enamored with magic,” said the illusionist, whose real name is Christopher Sarantakos. “She was kind enough to share the secret, and then I drove everyone crazy performing it over and over again. I was very engaged by magic. I was just somebody that could not stop thinking about magic. … I started performing and getting paid at 12 years old.”
Angel — who soared to fame when his hit television series, “Mindfreak,” aired on A&E from 2005 to 2010 — brings his popular stage show, “RAW — The Mindfreak Unplugged” to F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, May 2.
Angel’s TV show is syndicated in more than 90 countries, and his Las Vegas stage shows, “Criss Angel BeLIEve” and “Criss Angel Mind-freak Live” — both in partnership with Cirque du Soleil — have been lauded by various critics as the “biggest name in Las Vegas magic.”
This touring show is unlike his residency in Las Vegas, however, Angel said, describing it as a stripped-down version that brings his street magic, mentalism and some of his most iconic illusions to life in an intimate, raw setting.
“This RAW tour has really given me an opportunity to do something I’ve never done in Vegas,” Angel said. “I get to do that close-up magic that I’ve done very successfully on television but never performed live. It’s an unplugged version of ‘Mindfreak.’ Basically, it’s a little bit of everything.”
Though he credits Harry Houdini, Doug Henning and Richiardi Jr. as influences to his style, much of Angel’s inspiration comes from popular culture, art and the people closest to him.
“My dad was the greatest influence to me,” Angel added. “He taught me the power of the mind and how, when it works together with the … soul, anything is possible.”
In Las Vegas, Angel has a 60,000-square-foot “laboratory” where he and his team work to develop new material and experiences. Some of these stunts and illusions take a few months to perfect; others take several years.
Angel has been recognized for his illusions through the years, receiving multiple Magician of the Year awards from the International Magician Society and, in July, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Although some might know Angel for his stunts, such as his water torture cell in Time Square or freeing himself from a straitjacket while hanging upside down, audiences can expect much more than just wild tricks from his Kirby Center show. Angel said a few moments frighten people, and others might bring them to tears.
“It’s really a piece of art that people really connect to,” Angel said. “I try to take people on an emotional rollercoaster ride and let them connect and engage and escape their daily lives and see that everything is possible. … The magic of emotions in (RAW) gives people the opportunity to escape reality and see things they’ve never seen before (and) will probably never see again.”
Over the past three years, more than 22,000 students visited F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts to attend free children’s programming.
Last year, after funds from an anonymous donor dwindled, the Kirby Center had to brainstorm about ways to keep the Young People’s Theater Series free for audiences. From that grew the venue’s first fundraiser, one that returns this Saturday, April 21.
The second F.M. Kirby Fest: A Night of Pints, Pinot and Performing Arts kicks off at 5 p.m. at the downtown Wilkes-Barre venue. Executive director Will Beekman said this year’s event includes “more of everything” at a lower rate. The all-inclusive tickets cost $25 for Kirby members and $30 for nonmembers in advance, and $35 the day of the event.
To align with the night’s laid-back vibe, guests can wander among the tables of food and drink vendors at their own pace. Unlike traditional Kirby Center events, people do not receive assigned seats and can eat and sit wherever they choose — even on the stage.
“What I find I am most excited for was that at last year’s event, before it was even over, vendors were asking if we were doing it again,” Beekman said. “They got just as much out of it as vendors as our patrons did. Those vendors were excited to come back on board, and then other vendors heard about it. I don’t want to say it wasn’t difficult … but we found it relatively easier to get so many people involved this year.”
Lauren Pluskey McLain, director of development, and Joell Yarmel, manager of membership and corporate sponsorship, booked more than 30 food, wine and beer vendors to place around the theater’s chandelier lobby, mezzanine lobby and downstairs gallery.
Vendors involved in the event include Benny Brewing, Nimble Hill Winery & Brewery, and North Slope, Susquehanna and Wallenpaupack brewing companies; wine from Maiolatesi Wine Cellars, Pisano Family Wines, and Bartolai and Freas Farm wineries; and food from Soup Chic, Genetti’s, Rodano’s, Stegmaier Mansion, City Market & Cafe and Arena Bar & Grill, among others.
Live entertainment will come from K8, PaulSko, Jamie Anzalone from County Lines, Dymond Cutter and Rockology Academy students.
A silent auction of show memorabilia will take place throughout the night and includes signed posters from the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Frankie Valli, Theresa Caputo, Johnny Mathis, the Beach Boys and Alice Cooper.
“In addition to having a larger event in terms of vendors, we have a larger number of autographed items available for auction,” Beekman noted. “Most of the performers who have been at the Kirby Center since last year signed something for us to auction.”
To further support the local arts scene, a handful of artists will display their artwork during the event, including Brittany Boote, Naomi Martin and Tom Martin, with others to be announced.
“I think it’s a win-win-win,” Beekman said. “We get to showcase all of the great local talent, great local restaurants and great local wineries and breweries while also helping to underwrite our children’s educational programs, especially in a time when all of these art and music classes are being cut from our schools.”
If you go
What: Kirby Fest — A Night of Pints, Pinot and Performing Arts
When: Saturday, April 21, 5 to 8 p.m.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets cost $30 for nonmembers and $25 for members in advance, and $35 at the door.
Eleven years ago, Joe Nardone Jr. participated along with fellow independent record store owners across the country in celebrating a special day for music lovers.
Today, hundreds of stores across the globe celebrate the annual Record Store Day, which takes place this Saturday, April 21. This record fanatic’s holiday always features special vinyl and CD releases, exclusive promotional products and in-store concerts in area stores.
Much like prior years, Nardone’s Gallery of Sound, 186 Mundy St., Wilkes-Barre, features several bands performing in-store starting at noon that day. For the first time, Dickson City’s Gallery of Sound also will host solo acoustic artists, beginning at 1 p.m.
Each year at Embassy Vinyl, 352 Adams Ave., Scranton, the store raffles off a turntable for customers who buy an item on Record Store Day. It also does T-shirt and bag giveaways.
“It’s a good day to come down to a store like mine, or any independent record store where you can come down, experience new live music you’ve never heard and find something you’ve never heard of, or something you’ve always been looking for,” Embassy Vinyl owner R.J. Harrington said. “It’s a good day to actually get from behind the curtain of digital media and just actually get down there and, especially in a store like mine, you get your hands dirty. You gotta dig through stuff to find what you’re looking for.”
Jay Notartomaso, owner of Musical Energi, 24 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, decided to stretch his store’s celebration beyond the day, dubbing it “Record Store Weekend.” He will keep the sales and giveaways to Saturday and then host musicians Sunday, April 22.
“It’s just kind of hard to manage both, because once the music starts, it’s hard for people to move around the store,” Notartomaso said. “So I thought maybe we just have the live entertainment part (Sunday). A lot of people would come just for that … and not really for the releases.”
Depending on how sales go on Record Store Day, Musical Energi may have specials on merchandise Sunday as well, he said.
Both Gallery of Sound locations and Musical Energi give away items such as the Record Store Day-branded bags, posters, pins and compilation CDs. Notartomaso said his store also raffles off gift cards each year to customers making purchases.
Nardone said that between traffic and sales, Record Store Day is “the biggest day of the year for any record store. It’s fueled the whole growth of vinyl.”
A 2017 end-year report the Recording Industry Association of America published revealed that, for the first time since 2011, music sales in physical formats — vinyl and CDs — exceeded digital ones. That’s thanks in part to streaming services, which account for 65 percent of music industry revenue, but also because of the resurgence of vinyl usage among the younger generation.
“Vinyl sales are still strong. The fad is over, and it’s a thing,” Nardone said. “People are buying records. Anyone can consume music on the internet. But the people who are collectors and into music long-term want to have a collection of records.”
If you go
What: Record Store Day
When: Saturday, April 21
Online: Visit recordstoreday.com for a full list of releases.
Embassy Vinyl, 352 Adams Ave., Scranton
Saturday, April 21, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Live performers to be announced at the event’s Facebook page and embassyvinyl.com.
Gallery of Sound, Fashion Mall, Dickson City
Saturday, April 21, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
1 p.m. — Daniel Rolser (Esta Coda/A Fire with Friends)
1:35 p.m. — Jordan Ramirez (Half Dollar)
2:10 p.m. — George Yurchak (Eibes)
2:45 p.m. — Sean Flynn (American Buffalo Ghost)
3:30 p.m. — Doug Griffiths (Purcell)
4:15 p.m. — Charles Davis (Dog House Charlie)
5 p.m. — David Hagel (Coal Miner Canary)
Gallery of Sound, 186 Mundy St., Wilkes-Barre
Saturday, April 21, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Noon — Bret Alexander
1 p.m. — Indigo Moon Brass Band
2 p.m. — Rockology Music Academy student bands
3 p.m. — Jackknife Stiletto
4 p.m. — Aaron Fink & the Fury
5 p.m. — Trippy Switch
6 p.m. — Rockology Music Academy staff jam
Musical Energi, 24 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre
Saturday, April 21, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Record store day deals
Sunday, April 22, 2 to 6 p.m.
Live music from Brendan Brisk, Tori V and DJ Matt Rat
Comic art and illustrations surround consumers on a daily basis, from Sunday comic strips to advertisements.
The newest exhibit at Wilkes University’s Sordoni Art Gallery, 141 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, opens Saturday, April 7, and shines a light on this genre with “Selections from the Sordoni Collection of American Illustration & Comic Art.”
The exhibit formed from the personal collection of Andrew J. Sordoni III, who began gathering illustrations and comic art in high school after buying his first Maxfield Parrish drawing. Although he traded that piece many years ago, Sordoni still has the first piece of comic art he bought, a “Prince Valiant” Sunday page.
“It’s actually in the exhibition,” he said. “It ran in the Sunday Independent in Wilkes-Barre. … It’s drawn by Hal Foster. I remember it very well.”
Sordoni’s interest in the genre stemmed from his love for fictional characters, ranging from cowboys and detectives to classic literary characters such as King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. He assembled the collection over 50 years.
Stanley I. Grand, former Sordoni gallery director, curated the exhibit, which includes 135 works from more than 100 artists. The display includes notable illustrations from Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker, N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish and Frank Schoonover as well as comic strip artist from George Herriman, Milton Caniff and Charles M. Schulz, among many others.
“It’s lowbrow art,” Sordoni said of the genre. “It is not cerebral; it’s visceral. It reflects American popular culture. It’s the stuff that entertained us and that we lived with every day. On the illustration side of it, they are included in more than just magazine art or newspapers. It includes advertising art, calendar art, pinup art, glamor art and art that was commercialized, designed to sell products.”The gallery will host three Wednesday lectures during the exhibit’s run so illustration and comic lovers can delve deeper into the genre and the works on display. A curator’s tour with Grand takes place April 11, “What Makes a Pulp Different Than a Slick” with illustration historian David Saunders follows April 25, and “A Solitary Figure in American Illustration” with Sordoni rounds out the series May 2. All lectures take place at 4:30 p.m. in Room 135 of Karambelas Media Center. All Sordoni exhibits and events are free and open to the public.
“(The gallery) presents all kinds of art hoping to educate and inform and entertain the audience,” Sordoni said. “Some people will not like it, and some people will adore it. That’s true of all genres of art and various categories of art. This is just one more offering that gives some breadth to the university.”
If you go
What: “Selections from the Sordoni Collection of American Illustration & Comic Art”
When: Saturday, April 7, through Sunday, May 20; Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Sordoni Art Glalery, Karambelas Media Center at Wilkes University, 141 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre
Details: Visit wilkes.edu/arts/sordoni-art-gallery.
Opening reception: Saturday, April 7, 4:30 to 6 p.m., Sordoni Art Glalery, Karambelas Media Center at Wilkes University, 141 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre
Lecture series: Curator’s tour with Stanley I. Grand, Ph.D. Wednesday, April 11; “What Makes a Pulp Different than a Slick” with illustration historian David Saunders, Wednesday, April 25; and “A Solitary Figure in American Illustration” with Andrew Sordoni, Wednesday, May 2; all 4:30 p.m., Room 135, Karambelas Media Center, Wilkes University
When Hayley Jane lived in Monterey, California, she desperately tried to get people to refer to her by those first and middle names only.
It came from her love for British primatologist Jane Goodall, and the name finally stuck when she moved to Boston. So when she needed to create a moniker for her barely formed band, giving a nod to Goodall seemed appropriate, and she settled on Hayley Jane and the Primates.
“It seemed pretty obvious … especially with primates’ relationship to humans,” the singer said. “I knew I was never going to be a biologist since I had such a hard time with science, so I thought it was a great way to pay homage to her. And it just so happens that the guys (in the group) are big, hairy dudes. Humans are primates. The second we forget we are animals, we think we are better. It’s just a reminder of where we come from.”
Hayley Jane and the Primates brings its electric live show back to River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 S. River St., Plains Twp., on Friday, March 30, at 9 p.m. The group performs an eclectic range of music — from Americana and soul to rock, folk and jam band sounds — but since its creation in 2007, the Boston quintet has constantly evolved.
While the band explored its sound, the unexpected death of its first bassist, Devin “Dabbo” Caucci in 2011 shook the members to their cores. It halted progress for a while, as they “weren’t equipped to handle it,” Jane said. But Caucci’s death also brought her closer to guitarist Justin “Juice” Hancock, and the two began writing together.
From that moment, the band found its groove.
“In the last two years, I’ve had a clear view of bridging folk music, jam music, and the theatrics and visual aspects of the show,” Jane explained. “Just allowing us to kind of play what we want to play and making up our own parts. Everyone is responsible for their own parts, so the songs are a piece of each of us. I never wrote like that before, but now that we have this new lineup, we trust each other to put together our own parts. It feels much more like a group effort.”
The band released its sophomore record, “We’re Here Now,” in September, and Jane said it continues to take shape as they perform on tour. While she called the album “all over the place,” she also noted that it represents the band well.
“We’ve got that slow, soulful feel of ‘Lose You,’ and then total bluegrass with ‘Mama,’” Jane added. “There’s the folkyness of ‘To the Moon,’ and we get super funky in ‘Make It Alright,’ and then we get more heartfelt and lyrical in ‘Madeline.’ That’s what I love about the scene we’re in — no one is telling us to pick a genre.”
While the band’s lineup rotated many times since it came together around the Berklee College of Music scene, Jane remained constant. She boasts a hefty musical theater background, including a role in the original production of “Sleep No More” in Boston, and decided she wanted to create a truly expressive performance while the Primates played — something to compliment the music but not take away from it. Pulling influences from her theatrical background and using lights like the jam band scene, Jane creates choreography for the songs to demonstrate the emotions in each one.
“I always liked to make up dances with my girlfriends when I was little, and I wanted to bring a level of that to my show. And also, to have other females on stage is super empowering,” Jane said. “There’s a lot of animal movement, where we’re lionesses to gain that power behind it, the strength behind it. Lionesses hunt together; the women hunt together. I always loved that idea. I really wanted to represent that — the vulnerability, the oppression mixed with strength and all the emotion.”
Jane said the dancers’ bodies elevate the music in the same way the lights do and act “as another instrument.”
“I try to let go and give up some of my control to the music, let it kind of shoot through me,” she said. “That’s my favorite part. It’s hard watching videos of it. It feels so good when I’m doing it. But then I watch it, and I’m like ‘I look crazy.’ But I’m not going to stop; I think it’s important.”
A snapshot one of her photographers took at a concert — of seven young girls staring up at the Primates’ stage — struck a chord with her.
“It was that moment I realized I can’t stop being genuine,” Jane said. “I have to fight through insecurity to be myself and not let all the outside (expletive) stifle who we want to be, and who we really are. That’s what the movement is about — that’s what the live show is about.”
If You Go
What: Hayley Jane and the Primates
When: Friday, March 30, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Where: River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 S. River St., Plains Twp.
Details: Tickets cost $12 and can be purchased online at riverstreetjazzcafe.com. The show is open to ages 21 and older.
Can’t Make it to this Show?
Catch Hayley Jane and the Primates this summer at the Peach Music Festival on Montage Mountain, Scranton, running from Thursday, July 19, to Sunday, July 22.