Righteous babe – Ani DiFranco brings politically charged music to Kirby Center

Righteous babe – Ani DiFranco brings politically charged music to Kirby Center

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.”
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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.

Illusionist Criss Angel has magic eye on NEPA

Illusionist Criss Angel has magic eye on NEPA

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.”

Children’s programs to gain from Kirby Fest

Children’s programs to gain from Kirby Fest

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.”

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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.
Online: kirbycenter.org

Old-school sound Record Store Day celebrates vinyl with specials, live music

Old-school sound Record Store Day celebrates vinyl with specials, live music

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.”
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If you go
What: Record Store Day
When: Saturday, April 21
Online: Visit recordstoreday.com for a full list of releases.

Local events
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)
galleryofsound.com

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
musicalenergi.com

Pop goes Sordoni – Gallery turns to comic art, illustration for new exhibit

Pop goes Sordoni – Gallery turns to comic art, illustration for new exhibit

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.

Special events
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

Party Animals – Hayley Jane and the Primates evolve into eclectic band coming to NEPA

Party Animals – Hayley Jane and the Primates evolve into eclectic band coming to NEPA

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.”
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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.

Alt-rock band strives to bring organic feel to music scene

Alt-rock band strives to bring organic feel to music scene

Each member of Scranton band Permanence found his way to music in a unique fashion, from downloading a live concert of Blink-182 to becoming inspired to pick up cello by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic.
Although their methods were not entirely conventional, it brought these four guys together to create a homegrown, alternative rock band.
The group, comprised of Scott Jordan on vocals and guitar, Dan King on vocals and guitar, bassist John Husosky and drummer Randy Weller, went On the Record to discuss their song writing process and the challenges of creating an original band.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
A: Randy Weller: I grew up watching my father and uncle improvise on the guitar and drums and was always impressed with the way they could create something out of nothing musically. My interest grew, I started to play the drums and exploring music.
John Husosky: I Limewired a Blink-182 concert from Australia and thought the show and music was awesome. I had a close friend that wanted to start playing guitar and it went from there.
Scott Jordan: I started singing in a group in high school called Just a Thought. We started playing some covers but when we started writing originals my interest really peaked. From that point making music has been one of my favorite things to do.
Dan King: I saw the NEPA Philharmonic play as a kid and knew at that moment I wanted to play the cello. From there, I went on to pick up the guitar and get involved with different local bands.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public together?
A: DK: That was Randy’s first show ever and Scott’s first show in about four years since leaving A Fire With Friends. We were all nervous because in past projects we were never the key pieces of the groups, and this was our first opportunity to create something. After the first song, it just felt right. And we all ended up saying, ‘It’s over already?’ after the set.

Q: Do you write your own music? If so, what is the process to create new songs?
A: JH: We have made this an all-original music project. Typically, Dan or Scott will write something acoustically and send it to our group chat. From there, we work on the idea and develop it at practice. Once we are happy with the structure, Randy and I will add rhythmic touches with Dan. And Scott comes up with the main melodies for the tune.

Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years? 
A: SJ: The local scene has really made an impact on how we listen, perform and think about music. The groups that have come out of Pa., and specifically NEPA over the years, have influenced us all and our peers are the best inspiration and tool we have to grow as musicians. It’s great to see how little influences from music you’re currently listening to can add to what you create.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a part of this band?
A: RW: Too many to even think about, we have all become really close friends and always have a good time. If we had to pick one it would probably be the positive response to our first show. This is something that had only lived in a basement until then and it is great to see that people enjoy it.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
A: DK: There is never a shortage of good bands forming and coming through the scene. It has been awesome to see our close friends form different groups or projects that showcase a different side or take on their musical personality.

Q: Have you faced any major challenges as a rising band?
A: JH: I am in four bands currently and Dan has lived in the Philly area for the last year, so getting together for practice can be a tough hurdle. When we are able to get together we make the most of it, and Dan will be back home soon.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
A: SJ: We are happy continuing with the way things are going. We aren’t getting any younger and to have the privilege to play out and with other groups is amazing. I guess something that would be a great experience would be to play a show where the crowd sang our lyrics during the set.

 

Scranton band Dour stays true to its name, looks forward to creating new music

Scranton band Dour stays true to its name, looks forward to creating new music

Dour — as classified in the dictionary — is an adjective that refers to something that is relentlessly severe, stern or gloomy in manner or appearance.
Chadd Jenkins of Scranton thinks that word suits his metal and punk band perfectly.
“It’s a very fitting name for the band and its lyrical and musical content,” Jenkins said.
The five-piece punk outfit includes Jenkins on guitar and vocals; vocalist Bobby Keller, Billy Breen on guitar, bassist Cory Casey and drummer Chris Baranowski. Jenkins recently went On the Record to discuss the band’s first performance together and how the Northeast Pennsylvania music scene influenced its sound over the years.

Q: How did you all meet?

A: We all met through the punk scene in Scranton years ago. The bands we have played in were Alfhole, Dead Radical, Bob and the Sagets and Cell 13, to name a few.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
A: We have been in bands for a while.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public together?
A: The first time we ever played out as Dour was the day we released our self-titled demo. We played two shows in one day. First in Wilkes-Barre at Curry Donuts and the other was at the Irish Wolf Pub in Scranton. No one heard us until these two shows. The reaction was very positive.

Q: What is your songwriting process?
A: One of the guitar players brings a riff to practice, and we build off of it. So, the input from each member is there. It’s definitely a group effort.

Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years?
A: We would have to say we haven’t changed that much, but we definitely excelled with our capabilities as musicians.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a part of this band?
A: Between shows and recording, and even just practice, it’s an adventure with us. It’s hard to say memories because we don’t really look back, we just keep moving forward.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
A: The music scene has changed quite a bit over the past years. There (aren’t) too many bands who are unique anymore. A lot of it sounds the same. But at the same time, there are really good bands in this area. Everyone just has to look harder.

Q: What music do you listen to — either for inspiration or that you just enjoy listening to?
A: We all listen to different things and some of the same; a lot of metal, punk, hardcore, grindcore — stuff like that.

Q: Have you faced any major challenges as a rising band?
A: No challenges. If we keep working as hard as we do, we’ll get to where we want to be.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
A: We are going into the studio sometime in the spring to record a seven-inch, and then going on a small weekend tour in April with local shows scattered in the spring and summer.

Q: Do you have anything else you’d like to add that is important for people to know about the group?
A: Support local underground music.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Meet Dour
Members: Bobby Keller, vocals; Chadd Jenkins, guitar and vocals; Billy Breen, guitar; Corey Casey, bass; and Chris Baranowski, drums.
Established: 2016
Genre: Metal and punk
Online: Find the group on Bandcamp and Facebook.
Up next: Friday, April 14, Jabber Jaws, Allentown; and Saturday, May 12, Irish Wolf Pub, Scranton

 

‘Office’ star Creed Bratton brings folk music to Kirby

‘Office’ star Creed Bratton brings folk music to Kirby

Fans of “The Office” may not believe that Creed Bratton found his way to acting through a speech disorder.
The actor, known for portraying a fictional version of himself on the hit NBC comedy, developed a stutter at a young age.
“I had a lot of insecurities and stuff because of moving around,” Bratton said. “I stuttered and had real low self-esteem because of it. They pulled me out of class when I was at the point where I nearly couldn’t talk, and I went to a stutter teacher. She told me the best thing to do was to get in front of people in the classroom, and acting too. … I did a bit of acting and found that I had a knack for it and really enjoyed it.”
The multifaceted artist brings his music to F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday, March 21, to celebrate the upcoming release of his seventh solo folk album, “While the Young Punks Dance,” which hits record stores Friday, April 6.
Since he was surrounded by musicians growing up, taking an interest in music and songwriting seemed like a natural path for the California native. Bratton began to play guitar professionally by 17 and joined the well-known folk rock group, the Grass Roots, in his early 20s. 
Prior to “The Office,” Bratton worked on films such as “Mask” and “Heart Like a Wheel,” but his role on the popular television show allowed him to flex his comedic muscles.
Those hoping to see the fictional Creed on the Wilkes-Barre stage might be disappointed at first, but they’ll instead get to enjoy the charm and musicality of the real-life Bratton.
“They’re not going to see the character per se, but they’ll see a world traveler and an actor who has been through some amazing stuff,” he said. “I cannot believe what my life has been, really. … They will hear ‘The Office’ stories, funny bits in between songs relating to acting, the Grass Roots and things like that.”
Between older music and the Grass Roots tunes, Bratton plans to perform a number of songs off his new album, whose most notable songs include “Yes Indeed,” “Ready for You Now” and “Heart of Darkness.” He noted many people await the moment when he plays “All the Faces,” the song he performed in “The Office’s” series finale.
“It’s emotional,” Bratton said of the song. “It brings them right back to the finale, with the images of ‘The Office.’ How lucky was I to sing that on the show? Sometimes I have to pinch myself. The show changed my life.”
Bratton wrote “All the Faces” long before he ever dreamed of acting on primetime television. Just after he left the Grass Roots, he found himself sitting around a bonfire in Malibu with his wife and daughter. Unlike other songs, this one simply came out as he plucked away at the guitar and sang along.
The artist recently celebrated his 75th birthday, but he certainly doesn’t act his age — in the best ways possible.
“I am your typical 75-year-old guy,” Bratton said. “I jump out of planes, go hang gliding, zip lining, fishing. … And I’m not even joking. It keeps me young.”

 

Wilkes-Barre’s parade returns with 80 marching groups and plenty of pride

Wilkes-Barre’s parade returns with 80 marching groups and plenty of pride

Signs of shamrocks and Celtic music mean it’s time to paint the town green for the annual Wilkes-Barre St. Patrick’s Parade, which takes to the streets Sunday, March 11.
The 38th annual parade steps off at 2 p.m. at South and South Main streets, with participants lining up in their designated spots at 1 p.m.
Eighty groups will march this year, totaling around 1,200 participants, according to Patty Hughes, Wilkes-Barre city special events coordinator. Those participants include five pipe and drum bands, including local favorites the Wyoming Valley and Ceol Mor Pipe and Drum bands, plus Coughlin, Meyers and GAR high school marching bands.
Additional entertainment includes music from the Donnybrook Band and Three Imaginary Boys, as well as dance troupes from Scoil Rince Connemara Dancers, David Blight, Encore School of Dance and the Conservatory of Dance.
Kingston company Express Employment Professionals turned it up a notch this year with the addition of six Clydesdale horses pulling a stage coach, while the NEPA Military Vehicle Collectors Association promises vehicles from World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm.
“Star Wars” fans may rejoice to see their favorite characters marching as the Keystone State Troopers Imperial Outlanders join in on the fun, and those who missed the official Super Bowl parade in Philadelphia can share their Eagles pride as the NEPA Bird Gang walks through downtown Wilkes-Barre.
Grand Marshal Jay Delaney, Wilkes-Barre’s fire chief, leads the festive downtown procession. The parade will travel north down South Main Street, around Public Square, where Delaney and other dignitaries will enter the reviewing stand to see the participants who follow them, and will end at North Main and Union streets.
The day’s celebration of Irish heritage centers around the parade, but the festivities begin much earlier.
On North Washington Street, the celebration at Beer Boys gets going at 9 a.m. with its annual Kegs and Eggs, featuring the tapping of a special firkin of Susquehanna Brewing Co. Mimosa.
Senunas’, 133 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, opens early at 9 a.m., with the traditional Hibernian food menu rolling out at 10 a.m. Food specials include Guinness stew, corned beef and Blarney fries in addition to the regular menu.
Bart & Urby’s, 119 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, has plenty of traditional Irish food offerings including shepherd’s pie, Reubens and corned beef and cabbage, as well as fish and chips and traditional burgers and sandwiches. Entertainment includes Don Shappelle at noon and the Black Kocks of Echo Creek — which includes members from Breaking Benjamin, Stoney Creek and Death Valley Dreams — around 3:30 p.m.
Following the parade, CrisNics Irish Pub, 189 Barney St., Wilkes-Barre, will have your Irish food needs, including ham and cabbage, corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, Irish bangers and more. Tori Viccica takes the stage around 5 p.m., while the Wyoming Valley Pipe and Drum Band comes in at 7:45 p.m. to crank up the Celtic pride.
Fiddler’s Green Irish Pub, 259 E. State St., Larksville, remains one of the big stops for the Wyoming Valley Pipe and Drum Band after the parade. The bagpipers arrive at 8:45 p.m., while regular food specials like Irish nachos and Irish Setter Wing Bites will fly out of the kitchen. Pipe and drum bands from the parade will make stops in local bars and restaurants throughout the afternoon and night.

Additional activities
The Renal Race 5K Run and 1-Mile Fun Walk hits the pavement at 10 a.m. on Public Square. Registration for the race begins at 8 a.m. at Genetti’s Hotel and Conference Center on Market Street. The entry fee is $20.
Medals and race gear will be awarded to the top three male and female winners per age group. The first 100 participants in the race will receive free T-shirts. During the race, a Chinese auction, raffle baskets, refreshments and entertainment are held to further benefit research to fight kidney cancer. Visit therenalrace.org for information.
For more information, call the Wilkes-Barre office of special events at 570-208-4149.

 

Fiercer  than ever Think Judas Priest is done touring? You got another thing comin’

Fiercer than ever Think Judas Priest is done touring? You got another thing comin’

It’s been a long time since Judas Priest slept in a van outside of a London recording studio.
Vocalist Rob Halford explained that in the “vampire days of recording,” overnight rates in studios were cheaper to rent. So for the band’s first studio album, “Rocka Rolla,” they found themselves sleeping in the van during the day and recording overnight.
“I remember when we had our first record contract, we were tremendously excited and very ambitious,” Halford said. “We thought big time, big money — wrong. In the early days, it’s a slug. It’s really, you’ve got to pay your dues. Nothing comes fast and easy in life, as I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older, but you do whatever it takes to get through that journey.”
The heavy metal group has enjoyed nearly 50 years of success and is gearing up to release its 18th studio album, “Firepower,” which hits record stores Friday, March 9.
The Firepower 2018 tour kicks off Tuesday, March 13, at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp., with opening acts Saxon and Black Star Riders.
“It’s the excitement and the anticipation; it’s all wrapped up into (the first night),” Halford said. “We’ve been building this tour for many months — the stages, the costumes, the lights and the special effects and everything … While that’s building, of course, our fans will finally be able to get their metal claws onto ‘Firepower’ and become associated with the songs.
“The launch of any project or any tour has to start at a specific spot. In this case, Wilkes-Barre is holding the torch for heavy metal as we take off.” 
Judas Priest originally formed in the 1970s in Birmingham, England. The band created some of heavy metal’s most notable records, including “British Steel” and “Screaming for Vengeance,” and also appeared at the legendary Live Aid in 1985.
The group was one of the first to exclusively wear leather and studs, a look that began during this era and was eventually embraced by metal fans across the globe.
Although fans can expect to hear the beloved Judas Priest sound at the Wilkes-Barre Twp. show, Halford emphasized that each of the band’s albums are created with the intention of writing something new and different.
“We treat them completely separately as the belief is all our records from ‘Rocka Rolla’ up to ‘Firepower’ — they all have their own metal legs to stand on in terms of identity and sound,” he said.
The title song — and opening track — on ‘Firepower’ resonates most with Halford, because he believes it speaks to the rest of the record.
“I think the opening track of any album, if you’re a fan of that band, it can be a make-or-break type of situation,” he said. “The impact, the energy, the ferocity, the overall feeling of ‘Firepower,’ is a very important song. It sends a lot of really good solid metal elements that Priest has maintained over the years.”
In February, the band announced that longtime lead guitarist Glenn Tipton would not be touring with the band after being diagnosed with late-stage Parkinson’s disease. He lived with the early stages of the degenerative disease for a decade, but its progression left him unable to play some of the band’s more complex material. Although he will not tour, he remains an active member in the group. “Firepower” producer Andy Sneap picks up the guitar in his stead.
“You’ll be seeing Priest as you want,” Halford said. “There will be a slight adjustment … but (Tipton) wants it to be a very successful ‘Firepower’ tour. And then we’ve got the blessing of Andy, who is one of producers of ‘Firepower,’ so he knows all the music. He’s also a hardcore Priest fan.
“I think a lot of people are going to be drawn to the show for the simple fact that they love Priest and they want to hear the songs again and again,” Halford added. “They want to hear the heavy metal acts, like (opening acts) Saxon and Black Star Riders, that they see only every three years or so. There’s a lot of positive love and support happening right now.”
In order to prepare for the show each night, Halford said he limits his speaking to a minimum to he can preserve his voice, and also tries to remain healthy so he can utilize his “instrument” to its fullest potential. At this point in his life, he said his voice is “more precious than ever.”
And although it’s been nearly five decades since the beginning of Judas Priest, Halford does not see an end in sight.
“You can’t really turn it off,” he said. “If you’re lucky enough to be a creative person that is still hungry and curious and has a sense of adventure … That’s the driving force in me, and that’s the same in Glenn and Scott and Richie and Ian. It’s something you can’t really switch off. It’s there within you.
“When you’re amongst like-minded people, that’s when the metal magic starts to happen. It’s really hard to ping down in words, because so much of it is internal.”

If you go
What: Judas Priest
When: Tuesday, March 13, 7 p.m.
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Details: Tickets start at $36.75, plus fees, and can be purchased at the arena’s box office, by calling 800-745-3000 and online at ticketmaster.com. There is a $10 fee to park in the arena’s lot. For more information, visit judaspriest.com.

Punk rock band Anytime Soon’ aims to create EP

Punk rock band Anytime Soon’ aims to create EP

For Scranton pop punk band Anytime Soon, releasing an EP has become one of its main focuses.
The group, comprised of Mitch Evans, vocals and bass; Adam Martin, guitar and vocals; and Rob Jones, drums, began as a cover band to cover expenses, but they always dreamed of writing their own music.
This dream is slowly becoming a reality.
Martin recently went On The Record to discuss the band’s past as a cover band, its current situation writing new music and what they hope to achieve in the future.

Q: How did you all meet?
A: Mitch and I (Adam) grew up and went to high school together. We found Rob on Craigslist.

Q: Where did your band name come from?
A: An old notebook Mitch had from middle school/high school comprised of musical ideas and notes including lyrics, progressions, etc.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
A: At different points in our lives, we simply decided to pick up our respective instruments and aspire to be our musical idols.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public together?
A: We were at an open mic night in front of an audience consisting of mostly people our parents ages and older, and we were nervous as hell. We played 2 or 3 songs, all we knew, and surprisingly the crowd response was great.

Q: How do you choose which songs to perform?
A: We chose a genre that we felt would be fitting for our target audience, kids our age just getting into the bar scene, and really just chose the songs we liked to listen to and play most.

Q: Do you write your own music? If so, what is the process?
A: We are currently in the process of writing and recording our first five to eight track EP. Mitch generally writes the lyrics and framework for the songs, records it solo and hands it off to me and I write the guitar parts. Then we all collaborate as a band to make any adjustments we feel fit. (It) tends to be a very iterative process.

Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years?
A: Over the past year, we’ve been exposed to many different performance situations and it’s helped us build our overall musicianship. A lot is learned by performing live that can’t be acquired from playing in the rehearsal room.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a part of this band?
A: Christmas Eve Eve at the Wildcat two years in a row — great times. Also road trips out to (New) Jersey where we’ve opened for bands like Metro Station, With Friends Like These and Carousel Kings.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
A: Since we’ve been a band for just over a year, it’s hard to answer that from a band standpoint. But we could attest from a listeners standpoint. Mitch and I grew up going to local and DIY shows around the Valley at venues including the Jessup Dome, Fagans, etc. That NEPA scene doesn’t really exist anymore, and it kind of sucks now in 2018 that our band is in the music scene and can’t be apart of that.

Q: What music do you listen to — either for inspiration or that you just enjoy listening to?
A: Collectively, as the punk band we are, we all enjoy punk rock music. Punk rock will never die because the underground scene is so strong and always has been. It’s amazing the amount of music out there that continues to be produced that you’ll never hear on the radio. Some of our favorites include The Menzingers, The Story So Far, The Wonder Years and Carousel Kings. More acclaimed artists include Blink-182, New Found Glory, A Day to Remember and Brand New.

Q: Have you faced any major challenges as a rising band?
A: We started the band with the crutch of being a cover band so we would be able to fund our musical journey. So it can be a challenge to maintain three-plus hours of cover material and keep it fresh to sustain our audience, on top of writing and recording originals after putting in eight-plus hours during the week at our day jobs.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
A: Complete our EP and continue to spread our brand and gain recognition.

 

Scranton band ‘Dour’ stays true to its name, looks forward to creating new music

Scranton band ‘Dour’ stays true to its name, looks forward to creating new music

Dour — as classified in the dictionary — is an adjective that refers to something that is relentlessly severe, stern or gloomy in manner or appearance.
Chadd Jenkins of Scranton thinks that word suits his metal and punk band perfectly.
“It’s a very fitting name for the band and its lyrical and musical content,” Jenkins said.
The five-piece punk outfit includes Jenkins on guitar and vocals; vocalist Bobby Keller; Billy Breen on guitar, bassist Cory Casey and drummer Chris Baranowski. Guitarist Jenkins recently went On the Record to discuss the band’s first performance together and how the Northeast Pennsylvania music scene influenced its sound over the years.

Q: How did you all meet?

A: We all met through the punk scene in Scranton years ago. The bands we have played in were Alfhole, Dead Radical, Bob and the Sagets and Cell 13, to name a few.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
A: We have been in bands for a while.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public together?
A: The first time we ever played out as DOUR was the day we released our self-titled demo. We played two shows in one day. First in Wilkes-Barre at Curry Donuts and the other was at the Irish Wolf Pub in Scranton. No one heard us until these two shows. The reaction was very positive.

Q: What is your songwriting process?
A: One of the guitar players bring a riff to practice, and we build off of it. So, the input from each member is there. It’s definitely a group effort.

Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years?
A: We would have to say we haven’t changed that much, but we definitely excelled with our capabilities as musicians.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a part of this band?
A: Between shows and recording, and even just practice, it’s an adventure with us. It’s hard to say memories because we don’t really look back, we just keep moving forward.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
A: The music scene has changed quite a bit over the past years. There (aren’t) too many bands who are unique anymore. A lot of it sounds the same. But at the same time, there are really good bands in this area. Everyone just has to look harder.

Q: What music do you listen to — either for inspiration or that you just enjoy listening to?
A: We all listen to different things and some of the same; a lot of metal, punk, hardcore, grindcore — stuff like that.

Q: Have you faced any major challenges as a rising band?
A: No challenges. If we keep working as hard as we do, we’ll get to where we want to be.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
A: We are going into the studio sometime in the spring to record a seven- inch, and then going on a small weekend tour in April with local shows scattered in the spring and summer.

Q: Do you have anything else you’d like to add that is important for people to know about the group?
A: Support local underground music.

 

Wailin’ Jennys bring three-part harmonies, mix of originals and covers to Dallas

Wailin’ Jennys bring three-part harmonies, mix of originals and covers to Dallas

The Wailin’ Jennys began as a one-night-only show in a Winnipeg guitar store. Sixteen years later, they continue to tour as a prominent folk group, releasing albums and performing all over the world.
The international folk trio, made up of Ruth Moody, Nicky Mehta and Heather Masse, brings its national tour to Misericordia University on Monday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 p.m., in support of its first new album in six years.
Founding member Moody explained that because they tour constantly, the concept of releasing an album was out of reach for quiet some time.
“We’ve sort of been trying to record an album for a long time,” Moody said. “Our touring schedule has been pretty intense for the last few years… It’s been an interesting challenge to juggle everything, both our professional lives and our family lives. It just became difficult to actually schedule recording.”
When they took time off of touring for Moody’s pregnancy, they decided to seize the opportunity to write an album. With only about five days to record, the trio decided an album of covers fit the bill. Thus, “Fifteen” was born.
“It seemed like a fun and more lighthearted way to celebrate our anniversary, just because it’s different to arrange someone else’s song. There’s something a little less serious about arranging covers,” she said. “You can get kind of bogged down when it’s all original materials. We just thought let’s keep this fun.”
This new album features covers of Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning,” Paul Simon’s classic, “Love Me Like A Rock” and Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers,” among others. Attendees at the upcoming Dallas show can expect to hear many songs from this new album, combined with a slew of the Wailin’ Jennys originals, Moody said.
“The three-part harmony is the signature aspect of what we do,” Moody said. “It’s a hard thing to put words to, but I think there’s just something complete about three voices together — and especially three women. That’s what I hear anyway… it’s a transcendent kind of sound for people. We sure feel it when we’re singing together, we feel those vibrations. We’re especially lucky because our voices sit well together and blend really nicely. There’s a natural blend that makes it so that it really feels good to sing together.”
This signature three-part harmony stands out among other folk bands, but each vocalist also brings a diverse musical background to the trio that adds something more to their sound.
Moody, who plays guitar, accordion, banjo and bodhrán, is a classically trained vocalist and pianist who started her career singing and writing Celtic music, while Mehta is a classically trained dancer who was raised on ’70s radio hits and found herself heavily influenced by alternative pop. Mehta also plays guitar, harmonica, drums and ukulele. Then there’s Masse, who learned how to play upright bass while practicing with the Jennys, and graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music after studying jazz vocals.
Prior to Masse joining the group in 2007, the Wailin’ Jennys were primarily seen as an acoustic outfit. But, since creating the current lineup of the trio, the women have truly “found their home” together, Moody said.
“We’ve all pushed ourselves and pushed each other musically,” she added. “When Heather joined the band, she didn’t really play an instrument, but always wanted to play bass. We encouraged her to play. Two months later she was playing bass on stage. Nicky was inspired by that and decided to learn drums. So for that first show with Heather, all of a sudden we had a rhythm section. I learned how to play banjo around the same time… We’re always trying to stretch ourselves as writers and as singers.”
Individually, the ladies forged their way into the music industry, but together, the trio continues to cross new boundaries to create a unique flavor of music for people to enjoy for years to come.

_________________________________________________________________________________

If you go
What: Wailin’ Jennys folk trio
Where: Lemmond Theater at Misericordia University, 301 Lake St., Dallas
When: Monday, Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m.; doors at 6:30 p.m.
Details: Tickets cost $30 for premium seating and $20 for general admission. To purchase tickets, call the university box office at 570-674-6719 or visit misericordia.edu.
Online: thewailinjennys.com

— charlotte l. jacobson

Max-D’s Eichelberger ready to roll into arena at  Monster Jam

Max-D’s Eichelberger ready to roll into arena at Monster Jam

Jared Eichelberger grew up in the Monster Jam family.
Eichelberger’s father, Tom Meents, reigns as the most successful driver in Monster Jam World Finals history and runs Monster Jam University, a training institution for potential drivers. So it was no surprise when he ditched his degree in agriculture and turned to monster trucks nearly three years ago.
Eichelberger and Monster Jam cruises into Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp. from Friday, Feb. 9, through Sunday, Feb. 11. Tickets start at $15 and are available at ticketmaster.com, the arena box office or by calling 800-745-3000.
Prior to becoming a driver for Max-D, Eichelberger worked as a crew member, mechanic and crew chief for both his father and his younger brother, Colton, who started driving a year before he did. When the 29-year-old finally got the opportunity to test, he jumped on the chance.
Now, the three all drive for the Max-D team and assist one another throughout each show.
“Our dad is our biggest teacher,” Eichelberger said. “I idolize him and try to drive like him. He’s given us a lot of tips and helpful instruction, from interviewing to driving to just associating with fans and to helping out everyone at the show. It’s a big team project. We all have to work together to accommodate to make it work and give a good performance. Working with them is pretty neat… When the weekend is over we’ll have Monday dinner together to talk about the weekend and talk about how we can improve.”
Max-D, formerly known as Maximum Destruction, can easily be spotted on the track with its orange and silver paint and spikes protruding from the truck’s body. According to Eichelberger, Max-D really shines during the Two-Wheel Skill Competition, as performing tricks and balancing acts such as nose wheelies.
Super fans better not miss the two pit parties prior to the matinee shows on Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 10:30 a.m. These parties give fans the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Monster Jam trucks and drivers.
Even though Eichelberger barely hit three years as a driver, he has driven in more than 100 shows. The driver has become very comfortable in the trucks and arenas, he said, but there is always more to learn from his father and other veteran drivers.
“Just having a great coach at home has really been beneficial,” Eichelberger said. “We have Monster Jam University in my hometown; my dad trains drivers and I work there when I’m not on the road.” 
Although Eichelberger admitted that staying at the top of the game is a major challenge he faces, the constant pressure to live up to his father’s legacy brings the most pressure.
“There’s a lot of pressure to compete and to be as good as him, to represent him and to represent the brand Max-D,” he said. “I take that pressure and I use it for my advantage out on the track. ”

_________________________________________________________________________________

If you go
What: Monster Jam
When: Friday, Feb. 9, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 10, 1 and 7 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 11, 1 p.m.
Where: 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Details: Tickets start at $15 and are available at the arena’s NBT Bank Box Office, by calling 800-745-3000 or at ticketmaster.com. There is a $10 fee to park in the arena’s lot. Tickets for pit parties are $10, and can only be purchased by those with show tickets.
Online: monsterjam.com

— Charlotte l. Jacobson