Wilkes-Barre based Stay Loud bonds over shared interests

Wilkes-Barre based Stay Loud bonds over shared interests

The love of Green Day brought the final member of Stay Loud to the band, but the musicians’ shared passion for creating good music solidified the quartet.
Lead guitarist Gerald Tulao, bassist C.J. Davenport and drummer Justin Ratowski spent several months writing music without a singer before coming across Chris Cashmere, who happened to be looking for a band.
“We both met during the Phoenix Performing Arts Centre production of ‘American Idiot.’ … I knew he’d be perfect,” Tualo said.
From that moment on, the group worked toward recording music and playing live shows in and around Northeast Pennsylvania. The members recently went On the Record to discuss their last year as a pop-punk troupe and what the future has in store for Stay Loud.

Q: Where did your band name come from?
Gerald Tulao: One night after a band practice, we went out to eat and we discussed potential names. We all had the homework assignment to make up a list of 10 names. Chris’ list had the name Stay Loud, and after many discussions, we knew that would be our name.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
Chris Cashmere: Well I got into music after listening to Green Day’s “American Idiot” for the first time. It changed my life, and ever since then that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
GT: When I was younger, I started listening to a lot of music, and I wanted to play an instrument. Most of my friends were playing sports, and I knew I wanted to do something that was different and stood out. I originally wanted to play drums, but there was no room in the house for a set. So I settled on guitar and loved it since.
Justin Ratowski: I got involved through Northwest High school’s concert band. I just kind of came home one day and was like, “Mom, Dad … I play the drums now. I hope that’s fine, OK? OK.”
C.J. Davenport: Boredom, mostly.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public together?
CC: A little nervous but excited because it was the beginning to all the great shows we have come to do.
GT: I was very eager to get on that stage. I counted down the days to our first show. Sure, I was nervous because it was our first gig and a new band for me, but I knew if we messed up, let’s face it, no one would notice.

Q: What is your process for writing music?
GT: Sometimes Chris is at home and writes something cool on his acoustic guitar and sends us a rough demo of his idea. Sometimes we’re all practicing, and after a jam session, some ideas would come out of that. Sometimes C.J. or myself would be playing around with a guitar riff we’ve made up, and it would catch Chris’ attention and end up becoming a song. The process is endless, and we have a lot to work with.

Q: How have you changed over the years?
GT: We’ve only been a band for a year, and even then during that short amount of time we can say there was some growth in us as a band. We’ve definitely gotten more used to communicating with each other as we write music. We all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses at this point. We use this to our advantage to write music that we’ll be happy with. 

Q: What are some favorite memories?
CC: Definitely recording. It was such a good time, as well as the time we played NOISE (music festival) and playing my birthday show. It was an amazing night at the Irish Wolf Pub.
GT: Releasing the EP to me was a big achievement. When I was younger, I always dreamed of having my own album or EP released. That was an amazing moment, letting people hear what we wrote. When we performed at the Ground Floor in Williamsport and the many times we’ve played the Irish Wolf Pub in Scranton, I’ve had a blast. But the one show I can say that we played that I feel was our best was when we played at the music festival NOISE at (Luzerne County Community College) back in August.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
CC: There used to be so many more venues in the area and so many more opportunities.
GT: Due to the lack of venues, it’s definitely hard for bands like us to find a place to play. The great thing about this music scene on the other hand is the fact that all these bands have each other’s backs. We’re all battling the same struggles for success. This is a cool scene with many talented bands that deserve the best.

Q: Have you faced any major challenges as a rising band?
GT: Being that all the members of this band all have day and night jobs, it’s a bit of a hassle trying to find time to get together to write and practice. When we do get together, we make sure to get stuff done. Now, sure, we mess around a lot and spend a lot of time looking at memes, but in the end we always accomplish something after a band practice. Another challenge is the fact that there’s not many places in the area to perform at. We’d have to play a show that’s a two-hour drive away, but in the end it’s worth it.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
GT: We are currently writing songs for our debut album. We look forward to going into the studio to record these tunes and release them. This coming summer, we also plan on going out on our first tour.

Rockers conjure Signs & Wonders through music

Rockers conjure Signs & Wonders through music

Wilkes-Barre psychedelic rock group Signs & Wonders considers itself a “living art project.”
“The music begins by writing itself,” singer Jami Kali said. “It takes us along with it.”
Ray Novitski (vocals, guitar and bass), Kali (vocals and synth), Chris Wallace (keyboards, synth and bass) and “Big Fat” Paulie Weisgerber (drums) formed Signs & Wonders in 2013. As they scout out-of-town venues and work on recording an album, the quartet took a break to go On the Record about their journey as a group and their hopes for the future.

Q: Where did your band name come from?
Jami Kali: The Bible says, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” We are not a religiously influenced band, but this is a profound statement and holds much relevance in our current state of existence.
Chris Wallace: I love the mystical connotations of the words “signs and wonders” together. I don’t believe in the concept of “god” as widely accepted, yet I find ancient religious scriptures to be an account of the magic humans once possessed, now forgotten, evidenced in this passage: “Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands.” It’s a nice thought and we, as a band, are mystical beings conjuring our signs and wonders through music.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
JK: I was raised by my mother and father in a very musical environment. It was only natural for music to become my passion. I began singing and playing with instruments at a very young age and continued to teach myself throughout my life. I’m still learning many things from others, myself and the world.
Ray Novitsky: I was always banging on stuff when I was a kid and have always been obsessed with music. When I was 20 years old, I bought a guitar and taught myself how to play.
“Big Fat” Paulie Weisgerber: I have a family history of musicians. My grandfather was a percussionist in the Navy during World War I, and my dad was very accomplished with brass instruments. He could play just about anything that you blow into. It was obvious at a young age — beating on tables, boxes, pots and pans — that I would follow suit.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public together?
RN: Our first show took place at the Rattler, a rock ‘n’ roll bar operated by James Callahan. We were surrounded by friends and had a very positive reception.
PW: Not just the first night, but every night we play out together, it’s always so fun. Even if I have a bad day, it’s still a blast playing with these guys (and girl). All three of them are excellent at what they do and are far more experienced at live performances than I am. I use that to keep myself grounded. They make it fun because they are so good.

Q: What is the process like for writing your music?
RN: We jam out and sometimes something sounds so cool that we go with it and continue to layer it with new parts. It keeps growing until it sounds the way we’d like it to sound. The writing process is very free and spontaneous. We don’t even set out to write anything. It just happens.

Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years?
JK: I am continuously evolving and growing as a musician. My tastes change, my mind takes on new interests, and every day life is different from day to day. These things influence how I approach my creative endeavors.
RN: I’ve become more comfortable and confident. The constant experimentation with sounds has caused me to become more daring. I’m less shy on stage than I am in my everyday life.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
JK: The NEPA music scene is like a rollercoaster. It is currently at one of those butterflies-in-your-stomach peaks. This summer, thus far, has been packed with many amazing performances and wonderful times with our fellow local musicians. It’s incredible to hear so much original music coming from the valley. There are many talented musicians out there doing their thing, and there are so many good friends supporting all of us.
RN: In the Wilkes-Barre area, a ton of venues closed, and that has led to heavier competition to get a show. They have to be booked further in advance than was the case previously. While some faces have disappeared, there are many new ones popping up. However, the Scranton scene is booming.

Q: What music do you listen to? What inspires you?
JK: I am heavily influenced by ’90s grunge, the psychedelic movement, the sound of one hand clapping, modern and post-modern poetry, Buddhist dharma and the music of nature.
PW: I listen to anything with good drummers and intelligence. And if I hear autotune, I autotune to something else.

Q: Have you faced any major challenges as a rising band?
JK: There are challenges around every corner, and that keeps things very exciting. Not only does a ton of effort go into the creation process, (but also) it is always very important to me to spread my music to as many ears as possible. Promotion is near the top of my list, and it sometimes takes a lot of time and energy to get your sounds into the right ear canals.
RN: It isn’t easy to get your name out there. Social media like YouTube creates an overload of new music, and you can get buried in that mass of data. You have to come up with unique ways to make yourself stand out in all of that madness.

Q: What are your future goals?
RN: I want to have as much fun as possible and hopefully one day make this my full-time job.
JK: We hope to keep evolving together as musicians, reach as many people as possible and go on tour through our beautiful country. I hope for things to keep getting better and better.

Meet Signs & Wonders
Members: Ray Novitski, vocals, guitar and bass; Jami Kali, vocals and synth; Chris Wallace, keyboards, synth and bass; “Big Fat” Paulie Weisgerber, drums
Established: 2013
Genre: Alternative Psych Rock
Online: signsandwonders.bandcamp.com; facebook.com/signsandwondersbandinstagram.com/_signsandwonders/

Wilkes-Barre reggae band sets off on second summer tour

Wilkes-Barre reggae band sets off on second summer tour

Laflin natives Michael Iorio and Danny Sales created Elephants Dancing, their peace-preaching, reggae band in 2015 after they bonded over a mutual love for the same type of music.
After releasing an eight-track EP, the two found themselves separated due to going to college in different areas. In order to continue their creative work, Sales and Iorio traded audio clips and word documents daily to write their first full-length album “Rituals.”
Now, the quartet-turned-septet is comprised of Iorio, vocals and bass; Sales, vocals and guitar; Karl Rucker, guitar; Doug Delescavage, keys; Justin Malinowski, drums; Ross LeSoine, sax and percussion; and Miles Fagley-Orfanella, trumpet and percussion.
Iorio recently went On the Record to discuss the massive support from their fans, known as the “Coconut Crew,” and what the future holds for Elephants Dancing.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
A: Music has always been a big part in every member’s lives. Current and past members have been playing music for several years and some attended college studying the art.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public together?
A: The first time Elephants Dancing performed was at a little bar outside of Mansfield. We played four hours of mostly original music. It also happened to personally be my first performance as a singer/bass player. The band’s current line-up consists of seven members, compared to the original four. It is safe to say that the full seven have not performed yet as a whole. We are excited to show off our new sound throughout our August tour.

Q: What is the process for writing your music?
A: Our music is written by myself and Danny in various fashions. Some songs start with both writers together, while some do not. This variety allows for great variation within styles and forms.

Q: How long did it take to put together “Rituals” and how have fans reacted to the album?
A: The 19-track album was written within the first six months of the bands existence. The album was recorded at JL Studios (in Olyphant) and released in the summer of 2016. Our fans have become a large part in what we do. The individuals whom have been supporting us and giving our music love is our “Coconut Crew.” We love our Coconuts and are very grateful for them.

Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years?
A: As musicians and writers, many of the views and perceptions we once had concerning music have changed. The idea of setting out to impress has changed to entertain. We serve the song and listener, rather than our individual part or ego. Over the years the band has begun to value consistency and preparation in every performance. These ideals keep us on our feet and give us the ability to guarantee quality.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a part of the band?
A: The band has many memories that we hold to heart. A moment we will never forget was during a conversation with our bud Kevin. The band was eager to start, but missing a name. During this late night talk Kevin suggested “Elephants Dancing” to be our band name.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
A: The NEPA scene has pushed us to be more than we ever thought. The scene welcomed our act without hesitation and we could not be more thankful. Many of the bands hailing from Scranton have become good friends to us. The shared support amongst the bands and venues in this valley is amazing.

Q: Which musical groups are on your radar that you listen to regularly or that inspire you?
A: Elephants Dancing has many inspirations with the most prominent being Ballyhoo!, Mike Love, Iration, Dirty Heads, Sublime with Rome, Stick Figure and Tribal Seeds.

Q: Have you faced any major challenges as a rising band?
A: The most difficult challenge presented to Elephants Dancing was a few months without a drummer. With many gigs planned we were left empty-handed. Our performance was forced to adapt resulting in a frenzy of multitasking. Now the band is at a solid seven-member mark, happily struggling to coordinate schedules.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
A: The band plans to release a new single in early August to kick off our second summer tour. We will be visiting New Jersey, New York and Maryland throughout most of August. After our tour is finished we will be releasing our second full-length album featuring the new sound. The Elephants have much planned for the months to come and our Coconut Crew is the first to know.
— charlotte l. jacobson

Elephants Dancing
Founded: 2015
Based out of: Wilkes-Barre
Members: Michael Iorio, vocals and bass; Danny Sales, vocals and guitar; Karl Rucker, guitar; Doug Delescavage, keys; Justin Malinowski, drums; Ross LeSoine, sax and percussion; and Miles Fagley-Orfanella, trumpet and percussion.
Genre: Reggae/Surf Rock/Hip-hop
Up Next: Thursday, Aug. 17, 11 p.m. — Silvana, 300 W. 116th St., New York City
Online: Visit elephantsdancing.com


For some, the cheap seats leave much to be desired. For musician Tyler Bednash, memories of watching baseball games with his dad from the nosebleed section inspired his band’s name.
“When Josh (Borosky) and I started to play music together and I tried to think of a band name, all of our equipment was on the lower end,” he explained. “I remembered going to the baseball games as a kid with my dad and sitting in the bleachers, which we referred to as the ‘cheap seats.’ So I thought it would be a cool name that still held meaning to me.”
Playing as a melodic hardcore band, Scranton’s Cheap Seats took this inspiration and ran with it, creating a group out of Bednash on guitar and vocals; Borosky on guitar and vocals; Phil Terpak on bass and Steve Munley on drums.
Although the quartet continues to strive to get their name out there, they find enjoyment in every moment along the way.

Q: How did you guys meet?
Steve Munley: We’ve always been involved in different bands with each other throughout high school. Phil and Tyler were actually in my first band sophmore year. But we all pretty much met early on in grade school.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
Josh Borosky: I started playing drums in
eighth grade and then picked up a guitar about 3 years ago.
SM: My Dad has played in bands throughout his life and was super supportive of me expressing myself through music.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public together?
SM: I remember feeling happier than I ever had before. Being able to play music we all worked hard on writing in front people was the best feeling.

Q: What is the process like for writing your music?
JB: We (Tyler and I) kind of just come up with skeletons of songs and try to piece them together when we all jam.

Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years?
SM: We used to write pretty simple songs and just jam them in Josh’s garage. I think doing that helped us get the basics down, and now we’re writing more and more polished songs.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a part of this band?
Tyler Bednash: We played a show at the Sherman Showcase last year and got stuck with a 15-minute set after the headliners had already played. I was pretty bummed about it; honestly, we all were. But when it came our time to play, everyone stuck around and got really into our set. People were dancing around and screaming the words in my face. The energy was amazing, and it will always be one of my favorite times with these dudes.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
TB: I think that it’s getting better. I remember being in high school and there were shows every weekend with all different types of music. It’s not back to how it used to be yet, but I think it’s been getting a lot better. We just need more venues.

Q: Who has influenced you over the years?
SM: There are so many bands all over the spectrum of music that it’s hard to pick one out, but we all agree that Balance and Composure is a huge one for us.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a musician?
Phil Terpak: I guess it would have to be booking shows. It used to be difficult, just because of a lack of venues. But now there’s more places supporting the scene again.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
JB: Play as many shows as possible, and have as much fun as we can.

Q: Do you have anything else you’d like to add that is important for people to know about your band?
PT: Just that we love doing this more than anything else, and having these opportunities — no matter how small — has been incredible.
— charlotte l. jacobson

Meet the band
Founded: 2015
Based out of: Scranton
Members: Tyler Bednash, guitar and vocals; Josh Borosky, guitar and vocals; Phil Terpak, bass; and Steve Munley, drums.
Genre: Melodic Hardcore
Online: Find Cheap Seats on Facebook, Spotify, Bandcamp and Google Play


No longer adrift  at sea – Melodic metal group the Aegean finds its groove  with addition of new vocalist to lineup

No longer adrift at sea – Melodic metal group the Aegean finds its groove with addition of new vocalist to lineup

For melodic metal group the Aegean, the sum is greater than its parts.
Formed from several local bands, the Nanticoke-based group pieced itself together in 2016 upon discovery of vocalist Corey Lombardo. With the missing link in place, members knew it was time to get their music out to the public.
“That feeling of relief when we finally found Corey after about two years of trying to find a vocalist that fit in with what we were trying to do — it was like a weight was lifted,” guitarist David Kline said.
After some ups and downs, the Aegean seems to have found its groove. Kline went On the Record to discuss the band’s progression over the years, and how musicians from Northeast Pennsylvania and surrounding regions affect the way he views music.

Q: Where did your band name come from?
A: Pretty much out of nowhere. I was really into Greek mythology as a kid, so I’m assuming it probably stemmed from that.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
A: We’ve all been playing music in some facet since we’ve been in high school. It’s just something that happened then, and snowballed from there.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public together?
A: The lack of a crowd for our set. Discouraging as it was, it was still good to finally play our first show out after a couple years of writing and practicing.

Q: What is the process like for writing your music?
A: I generally write most of the guitar parts with the aid of Kenny (Huber, the group guitarist), arrange the structure of the song, make a rough recording, email the files to the rest of the band so they can start working out their respective parts, put it all together at practice and then fine tune it from there.

Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years?
A: Much more disciplined. I learned a while back from a close friend and amazing musician in his own right that, in most cases, less is sometimes more.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
A: Lots of different things have happened. Most notably for me is the closing of a lot of venues over the last 10 years, which really put a damper on things. But this area still has a ton of insanely talented bands and musicians, and as long as that’s the case, then the scene will keep trucking.

Q: Who has influenced you over the years?
A: For me, personally, I’d have to say Ryan Klubeck, the other guitarist and main songwriter of the first serous band I was in. It was similar in sound to the type of metal that the Aegean is playing, and that’s because my style of writing is very heavily influenced by that band and Ryan himself.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a musician?
A: Finding a solid drummer and vocalist in a sea of guitar players.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
A: Nothing other than to write music we enjoy playing, and having as much fun as we can with it.
— charlotte l. jacobson

The science of fun – RiverFest on the Susquehanna returns for weekend of entertainment, educational activities

The science of fun – RiverFest on the Susquehanna returns for weekend of entertainment, educational activities

Kayaks, environmental exhibitions, live music and more mark the annual RiverFest along the Susquehanna River.
The Riverfront Parks Committee-run event aims to raise awareness about the waterway that cuts through the Wyoming Valley and to educate those who live within the river’s reach, while also providing a fun-filled weekend for families.
The event kicks off at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 23, in Nesbitt Park, Kingston, with a food truck rally and live musical performances, and continues on Saturday, June 24, in the park.
According to John Maday, executive director of the Riverfront Parks Committee, the event has been ongoing for more than 20 years, but has drastically increased in size since its inception.
The nonprofit group began with just a few informational tables but, eventually, the event grew to span three-days full of educational activities, food and live music as well as canoe and kayak paddle trips down the Susquehanna River.
Each day of the event, a different river trip takes place — West Pittston to Wilkes-Barre on Friday; Harding to Wilkes-Barre on Saturday and Wilkes-Barre to West Nanticoke on Sunday. Participants meet at Nesbitt Park and then take a shuttle bus to the starting location.
For the second year in a row, RiverFest begins with a food truck rally organized by Maday and Mike Raub of Metz foods. Some of the trucks at the event will include Manning’s Ice Cream, Nina’s Bitemobile, Southwest Savory Grill, El Jefe, Sweet Lush Cupcake Camper and Sammy’s Caribbean Grill among others.
New to the activities this year are demonstrations by 24th Connecticut Recreated Militia Revolutionary War reenacted military regiment and Five Mountain Bear Clan Native American teaching village. The reenactment group will set up an encampment on Saturday to honor those involved in the Wyoming massacre that occurred during the Revolutionary War.
Five Mountain Bear Clan sets up its village — teepees and lodges included — prior to the beginning of RiverFest.
“They’ll have a fairly large presence on site,” Maday said. “They’re coming as early as Thursday and camping over until Saturday. It’s a big deal. They’ll have stuff for kids and adults. They like to teach about the Native American ways and traditions. They’ll have hand crafts for kids to work with.”
In addition to the new groups attending, the standard RiverFest items remain on the docket for Saturday, ranging from fly-casting practice, birds of prey and live mammals exhibitions to guided nature walks, painting a community mural and pony rides. The environmental tent will be filled with more than 40 booths of educational and environmental information provided by the Riverfront Parks Committee.
“Because we’re an environmental organization, every event we host has a component of that,” Maday said. “We’re a teaching organization. We have to get the people into our classroom. We have to get them there and have to make it fun in order for them to learn.
“Everything we do is environmental education-based,” Maday added. “We’ve committed for a long time. We’re all volunteers. We’ll continue to do it as long as people come to our events, we can recruit volunteers and are able to get financial support from the community.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

RiverFest 2017
When: Friday, June 23, 4 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, June 24, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Nesbitt Park, Kingston
Schedule of Events
June 23
Live music by the Indigo Moon Brass Band and Fife & Drom
4 to 7 p.m.: River Trip — paddle from West Pittston to Wilkes-Barre
5 to 9 p.m.: Food Truck Rally and Childrens’ Activities
June 24
Live music by the Three Imaginary Boys and Don Shappelle and the Pickups
8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.: River Trip — paddle from Harding to Wilkes-Barre
1 p.m.: Live mammals from Second Chance Wildlife Center
3 p.m.: Birds of Prey from Endless Mountains Nature Center
June 25
8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.: River Trip — Wilkes-Barre to West Nanticoke

Southern rock quintet Blackberry Smoke to bring live show to Kirby Center

Southern rock quintet Blackberry Smoke to bring live show to Kirby Center

Blackberry Smoke never stands still.
According to lead singer Charlie Starr, the group doesn’t just tour when it releases albums, but rather remains in a constant state of touring.
But the musicians love every minute of it.
The Southern rock quintent brings its “Like An Arrow” tour to the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes-Barre, on Friday, June 23, at 8 p.m., with opening act the National Reserve.
“We play a bit of a different show each night, never the exact same song order or song list,” Starr said in a recent phone interview from his Atlanta home. “It’s not choreographed, we don’t have any explosions or backflips. It’s just five guys playing a bit of rock ‘n’ roll. We’ll pull some from each record with a surprise here and there. We really try to cover as much ground as possible in two hours.“
Blackberry Smoke is made up of Starr on lead vocals and guitar, Richard Turner on bass and vocals, Brit Turner on drums, Paul Jackson on guitar and vocals and Brandon Still on keyboards.
The songs on the rock outfit’s sixth album, “Like An Arrow,” were influenced by various aspects of the musicians’ lives, the people around them and even sometimes influenced from media or books they’ve absorbed, Starr said.
“Each of our albums are different. There’s not one that sounds like the last one,” Starr said. “That’s done on purpose because we want to keep it fresh for ourselves and the fans, too. This one has some moments that might be something different, whether its funkier or heavier, but we’re always about variety and keeping it fresh.”
The album reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Country and Americana/Folk charts.
After forming in 2001, the fivesome developed a blue-collar work ethic and road rules attitude by averaging 250 shows per year. Their willingness to jam for hours developed their grassroots fan base, which continues to grow with each show.
“Musically, I think we’ve evolved quite a bit,” Starr said. “We played together almost 17 years now … we finally found our thing. I think that we’ve learned how to tour better. In the early days, we just beat ourselves to death. But we learned to be smarter about it, that takes a team. We learned how to sustain ourselves.”
Over the years, the group played through major venues including Madison Square Garden, Red Rocks and the Hollywood Bowl. Blackberry Smoke created music alongside some of the industry’s biggest names, including the late Gregg Allman and Grammy Award-winning producer Brendan O’Brien, and toured with the likes of ZZ Top, Zac Brown Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
“We just want to continue on the path we’re on,” Starr said. “Just try to make the best records we can and continue to take the music to the people.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

If you go
What: Blackberry Smoke with opening act the National Reserve
When: Friday, June 23; doors at 6:30 p.m.,
show at 8
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 570-826-1100 or online at kirbycenter.org.

Music therapy – West Pittston folk artist credits melodic expression with  pulling him through ‘rough waters’

Music therapy – West Pittston folk artist credits melodic expression with pulling him through ‘rough waters’

To David Cupano, music means more than performing or becoming famous. It fuels his creative fire.
“Music, to me, from the earliest age has always been the truest expression of who I am inside,” Cupano said. “It, along with my faith, has really pulled me through some rough waters.”
When not performing as one part of the Gypsy Magic Duo, Cupano plays a blend of classic and folk rock covers and originals across Northeast Pennsylvania, and previously performed live as far as Canada and England.
The West Pittston native went On the Record to discuss his evolution in music and how he has remained successful over the years.

Q: How did you first get involved in music?
A: I started playing and singing at a young age after hearing some fabulous songs that a group called the Beatles were doing. I immediately knew I had to begin writing and singing my own songs, as well as other tunes I really enjoyed.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public?
A: I still remember my first public show was at the Goodwill Hose Company bazaar in West Pittston, where I lived as a child. What was I paid, you may ask — hot dogs and Pepsi for that gig; but, wow, there was finally a live audience. Since those early days I’ve gone on to perform and tour all over the country as well as Canada and England. I’ve also recorded in several major recording studios and have met and worked with many top name artists.

Q: What is the process like for writing your music? Where do you pull your inspiration from?
A: It’s sometimes difficult to say where some inspirations come from when composing a new original tune. I do know that I wake up almost every morning with a melody going through my head. Most of my songs are written as a result of personal experience, things I see other people going through or my views of where our world is going. My style seems to be very melodic with dominant vocal and lyrical content. It’s just a whole lot of fun. It’s really good therapy.

Q: How have you changed as a musician over the years?
A: I’ve recently received an offer from Paramount Records after submitting a few of my original tunes. I’ve been carefully considering their offer while performing locally. I played on numerous TV shows, both locally and out of state. I’ve also performed live on King’s College Radio 88.5, “Fab Four Hour” hosted by Edd Ranieri. In addition, I’ve had the pleasure of performing on WBRE’s “PA Live.”

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
A: The local music scene has evolved into a somewhat “do more with less” situation, which influenced my decision to concentrate on solo performances as well as doing shows with Gypsy Magic Duo.

Q: Do you have anything else you’d like to add that is important for people to know about you or your music?
A: My set lists include renditions of Beatles classics, folk rock, ballads and some more recent renditions of Great Big World and Shawn Mendes material. I’d like to think I do something for everybody. My emphasis is on delivering a strong vocal with solid guitar rhythms. I also play harmonica, drums, a little keyboards or whatever needs to be done. I do try to sneak in some of my original material also.
— charlotte l. jacobson

Meet David Cupano
Genre: Classic and folk rock
Online: Visit Cupano’s pages on Facebook
and YouTube.
Up next: Friday, June 23, 5 to 8 p.m., Kildare’s Irish Pub, 119 Jefferson Ave., Scranton; Sunday, June 25, 2 to 5 p.m., Bandit’s RoadHouse, 1922 W. Front St., Berwick; Friday, June 30, 8 to 11 p.m., Four Seasons Golf Club, 750 Slocum Ave., Exeter

Bless the reign – Best-selling rock group Toto brings 40 years of hits to Kirby Center

Bless the reign – Best-selling rock group Toto brings 40 years of hits to Kirby Center

When he looks back on the 40 years together as a band, Toto founding member David Paich said he still cannot believe the group’s success.
“It’s gone by so quickly,” Paich said in a recent phone interview. “We only thought we’d do it maybe 10 years if we were lucky, but because of the loyalty and our good fortune … We’ve had great fans that keep asking us to play globally and around the world. It’s gone by in the flash of a pan.”
The multi-Grammy Award-winning rock band visits F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, June 18, at 7:30 p.m. for “An Evening with Toto.”
Toto’s two-hour performance will feature repertoire from their latest studio album, “Toto XIV,” as well as classic hits and both band and fan favorites from their vast catalog, including singles like “Africa,” “Rosanna” and “Hold the Line.”
“We know we have to play some of our hits, but we’ll also reach back and do some of our deeper cuts,” Paich said. “For those who have been fans for the 40 years, we want something that someone hasn’t heard in a while. It won’t be the same show that we did last year. We do something different when we play in the same places. It’s new and fun and exciting for us, so it should be exciting for the crowd.”
Paich, who plays keyboards and sings for the American rock group, said the first time he fully realized the breadth of Toto’s fame when their eponymous debut album went double platinum.
“When we heard the words ‘double platinum,’ we were excited, like little kids,” Paich admitted. “Like it was our first day of the music business. Here we were, experienced professionals, calling each other on the phones about the radio. It couldn’t have been a more innocent or exciting time. Looking back on it, it was just a thrill.”
Throughout the years, Toto’s band members and ensemble have rotated and changed, but the group remained strong throughout. For the Wilkes-Barre show, the core members — Paich, Steve Lukather, Steve Porcaro and Joseph Williams — will be joined by Lenny Castro, Shannon Forest, Shem von Schroeck and Warren Ham.
As individuals, the band members can be heard on a whopping 5,000 albums that together amass a sales history of half a billion albums. With four decades together and more than 14 studio albums, Toto remains one of the top-selling touring and recording acts in the world.
In 2015, they released the first new studio album in ten years, “Toto XIV,” which debuted Top 10 in nine countries around the world and became their most successful album since 1988 in the United States and the United Kingdom. But even with all of the success, Paich noted some minor changes he would have made when they first started touring.
“I wish, being the nature of the ’70s and ’80s, if I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself,” Paich said. “I wish we toured the United States more in the earlier days. We found that the U.S. was so big, we were having to be an opening act, whereas in Europe or Japan we were headlining. But we’re trying to make a speedy catch-up (in the states) now.”
Over the years, the band performed in top-ranked venues, ranging from Zenith Paris, the Forum and the Staples Center to smaller, local clubs in various countries around the world — all of which are considered “magical moments” for Paich and the rest of the group.
And even though Paich admits to disliking the business side of the music industry, he thinks that the current lineup has been performing better than ever, and he aims to keep it that way.
“I’ve got a band full of guys that are eager to get out there,” Paich said. “I can sit by the ocean and look for shells, myself … I will always love making music and playing for people, but the music business wears on you after a while.
“We’re going to do this as long as we can. We’re going to be having fun as long as our fans want us. When we’re on that stage, there’s nothing more fun than playing in a band like ours for people.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

Search no more – Bryan Adams brings “Get Up” tour to arena

Search no more – Bryan Adams brings “Get Up” tour to arena

The last time Bryan Adams visited Wilkes-Barre, he performed a solo acoustic set at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.
This time, his appearance calls for a bit more of a production.
The 57-year-old musician brings his “Get Up” tour to the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on Tuesday, June 13, at 8 p.m. as a part of a cross-promotion between the arena and the Kirby Center.
The Canadian singer-songwriter promised his show would feature a mix of his chart-topping hit songs like “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” and “Summer of ‘69,” as well as newer material from his latest album, for which the tour is named.
Over the years, Adams made a name for himself as one of the top hit-making artists in rock and pop, beginning with his eponymous debut album spanning to his 13th and most recent album, “Get Up.” This 2015 release features nine new songs plus four acoustic versions of those songs.
“The album was a series of demos I’d made with my songwriting partner, Jim Vallance, and we would send the parts one by one to Jeff Lynne (of Electric Light Orchestra), who turned them into records in his studio,” Adams said. “It wasn’t meant to be a record, it just turned into one.”
In the last four decades, Adams garnered a multitude of awards and prestige, with his worldwide sales topping more than 65 million albums. He was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011 and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2006, and toured six continents. Adams also has been nominated for and won several Academy Awards, Golden Globes and Grammy Awards for his songs.
But those milestones and awards are not what he claims to be the cherry on top.
“It’s the freedom mostly, and knowing what I’m doing now is for my kids and building a legacy for them to be proud of,” he said.
Although Adams released thirteen studio albums, five compilation albums, two soundtracks, four live albums and 69 singles, he still wishes he could tell his 21-year-old self to release as much music as possible.
“I would have released more music, straight up,” Adams admitted. “I was too precious about not releasing too much. Now I wish I had.”
In 2014 and 2015, the singer celebrated the 30th anniversary of “Reckless,” which boasted hits like “Heaven” and “Run To You,” with a special reissue of the album and an anniversary tour around Europe, Canada and the United States.
After so many years in the spotlight, Adams maintains his drive to create and write as much as ever.
“Making the music was the highlight (over the years), creating the songs,” Adams said. “Even now, as I’m creating a musical for Broadway of the film ‘Pretty Woman,’ the joy of getting the right song in the right spot is a thrill.”
When asked why he continues to tour after his rousing success over the years, rather than retire, his response was simple:
“Well for starters, I’m not dead yet, and I quite enjoy singing,” he joked. “Also because I have an international following thanks to certain songs, which means I get invited to perform all over the world.”
For those hoping to discover more about the singer, he encourages fans to follow his Instagram account, @BryanAdams, which he calls his “diary” on both his music and his life.
— charlotte l. jacobson

If you go
What: Bryan Adams “Get Up” tour
When: Tuesday, June 13, 8 p.m.
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 400 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets start at $19.69 and can be purchased at the NBT Bank Box Office at Mohegan Sun Arena, Kirby Center box office, Ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000.

Paradise lost and found – Members of Fallen From Eden find success in comeback

Paradise lost and found – Members of Fallen From Eden find success in comeback

Sometimes, bands find success and thrive in the music industry. Other times, success cripples creativity and causes a rift between musicians.
For the founding members of Falling From Eden, prior success caused them to stay grounded in their current goals: to play music and enjoy the ride.
About a decade ago, Jay Green, Tom Godin and Brian McDonald formed a group called Absolution, which garned a decent following and allowed the trio to travel the country in hopes of obtaining a record deal.
“The band eventually separated for a few different reasons,” Godin explained. “It was a tough time for most of us and some of us didn’t really talk for a long time. After a few years, the three of us decided to start jamming again with the goal of just having fun with it and not really pushing for a career like we did in the past. Everything felt more natural and it was fun again.”
With Godin playing guitar, Green on guitar and vocals, McDonald on bass and newcomer Jordan Cross on drums, the group continued to jam and enjoy their time playing music. From the ashes of Absolution, Falling From Eden was born.

Q: Where did your band name come from?
Tom Godin: We kicked a few ideas around but nothing really stuck. For some reason I thought the word Eden was cool, more so for literal definition not necessarily religious context. Jay came up with Falling From Eden and we all really liked it. A lot of the lyrical content can be tied back to a theme of losing something or falling from a place of beauty, so it kind of fits with everything.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
TG: Since I was a toddler, my dad had a drum set in the house that he just messed around with … I feel like it was always a part of my life. When I was in high school, I was really shy about doing things in front of people and a couple of these kids found out I played drums and asked me to jam with them. I was so nervous, I wouldn’t even look up at anybody while I played. I was probably 13 or 14 at the time. From that moment until I was about 26, music was the only thing I ever wanted to do with my life and I learned everything I could about how to make a successful career out of it. Eventually my priorities evolved as I got older, and I took a step back and just made it more of an outlet or hobby for me, which I am now content with.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public together?
TG: In this band, being really nervous about my first time playing guitar on stage. The nerves started to wear off after a few songs, and I was just happy that the crowd seemed to enjoy what we were doing.

Q: Do you write your own music or do you perform covers? What is the process like for writing your music and choosing the songs you cover?
Jay Green: A mixture of both. We usually write collectively together. Myself or Tom may come into practice with a guitar riff that either of us were jamming or working on or just came up with spontaneously on the spot and then the song is built from there. Or it may be a drum beat that Jordan plays, or a bass line that Brian plays that sparks interest and a song is created. We normally choose (cover) songs from bands that we love and follow and that have influenced us as well as playing songs that not many bands would play or attempt to play based on difficulty or popularity.

Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years?
JG: I think we have all grown as musicians over the years. For myself, Tom and Brian, we have challenged ourselves each with our own instruments, and some of us, with other instruments besides our current instrument. Jordan, although still somewhat new to this project, is making great strides and continually learning and making great music on his instrument.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a part of this band?
JG: Our first show. The nerves, the jitters, the years of missing that feeling of being on stage and performing in front of a crowd and rocking out together and having fun. Also, making new memories together, making new friends, gaining new fans and having our music be heard — to see where our music takes us.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
All: The NEPA music scene is not the same as it use to be years ago … People used to go out and support original music or cover bands in NEPA, but it seems that the bars or night clubs or bigger venues have closed, or have been forced to close, causing bands to not have a place to play locally. Some popular local NEPA bands throughout the years have disbanded due to the scene not being what it once was. But, we think that the local NEPA music will make its comeback. We just don’t know when … But, there are still great places for bands to play in NEPA, that support the local NEPA music scene and bands or artists themselves.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a musician?
All: Finding time to practice. Although, we do make up for missed time or days that we can’t practice. Practice only makes yourself — and your band — tighter and better at what you do.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
TG: Make killer music and have fun.

Q: Do you have anything else you’d like to add that is important for people to know about your band?
All: We are just four guys writing, creating and playing music and doing what we love to do. As a career, as a hobby, or just for fun. We don’t know where this project will take us, but we are excited to see where.
— charlotte l. jacobson

Meet the band
Band members: Jay Green, guitar and vocals; Tom Godin, guitar and backup vocals; Brian McDonald, bass; and Jordan Cross, drums
Genre: Hard rock/metal
For fans of: Sevendust, Alter Bridge, Static X, Korn, A Skylit Drive
Online: Falling From Eden on Facebook; reverbnation.com/fallingfromeden

Big Easy taste – The French Quarter brings flavors of New Orleans to Nanticoke

Big Easy taste – The French Quarter brings flavors of New Orleans to Nanticoke

In less than two months, Nanticoke residents welcomed their newest neighbors at the French Quarter restaurant with open arms.
Owner and chef Kelli Fritz worried that opening a restaurant far away from her Berwick home might be a disadvantage to the business, but the locals proved her wrong.
“I know my people (in Berwick) will follow me here to eat, but I don’t have many friends up here,” she said. “But through word of mouth, we’ve been busy.”
The restaurant hugs the corners of South Walnut and East Union streets, which sat vacant for four years prior. Customers who enter the establishment are immediately greeted by the scent of Cajun spices and a cozy atmosphere. A menu full of variety sits on the chalkboard wall with different options written in brightly colored chalk, and Mardi Gras-themed decor covers the restaurant in the signature green, purple and gold color scheme.
Fritz said after so many years working for other people she decided it was finally time to open her own restaurant, with her style of food.
“I lived in New Orleans until I was eight, and my uncle had a restaurant down there,” she said. “For years, people told my mom and I to open a New Orleans-styled restaurant, but we’d been busy working for other people, making them money.”
In November, an opportunity to lease the restaurant South Walnut Street presented itself to Fritz and her husband, Larry, and they couldn’t pass it up.
“It was a long time coming,” Fritz said.
But she couldn’t do it alone. With help from her family and friends, they opened the restaurant after five months of revamping the interior and decorating it to their liking.
Now, the restaurant specializes in various New Orleans- and Cajun-styled cuisine, from the famous Po’Boys — both hot and cold — to Crawfish Etouffee and Jambalaya. But most notably, the French Quarter serves Alligator Bites as an appetizer, to really bring something new to the area.
“We allow people to have samples of gator before ordering,” Fritz said. “And 90 percent of people like it.”
“It’s like a fishy chicken with a steak texture,” her husband added.
Although they are still a budding restaurant, the food spoke for itself when it came to Facebook reviews, which have been mostly five-stars. Fritz said she fears the day they receive a bad review, but said, “you can’t please everyone.”
Even with the more unique dishes, the couple said locals keep returning to the restaurant to try new things. Within the few months they’ve been open, they said many people are repeat customers, from the 911 call center employees that order lunch to the neighbors across the street that eat dinner at the restaurant several times a week.
“The best part is meeting all of the new people, from the people across the street to any new customer that walks in daily,” Fritz said.
— charlotte l. jacobson

The French Quarter
Address: 701 S. Walnut St., Nanticoke
Phone: 570-258-2795
Owners: Kelli and Larry Fritz
Cuisine: New Orleans-styled sandwiches and dinner entrees
Hours: Mondays, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursdays, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays, 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturdays, noon to 11 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 8 p.m.
Online: Visit the French Quarter on Facebook.

Folk artist releases album,  plans on more music to come

Folk artist releases album, plans on more music to come

Pianist and songwriter Chuck Paul found himself hooked on music from the moment he saw the Beatles on television in the 1960s.
“Sunday evening, 8 p.m. on Feb. 9, 1964, I saw the Beatles on ‘Ed Sullivan,’” Paul said. “The fate of the skinny little kid with the crewcut was sealed forever.”
Now the musician finds himself pumping out music, ranging from folk to Christian rock.
The Pittston resident recently spoke about his method of song writing, the release of his fourth album “LONEWOLF” and his future goals in music.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public?
A: How good it felt. The feeling overpowered the performance, and thank God, because it sounded like a train wreck. We didn’t know what we were doing, but it was OK, because the audience didn’t know what they were hearing.

Q: What is the process like for writing your music?
A: I don’t consider myself a “songwriter.” A song receiver is more accurate. Almost every song I’ve written just comes to me. I rarely sit and tinker around with lyrics or chords. I’ll be doing something unrelated and I’ll get a rush of melody and/or lyrics, then I’ll sit and run with it. How can I take credit for composing something that’s given to me? I don’t believe in writer’s block, either. I believe you have to stay open to receive the work. If you do, it’ll come. Not in your timing, but when it’s ready. That’s why I speak highly of my mate
rial. It’s not ego, because I don’t feel it came from me. It came from the outside, it’s a gift that was given to me. My name is on it for identification purposes only. I can write songs that I battle for, but they’re never as good as when I open my mouth like a baby bird and receive it.

Q: How have you changed as a musician over the years?
A: Well, if you’re serious about your music, as I am, one naturally gets better as the years go by. Not just in your abilities as a musician, but in your outlook.

Q: Are you working on new material?
A: Yes. I have enough music to release a full-length album every quarter for the year. Some are in the can, but as I’ve stated, it’s up to the fates. If the songs keep flowing as they have been, I’ll meet that goal.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a musician?
A: It was probably the solo performance I gave on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in front of a packed house, sitting at their beautiful grand piano performing an original Christian song. Afterwards, I had to tell the stage manager that my little cheat sheet fell in the piano and I couldn’t get it out. Most embarrassing!
Q: How has the music scene changed over the years?
A: One thing is consistent— there has always been, and still is, a giant pool of great talent. But when you talk about a scene, it conjures up a sense of unity. This has never happened here. There has always been cliques, not unity. No widespread acceptance and respect. This area could very easily be another Liverpool, Seattle, Athens, etc., but it never will, for the simple reason that we have great talent, but we’ve always lacked a unifying heart.

Q: Who has influenced you over the years?
A: It’s always been the Beatles first, but I’ve got a great love for the singer/songwriters. Jim Croce is my favorite, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, John Prine. I also love big band music. I’m very impressed with their melodies and orchestral arrangements.

Q: What are your future goals for your music?
A: To keep moving, to always shoot for the next level. There’s an element of mystery in music. Some call it magic. You never know what’s ahead. This profession doesn’t tolerate stagnation. If you keep moving and don’t shoot yourself in the foot, great things happen.

— charlotte l. jacobson

Many Happy Returns – Folk singer Tom Rush revisits NEPA to headline Fine Arts Fiesta in Wilkes-Barre

Many Happy Returns – Folk singer Tom Rush revisits NEPA to headline Fine Arts Fiesta in Wilkes-Barre

The last time folk and blues singer Tom Rush visited Wilkes-Barre, snow covered the downtown region.
“What I remember is that it was winter, there had just been a huge snowstorm that hadn’t been cleared yet and there was no parking for miles,” he recalled in a recent interview. “The show went up quite late, and about half the folks who bought tickets couldn’t get there. But those that did seemed to have a really good time.”
This time, Rush returns as the headlining musical act for the 62nd annual Fine Arts Fiesta on Saturday, May 20, at 7 p.m. on Public Square in downtown Wilkes-Barre, and there’s no sign of snow stopping fans from enjoying the show.
“I’m very blessed to have been able to make a good living doing something I love to do — and would probably do for free, but don’t let that get around,” Rush joked. “I love performing, I love writing songs and discovering little-known songs that others have written. I love recording. The hard part, and getting harder, is the travel, but it’s worth it.”
The 76-year-old musician began performing in the early 1960s while studying English literature at Harvard University, and released two albums while a student. After graduating, Rush’s impact on the American folk music revival exploded, melding his knack for finding wonderful songs to perform along with writing his own.
Many of his folk hits have been reworked into country, heavy metal and rap: a testimony to the widespread appeal of his music and its themes.
“You have to be inventive these days to connect with your audience — there is so much noise out there, so many people yammering for your attention that it’s hard to get anyone to focus,” Rush said.
In order to combat the noise, Rush recently recorded a new album in Nashville, which he said is slated to be released by the fall. To subsidize the project, he set up a crowdfunding platform through PledgeMusic, where people may choose from rewards like the album, old and out-of-print recordings, a Naked Lady guitar like the one Rush plays and even a private concert. Fans interested in participating can find it one his website, tomrush.com.
Although Rush said he experienced too many memories over the years to pinpoint one as a highlight, he agreed that his performance at the Fine Arts Fiesta would be one for the books.
“I’ll be trying out some new songs and doing some of my old favorites, sprinkled with a liberal helping of stories that are all absolutely true, to one extent or another,” he said.
— charlotte l. jacobson

Fine Arts Fiesta Main Stage Performance Schedule
Thursday, May 18
10 a.m. — Wyoming Valley West High School Chorus
11 a.m. — Wyoming Valley West High School Orchestra
noon — Fine Arts Fiesta opening ceremonies
12:30 p.m. — Wyoming Valley West Middle School Jazz Band
1:30 p.m. — Coughlin High School Jazz and Concert Band
2:30 p.m. — Wilkes-Barre Orchestra
3 p.m. — Holy Redeemer Royal Singers
4 p.m. — Wyoming Valley West High School Jazz Band
5 p.m. — Scott Edmunds Jazz Quintet
6:30 p.m. — Fine Arts Fiesta awards ceremony
7:15 p.m. — Perfect Harmony Center for the Arts

Friday, May 19
10 a.m. — Wyoming Valley Middle School Orchestra
11 a.m. — Wyoming Valley West Middle School Chorus
noon — Dallas Middle School Select Chorus
1 p.m. — The Treble Makers
2 p.m. — Anthony Natiello
4 p.m. — Wilkes-Barre Academy Glee Club
5:15 p.m. — Nitya Rhythm Dance Academy
6:30 p.m. — Flaxy Morgan

Saturday, May 20
11 a.m. — Joan Harris Dance Center
noon — YOUniversal Suzuki Strings
1 p.m. — The Mozart Club
2 p.m. — Dance Theater of Wilkes-Barre
3 p.m. — Rising Stars Performing Arts
4 p.m. — Little Theater of Wilkes-Barre
5 p.m. — Conservatory of Dance
7 p.m. — Tom Rush

Sunday, May 21
11 a.m. — The Poetry Society
noon — NEPA Academy of Dancing
1:30 p.m. — Tri-Cities Opera (in memory of Jane Groh)
3:15 p.m. — Keystone Kids
4:15 p.m. — The I-tations — A Tribute to George Wesley

Comic Relief – Local shops celebrate Free Comic Book Day with special releases, events

Comic Relief – Local shops celebrate Free Comic Book Day with special releases, events

Holy comics, Batman — it’s that time of year again.
Free Comic Book Day soars into local stores on Saturday, May 6, where comic book fans can choose from nearly 50 different books.
The annual event began in 2002 as a way to promote comics and thank buyers as well as introduce the books to new fans. Publishers produce dozens of special editions and reprints, and offer the books to retailers at cost. Shops release these books to the public during the event, which usually conincides with the big comic book-based film of the summer.
This year, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” hits the silver screen just two days before Free Comic Book Day, and an all-new “Guardians of the Galaxy” comic hits stands on Saturday, May 6.
Rubber Mallet Comics, 802 Wyoming Ave., West Pittston, joined in on the free comic fun in 2012, about a month after the store opened, according to owner Chuck Rowles. This year marks the sixth Free Comic Book Day in which the store has participated, and the fifth anniversary of the store opening.
“Honestly, it’s become a celebratory atmosphere,” Rowles said. “A lot of my customers wait until Comic Book Day to come out. All of the people who help out in the store come and we’ll all hang out. It’s become a really fun day for us.”
In addition to having characters in costume — Deadpool and Thor included — Peter and Jean Brubaker from the Suzuki School for Strings will perform comic book-themed cello music throughout the event, which begins at 10 a.m.
Rowles allows each person to choose three of the free books as soon as they enter the store, and an additional three with any purchase. Graphic novels, back issues, action figures and statues also are marked down during the event.
For David Romeo and the staff at Comics on the Green, 307 N. Washington Ave., Scranton, this event remains a positive one for them. After 25 years in business, and 15 years participating in the event, they know how to make sure it runs smoothly.
“There are almost 50 books to choose from,” Romeo said, who recieved a shipment of about 700 pounds of free comics for the event. “For the past decade we’ve allowed people to take three or four books, which gives everybody a chance and a good selection to choose from, while still making sure that there are things for people who come in a bit later.” Comics on the Green opens its doors at 11 a.m., with free comic books, discounted products, free face painting for children and DC Comics artist Tom Derenick on site to sign books and sketch a limited number of commissioned pieces.
According to Romeo, some comics to look out for include a “Doctor Who” comic that features four doctors, “Legend of Zelda,” “Rick and Morty” and ”Wonder Woman.”
“DC has the ‘Wonder Woman’ movie coming out this year, so they are really pushing the ‘Wonder Woman’ products,” he said. “They have a lot of stuff coming out for young readers. Kids come in and get a free comic and love it. That’s what it’s meant to do — get them excited about reading.”
Like the summer blockbuster movies they inspire, comic books continue to gain popularity year after year, Romeo added.
“I think some of the best comic books that have ever been written are being done now,” Rowles said. “People just now getting into comics are amazed at the variety. It’s not just superheroes, but it’s history, science. Anything that you’d be interested in reading a comic about, there’s most certainly a comic about it.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

Free Comic Book Day
Rubber Mallet Comics
802 Wyoming Ave., West Pittston
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Special event: Peter and Jean Brubaker perform comic book-themed cello music
Contact: 570-655-5522 or rubbermalletcomics.wordpress.com

Comics on the Green
307 N. Washington Ave., Scranton
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Special events: DC Comics artist Tom Derenick signing and sketches; free face painting for children
Contact: 570-342-5960 or comicsonthegreen.com