Curiosity Dog keeps crowds dancing with recent, retro covers

Curiosity Dog keeps crowds dancing with recent, retro covers

Some say curiosity killed the cat, but Pocono-based band Curious Dog seems to fare well.
The duo of Bobby Ventura and Claire Lochner found each other through luck on the Craigslist music listings in 2014 and have performed together in Northeast Pennsylvania ever since.
After years of playing covers at area bars and venues, the pair is dipping its toes into songwriting while still playing the old songs that get the crowds dancing.

Q: Where did your band name come from?
Bobby Ventura: We are both dog lovers and both had dogs. We had a list of names and just seemed to gravitate to that one.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
BV: For me, I started playing drums in grade school and bought a guitar in high school to try to write songs. I ended up working as a sound man in clubs and found my way to be a road manager for many national artists.
Claire Lochner: I started loving music from the time I was a little kid listening to my transistor radio and had musicians in the family always playing music.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public together?
BV: Just getting back into playing guitar, I was nervous and excited. I was thinking, how are we doing this? But it worked out great.
CL: I was nervous also, but we got such a great response that it made us more confident.

Q: How do you choose which songs to perform?
BV: We like songs that bring out feelings and excitement. We also have found that different places have different crowds, and we change our set lists accordingly. We always have backup songs off the set list to jump to as we see fit. We have started writing. We perform only one tune now, but we are working on it.
CL: I love music with strong melodies and harmonies, especially songs that get people on their feet.

Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years?
BV: We have been together three years. … We have grown more confident in our playing and our harmonies, and we also seem to know exactly what each other is doing, and if one misses a change or something, the other takes the lead.
CL: Yes, we have become more natural in our playing abilities and more comfortable with ourselves as a duo.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories?
BV: Our first New Year’s Eve gig was awesome. We played an upstairs balcony and then came down to just play acoustic at the bar with people singing with us.
CL: We also had a great time when we played a new place during our first year, and the place was packed and everyone came right up to us to sing along.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
BV: I think the scene is getting stronger again. I was part of a trio when I first moved here from Brooklyn; we played everywhere, and then things changed. Money got tight for bars, and more and more, people got worried about DUIs and going out. I think things are still a bit tight. Most places still pay the bands the same as 20 years ago. … It’s still tough for bands to get a good-paying gig, but I think there has been a great resurgence for acoustic players like ourselves.

Q: What music do you listen to — either for inspiration or that you just enjoy listening to?
BV: The great thing about this duo is we listen to everything. Recently, Claire has become a big Blackmore’s Night fan, and we both listen to WXPN for new artists. We recently added the New Pornographers and Waxahatchie songs to our playlist. We play a large mix of all decades of music.

Q: Have you faced any major challenges as a rising band?
BV: I think the only challenge is having the time to put in when you work a regular day job and play every weekend. The gigs become the rehearsals sometimes, which isn’t a bad thing. We have been known to work on a song we like and just play it out to see what happens; mistakes live are not always a terrible thing.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
BV: Writing and putting together material to do a CD and a video or two — 2018 goal. Expanding our territory for playing gigs is important to us.

‘Disney on Ice’ glides into Mohegan Sun Arena for eight performances

‘Disney on Ice’ glides into Mohegan Sun Arena for eight performances

Believing is just the beginning when it comes to dreams.
Catch “Disney on Ice: Dream Big” when it glides into Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre Twp., starting Thursday, Jan. 11, for an eight-performance run over five days.
“The show is for everyone,” skater Nelson Sanchez Leemet said. “There is an acrobat team that is flying, literally. There’s even a fire-breathing dragon. Honestly everyone will enjoy this show.”
With her magic pixie dust, Tinker Bell takes audiences on a journey through beloved Disney tales — focusing on princesses such as Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Tiana, Jasmine, Aurora and Snow White — as they embark on adventures, determined to make their dreams come true.
Each Disney film has its moment to shine on the ice as the characters twirl, leap and glide around to favorite movie songs, from classics such as “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid” and “Be Our Guest” from “Beauty and the Beast” to newer crowd-pleasers such as “Let It Go” from “Frozen,” “Down in New Orleans” from “Princess and the Frog” and “At Last I See the Light” from “Tangled.” One of the most popular portions of the show follows sisters Anna and Elsa and loveable snowman Olaf from “Frozen” as they learn that true love is the greatest magic of all.
Sanchez Leemet — who portrays Hans in the “Frozen” segment — hails from the Dominican Republic, so the idea of ice skating and winter were foreign to him when he moved to Montreal. After watching an ice show in Canada, he was hooked and signed up for lessons the following day.
“I get to travel the world and do my passion at the same time,” he said. “It’s not even a job, even though it is a job. Just going out there and performing, seeing all of the kids and families, and smiling and enjoying and being involved in the show is the best. I love being a part of this production that makes people have a good time.”
Although it may make her seem biased, Alexe Giles, who portrays Elsa, said the “Frozen” portion sticks out to her the most.
“‘Let It Go’ and the reprise are definitely up there,” she said. “The blizzards created with all of the snow, it’s so magical. There are lots of special, dazzling effects. I think it’s one of the best segments in our show. I definitely have a little soft spot in my heart for it.”
Giles grew up in a skating family in Colorado, and she always believed “Disney on Ice” would be a huge opportunity for her to take. So when the chance came to follow her dreams of joining the ice show, she didn’t hesitate to take it.
“Disney carries from generation to generation,” Giles added. “Everyone becomes happy (at Disney). … It’s always transforming itself to the new technology and adding the new movies so it doesn’t die out, and it’s not stagnant. It’s always new and exciting.”


If you go
What: “Disney on Ice: Dream Big”
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp.
When: Thursday, Jan. 11, and Friday, Jan. 12, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 13, 11 a.m., 3 and 7 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 14, noon and 4 p.m.; and Monday, Jan. 15, 2 p.m.
Details: Tickets start at $18 and can be purchased at the box office, online at and by calling 800-745-3000.

Deathcore bandmates form bond in childhood

Deathcore bandmates form bond in childhood

Melodic deathcore band With Words Unspoken began with two band T-shirts.
Guitarist Matthew Pilch and vocalist Jordan Teixeria were in third grade when they each wore a Kiss shirt to school, and “we were friends from then on,” Pilch said. “Music has given us a bond like a brotherhood.”
The melodic deathcore group also includes drummer Ryan Hargrave and guitarist Zachary Miller. The group will release its first EP on Tuesday, Jan. 16, and continue to write music and perform in and around Northeast Pennsylvania.

Q: Where did your band name come from?
Jordan Teixeria: The name comes from being about what you do, not what you say, because as the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” We’re hoping our actions speak and bring heavy music back around and make people move the way it was meant to be.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
Ryan Hargrave: I got into it from my dad playing older heavy music, and I myself started getting into Danzig, Misfits, Strength for a Reason, Bury Your Dead, amongst other hardcore and death metal.
Matthew Pilch: I think I can say Kiss was definitely a start to myself and Jordan’s music lives. For us, they had everything that appealed to us: the amazing stage presence, the anthemic feel of the music, and the image stuck out for sure. I remember Jordan and I had gotten our faces painted as Kiss members back when we were young kids.
Zachary Miller: I can say for sure Avenged Sevenfold and Slipknot (were) a big influence, and especially Rings of Saturn and Bullet for My Valentine. They got me playing the heavy yet melodic type of music.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed?
JT: Our first show as this group was a train wreck. Although it was a small hardcore house show, it was still a big deal to us as our debut. Our old drummer booked the show, didn’t tell us until after, and we only had three songs, so we needed to write at least a couple more in a very short amount of time. When we did, and it was show time, he backed out on us day of the show. Being that we weren’t going to trash our name because of his actions, we kept our word on showing up. Our guitarist Zach filled in on drums, and we played as a trio. It sucked, but as they say, the show must go on.

Q: What is your songwriting process like?
ZM: I usually just go over (to) our vocalist’s house. We just fool around with a few riffs together and feed off of each other going part by part. Then since Ryan and I are close, I go over, and the song starts to take form.
JT: For lyrics, I try to focus on real-life experiences as a vent for the struggles I go through that I know others can relate to as well.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories?
JT: We can all say that what stays in our heads is seeing people move and get into the music we play. It makes every dollar and second we put into it worth it. One show we played with a few comedians — we were the punchline to their jokes. Then at the end of our set, the same people joking about us were the same people coming to shake our hands.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed?
JT: As a whole, we think it’s gone down, but right now it’s at a perfect time to be revived. There was a time where all-ages shows were everywhere every weekend, in a bunch of towns. Now all the venues we knew when it was booming for us around 2008 or so are closed, so it gets harder just playing at bars since it’s age-restricted. We as a music community are very diverse, and it’s amazing to see. We’ve got it all in NEPA. … We as a music community have grown tremendously, but our venue choice has diminished, sadly. Hopefully people notice the growth of the music underground and start bringing all-ages shows back.

Q: What music do you listen to?
JT: We diversify in taste greatly, but at the same time, bond in heavy music, which brought us together. I know I can go from Dixie Chicks to Carnifex in the same five minutes. Matt varies with the Doors, the Dead, Wu Tang Clan and just as soon jams some Fit for an Autopsy. I know Ryan loves his old punk and hardcore and listens to some real ’90s rap when it actually had substance, and Zach I know loves classic rock as well as heavy music.

Q: Have you faced any major challenges?
JT: Just getting ourselves out there and accumulating a bigger fan base.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
JT: I would like to see us perform more all-ages shows, get to play with some bigger heavy bands and hopefully see more of the world while playing our tunes for people across the nation.

Meet With Words Unspoken
Members: Jordan Teixeira, vocals; Ryan Hargrave, drums; Zachary Miller, guitar; and Matthew Pilch, guitar
Based out of: Pittston
Established: June 2017
Genre: Deathcore
Online: With Words Unspoken can be found on Facebook.
Up next: Saturday, Jan. 13, at 8:30 p.m., Irish Wolf Pub, Scranton

Mountain of a Musical

Mountain of a Musical

Northeast Pennsylvania will be alive with “The Sound of Music” next week.
A new touring production of the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical comes to F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes-Barre, for shows Wednesday, Dec. 20, and Thursday, Dec. 21, at 7:30 p.m.
The story follows Maria as she takes a job as a governess to a large Austrian family while contemplating whether she wants to become a nun. She falls in love with the seven children and, eventually, their widowed father, Captain von Trapp, as the family struggles with Nazi Germany’s impending hold over Austria.
“What’s different with ‘Sound of Music’ on stage is that you kind of get more of the story,” said actress Keslie Ward, who plays the eldest von Trapp child, Liesl. “I feel like there is something about seeing live theater than watching the movies. Everyone loves Julie Andrews, but you get to know these characters more, and it’s relatable to all ages. Seeing it live is such a different experience.”
Many of Oscar Hammerstein II’s songs from the 1965 film version appear in the stage show, such as “My Favorite Things,” “The Lonely Goatherd,” “Do-Re-Mi” and, of course, “The Sound of Music.”
“I love my scenes with the actor who plays Rolf, Chad P. Campbell, and I also adore the numbers with all of the kids,” Ward said. “Particularly, ‘So Long, Farewell.’ It’s always so fun being on stage with all of the kids.”
Although many people have seen the film starring Andrews or a different iteration of the stage show, Ward encouraged people to attend this production because of the cast and company, calling it “an experience within itself.” She explained that she, and many of the other actors, found their own ways to interpret their roles in new and unique ways, while staying true to the characters at the same time.
“When you’re doing a piece so iconic, sometimes there can be a bit of pressure to exceed those expectations,” Ward said. “I think for me, as long as I read the script and stay true to the lines, the words and the lyrics, it works out. I try to incorporate myself into Liesl, to make it my own, and I feel like I can say that for Maria and Captain. They are not cookie cutter versions of the movies.”
Although Ward is a few years older than her character, the rest of the children in the show range in age from 6 to 12. For many of the kids, this production also is their first national tour. But the strong themes of family and music within the show reflect onto the cast during their travels, allowing them to feel comfortable with one another, much like a family would, Ward said.
“I think (the show) touches all generations,” she added. “It’s a fun thing to bond over. All generations, in a way, have grown up with the ‘Sound of Music.’ … I think the biggest theme is obviously music. Music definitely brings the von Trapps together. It helps the captain; it essentially helps the family escape from the concert (near the end of the show). … There are also themes of family and doing what’s right and then the political overtones, which are very relatable to what is happening nowadays. I think this musical has come at a good time. It’s a good escape from what is happening around us lately.”
The musical experienced waves of popularity over the years, beginning with the original Broadway production in 1959 and followed by the 1965 film, which won five Academy Awards. It surged in popularity again when NBC aired a liv eversion in 2013, the first live television production of a musical in more 50 years. More than 44 million people watched that telecast.
“I think the best part for me is traveling to all of these different cities,” Ward said. “We go to larger cities that are used to these grand productions and Broadway tours. But sometimes we go to theaters and this is the only (musical) they’ll get in the year, and they enjoy it so much. … Watching ‘The Sound of Music’ is kind of like a rite of passage.”

If you go

What: “The Sound of Music”
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: Wednesday, Dec. 20, and Thursday, Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m.
Details: Tickets range from $45 to $65, plus fees, and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 570-826-1100 or online at

Teenage singer-songwriter preps original music

Teenage singer-songwriter preps original music

Tori Viccica already has a steady schedule of shows at just 16 years old.
Just one year ago, the West Pittston native took her chance at an open mic night at Tony’s Wine Cellar, and it went better than she could have expected.
“I was scared to death, because they told me to have three songs ready, but they just kept asking me to sing more as I went on,” she recalled. “I wasn’t prepared to sing anymore.”
Viccica now plays at the Pittston sports bar every Wednesday, and she recently went On the Record to discuss the past year of performing in Northeast Pennsylvania and what she hopes to accomplish in the future.
Q: How did you get involved in music?
A: I always loved listening to different genres of music. As I got older, I taught myself how to play guitar and just started singing my favorite songs.
Q: What is the process like for writing your music?
A: When writing original music, I can usually come up with cool lyrics at a random time and then sit down and put music behind it. I keep a collection of lines of songs that I would come up with, say at school or somewhere, all on my phone. The lyrics that come out of nowhere usually end up being the best ones.
Q: How have you changed as a musician?
A: I feel I have changed as far as being more confident and having more of a stage presence. The rest I will hope to figure out in the future.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories?
A: Some of the best memories I have would be getting to play with some really talented and experienced musicians. That’s something you can get a lot of at Tony’s Wine Cellar. Some of the musicians that I have performed with are Bret Alexander from the Badlees and violinist Nyke Van Wyke. You definitely learn something from playing with people like that.
Q: What music do you listen to — either for inspiration or that you just enjoy listening to?
A: Most of the music I listen to is classic rock, just because I feel that I identify with that the most. But I think I could listen to just about anything. All the way from pop, modern rock, alternative — anything really.
Q: Have you faced any challenges as a musician?
A: The challenge I face mostly as a musician at 16 years old would have to be my age. I’m limited to certain venues because not every place is OK with having a 16-year-old come in and play.
Q: What are your future goals for your music?
A: My future goals would be just getting original music out there and seeing if enough people like it. If it gets a good response, then maybe I’ll try to go to the next level. I’m recording my first song with Steve Martin at Atlattle Sounds. I will be releasing some original music very shortly.


Meet Tori Viccica
Established: 2016
Based in: West Pittston
Genre: Classic rock
Online: @ToriViccicasCovers on Facebook
Up next: Every Wednesday open mic night at Tony’s Wine Cellar, Pittston; Friday, Dec. 22, 279 Bar & Grill, Plains Twp.; and Saturday, Dec. 23, Cavanaugh’s Grille, Mountain Top

Bassist joins multi-instrumentalist for Kirby Center show

Bassist joins multi-instrumentalist for Kirby Center show

Keller Williams often performs as a one-man jam band, looping multiple instrumental segments during live performances.
But when the songwriter plays F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts this weekend, he’ll sing a different tune.
“I’m very proud and so excited to say Danton Boller will be joining me in Wilkes-Barre,” Williams said. “We’ll be playing acoustic, and I am so excited to go so many different places in the acoustic realm. The upright bass is a whole different beast; it is really difficult to make that thing sing the way it needs to be sung. Danton Boller is a master at this instrument.”
The Friday, Dec. 8, concert starts at 9 p.m. as part of the Kirby Center’s “Live from the Chandelier Lobby” series. Tickets cost $25 in advance and $30 the day of the show, plus fees.
Williams began performing in the early 1990s as a solo artist in restaurants and bars. When he realized many people weren’t paying attention to the single guy in the corner of the room, the idea of looping various instruments struck him.
“I wanted something more organic, so I create the samples on the fly in front of the audience,” he explained. “That lead to more exposure and to playing solo around the country, which also lead to me being able to afford humans for projects. And I guess that’s where we are now — doing projects and solo work, with a little more focus on solo these days. I’ve done so many projects that the solo act gets left behind.”
While Wilkes-Barre will see the Keller Williams Duo this weekend, Williams’ other projects include KWahtro, Keller Williams Trio, More Than a Little, Grateful Grass, Keller & the Keels and Grateful Gospel, among others.
On top of creating music and touring with these projects, Williams has released over 20 albums, all with one-syllable titles. One of his most recent albums, “Raw,” is more representative of his upcoming show as an entirely solo, acoustic record.
“The ‘Raw’ album started in 2011 as a concept record of 12 songs on 12 different guitars,” Williams said. “I didn’t like it. I scrapped it. I found myself on a co-bill with Leo Kottke, one of my mentors and heroes, and it was going to be in nice theaters and performing arts centers. I didn’t have anything to represent that solo, acoustic music, so I pulled four of my favorite tracks off that, recorded six different ones and, voila — we have a record done in three days.”
As a musician, Williams views his entire career as a success without much to complain about.
“I wish I had known that I was going to do one-syllable titles to have the foresight to maybe make some really interesting run-on sentences with these words,” Williams joked. “But seriously, I followed my dreams, and I got really lucky. I don’t really have a lot of regrets.”
More than anything, Williams expressed how much his fans enabled him to follow each of his projects and goals without worrying about losing their interest. As a genre-hopping artist, Williams continues to change his style and create new projects while still keeping an ever-growing fan base. He is finishing his first instrumental album, which he filled with songs he played over the years that never had drum or bass lines, Williams said.
“To folks that are listening, they’ll be recognizable, but with a new twist,” he said. “I think they’ll dig it.”


If you go
What: The Keller Williams Duo
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: Friday, Dec. 8, 9 p.m.; doors open at 7:30
Details: Tickets cost $25 in advance and $30 the day of the show, plus fees, and can be purchased at the Kirby Center box office, by calling 570-826-1100 or online at

Stunt performers to heat up arena in ice-racing show

Stunt performers to heat up arena in ice-racing show

Bikes rocket around the track with sharp, studded tires, reaching 60 mph in less than three seconds — on ice.
International Championship Events World Championship Ice Racing slides into Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre Twp., on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m. The World Championship Ice Racing Series presents the “Next Generation Fire on Ice Tour,” which features two- and four-wheel races whose performers do stunts, such as popping wheelies at 170 mph or holding wheelies for 300 feet.
“Every time we do a stunt, I’m always trying to take it to the next level by making it more dangerous and more exhilarating for the crowd to watch,” explained racer and performer Ken “The Stuntman” Remer. “As far as racing, I always do what I can to get to the top. … It might sound weird, but I wear the same pair of socks throughout the whole season.”
A Wisconsin native, Remer grew up fantasizing about performing stunts. He trained with Midwest Stunts, based in Chicago, in his late teens and went on to become a full-time stuntman in various films and television shows, including “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “Chicago Fire.”
“I grew up on a water-ski team; I was barefoot and jumping,” Remer said. “I always had this fantasy of doing stunts on TV shows. … I am also a volunteer firefighter of 22 years, so I’ve never been afraid of fire, since I’ve been around it so much and had a lot of training.”
Remer started racing first on an outdoor four-wheeler but wanted more of a challenge by racing on ice.
“I looked up ‘international championship events’ in 2010 and instantly became involved,” Remer said. “After being involved for seven years, I ended up purchasing the series in 2016.”
Stunts and racing became such a large part of Remer’s life that he even proposed to his wife on the ice after performing a jump. Now, the promoter continues to work on increasing awareness and garnering interest in the sport while also honing his skills in racing and stunts. In recent years, Remer worked his “Stuntman” routine into the ice-racing show by jumping his quad through a flaming ring and also lighting himself on fire.
“Our main precautions are using the right gear; I wear the right gear to keep the heat off my body,” Remer said. “We also have at least four firefighters with extinguishers. If something were to go wrong, they could get to me fairly quickly. I put my trust into my guys that if something does go wrong, they’ll be right there to get the fire out.”


If you go
What: International Championship Events World Championship Ice Racing
When: Saturday, Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Details: Tickets cost $15 to $29 for general admission and $9 for kids 2 to 12 and can be purchased at the box office, or by calling 800-745-3000.
Online: World Championship Ice Racing Series on Facebook or

Crafts and music headed for  old-fashioned market

Crafts and music headed for old-fashioned market

Visitors to downtown Wilkes-Barre can walk in a winter wonderland this weekend during the second Old-Fashioned Holiday Market on Public Square.
Hosted by the city, the market takes place Friday, Dec. 1, and Saturday, Dec. 2, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and features arts and food vendors, live holiday music, and horse-drawn carriage and wagon rides. New to this year’s event is an appearance from Santa Claus, who arrives on top of a Wilkes-Barre Fire Department engine on Saturday at 1 p.m.
In an effort to encourage locals to explore the downtown, Wilkes-Barre special events coordinator Patty Hughes worked to recreate last year’s event, which touts a similar feel to the Fine Arts Fiesta, only winterized. 
“The event was well-received last year, as holiday shoppers like to buy unique holiday gifts from local vendors,” Hughes said. “This event gives shoppers the opportunity to shop, dine and be entertained right in downtown Wilkes-Barre. The city is proud to be part of the rebirth of the downtown business district.” 

Among the twinkling lights and the large tree in the center of Public Square, visitors can wander around more than 20 artisan vendors and food trucks while enjoying a jam-packed schedule of holiday music, dancing and other acts at the bandshell. 
Craft vendors include Knotty Nikki’s pearl jewelry and custom designs, Amore Aroma candles and crystal healing, Jeff Wright wreaths and crafts, Krafts by Knopka, Infinity Creative Arts, Sewing in Stitches and Handcrafted by Polly, as well as direct sales vendors such as Scentsy, LuLaRoe and Paparazzi. Food vendors include Tony Thomas Catering, Sammy’s Caribbean Grill, Snook’s Wings & Things, El Rey Azteca and Pittston Popcorn Co.
“The overall goal is to attract residents and visitors to Wilkes-Barre through special events so that they will continue to shop and dine in the city throughout the year,” Hughes said.
Miss Pennsylvania’s Outstanding Teen, Madison Dompkosky, presents the horse-drawn carriage and wagon rides again this year. Victorian carriage rides will be available Friday, while horse-drawn carriage rides will circle the square Saturday. Carriage and wagon rides cost $5, with all proceeds benefitting Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
“As always, Mother Nature is the biggest challenge to any outdoor event,” Hughes said. “We are hoping for good weather again this year.”

Entertainment schedule
Friday, Dec. 1
11 to 11:45 a.m. — Christmas music by DJ Mark
Noon to 12:45 p.m. — Stephen L. Perillo, Christian singer/songwriter
1 to 1:45 p.m. — Michael Yim and Jim Hinkel duo
2 to 2:45 p.m. — Curt Shrunk
3 to 3:45 p.m. — Kaili Hannon, Christian singer/songwriter
4 to 4:45 p.m. — Sean Kay, Christian singer/songwriter
5 to 5:30 p.m. — Dance Team by Courtney
5:45 to 6:30 p.m. — Christmas Music by DJ Mark

Saturday, Dec. 2
11 to 11:30 a.m. — Downtown Arts presents “Nutcracker Dance”
11:45 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. — Moving River Ministries presents “Stick Dance”
12:30 to 1 p.m. — Osterhout Library story time
1 to 3 p.m. — Santa Claus arrives on Wilkes-Barre Fire Department engine
2 to 2:45 p.m. — David Blight School of Dance presents “Polar Express”
3 to 3:45 p.m. — Keystone Kids Star Makers presents “Polar Express”
4 to 4:45 p.m. — Rising Stars presents “Polar Express”
5 to 5:30 p.m. — Keystone Kids presents “Polar Express”
5:45 to 7 p.m. — Broken Road Duo


Just Blush

Just Blush

For some bands, determining the right name takes months of brainstorming. For Just Blush, it was as easy as going to the hardware store.
“Guido (Castellani) happened upon a paint swatch at Lowe’s one afternoon,” guitarist Todd Oravic said. “‘Just Blush.’ Done deal.”
Finding time to practice together, however, doesn’t come as easily for the Scranton group, but the quartet does its best to keep the music coming. The group — which also includes Nick Barno on drums, Andrew Bryant on guitar and Abby Vail on bass — looks to take a hiatus from performing together after its upcoming scheduled shows, so now is the time for anyone who has wanted to catch them live.
Just Blush’s members recently went On the Record to discuss how they grew together as musicians and work together as a band.

Q: How did you all meet?
Todd Oravic: Nick and I met at Wilkes University on the first day of classes and started jamming the Beatles and Coldplay songs together. … Around November 2009, Nick invited me along to a show at Cafe Metro with some of his friends from high school, including Andrew. We quickly became friends and started talking about getting a band off the ground. We had our first practice with our first bassist, Guido Castellani, in March 2010. When Guido left for college that September, Andrew messaged Abby about playing with us. She came over for practice, and we discovered that the four of us worked very well together. Then we just went from there, with a focus now on original material.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
TO: When I was 4 years old, my grandfather brought this old Harmony classical parlor acoustic downstairs and said, “OK, Jethro (his nickname for me). Let’s play some guitar.” Still have that guitar.
Abby Vail: I went to slap a high five but was too slow and slapped a bass instead. I decided to make it a hobby.
Andrew Bryant: I fell onto a piano and liked the noise.

Q: What is the process like for writing your music? 
TO: The process itself ends up being different every time, but it very often begins with some rough recorded demo or idea. We try to not think too much about it, and lately we’ve been doing a lot of free-form jamming together. Jamming is a great way in as far as figuring out what could work well for a song and just trying stuff.
AV: Our writing process varies. Sometimes we already have an idea or a demo that we go into practice looking to expand upon, and other times we just don’t say a word and break out into a random jam for 20 minutes and then realize we made unintentional magic happen.

Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years?
AV: Playing with these guys for so many years has really helped me develop personally. When you play with such talented people for so long, you’re bound to progress. I used to just play it safe and not veer far from root notes, but now I’m always looking to take my bass lines to unexpected places. We’ve all gained different experiences and endured struggles over the years, and I think we each let that sprinkle into our music and allow ourselves growth.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a part of this band?
AV: Choosing just one memory to label a favorite is almost impossible because we always have such a great time together, but I’m going to say one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had was seeing Tame Impala in Maryland. After the show, a shirtless man told one of us that we have “impeccable music taste,” and Todd’s immediate response was, “Thanks, I can SEE your pecs!” Every weekend we spent in Penn State recording our album has a special place in my heart as well.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
TO: Oh man, it’s gotten so much bigger. It’s awesome — there’s always something going on, and a lot of new acts.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
TO: To be honest, the future is uncertain for Just Blush. We’ve all agreed we’re still going to jam together from time to time — we’re very good at that and love to do it — but we’re looking to take a step back from the project and explore other musical avenues. We’re really glad we got our album done. We said for a long time we were going to do it and we did, and we have always had so much fun doing this, playing for people and for each other. Our last shows for an indefinite amount of time are coming soon, so now’s the time for anyone who’d like to come out: Friday, Nov. 24, at the Keys (as a three-piece with Nick, Todd and Abby) with Days in Transit, and Saturday, Nov. 25, at the Irish Wolf (Pub in Scranton) with King Kidding, Crookshanks and Japan 4. We’ll have our album packaged with our self-released EPs, “Just Blush” and “Live at the Flea Market,” at a discounted price also.

Have a holly jolly time with live Rudolph musical at F.M. Kirby Center

Have a holly jolly time with live Rudolph musical at F.M. Kirby Center

Even the most famous reindeer of all has his bad days when it comes to fitting in.
The classic story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer — whose shining red nose excluded him from playing reindeer games, leading him to flee to the Island of Misfit Toys — flies into F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes-Barre, on Wednesday, Nov. 29. The musical production based on the 1964 stop-motion television special starts at 6:30 p.m., and doors open at 5. 
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical” keeps true to the essence of the original television special, even using costumes, puppets and sets reminiscent of the claymation used in the original special, said Natalie MacDonald, who plays Rudolph. After two successful years of touring North America, the holly jolly cast of characters — including Hermey the Elf, Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snow Monster — bring the show to life with favorite songs, including “Fame and Fortune,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Silver and Gold” and “Holly Jolly Christmas.”
“When kids see the movie and then they see the show, what they saw on TV comes to life,” MacDonald said. “Kids love it, as well as the grandparents and the parents who grew up with it. I just want to point out how incredible this show is for all generations … and how special that is, how rare it is for something to last so long in this digital age when stories last two seconds and then they’re gone.”
MacDonald always connected with Rudolph’s story because she was homeschooled as a child.
“I think that everyone in their life comes upon a time when they felt like a misfit. … I very much loved my upbringing, but with kids my age I sometimes had a hard time relating to them,” she said. “I was taking college classes and was always around people older than me, so hanging out with kids my age, I felt like a misfit.”
Many of the technical aspects of the show make it special for MacDonald, including the moment when she flies across the stage, and how the cast, crew and production team work together to make each moment magical.
“The show gives off a very poignant message,” MacDonald said. “We’ve really built up this anti-bullying campaign with ‘Rudolph.’ Kids can come see that all of our differences that we have can be brought to the table and make society better. It’s a really important message for kids and parents and grandparents alike.”


Trans-Siberian Orchestra keeps on rocking after losses

Trans-Siberian Orchestra keeps on rocking after losses

The show must go on for Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which lost its creator earlier this year.
The progressive rock band, known for its Pink Floyd-sized spectacles, hauls its holiday show, “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre Twp., on Sunday, Nov. 19, with performances at 2:30 and 7 p.m.
After the death of artistic visionary and creator Paul O’Neill in April, many fans were left wondering whether the classic Christmas tours would continue. But Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s music director and lead guitarist, Al Pitrelli, said the group never considered skipping this year’s shows. 

“I think the tour itself is addressing his passing,” Pitrelli said. “I mean, he created this. I think the show itself becomes a tribute to the man’s genius and, again, the legacy that will be carried on by his family. Ask me that question maybe in two months and maybe I’ll have a different answer. From my heart right now, I think that every note that I play on the guitar, every note that’s sung by the singers, how it’s presented by the production staff, by his family, I think that everybody knows that everything is a tribute to Paul.”
Originally meant as a one-off performance aired live on Fox television, the show earned such a positive reception that the taping went into syndication and runs almost every year. This tour debuted two years ago, featuring the group’s greatest hits in a new story. “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” rock opera takes up the first half of the show and tells the story of a runaway from the Midwest heading to New York City, where she takes refuge in an old Vaudeville theater. There, the caretaker discovers her and uses the ghosts of the theater’s past to turn around her life. 
The second set features material ranging from new songs to hits from 20 years ago.
Pitrelli said the group changes the look of the stage, lighting, pyrotecnics, lasers, moving trussles and video content with each new tour. The show’s growth didn’t happen overnight, he said, but it’s come a long way from the first tour in 1999 when the band had just “one box truck and a couple lights and a fog machine, a vision and a dream.”
“Every year, there were more markets in the country that wanted it,” Pitrelli said. “Every year, people from around the planet were interested in what this thing is. Every year, we just keep feeding this thing and nurturing it and taking care of it, treating it like a growing child to the point where it’s become something so big and so incredible and it’s reached so many people we never thought we’d reach. It’s been a privilege to be part of it all these years.“
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra family also lost bassist David Zablidowsky (David Z) in July after a car crash. But through all of the tragedy the band has faced, Pitrelli said, it has made a point to keep going with its lost ones in its hearts. 
“Life can go upside down on you real quick,” he added. “The irony of it all is that all of Paul’s stories deal with that one issue, you know? From ‘Christmas Eve and Other Stories’ right through ‘The Ghost of Christmas Eve,’ it’s all about loss and redemption. Somebody’s run away; there’s a child missing in the middle of the night who just wants to get home; there’s a father who misses his daughter. … Now, obviously all of Paul’s stories end with a happy ending, but in life they don’t sometimes. It’s funny that even from the other side, Paul is still always going to teach all of us.”

King Kidding aims to create fresh sound to inspire others

King Kidding aims to create fresh sound to inspire others

The first live show never goes as planned for most bands.
But when the guys in Tunkhannock-based group King Kidding took the stage for the first time in July 2016, at a now-defunct Carbondale venue, their nerves were nowhere to be found.
“I remember spending the two hours leading up to the show trying desperately to figure out how the PA system was supposed to work,” guitarist and vocalist Michael Wintermute explained. “Unlike many venues, there was no one to run sound and no one to even explain how the house system worked. It seemed like an absolute miracle, but we got the system running — albeit one step away from being electrocuted. By then, the nerves of playing our weird music for the first time were gone, and we had a great time just shredding the stage.”
The group — which also includes Kyle Shupp on guitar, Sean Hadley on drums and Tim Husty on bass — came together in 2015 after several other collaborations among the four of them. Now, the quartet focuses on writing music and performing in the Northeast Pennsylvania music scene.
Q: Where did your band name come from?
Michael Wintermute: The band name came from an explicit text message that was autocorrected to “You’ve got to be fw king kidding me.” Mike’s wife, Amanda, noticed that “King Kidding” has a nice ring to it.

Q: What is the process like for writing your music?  
MW: We work with the running idea of the “King Kidding Machine.” We believe that if we all earnestly and genuinely contribute our slice of the pie to the King Kidding Machine, a King Kidding song will always be the result. Mike has come to the band with blues songs, punk songs, folk songs, etc., but they all end up with the King Kidding texture. The most important aspect of our writing is that nothing is off-limits. We believe that if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. And if it does, it does. We try to keep band politics, emotions and preferences out of it. That way, we aren’t speaking or acting for ourselves, but for King Kidding.

Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years?
Kyle Shupp: When I was younger, I was definitely more closed-minded creatively. Being able to play with such great friends and musicians has expanded my mind exponentially. Beyond that, King Kidding has taught me how to play more than just the notes in music. It feels great to play music of any kind to a crowd, but there’s no feeling quite like performing your own songs to people that are willing to take a ride on the sonic roller coaster with you.
MW: My philosophy is that you aren’t an artist if you aren’t changing. I just constantly search for new sounds and constantly encourage any off-the-wall idea that I can, because really amazing things are born from that.

Q: Have you faced any major challenges as a rising band?
MW: The biggest challenge we faced was trying to make music that is different but familiar. We want people to feel excited by our music, but we don’t want them to feel like we’re showcasing our talents or being weird just to be weird. We feel a strong connection to music that twists and turns in ways that make the mind wander, and we are honored just to think we may have a way to add to that whole philosophy.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
MW: We’ll have our album completed by the end of 2017. Then we plan on taking some time off to focus on booking and writing new material. We’ve spent the better part of 2017 touring the valley, and we’d like to focus on areas just beyond our region in the future.

Q: Do you have anything else you’d like to add that is important for people to know about the group?
MW: Above all, we are trying to create something that’s never been done before, and we’re trying to inspire people to look at music in a way they’ve never looked at it before.

Bang-up job Feel the beat when ‘Stomp’ comes to Kirby Center

Bang-up job Feel the beat when ‘Stomp’ comes to Kirby Center

See what the noise is all about when “Stomp” bangs and clangs in downtown Wilkes-Barre tonight.
The percussion sensation opens at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, Nov. 9, at 7:30 p.m., followed by an encore performance Friday, Nov. 10, at 7:30 p.m.
The 12-member troupe uses everyday items — such as hubcaps, trash cans, dustbins, tea chests and boots — rather than traditional percussion instruments to create the sonic performance. Push brooms become a boisterous drum line, Zippo lighters click open and closed to create a twinkling tune and newspapers accompany vocal projections in an unconventional choir. 
From its beginnings as a street performance in the United Kingdom, “Stomp” grew over the past 20 years, with its company performing in more than 50 countries for more than 24 million people. Its run includes four global productions: the sell-out production at New York’s Orpheum Theatre, a permanent London company and two tours throughout North America and Europe.
This show, originally scheduled for last March 15 and 16, was cancelled because of the extreme snowstorm that hit the area. The Kirby Center will honor tickets bought for the March 15 show on Nov. 9, and for March 16 on Nov. 10. 
Virginia native Jeremy Price travels with the North American tour as a performer and rehearsal director. After discovering a love for breakdancing, drums and music in grade school, the 39-year-old said “Stomp” seemed like a natural progression for his life. And as rehearsal director, Price maintains a sense of tidiness in a show that has a lot of room for improvisation.
“One of the reasons the performers stick with it is because there are some solo moments that people can write and change over the years,” he said. “We make sure it is still in the context of what ‘Stomp’ is and what has made ‘Stomp’ successful over the years.”
Each year, the show adds new numbers in order to keep the production fresh and enticing for audiences to revisit, but it also maintains the core “Stomp” numbers everyone associates with the production.
“No show is perfect,” Price added. “I’m a fan of when the show takes a right turn and you have to fix it. It’s a new challenge of mine to make sure we can pull it back in. I don’t mind if something derails a bit.”
The most eye-opening experiences throughout Price’s many years with “Stomp” remain meeting a wide variety of people in the show and where they perform.
“I really wish that everyone could travel,” he said. “It just changes your perspective. There’s an education in travel that you can’t purchase anywhere else. … I’m just a Southern kid with preconceived notions about what’s going on in the world. But I get to entertain people and take them away from their daily strife. And that’s the most beautiful thing.”

Scranton-based Family Animals gallops on with new album

Scranton-based Family Animals gallops on with new album

Frank DeSando, Anthony Viola and Jesse Viola used many names for their band since picking up their instruments in 2000.
After playing around with several monikers, the trio won a battle of the bands show at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple as Family Animals.
“There was a good crowd and the show went well, so we decided to keep the name,” guitarist Jesse Viola said.

Since that show in 2008, the group has performed live, written music and recorded albums in and around Northeast Pennsylvania. Its newest album, “Don’t Expect a Climax,” debuted Sept. 30 and is available for purchase on all major streaming platforms, at shows and online at The musicians recently went On the Record to discuss their time playing together in the region.

Q: How did you all meet?
Jesse Viola: Anthony and I are brothers. We met Frankie when we were just youngsters, too young to recall the moment exactly, but we grew up two doors away. So we’ve basically known each other our whole lives.

Q: How did you each get involved in music?
Anthony Viola: We all in some way or another have a life-long passion for music. Growing up, we all always loved it.
JV: My brother and I started taking guitar lessons together when I was 9 and he was 12, while Frankie took bass lessons at 11, all at Gallucci Music in Scranton. We all started together and all knew we wanted to play in a band together.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public together?
AV: The first time we ever played in public was actually about six months after we all started, and it was Jesse’s fifth-grade dance. I remember some kids were scared, and as soon as we finished, the DJ came out and started blasting “Who Let the Dogs Out” and all the 11-year-old kids went crazy.

Q: What was the process like for writing your new album?
JV: We are always writing new material and probably have more unreleased songs than released ones. So for “Don’t Expect a Climax,” it was more a matter of picking the right compilation of songs to record. Once that was decided, we recorded and mixed the songs ourselves with our own equipment. The whole process took a little more than a year. Then we really lucked out with Eric Ritter at Windmill Agency generously offering to master the album. We cannot thank him enough.

Q: How have you changed as musicians over the years?
Frank DeSando: We’ve always kind of made it a point to not limit ourselves musically and play what we enjoy, whether or not it stays true to a particular genre. I think, because of that, we’ve always ventured into trying to play different styles of our respective instruments, even pulling in new instruments we aren’t too familiar with to achieve a sound we want. I feel like we are still growing and learning as musicians to this day, and (I) don’t feel like that will ever change. There will always be something new to discover. I think that’s part of why we love it so much.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a part of this band?
AV: I just love being able to do what I love with my best friends. I feel like we are always hanging out anyway, and the friendships kind of just blend into the music somehow. It’s hard to remember specific times when it feels like a constant adventure. Some things that come to mind though are being flashed, meeting some bands I really love to listen to and just that feeling when the night comes together perfect, where we all feel on and the place is packed and the roar of a couple hundred people just feels amazing.

Q: How has the NEPA music scene changed over the years?
FD: It seems to me, in recent years, the NEPA scene as a whole has really come together more as some kind of crazy family. Everyone seems to know everyone on some level and has each other’s backs, from the musicians, artists, photographers, filmmakers, journalists and even the bar owners. I don’t know if social media can be credited for that or what, but it’s pretty cool.

Q: Have you faced any major challenges as a rising band?
JV: Being an independent band, it’s a challenge having to learn the business aspect of the music industry. Anthony does most of the promotion and booking, which can be an overwhelming task, but we’ve all been trying to help out in that area.
AV: Also, I feel like we grew up in a weird time; we picked up our instruments in 2000, and when we were playing in high school, it was still an age of hanging flyers and calling bars. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 19, and it was a flip phone. So, adapting to this new marketplace that is social media has been a challenge in itself. I don’t really want to be on Facebook and Instagram all the time, but as a band we have to keep up on stuff like that. It’s just a different time where people can access so much material and so much art, and the bar is always being raised for entertainment and what’s entertaining.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
AV: I have so many goals for the band. I’d really love to tour a lot more and go further and further. I want our ad mats, flyers, artwork, everything to always get better and portray the band’s vibe better. I want to release albums quicker than every two years, and most of all I want this to be my job one day. Not because I see it as a good money-making prospect but more because I love doing it. It’s what we do for fun, and I can’t imagine the happiness that comes with making a living through what you’re passionate about.

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.