Up Close & Personal – Alex Olivetti

Up Close & Personal – Alex Olivetti

As a kid picking up a guitar for the first time, Alex Olivetti was unsure if music was for him. At that age, he was more interested in playing video games. But a short time later, he found a love for music and now plays across the country with his band Threatpoint. He is a graduate of Mid Valley High School and Penn State University, where he studied information science technology. A Throop resident, he is employed by Mondelez International in Hanover Twp., where he works as a customer order fulfilment analyst.

Meet Alex Olivetti…

Q: How did you first get into music, particularly metal music?
A:
I got into music at 8 or 9 years old. I was pretty young. My dad is also a guitar player. There were always guitars around the house. I was looking at a guitar one day and asked my dad to show me something on it. I took lessons off of him for about a year. Like every other kid, I just wanted to play video games and eat potato chips, so I gave it up for a while. In high school, I started taking it more seriously. I actually started listening to Metallica and Nirvana on the radio at a young age. When I was taking lessons and trying to balance video games, there was a game I used to play that had a lot of heavy-metal music in its soundtrack. I played the game so much that I naturally got into it.

Q: What were some particular challenges of learning to be a metal musician?
A:
With the style we do, the music is pretty fast. You’re not just strumming chords; you’ve got to make sure both your hands are coordinated and in sync. I have to go over different scales and practice stamina so I can play a full set of music.

Q: Describe the father-son bond you were able to establish through music.
A:
We used to play out together a lot. We don’t play out anymore, but around the house we’ll still jam quite a bit. It is really cool to have a bond on that level. When I was younger, I kind of took it for granted, not having to go somewhere for lessons or pay a lot of money. I got to the point where I lost interest in it. As I got older, I took it for what it was, and it was so cool to be able to jam with him and share the stage with him. We’re almost like best friends, so I get to hang out with him on weekends. We can play and learn songs together. I think it’s cool because not everyone has that kind of bond with an immediate family member. He still comes out to my shows and sometimes runs sound for us.

Q: Who are your musical inspirations?
A:
I listened to Metallica and Rob Zombie on the radio. That was kind of my introduction to hard rock and heavy metal. In high school, when I started taking it more seriously, bands like Pantera and Trivium were big influences on me. Lately, there are a few guitar players I’ve really been into. One is Paul Gilbert; he’s one of the shred guys, a really fast and technical player. I got an instructional DVD by him, and I really nerded out over that one summer. Another one is Mark Tremonti. He has a solo band and plays in a band called Alter Bridge. A couple weeks ago, I got to do a guitar clinic with him. It was really cool. Some of the more modern bands I like are Shadows Fall and Sevendust.

Q: Threatpoint released its fourth album last month. What can people expect from it?
A:
We’ve definitely progressed as musicians and songwriters. We’re trying to expand our horizon. It’s more upbeat and a little bit faster than our previous stuff. I think it has more energy overall, which translates well into playing live. I think it’s our best to date, and every album you want to get better. I think it’s high-energy, and the songs are more diverse with the vocals too.

Q: What is something people might be surprised to learn about Threatpoint?
A:
Believe it or not, as heavy and aggressive as our music is, we try to stay positive with our lyrics. A lot of our lyrics take the spiritual realm and are about going through everyday life or relationships and trying to keep your head up. A lot of metal music can get stereotyped that it’s like devil-worshipping, evil or negative. We try to flip it and stay positive. I think that sort of sets us apart from some of our counterparts.

Q: What is your favorite thing about being part of the Northeast Pennsylvania music scene?
A:
NEPA as a whole is really strong in the music scene. There are a lot of really talented bands, musicians and artists. It’s really cool to be in your hometown and play with all these good bands. Everyone gets along too, so it’s like you’re hanging out with friends, then suddenly you’re playing a set of music.

Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have?
A:
I enjoy soccer. I like movies a lot and watch a lot of movies. I also like guitar as a hobby. I play guitar a lot even outside of working with the band. I’m a big music listener. At work, we’re allowed to listen to music, so I always have headphones in. Outside of work, I spend a lot of time listening to music on YouTube looking for new bands and guitar videos. I also like hanging out with friends in my free time, too. I’m an Eagles fan, which was great last year.

Q: Tell me about your work at Mondelez International.
A:
Working at Mondelez, we handle a lot of the Nabisco products, and I’m a big snack guy, so it’s great. I do a lot of reporting. I work with our distribution centers who send the product to our customers. I look at how we can prevent item cuts in the future. It’s based around the supply chain, looking at inventory and getting products to the customers and fulfilling their orders.

Q: Have you had a particular time in your life that helped shape the person you are today?
A:
In terms of outlook, I’m going to be 30 this year. I realize we’re not going to be here forever, so I want to enjoy my time here. It makes me like playing in the band more, being able to do what I love, the travel and going to places I never would have been otherwise. The band has gotten to play in almost 40 states. We’re going to Canada next month to play. Seeing different places, meeting new people and trying different food is great. The coolest thing in the world is playing in a place we’ve never been with bands we’ve never heard of and people are singing our songs and buying merchandise. When we go back to that place, they bring their friends, and it really builds. To go from the first time playing there to the 10th time and seeing growth is really something. Being able to travel is something I want to do more of. I never would have gotten to go places like Maine and up that way, so I’ve come to enjoy taking it all in.

Up Close & Personal – Anthony Viola

Up Close & Personal – Anthony Viola

Anthony Viola has been playing music for 18 years with his best friends, his brother Jesse, and Frank Desando, his childhood friend. With Anthony Viola on drums, his brother singing and on guitar and Desando on bass, the three have performed as a band, Family Animals, for nearly 11 years. They recently released their third album, “The End Is Mere.” Anthony Viola is a graduate of North Pocono High School and Luzerne County Community College, where he studied music recording technology. He lives in Mount Cobb.

Meet Anthony Viola…

Q: What is your music background?
A:
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been extremely passionate about it. When I was 13, Jesse was 10, and Frankie was 12, we started taking guitar lessons. We took lessons for about a year and made the band and loved every second of it. I was always drawn to music. Jesse and I got all my parents’ old records and were into those. My dad loves the Allman Brothers, the Beatles and Pink Floyd, so discovering that music as a kid was great.

Q: How did your band, Family Animals form?
A:
We’ve known each other our whole lives. Frank lives two doors down from where I grew up. I don’t even remember meeting him. It was way back before I started taking music lessons. We always talked about forming a band. The three of us started as the Tonix; it was that horrible name you think of when you’re 13 years old. Then we changed our name to something fairly more decent, Family Animals, in 2008. We were in a Battle of the Bands competition in 2008 and needed a name, so we went with Family Animals, and we ended up winning Battle of the Bands, so we kept the name.

Q: What is it like to be able to pursue your passion with your brother and best friend?
A:
It’s a dream come true. If I can make this work and make a living off of it, it’s just what I want to do. They are my best friends. This couldn’t be cooler. I only hang out with them. We play music constantly, we’ve learned together, and we know each other so well musically and personally, it only helps us click even more musically. I see siblings who don’t get along or have different interests, but we are extremely fortunate that we have the same dream, we’re a team, and we are on the same page.

Q: Describe Family Animals’ sound.
A:
We’ve been describing ourselves as a psychedelic, indie rock band. There are so many genres these days, and they’re all so niche. The whole idea behind our band is to try to be fluid with the genres we play. Even to say we are a psychedelic rock band is so broad. Our influences come from all over the place. We listen to reggae, classic rock, hip-hop, Jack White and Frank Zappa. There are so many influences, and we want them all to come through without every sound sounding the same or being stale. We’re big fans of Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Butthole Surfers, Nirvana and a little bit of everything.

Q: You recorded your first album almost 10 years ago. Your most recent album, “The End Is Mere” was released in February. How have things changed?
A:
We recorded our first album with our professor, Paul Sinclair. We started recording it in the beginning of 2009 and finished a little over a year later. We released it in 2010. We wanted to produce “The End Is Mere” ourselves since we went to school for this. On our previous albums, we recorded them and produced some ourselves, but we were still honing in on our sound. We’ve also changed our writing style. For the most part, Jesse did the writing. This time, we all collaborated, wrote together and had a bunch of ideas. We wanted to do better with the producing. We went crazy looking up microphone techniques and bought some old vintage microphones. We really wanted to make the production aspect better. I really hope it shows.

Q: What can people expect to hear on the album?
A:
It’s kind of a concept album in a sense. It’s about a fantastical other universe world. We hired Brian Langan to do our art; he’s a great artist, and he really pulled it off so well. We wrote this song last year called “Gimme Jim-Jims,” and that had all these fantastical characters, and we decided to write the album about that. It’s really it’s own self-contained story.

Q: Outside of music, what hobbies and interests do you have?
A:
I like collecting records, buying and selling old stuff. My brother and I have been fixing up old guitars. I really enjoy taking pictures. We’ve also been filming our own music videos for this album, and so we’ve been getting into the video production aspect. That’s a big hobby, learning that. We filmed something in fall that we are just getting ready to release now. We’re doing the sets, filming and editing, and we like it that way. I also love movies and animals; we have a lot of animals.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape the person you are today?
A:
Throughout high school and as a kid, I always had so much social anxiety. I always worried about what everyone thought of me. I guess through music, being around Jesse and Frank and just reading a lot, I’m becoming more sociable. In my 20s, I had a bad time with some tough personal things. Trying to come out of that and relearn who I am hopefully turned me into a better person who appreciates life more.

Fab 5 – March 7, 2019

Fab 5 – March 7, 2019

1. ‘Mona Lisa and the Cross’
Catch the latest drama from local playwright K.K. Gordon on the Diva Theater stage this weekend.
“Mona Lisa and the Cross” will take place Friday, March 8, and Saturday, March 9, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 10, at 2 p.m. at the theater, 126 W. Market St., Scranton. Guests can enter the second-floor theater from the rear parking lot.
The love story features adult material and strong language and is directed by Joe Rettura.
For reservations, call 570-209-7766. Visit the Facebook event page for more information.

the Band, Saving Abel

2. Saving Abel and Tantric
Rockers Saving Abel and Tantric come to the Electric City for a night of music alongside several local acts.
The bands will perform Thursday, March 7, at Stage West, 301 N. Main Ave., Scranton. The 21-and-older show begins at 8 p.m.
Southern rock group Saving Abel is known for such hits as “Addicted,” “Stupid Girl” and “Drowning” and has toured with such groups as Buckcherry, Avenged Sevenfold and Nickelback. Tantric, meanwhile, saw its self-titled album achieve gold status in 2001 and released its seventh studio album, “Mercury Retrograde,” in October.
Also performing at Stage West that night will be Northeast Pennsylvania bands Behind the Grey, Graces Downfall and the Holtzmann Effect.
Tickets cost $22 in advance and $25 the day of the show. For more information or tickets, call 570-343-7100 or visit the Facebook event page.

3. Joe Bonamassa
Guitarist and blues-rock musician Joe Bonamassa will perform Monday, March 11, at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the show starts at 8.
The show comes just five months after the release of Bonamassa’s latest studio album, “Redemption.” The two-time Grammy nominee has had 20 albums reach No. 1 on Billboard’s blues chart, on the back of such songs as “Mountain Time,” “The Ballad of John Henry” and “Sloe Gin.” His backing band includes well-known musicians such as drummer Anton Fig, bassist Michael Rhodes and pianist/organist Reese Wynans plus background singers and horns.
Tickets cost $89, $99, $129, $149 and $199, plus fees. For tickets, visit the box office or kirbycenter.org or call 570-826-1100.

4. Justin Willman: Magic in Real Life
Catch Justin Willman at Mohegan Sun Pocono, 1280 Route 315, Plains Twp., this weekend.
The St. Louis-born magician/comedian will perform Friday, March 8, at 8 p.m. in the Keystone Grand Ballroom. Tickets start at $25.
Audiences might recognize him from the Netflix series “Magic for Humans with Justin Willman,” which featured his street magic and social experiments, or from his appearances on shows including “The Tonight Show” and “Ellen.” Additionally, he has worked as a television writer and performed for the Obamas at the White House and in the 2015 Comedy Central special “Sleight of Mouth.”
Willman recently announced his residency, dubbed “The Magic Show,” at Los Angeles’ historic Roosevelt Hotel.
For tickets, visit the box office or ticketmaster.com or call 800-745-3000.

R&B singer Brian McKnight, shown in this June 26, 2007 file photo, joins the Broadway cast of “Chicago” Oct. 8. (AP File Photo/Matt Sayles)

5. Brian McKnight
Singer Brian McKnight brings his chart-topping music to Cove Haven Entertainment Resorts, 194 Lakeview Drive, Lakeville, on Sunday, March 10.
McKnight has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide and earned 16 Grammy Award nominations during his more than 25-year career. He has had numerous songs chart on the Billboard Hot 100, including “Back at One,” which peaked at No. 2 in 1999. His most recent album, “Genesis,” bowed in 2017 and included the single “Forever,” which landed in the top 25 on Billboard’s adult R&B chart.
Sunday’s show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets cost $65; admission is included for resort guests. For tickets, visit covepoconoresorts.com.

Up Close & Personal – Amanda Gentile

Up Close & Personal – Amanda Gentile

As a 17-year-old grieving the loss of her father, Amanda Gentile made a decision that would lead her down her eventual career path. A Dunmore native, she is a graduate of Scranton Preparatory School and earned a bachelor’s degree in communication with a minor in psychology from University of Scranton. She has a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Rosemont College and is a licensed professional counselor. She also owns the Giving Tree Wellness Center on Penn Avenue in downtown Scranton. Gentile lives in Moscow with her cats Lynx and Kiki and dog Zo.

Meet Amanda Gentile…

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I
grew up in Dunmore. When I was 17, my dad passed away, and I didn’t know if I should stay in the area for school or not, but my family needed me. So I stayed home, then realized I wanted to venture out, because I love to travel. I moved to Philadelphia for a few years, probably about five years, and got my master’s and loved it. I worked at a couple places and realized I wanted the whole holistic thing, so I decided to take a risk.

Q: What made you want to be a counselor and open the Giving Tree Wellness Center?
A:
After my dad passed away, from getting my own help I realized I could help others through certain things. I always wanted to own my own business. My family comes from owning businesses, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps, but I wanted something that was my own. Counseling was a priority for me. I wondered if I could open somewhere that has counseling but also has holistic things. I was motivated by my background in counseling. I’m very interested in spirituality and alternative medicine. I wondered if I could open something that had counseling but would offer all of that and be a one-stop-shop for all of your self-care. When I found this place (on Penn Avenue), I said, “This is going to happen.” I kind of just threw it all together, and it came together pretty quickly.

Q: What are some particular services the Giving Tree offers, and how are they meaningful to you?
A:
There is the counseling; there is the cafe with smoothies, coffees and teas — all drinks that are good for you. Next there are the float pods. There are major benefits (to those); they help with insomnia, depression, anxiety or mental health issues. They also help with blood pressure and skin problems. The water is set at your average body temperature, and the room is 80 degrees. It’s a place for you to be mindful. I love the float pods, salt and everything that has to do with that. I know the benefits from using them. I also am into the massages, working out and acupuncture. There is a nutritional coach and a fitness instructor who offers all kinds of classes and a spinning studio. I utilize all of them. I try to get in the float pod as much as I can. It helps me sleep a lot better and helps me calm down from the average stress of owning a business. It just lets me turn my mind off when I’m in there. My other favorite thing to do here is work out. Michelle, who owns Trybe, offers classes, private trainings and spin classes. That is my other outlet to de-stress.

Q: What is something you’ve learned about yourself through counseling others?
A:
I learned that I really do want to help people. I am a good listener, and I feel like I can connect with certain people on a very personal level through experiences. It’s more than just sitting there and having a structured session. It’s more real to me, and I can be myself.

Q: What is it like to interact with so many different people and help someone who could be going through very difficult things?
A:
I think it’s awesome. I really like working with teenagers and young women. It’s a good feeling to know that they can come here and feel comfortable and they can utilize any other service even if they’re not sitting in my office. Sometimes I see recurring people in the hallways. After they see me, they’ll work out or float, and it’s awesome. It’s satisfying to know that I’m helping them feel comfortable.

Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have?
A:
I like to travel a lot. My mom lives in Montana half of the year. I like to go visit her. I love to go to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and I love to go anywhere warm. Those are big things. Any time the weekend comes, I love taking day trips too. I love my pets; they’re like my children. I love cooking. It’s good meditation for me. I also love working out, especially here. It’s a good de-stressor.

Q: What is a piece of simple advice you would give to help brighten someone’s day?
A:
You have to remind yourself daily of what you’re grateful for. Even just being thankful that you got up today and you have a roof over your head, remind yourself that things could be way worse if you think they’re that bad. Set your intentions for that day and remind yourself of the positives.

Q: Have you had a particularly moving experience in your professional or personal life?
A:
I think my dad’s passing was a big thing. I’m at a point where I just have to live my life for every day. You have to take risks because you could wake up tomorrow and not be here. I suffer sometimes from a lot of anxiety, and I need to talk myself through it. I was put here to do something. I think everybody needs to find their path in life. My family and I live for every day. I can say I tried. I can never turn back; I can only move forward.

Fab 5 – February 28, 2019

Fab 5 – February 28, 2019

1. Kansas
Legendary rock band Kansas brings its Point of Know Return Tour to Wilkes-Barre on Sunday, March 3.
The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square. Doors open at 6.
Kansas’ tour coincides with the 40th anniversary of the release of their album “Point of Know Return,” which the group will perform in its entirety. The audience also can expect to hear other hits alongside fan favorites and more from the band, known for such songs as “Carry on Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind.”
The concert was rescheduled from Nov. 23, and tickets from the original date will be honored at this show.
Tickets cost $49.50, $69.50, $95 and $126 for general admission and $236 for premium seats, plus fees. The VIP package costs $286, plus fees, and includes a meet-and-greet with the band.
For regular tickets, visit the box office or kirbycenter.org or call 570-826-1100. VIP packages are only available through Ticketmaster; visit ticketmaster.com or call 800-745-3000.

Aaron Carter, Thursday, Feb. 28, 9 p.m. Leon Budrow from Berks County also performs. Call for meet-and-greet details. Levels Bar & Grill, 519 Linden St., Scranton. $18. eventbrite.com.

2. Aaron Carter
Levels Bar & Grill, 519 Linden St., Scranton, will host singer Aaron Carter for a concert Thursday, Feb. 28.
The concert begins at 9 p.m. and also feature hip-hop and pop musician Leon Budrow, a Berks County native.
Carter, the younger brother of Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter, entered the music scene with the release of his self-titled debut album in 1997. His most recent album, “LØVË,” came out last year.
Tickets cost $18 and are available through eventbrite.com. Call 570-209-7811 for more information about meet-and-greet opportunities.

3. Mardi Gras Pub Run
Scranton Running Co. looks to turn Fat Tuesday into Fit Tuesday when it hosts the Mardi Gras Pub Run on March 5.
The run steps off from the shop, 3 W. Olive St., at 6 p.m., and the course will include stops at several pubs. Participants, who are encouraged to wear Mardi Gras-themed attire, can gather at Scranton Running Co. for some fun following the run. They will be able to try some new shoes from Mizuno, enjoy new beer from Great Lakes Brewing Co. and enter raffles.
Registration is open to ages 21 and older with ID and costs $15. Participants can register that day from 5 to 6 p.m. at the shop.
For more information, call 570-955-0921 or visit the Facebook event page.

4. Dave Eggers
Pulitzer Prize finalist and McSweeney’s founder Dave Eggers will speak at Wilkes University on Thursday, Feb. 28, at 7:30 p.m.
The free lecture, which is open to the public, will take place in the Wilkes-Barre school’s Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts.
Eggers has written 10 books, including the National Book Award finalist “A Hologram for the King” and Pulitzer finalist “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.”
In addition to founding the publishing company McSweeney’s, which releases the writing journal McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and the nonprofit book series “Voice of Witness,” Eggers has helped with social causes through his work. He helped establish 826 National, a group of youth writing and tutoring centers across the country; the nonprofit ScholarMatch, which helps low-income students find resources, schools and funding to help them attend college; and the International Congress of Youth Voices, which brings together young writers and activists each year.
Registration for the lecture is recommended. Guests can park for free behind Henry Student Center, 84 W. South St.
For more information, visit wilkes.edu/eggers.

5. ‘How I Learned to Drive’
Marywood University’s theater department will present the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “How I Learned to Drive” this weekend.
The play will run Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m. in the university’s Sette LaVerghetta Center for Performing Arts, 2300 Adams Ave., Scranton.
Paula Vogel won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for drama for the play, which opened off-Broadway in March 1997. The story focuses on a man’s sexual relationship with his niece, which begins in her pre-adolescence and runs into her college years, and addresses issues of control and manipulation. The play is not recommended for young children.
Tickets cost $10 for general admission, $8 for seniors and $5 for non-Marywood students and are free for I.H.M. sisters and people with Marywood ID. For advance tickets, visit marywood.universitytickets.com. Tickets also will be available at the door.
For more information, visit marywood.edu/mtd or call 570-348-6268.