Fright on film

Fright on film

Creepy, campy films and more on deck for fourth annual NEPA Horror Film Festival

Thanks to Bobby Keller, they crept in from places as far as Australia, Russia, Israel and the United Kingdom to find a place at Dickson City’s Circle Drive-in theater.
For the fourth year, the Scranton resident has coordinated and curated a collection of creepy, campy and comedic movies for his annual NEPA Horror Film Festival.
Set for Sunday, Oct. 7, starting at 7 p.m., the festival will screen 13 short films ranging from 30 seconds to 13 minutes at the drive-in. About half of the selected movies are from the United States, while the rest are international, and they all clock in under the 13-minute mark thanks to advice Keller received from “Monstervision” host Joe Bob Briggs, the special guest at 2016’s NEPA Horror Film Festival.
“You go over that and people start to get bored,” shared Keller, a horror fan and filmmaker. “Anybody will enjoy this, even if you go in having no knowledge (of the genre). It’s pretty straight-forward. These are all unknown filmmakers; you’ll be seeing films you’ve never seen.”
Among the titles featured are “Bride of Frankie,” a “feminist version of ‘Bride of Frankenstein,’” Keller explained, and festival opener “Hell of a Day,” an Australian apocalyptic zombie movie. Since each of the films is unrated, Keller advised parents to use discretion with children in attendance because of scenes with blood, gore and very brief nudity.
“It’s all very campy, and this year is more horror-comedy than straight-up horror,” Keller said. “But the last three years, we’ve had kids there with no complaints.”
In between films, music videos from Metal Blade Records will play, and Keller said he called Dracula and invited him and his friends to walk around and spook guests in their cars. The haunted attraction Circle of Screams on site will be open that night with separate admission as well.
Tickets to the film festival cost $8. Making the event inexpensive and accessible was crucial to Keller.
“Growing up in the DIY punk-rock scene, I like to keep things cheap,” he said.
In previous years, the festival took place at River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains Twp. and Ale Mary’s and the former Iron Horse Movie Bistro, both in Scranton. But partnering with Circle Drive-in to host the films has been a dream come true, Keller noted.
“It’s unbelievable, especially since I love the drive-in and I never thought it would get to this point. It really is the perfect venue for what I’m doing, showing horror movies in October,” he said. “This is the time of year people want to get scared and have fun. And I can’t think of a better place to get together to watch these (films) with your friends. The bigger the group, the better.
“It’s also a throw-back to people from the ’70s and ’80s,” Keller added. “The drive-in was a popular place then, and for kids who have never been to a drive-in before, it’s a new, old experience for them.”
More than anything, Keller feels thrilled to watch how support for the festival has grown through the years. He’s happy to see strangers — and not just friends — coming out to the event, which encourages him to keep it going.
“I’m just really passionate about horror movies, and it’s for people with shared interests,” Keller said. “But it’s a combination of loving horror movies my whole life and wanting to do something for the local community, because people are always complaining there’s nothing going on.
“It’s just a couple hours to escape reality to get scared or laugh or however you watch horror movies.”

Guitar aces bringing skills  to Scranton Cultural Center

Guitar aces bringing skills to Scranton Cultural Center

G.E. Smith’s storied career as a guitarist has earned him a number of accomplishments worth boasting about, from an Emmy award for his work as bandleader on “Saturday Night Live” to credits on studio albums by David Bowie and Mick Jagger to touring with Bob Dylan.
For the man born George Edward Haddad, it all started in Northeast Pennsylvania, where he was born in Scranton and raised in Stroudsburg.
On Friday, Sept. 21, Smith has a homecoming of sorts with a show at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave. “Masters of the Telecaster” also features guitarists Jim Weider and Tom Prinicipato, who each will play a set and join Smith in homage to the iconic instrument starting at 8 p.m.
During a recent phone interview from Long Island, New York, Smith recounted how his life changed when his mother bought him his first Fender guitar as an 11th birthday gift.
“We went to a store with used guitars, and there was a $100 one and a $200 one, and we got the $100 one,” he recalled. “Lucky for me, it turned out to be an old Fender Telecaster. It kind of really shaped my life. If we got a different guitar, things might not have gone the same way.
“Little things happen in our lives and change our direction, and we might not know it until years later. I’ve always played a Fender Telecaster.” 
From that fateful moment, Smith devoted himself to learning the ins and outs of creating sounds with his guitar. He got his start playing bars in and around the Stroudsburg area and later at resorts such as the former Mount Airy Lodge. He played songs from numerous eras and learned showmanship from an uncle who led a band in Scranton.
Smith’s own big break came with a six-year gig backing Hall & Oates on guitar, then fronting the live band on “SNL” from 1985 to 1995. During his time with the show, he was a familiar face on-screen and even helped compose pieces such as the theme for “Wayne’s World.”
When it comes to talking about his experiences playing with big guns such as Bowie, Dylan and Jagger, Smith said it was a natural place for him to blend into once he earned the spot.
“For some reason, ever since I was a kid, what I really enjoyed the most was playing behind a good singer. I never really wanted to be the front guy,” he said. “I wanted to be a sideman, somebody who was known that you can hire me and trust me to respect the song.
“That’s what was always important to me. So playing with those people, if you learn their music, you try to analyze, of course, the notes — but then you always want to get the feeling of what does this mean to them, and how can I best support that?”
His fellow featured performer Jim Weider has shared stages with his own list of top acts. The Woodstock, New York, native has toured with Keith Richards, Dr. John, Paul Butterfield, Dylan and Hot Tuna and played with the Band.
Tom Principato, meanwhile, is a standout blues frontman in his own right who hails from Washington, D.C.
“Each one of us gets a spot and picks things we’re gonna play,” Smith explained of the Scranton concert plan. “It’s a guitar-rific show. We do bluesy, rock kind of music. Up, dancing, fun kind of music. American music. There’s a little country flavor in there.”
Drummer/vocalist Randy Ciarlante and bassist/vocalist Lincoln Schleifer will join the three guitarists, rounding out the sound and helping them in their collaborative jamming. 
“I always thought of a band like a good basketball team. They don’t even really look at each other, they just throw the ball and know the other player is there. They make a pass,” Smith said. “We all know the basic outline, the road map of a song, but there’s places in there we can play off each other. That’s the most exciting part of music to me.”
Smith hopes to see some familiar hometown and distant relations in the Scranton audience as he shares his love for the Telecaster, but he expects a nice variety of musical tastes and ages in the crowd regardless.
“It’s always been important to me to always entertain people,” he said. “I like to go out there and play stuff that people can tap their feet to, that makes them think and feel good.
“A lot of other musicians aren’t the most socially adept, but you give them their instrument and they’re OK. They can communicate with that. That’s what I love about it. A lot of times people ask me, ‘Aren’t you nervous being up there in front of thousands?’ But when I put that guitar on, I’m not nervous anymore.”

Micah Nelson tours with dad Willie as Particle Kid

Micah Nelson tours with dad Willie as Particle Kid

The experience of joining Outlaw Music Festival is comparatively much different for another act on the bill. Micah Nelson, who calls tourmates Willie Nelson dad and Lukas Nelson brother, performs under the moniker Particle Kid, and his own music waxes and wains between Americana, trippy folk-soul and lambastic anthems. During a recent call from the road as he traveled out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, through “scattered storm squalls,” he shared his point of view.

Q: Tell me about being on the road with your dad and brother.
A: It’s great; we rarely get to hang out other than on the road. Otherwise it’s pretty scattered. We’re all touring all the time in various places throughout the world, so it’s nice to be on the same lineup. Its our family ritual.

Q: Your music is sort of genre-defying, so describe how it fits in with the rest of the acts on Outlaw.
A: To be honest, I often feel like a fish out of water. I think it’s a festival of artists (who) all have great songs. There are memorable songs that tie it all together. I have (songs) that fit into folky, Americana genre if I arrange them that way. … Lately I’m really into lyrics and melodies and songs that anyone can play. And songs that are relatable, which I think ties this festival together. It’s called the Outlaw Fest, which, to me, sort of represents anything that’s in defiance of convention, whether it’s in the country genre or rock genre or a non-genre, an indefinable act. Artists that are kind of going against the grain somehow. In that way, I guess I fit in. It’s weird, I feel like I can kind of fit in with any type of scene musically. It’s a really fun rush to bring whatever your vibe is into that setting. I try not to treat an arena show any different than a house show. It’s just louder and there are more people there. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter too much as long as the music is good.

Q: Why is activism and honesty in music so important in the world today?
A: Music is a part of every culture ever, and it informs culture on a mass scale and has the power to do that. So naturally, having a message wielded through music, it can reach that many more people and have that much more impact. I think our culture is so suicidal and demented and egomaniacal and materialistic (that) unless we start ingesting some honesty and messages of truth into the music and substance gets out there and people hear it and influence culture, we’re just going to annihilate ourselves. So I think it’s really important to talk about things that matter, things that make people think. … Music is one of the most potent vehicles for that, as time has proven again and again and again.

Easygoing ‘Outlaws’ Willie Nelson’s festival rolls into Pavilion at Montage Mountain

Easygoing ‘Outlaws’ Willie Nelson’s festival rolls into Pavilion at Montage Mountain

Harmonica player Mickey Raphael has stood by Willie Nelson’s side for 45 years. But no matter how much time passes, the view of the legend never gets old.
“From my vantage point, which is about six feet away, I’m a fan. At 85 (years old), Willie is still one of the most energetic guitar players there is,” Raphael said during a recent phone interview from Nashville, where he lives.
The longtime friends and collaborators come to town for the Outlaw Music Festival on Friday, Sept. 14. The concert, which also includes appearances by Van Morrison, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lukas Nelson + Promise of the Real and Particle Kid, begins at 3 p.m. at the Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Scranton.
Watching the magic of Willie Nelson perform also keeps Raphael on his toes as a member of the band, thanks to the spontaneous nature of the classic country crooner’s style of playing.
“We don’t ever practice. It’s all improv. There’s no set list,” Raphael said. “The set follows a certain pattern, but we just follow Willie. He starts every song and then we come in, but he can change.
“He changes arrangements nightly, depending how he feels and how he reads the crowd. It’s a living, breathing thing.”
The fans in attendance hold sway over how the music progresses, too, Raphael noted. When the energy is high, the performers feed off their enthusiasm, and it affects the sets.
“When you have a crowd that’s present and involved, it pushes you to express yourself in different ways,” Raphael said. “You can look out there and see young people and older people — it crosses all generational lines — you can see that they’re getting into the music. There’s nobody sleepwalking through this thing.”
The easygoing vibe carries throughout Outlaw Music Festival, which originated in Scranton in 2016. This year’s collection of talent on stage, including much-celebrated Van Morrison, makes for a good time not just for the audience, but also for the artists, Raphael said.
“This tour is going to be great,” he said. “All the acts, they’re so much fun to watch that all the musicians are out there watching each other play. They’re not hanging out on tour buses.
“I start out just watching everyone else. Where can you see Van and Willie play? I grew up listening to Van Morrison. I’m such a fan. This is a whole day of music. Any one of these artists could play by themselves, but to have them all together in one venue on one day is a treat for everybody — not just the fans, but the musicians themselves.”
But as much as Raphael enjoys his point of view, he promised that nothing compares to being in the crowd before Willie Nelson when he’s in the moment.
“Willie is the kind of guy that when he’s singing, you feel like he’s singing right to you, and he is,” Raphael said. “He makes contact with the audience.”

Soul-searching leads therapist, songwriter to original music

Soul-searching leads therapist, songwriter to original music

Jessup native Jamie Lupini, aka Jamison Alley, released her first CD, “On the Inside,” in 2000, but her live performances in years since focused more on cover songs.
A recent period of “personal soul-searching” plus her work with adults in the mental health field moved the singer/songwriter to get back to her roots with original music. By sharing her own songs in therapeutic settings, Lupini’s confidence returned, and she re-established herself as Jamison Alley with the release of a music video for her song “Still Kickin’” this year.
The Charleston, South Carolina, resident recently went On the Record to talk about her origins in Northeast Pennsylvania and where her music has taken her now.

Q: Tell me about when you first discovered a love for music and your talent for singing.
A: I would have to say I never really initially discovered music, it just always seemed to “be” a part of my life. However, I formally started piano at age 7 and vocal lessons during high school.

Q: Who are some of your greatest influences as a performer?
A: Carole King, Barbra Streisand, Sugarland (and) Melissa Etheridge, and my overall vote for stage presence would be Pink.

Q: Describe the genre of music you perform.
A: I had a bit of a dilemma pinpointing a specific genre, so I created the term “therafusion” as my genre. “Fusion” comes from the mixture of styles of music including pop, rock, country, ballads and other categories in my lineup. By day I am an occupational and music therapist, so I integrate empowering lyrics to help others through difficult times, to remind them about positive circumstances or communicate valuable lessons.

Q: Describe a Jamison Alley show.
A: The first half of the set will start out with the full band playing a driving rock tune followed by a passively powerful pop/Latin song, then a sexy contemporary piece; an intense, heartbreaking ballad; and ending with an innately energizing beach tune. Next, I will perform two songs by myself on acoustic guitar before moving into two piano tunes, which include a vocally driven, thought-provoking ballad and pounding, controversial popular tune for those struggling with their identity. This leads us into the country realm with my song “Still Kickin’,” followed by a catchy rock tune which talks about me finally being able to share my original music (live) with everyone.

Q: What do you love about performing before audiences?
A: I love the connection, looking out and seeing the audience moving to the beat and watching them sing along to my songs.

Q: What has been the highlight of your journey as Jamison Alley?
A: The highlight is the making of the music video. Having my family and friends be a part of this endeavor was very important to me. During the video shoot, they effortlessly justified what the song was all about, and they made it easy to capture and transmit the song concepts.

Setting the stage – Fall under the spell of the Theater at North this season

Setting the stage – Fall under the spell of the Theater at North this season

From the glamour of old Hollywood to the charms of pop favorites on piano, the fall season of performances at the Theater at North will rock you.
The Scranton venue begins its slate of concerts, plays and more with its own trio of shows supplemented by an array of outside productions that make for a diverse season.
“We really tried to target a different and wider age range,” said Laurie Houser, director of theater operations since February.
First up is “New York, NY Dueling Pianos,” featuring professional musicians in a face-off of grand proportions, set for Saturday, Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s part-comedy, part-music, but really interactive. It’s more of a fun experience,” Houser said. “The audience gets to request songs of the performers, and they literally duel back and forth. It doesn’t appeal just to musicians; it’s for anyone.”
With hundreds of songs in the pianists’ repertoires, they can meet almost any request, covering a range of genres and artists, Houser added, from Billy Joel to Madonna to Maroon 5. 
“This is something a little different than a traditional tribute or play for our audience in Scranton,” she said.
On Saturday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 p.m., the Theater at North presents “Almost Queen: A Tribute to the Band Queen,” featuring four-part harmonies, intricate costumes and musicality that recreates the legendary rock group’s live shows.
“Queen is loved by everyone of all ages. I know people in their teens, 20s, 30s and even their 70s who love them,” Houser said. “It appeals to a large genre of people, and it seems like it’s never going out of style. It’s great timing for the movie (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) coming out (Nov. 2).”
For those who love the stylings of the Golden Age of Hollywood and Broadway, reminiscent of greats Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, “Two on Tap: A Tribute to Song and Dance” comes to town on Sunday, Nov. 11, at 2 p.m.
“They’re a New York professional duo of actors and dancers who make their way through the classics, hitting on our theme of a little something for everyone,” Houser said of the show.
But guests will see some familiar faces on stage, too.
“We’re excited for that show that they’ve extended the offer to local dancers to participate in the second act in ‘Tea for Two,’” House said. “They’ll be sending out the choreography in the fall, and students from (Scranton) Civic (Ballet Company) and Ballet Theatre (of Scranton) get on stage and perform right alongside them.”
The rest of the season at the theater is rounded out by a trio of plays presented by Clocktower Theater Company, a big band tribute to Sinatra and several Christmas productions, among others. No matter the type of performance, Houser said audiences can expect quality entertainment.
“We’re bringing high-calibre talent to Scranton,” she said.

If you go

“New York, NY
Dueling Pianos”
When: Saturday, Sept. 8, 7:30 p.m.; doors open at 7
Tickets: $25 to $35

“Almost Queen: A Tribute
to the Band Queen”
When: Saturday, Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m.; doors open at 7
Tickets: $35 to $45

“Two on Tap: A Tribute
to Song and Dance”
When: Sunday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m.; doors open at 1:30
Tickets: $20 to $25

Additional fall shows
Saturday, Sept. 22: “Rose’s Dilemma,” presented by Clocktower Theater Company

Saturday, Nov. 3: “Lucky Stiff,” presented by Clocktower Theater Company

Thursday, Nov. 8:
“The God Box,” starring
Mary Lou Quinlan

Saturday, Nov. 24: Twelve Twenty-Four: The Holiday Rock Orchestra

Sunday, Dec. 2: Andy Cooney’s Irish Christmas Show

Friday, Dec. 7: “Sinatra’s Birthday Bash,” featuring Tony Sands and His Big Band

Sunday, Dec. 9: “Holiday Dance Showcase,” presented by 5 Star Dance Academy

Tuesday, Dec. 18, and Wednesday,
Dec. 19:
“A Christmas Carol,” presented by Clocktower Theater Company

All shows held at the Theater at North, 1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton. Visit for more information. Tickets available by calling 877-987-6487 or by visiting or the box office, open Mondays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Thursdays, 3 to 6 p.m.; and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Take five – A cappella group Pentatonix headed to Pavilion

Take five – A cappella group Pentatonix headed to Pavilion

Through sheer force of vocal prowess, Pentatonix creates a full symphony of driving percussion, lush harmonies and musicality that recreates — and remixes — pop, hip-hop and R&B’s most recognizable hits.
The globally popular a capella group, which boasts more than 15 million YouTube subscribers and a trio of Grammy awards to its name, makes its way to the Pavilion at Montage Mountain on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 8 p.m.
Mitch Grassi, one of the lead vocalists and the youngest member of Penatonix, recently spoke with The Times-Tribune via email while he was on vocal rest about how the group keeps audiences entertained and what they can expect at the Scranton show.

Q: From the stage show to the songs you’ve mastered for your repertoire, what will we see and hear during your upcoming concert?
A: This is the biggest stage production Pentatonix has ever put together! You can expect brilliant light shows, visuals and lots of never-before-heard ear candy. We’re performing a lot of our new material, as well as some fan favorites!

Q: When playing a large-scale venue like the Pavilion, how do you make sure the show feels big and bombastic, even for the people on lawn seats in the way back?
A: Our crew for this particular show has been amazing and so creative. They’ve really brought it to life in a whole new way. Plus, we’re giving 100 percent energy the entire time.

Q: Describe what a perfect night on stage feels like for you as the performer, and what you look for in the crowd to know they’re having a good time, too.
A: To me, a successful performance is one that I enjoy thoroughly. I have to make sure I feel good, and my voice feels good. If I feel like I’m not doing my best, I start getting really in my head. I love looking out at the crowd and seeing lots of dancing and singing along! That lets me know that the audience is enjoying themselves, which is very important. I think as long as we bring joy and light to the audience members’ nights, we’ve done our job. I love to make people happy with music.

Q: Why do you think presenting live music for audiences of all ages is important these days?
A: We’re very lucky to have a fan base that spans a wide range of ages (and other really amazing factors)! It’s actually so incredible to be able to bring the unlikeliest of people together, especially because they’re all there to watch us perform. Our audiences are just as diverse as our band members.

Hit parade Jessie’s Girl to bring back the ’80s at Leonard Theater

Hit parade Jessie’s Girl to bring back the ’80s at Leonard Theater

Forget the flux capacitor and clock tower. All you need to travel back in time this weekend is a trip to downtown Scranton.
On Friday, Aug. 17, Rock 107 presents Back to the Eighties with Jessie’s Girl, the premier New York tribute band.
Originally set to happen at Scranton’s Iron Furnaces, the show has been moved to the Leonard Theater, 335 Adams Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m., music starts at 7:30, and Jessie’s Girl takes the stage at 9:30. 
The group pays homage to synth-pop, New Wave and rock hits of the 1980s, and its 21-and-older concert will feature special guest Manny Cabo of NBC’s singing competition show “The Voice.”
“It’s the same show, just indoors. Because of the flooding and the rain and having to set up right next to the river, everybody decided it would be best to make the move,” explained Terry Deitz, general manager of NEPA Radio, Digital & Outdoor for Times-Shamrock Communications, which also owns The Times-Tribune. “Jessie’s Girl is going to put on a great show no matter where they are.”
Paul “Sky” Armento, keyboardist and musical director for Jessie’s Girl, said during a recent phone interview that the music of the ’80s transcends generations, whether it finds fans in the people who lived through those years, the younger listeners who heard the songs thanks to their parents and even millennials who were introduced to hits via the soundtracks of popular video games and television shows.
“The influence of ’80s music has been constant from the last four decades,” Armento said. “What people can expect is to connect to it no matter their age. Everybody loves ’80s music.”
Among his bandmates, who include three singers, the audience will see numerous full costume changes that amp up the nostalgia factor of a Jessie’s Girl performance.
“I have a theater background, and when I started this, I wanted to bring in more theatricality,” Armento said. “It’s the songs you heard, but super-charged. I think looking the part, it’s important, because it sells it and makes it more fun for the audience and the performers themselves.”
The show originally was scheduled to take place at the Scranton Iron Furnaces on Cedar Avenue as part of a pair of outdoor concerts the radio station was hosting this weekend. Heavy rains that pummeled the area, however, left the site soggy, and organizers decided to move the show indoors.

Summer soundtrack Harlan/Tucker Band stays faithful to favorite covers

Summer soundtrack Harlan/Tucker Band stays faithful to favorite covers

From bike nights to pig roasts to bikini car washes, the Harlan/Tucker Band provides the perfect soundtrack to a variety of summertime events and bashes.
The Albrightsville-based rock band is best known for its faithful covers of Southern rock, blues and country tunes — new and old. Audiences at Harlan/Tucker Band gigs, which happen throughout Northeast Pennsylvania, can’t help but sing along and stomp their boots to the band’s lively sets.
Co-lead singer Rita Tucker went On the Record to talk about what fans love about her band, and what her band loves about its fans.

Q: Tell us about the kind of show the Harlan/Tucker Band puts on.
A: We pride ourselves on being a unique band for the area. With a variety of lead instruments, we are able to reproduce the sounds of so many various genres of music. We are unique also in that we feature a stand-out female singer who can adapt seemlessly to any genre. We perform classic rock, classic and new country, blues and Southern rock bouncing lead vocals back and forth between myself and Harlan. We offer a huge variety and an unmatched versatility to the people with almost all high-energy tunes with equally high-energy, grab-your-attention stage presence.

Q: Do you play any original songs in addition to covers?
A: Once in a while, we will throw in an original tune of Harlan’s — he has numerous great tunes — but not often. We are a primarily a cover band in this project.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from one of your performances?
A: Feeling energized, thinking what a talented band with a very tight, well-meshed group of musicians they saw, and remembering what fun they had dancing.

Q: What do you love about playing live in NEPA?
A: The people! All the people. We sincerely love all our followers and relish the newcomers to our band. We always hope they will return for future shows, and many of them do.

Inclusion Festival caters to special needs through creativity

Inclusion Festival caters to special needs through creativity

Leah Barron and Amy Pinder believe they were destined to help people with special needs through creative means.
The central New Jersey women each taught special education and incorporated non-traditional therapy techniques into their work with people with autism and various disabilities. They also happened to share a love for festivals, and when they met five years ago, they learned from their first conversation that they both held the same dream.
The 2018 Inclusion Festival happening Saturday, July 28, and Sunday, July 29, at Mountain Sky in Scott Twp. realizes that dream. The all-ages, sensory-friendly, outdoor music and wellness event was designed to cater to people with autism, sensitivities and all abilities. The weekend will feature live music and other entertainment, educational and play-based workshops, a community resource fair, yoga, art and more.
Inclusion Festival is made possible through not only Barron and Pinder’s vision and hard work but also collaboration with sponsors such as NEPA Inclusive, a local nonprofit that connects people with special needs with their passions and goals; the Jerry Garcia Foundation, which supports music, arts and environmental causes that further the late musician’s legacy through giving back; and Accessible Festivals, a nonprofit that works with large music festivals (such as Peach Music Festival) to make them more accessible to people with physical disabilities. The latter organization, Barron noted, believes Inclusion Festival may be the first festival made with that exact mission in mind.
“I kind of feel I was put on the planet to work with people with special needs,” said Pinder, who holds a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. “I incorporate yoga, circus art and singing in my therapy with kids and adults. It’s about finding universal themes for all disabilities, and this was informed by all the festivals I loved going to.”
“I ended up at the venue last year,” said Barron, who attended University of Scranton and has worked in a self-contained autism class and as a yoga instructor focused on teaching people with special needs. “As soon as I landed at Mountain Sky, I felt validation (that) this was the place for this event.”
Among the 20 expected vendors for Inclusion Festival, guests will find crafts and healthy food as well as information promoting local services to connect families with locations and people they can access throughout the year.
“We hope to impact people and let them take home tangible strategies far beyond the festival,” Pinder said.
Daily workshops include drumming, hula-hooping, inclusive art, mindful drawing, interactive theater, whole-body percussion and music therapy. There will be puppet shows; yoga; a skit performed by adults with disabilities from the Gathering Place in Clarks Summit, which will become an interactive workshop; plus teams of sign-language interpreters and speech-language therapists on hand.
Among the musical acts are headliner EmiSunshine, a 13-year-old multi-instrumentalist who became a YouTube sensation and performed on NBC’s “Little Big Shots” and “Today”; Brady Rymer, a children’s artist who wrote an album specifically for kids with autism; the Merry Rockers, comprised of musicians from Berklee College of Music and featuring a lead singer with cerebral palsy; plus the Hoppin’ Boxcars, whose three albums, when performed simultaneously, create a “decibel opera” based on the 1890s railroad era that features 25 to 30 people in costume and with props. 
Inclusion Festival also will offer four designated sensory zones to facilitate relaxation and play. One will focus on music, another on yoga and mindfulness, and a third on art and play, while the fourth calls for breathing and relaxation and offers massages.
Camping is included in admission, and reservations in designated room blocks at nearby hotels will earn guests a free shuttle to the festival. Each facet of the accommodations put in place for the event was done to make it inviting to all so it can continue locally and throughout other states.
“We’re hoping families with neurotypical children will come to the festival, too,” Barron said.
“Our philosophy is sharing space together — inclusion,” Pinder said. “It’s going to be an amazing venue to meet people and see how we can support one another and how we all add value.”

Strike the ripe note Peach Music Festival lets fans, acts branch out

Strike the ripe note Peach Music Festival lets fans, acts branch out

The Peach Music Festival feels perfectly ripe in its seventh year.
The weekend-long concert series has refined its palette of offerings each summer, but even for diehards who have attended since it first broke ground at the Pavilion at Montage Mountain in 2012, there’s still fresh music to be seen and heard.
When Peach Fest returns to town Thursday, July 19, through Sunday, July 22, it’ll host new faces alongside dedicated favorites, including Grammy Award-winner Warren Haynes, who has performed at the festival since its first run.
With a repertoire of songs that covers his career in groups such as the Allman Brothers Band, various iterations of the Grateful Dead and his own jam band, Gov’t Mule, Haynes promised a wide range of hits old and new. Throughout the weekend, guests can catch him fronting Gov’t Mule and Dark Side of the Mule — a set of all Pink Floyd covers — as well as “Wake Up with Warren Haynes.”
Just before he jumped on a plane to depart for a string of gigs in Europe, Haynes spoke with The Times-Tribune by phone about why he loves playing shows like Peach Fest. 
“Festivals are an opportunity for both the fans and the bands to kind of branch out,” he said. “The bands get to play to some people who never heard them before, and fans discover music they never heard before.
“We tend to keep festival shows more up-tempo and a little more high-energy,” Haynes added. “Every show is different for us, so we usually don’t know until the day before or even the day of what we’ll play. Since we’ve played Peach Music Festival several times, we’ll make sure it’s different than what people heard the past couple years.
“There’ll be something from each part of our career, and also new music.”
Each of Haynes’ three sets will embody a specific vibe, giving guests plenty to take in even if they catch each of his performances.
“We’ll do a normal Gov’t Mule show, which is, I guess, anything but normal,” he said. “We don’t do much talking during shows; it’s mostly just music.”
Dark Side of the Mule, meanwhile, was a concept Haynes developed 10 years ago when he first played the covers for a Halloween show, one of the only occasions he’s dared to don a disguise and play someone else’s music, he noted.
“In the past couple years, we got so many requests for it, so this year we’re doing a handful of shows like that, and we’re excited about that,” Haynes said.
“Wake Up with Warren Haynes” aims to rouse the overnighters at the music festival with a morning of mellow music.
“Between those three sets, I don’t think we’ll repeat a song,” Haynes said.
The energy at Peach Fest is generated not only from the musicians who come back year after year, but also from the audiences who have a love and passion for the music that is just as strong, he said.
“Our music is all about honesty. We give everything we have to the music,” Haynes said. “We love what we do, and I think that translates to the audience.
“We’re taking all of our influences and combining them together in a way that hopefully appeals to like-minded fans of music, and since we do a different show every night, we are striving to give the audience something they’ll only see one time.
“That’s what I want to see at a show,” he added. “Something that never happened before, and something that’ll never happen again.”

Scranton’s Slapjaw marks  20 years of energetic music

Scranton’s Slapjaw marks 20 years of energetic music

Since bursting onto the local music scene two decades ago, Slapjaw has become an indelible fixture in the heavy metal/hardcore pantheon of Northeast Pennsylvania.
As the Scranton band gears up for a headlining show to mark its 20th anniversary, guitarist/bassist Jerry Kamora took a few moments to go On the Record about what’s changed over the years and what’s stayed the same with Slapjaw — namely, a dedication to presenting high-energy music that showcases strong tunes and even stronger friendships.

Q: Tell me a little about what you have planned for the upcoming 20th anniversary show.
A: Everyone does an anniversary show, but we aren’t everyone, so we’re having a birthday party. It’ll have giveaways plus performances by Alpha Audio, Victim, Earthmouth and Terrorize This.

Q: What’s the biggest difference among the band since you first entered the scene 20 years ago?
A: We’ve had many members come and go throughout the years (three singers and nine bassists). Our musical style has fluctuated slightly with the loss and addition of new members, but we’ve always remained true to our sound regardless of those changes or what has been the trend. Holding on to our core values of friendship, love for what we do and unwillingness to follow trends has allowed us to continue all these years.

Q: Describe your music and stage presence.
A: Our music is heavy, driven and loud. We take much pride in our stage performances. You won’t catch us standing on stage playing songs. We are in the crowd. We are rolling around on the floor. We can definitely be described as highly energetic and unorthodox. People often complement us on our stage presence. Many say that they have never seen such antics before nor have they seen our level of energy from another band in a long time.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from a Slapjaw show?
A: We hope that everyone has as good a time as we do, no matter how young or old. If they like our sound, great. If they like our stage performance, great. If they like both, even better. We love what we do first and foremost beyond everything else. If one person appreciates any component of what we do, we are grateful for it. We realize that not everyone will like us, but if one thing we do at a show allows them to have fun, that is meaningful to us. We’d like everyone to walk out of that venue satisfied that their night was not spent in vain.

Q: How does it feel to hit this milestone?
A: It’s surreal in a sense. Starting out, we really had no idea how long this endeavor would last. At about 10 years in, we started to realize that this thing can potentially go on until it can’t anymore. The beauty of it all is the friendships that are created amongst ourselves. You really become a family when you’ve been together for this long. All of the disagreements and potential attitudes surrounding the music disappear, and you become an efficient unit. We certainly can’t leave out the many friendships we created and continue to create with fans and other musicians. These are friendships we cherish. Another fascinating part of being around this long is mentoring. We often don’t realize how much of an impact we may have made on fellow musicians, or kids who later become musicians, throughout the years until meeting them later in life and hearing them say things like, “It is because of you guys that I play an instrument,” or “Thank you for complimenting us on our band; you have no idea what it means to us coming from you guys.” We take much pride in that. It’s very humbling.

Bursting with Pride #queerNEPA events planned for throughout June

Bursting with Pride #queerNEPA events planned for throughout June

The LGBTQ+ community — and its allies — celebrates Pride Month during June, and dedicated locals are making sure Scranton does its part.
Tim Maloney, a 25-year-old Keystone College graduate and Scranton area resident, has organized a series of events throughout the city in June under the hashtag #queerNEPA. A web designer and community organizer, Maloney identifies as demisexual, meaning his way of developing attraction doesn’t fit within relative norms and he finds other means of enjoying companionship, he said.
His goals for pulling together a variety of events for Pride Month are myriad, Maloney added, with some events intended to function as fundraisers for at-risk youth and people of color, and others meant to encourage visibility and unite members of the community in greater understanding.
“I felt it would be a good time to unite allies and queer folk to have fun and spend time together,” Maloney said. “In bigger cities like New York and Philly, they have displays 365 (days a year). I really felt there was something lacking in the area in terms of pride.” 
The month kicks off with “Queer & Counting: An LGBTQ Art Show,” co-hosted by Jess Meoni at the Leonard Theater, 335 Adams Ave., on Friday, June 1, at 6 p.m. and Saturday, June 2, at noon. Donations will be collected during the exhibit to benefit queer and transgender people of color.
Mid-month, an LGBT+ Pride Rally and Vigil will be held at POSH at the Scranton Club on Tuesday, June 12, starting at 6 p.m. The event also coincides with Pulse Remembrance Day, which marks the anniversary of when 49 people were killed at an Orlando nightclub.
Whiskey Dick’s, 308 N. Washington Ave., will host Queer Night Out on Friday, June 22, at 7 p.m., featuring music by local musician Lily Maopolski. Donations from the evening will go to Cookie’s Joint, a New York community crisis shelter that serves people of color from within the community.
On Monday, June 25, at 6 p.m., readers can gather for A Fabulous Little Book Club on “Let’s Talk About Love” by Claire Kann at Temple Hesed, 1 Knox Road. The author has supported the event and featured it on her social media, Maloney noted.
The #queerNEPA series wraps up on Saturday, June 30, on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square with Hug Fest with the Hugging Army, starting at 4 p.m.
“I wanted to have a combination of events for more extroverted people and also those more introverted,” Maloney said. “I think events like Hug Fest expanded it to be more family-friendly and include folks of all ages.”
One of the guest speakers Maloney coordinated with to share a message of hope during Pride Month is Minister Sharvon “Be” Copeland, the founder and leader of NEPA-based ministry Free To Be Me, who also works as a resource parent for Luzerne County Children & Youth and founded, owns and operates NorthEnd Youth Academy in Wilkes-Barre.
Copeland, who lives in Wilkes-Barre with her wife, evangelist Nicci Copeland, aims to inspire gay and lesbian teens or same-sex parents who are struggling.
“My plan for June is to reach the hearts and souls of the shunned community — queer NEPA — to speak to them and bring awareness of spirituality and having a one-on-one relationship with God,” Copeland said. “It is very important to celebrate and come together with all allies, because too many people are dying from suicide and hate crimes from the misunderstandings of love, and the control that society and religion has set upon their people.
“It is time for a change,” she insisted.
Maloney encourages local businesses and venues to display pride flags in solidarity of the observance of Pride Month, and said visibility is crucial to the cause.
“It’s a good time to celebrate queer folks’ existence, and remember the history, and recognize progress to move forward,” he said.

Hip-hop/rap artist Lucas Hex emerges with new sound, style

Hip-hop/rap artist Lucas Hex emerges with new sound, style

Archbald resident Andrew Merwine burst onto the local music scene in 2011 armed with a collection of hip-hop/rap tunes full of fierce lyrics and plenty of emotion.
Back then, he went by the stage name Drew Breeze, under which he released five albums. Merwine battled a “staggering” case of writer’s block over the subsequent years, and even stopped performing all the way up until 2015. After experimenting with his sound, he took some time to channel his frustrations into a new batch of songs and re-emerged as Lucas Hex in 2017.
Having just completed a four-city tour in Pennsylvania and New York in support of his new EP, “Sermons,” Merwine took some time to go On the Record about what’s different with this album and his approach to getting his music out there.

Q: You used to perform as Drew Breeze but switched your stage persona to Lucas Hex. Tell us what this name means to you, and how this change reflects you as an artist.
A: The name means more to me, because Lucas has a personal meaning as far as my family goes, and Hex fits more of my personal philosophy. I won’t pretend I’m some high priest or anything, but I’ve always had an interest in the occult and “chaos magik” specifically, so it makes sense. Drew Breeze was literally a pick out of a hat when I was a kid and had a mixtape, but no name.

Q: Who’s the biggest influence on your sound?
A: This is where people are going to hate me even more than they already do: as far as influences go, I love early Drake, and I can’t help it, it’s so catchy. I love all the obvious ones that everyone says, like Tupac, Biggie, etc., but I’m super influenced by Waka Flocka Flame, Vince Staples, Ghostemane, Slipknot and any dumb thing I’ve done before I became a settled adult.

Q: How has living in Northeast Pennsylvania affected your music?
A: Living in NEPA made me thicker-skinned to criticism, which is important. People here are willing to tell you point blank if they hate you, and people have. That helped when I started getting actual meetings with bookers, bigger blogs, etc., because they have no time to sugarcoat, and I’m already thick-skinned enough to accept a “No” or a “We’ll see down the road” and keep moving.

Q: Tellus about your new EP, “Sermons.”
A: Lyrically, you can hear me tell stories about situations I didn’t need to put myself in — in an obnoxious way — and me dealing with my own mortality. The style is hard to describe because I think it’s super aggressive, but I still tried to keep it catchy, because that’s what I enjoy. I have a beat on the album produced by Nedarb, who’s worked with Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, Ghostemane, Lil Peep and a ton of others — which might not seem like much to someone on the outside, but it’s a big deal, and it’s awesome.

Q: Describe Lucas Hex live on stage.
A: Live is where I thrive. There was a long time when my recorded songs didn’t translate as well live, which I finally think I fixed with “Sermons.” But all I can say is — as humble as I like to be — I truly believe if you see me live, I can convert you.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in 2018?
A: My biggest hope is more tours. Touring this year was already the highlight of my “career.” Seeing strangers’ reactions to me and buying my merch, asking where they could get my music online, all of it — and the meetings and interest that came from it — was an eye-opening experience that this thing really has a shot at happening if I keep my nose to the grindstone.

Meet Lucas Hex
Based out of: Archbald
Established: 2011
Genre: Hip-hop/rap
Up next: Slam Jam Car Show & Music Festival,
Saturday, Sept. 1, 3 to 8 p.m., Seamans Airport, 65 Windsock Lane, Factoryville
Online: Visit the Lucas Hex pages on Facebook, Spotify, iTunes, and or follow @LucasHex570 on Instagram and Twitter.

Music Appreciation – University of Scranton slates free concerts starring students and national acts

Music Appreciation – University of Scranton slates free concerts starring students and national acts

School is back in session, and for University of Scranton student musicians and singers, their upcoming performances make for teachable moments with the greater community.
The fall schedule features a variety of U of S ensembles, bands and choirs teamed up with nationally renowned music professionals for a slate of free concerts open to the public.
Cheryl Boga, conductor and director of performance music at the university, said she strives to bring in not just great guest performers but also artist-teachers who can impart wisdom to the young soloists and players.

Cheryl Y. Boga

“One of the things I do is look over the long term — not just a season, but over the four years my students will be here,” Boga said. “My philosophy for the program is really one of (acknowledging that) these are the students that are going to make sure live music is supported in communities, our schools and our country, so how do we give them a background of real understanding and appreciation of great music and what it takes to make it?”
In addition to the student recitals, the season’s highlights include concerts that cover a variety of musical genres and bring in talented music professionals, one of whom — trumpet soloist and sideman Jumaane Smith — has a “long and storied history” with U of S, Boga said.
Smith was a member of the bands for crooners Michael Bublé and Harry Connick Jr. and also performed with pop stars including Stevie Wonder, Justin Bieber, Natalie Cole and Alicia Keys. Locally, Smith gave his talents to the U of S as a composer for its concert band and mixed choir, a teacher for brass seminars, conductor and soloist.
“It’s so delightful to see the amazing professional he has become,” Boga said. “His contributions here at Scranton have been unending at every stage of his career.”
Later in the season, guest soloist Kenny Rampton, a member of Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the trumpet voice on “Sesame Street,” will join the U of S Jazz Band for a concert and offer a free master class to students plus amateur and professional musicians 16 and older. With touring credits that include the Ray Charles Orchestra and Matchbox Twenty, Rampton’s expertise spans multiple styles.
Sherrie Maricle and the all-female DIVA Jazz Orchestra also will offer a public master class in addition to a performance that showcases their history as one of the longest-existing professional big bands in the country.
“Sherrie is just wonderful, and she’s led clinics on rhythm for Scranton brass,” Boga said. “She is a gifted and committed teacher, a spectacular drummer and runs a hell of a band. For us to be part of their 25th anniversary tour, coming off amazing venues like the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center, I still kind of can’t believe we’re going to present them.”

U of S also will mark the 50th year for its annual Noel Night concert, which invites alumni to return and rehearse to be part of the show, Boga said.
“It’s kind of the kick-off for Christmas season for us, musically,” she explained. “It has always been University of Scranton’s gift to the community. We open the doors well over an hour early for seats and have started prelude music for a full hour before the concert even starts because of all the people sitting there.”
Noel Night focuses exclusively on sacred music and also includes remarks from university leaders and readings of the nativity narrative, which students have dubbed the “Peanuts” speech since Linus made it famous in the animated classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
Providing a well-curated concert season that also is presented free is crucial not only to musical students but to the public, Boga noted.
“The arts are our nation, our world. It’s both a mirror and a window,” she said. “They’re a way to reflect back who we are and who we want to be on every level, from a small community to a wider circle. Music is important to understanding and expressing, acts as a catalyst and spurs communication. Everybody is part of this process.”