Fundraiser slated for much-loved Loyalty barber and Bog co-owner Brian Craig

Fundraiser slated for much-loved Loyalty barber and Bog co-owner Brian Craig

Craiger.
Big guy.
Boss.
The best.
Brian Craig — the much-loved co-owner of popular bar the Bog and a barber at Loyalty Barber Shop and Shave Parlor, both located on Adams Avenue downtown — is called these things and more by his friends.
So when the Roaring Brook Twp. resident received a shocking cancer diagnosis recently, supporters began to mobilize and coordinated a benefit to help him and his loved ones at home, including wife, Sharon Yanik-Craig, and their son, 5-year-old Grayson. 
The result is BRI DAY, a fundraiser for Brian Craig and his family, set for Friday, Nov. 23, from 4 to 10 p.m. at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave. The all-ages concert event will feature acoustic performances by a number of local musicians who previously played in bands with Craig (a seasoned drummer and percussionist) or else frequented the stage at his Scranton pub.
Among the acts announced are Tom Petty Appreciation Band, Mighty Fine Wine, J.P. Biondo, Brian Langan, Mike Quinn, Chris Kearney, Charles Havira, Tom Graham and These Idol Hands.
Food will be provided by Linden Chicken and Backyard Ale House, and a cash bar for patrons 21 and over will be available. BRI DAY also will have basket raffles on hand.
All of the proceeds from the evening will go to the family, as medical bills mount while Craig seeks ongoing treatment at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Though he does have health insurance, his coverage does not extend to every cost associated with his battle to overcome the disease, including travel expenses. BRI DAY aims to ease that burden.
“He’s my best friend in the world. I’ve learned so much from him. He really taught me how to treat people. I’m forever grateful for that,” said Bill Orner, lead organizer. “I’d do anything to help out my bud.”
Long known for coming to the aid of friends and strangers facing a variety of obstacles through his own charitable efforts, Craig is nonetheless surprised by the avalanche of support already being shown to him and his family in such a short amount of time. But it’s a wave of love that’s needed for the difficult road ahead, he admitted.
“When we first learned of my diagnosis, we were all devastated,” Craig said. “Having my friends and family rally around me is really what is giving me the strength and encouragement to stay positive and fight. I can’t thank them all enough.”
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If you go
What: BRI DAY
When: Friday, Nov. 23, 4 to 10 p.m.
Where: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Details: Multiple ticket options are available online at
briancraigfundraiser.bigcartel.com. Tickets bought in person are $25, available at the Bog, 341 Adams Ave.; Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St.; Jack’s Draft House, 802 Prescott Ave.; and Stalter’s Cafe, 872 Providence Road, all in Scranton. For information and updates, visit @briday.fundraiser on Facebook and Instagram.

‘Tis the season Trans-Siberian Orchestra brings Christmas show to arena

‘Tis the season Trans-Siberian Orchestra brings Christmas show to arena

Members of Trans-Siberian Orchestra — the international best-selling rock-opera band — look for certain things in the audience from their vantage point on stage.
Amid the thunderous, firey blasts and blazing lights that accompany the symphony of electrified classical music that fills arenas around the globe, the small gestures and body language cues catch the musicians’ eyes and let them know the crowd loves the spectacle.
So how do they spot the audience having a good time?
“A lot of smiles … and a lot of granddaughters hugging their grandpas. And a lot of fists in the air, and a lot of people singing along with the songs,” said Al Pitrelli, music director and lead guitarist. “You know, there’s a lot of tells in the audience, but I spend most of the show kind of like watching what’s going on with the band, and if it sounds really good in my ears and the production’s firing, then I know that the audience is going to be OK.”
TSO is set to return to Wilkes-Barre Twp. with a pair of shows in the band’s 20th anniversary tour on Sunday, Nov. 18. “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” — which features fan-favorites “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24,” “O’ Come All Ye Faithful,” “Good King Joy,” “Christmas Canon,” “Music Box Blues,” “Promises To Keep” and “This Christmas Day” — takes over Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza at 3 and 7:30 p.m. that day.
This marks the third year TSO has toured with this presentation, though 2018’s edition promises all-new set designs and production values, plus a fresh second set of songs that will include other TSO hits.
The tour celebrates the continuation of a much-loved holiday tradition for many, though the TSO family has suffered big losses in the last couple of years. Bassist David Zablidowsky was killed in a Florida car crash in July 2017 (which eventually claimed the life of local musician Janet Rains, too), and TSO founder Paul O’Neill died in April 2017 after accidentally ingesting a lethal cocktail of medicines prescribed to him for numerous chronic illnesses.
Yet the longtime collaborators of both carry on the stage show in their honor, and also for the sake of the fans who continue to make each tour a sell-out success.
But even for the most devoted TSO fans, the concert still holds surprises guaranteed to make “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve” feel new.
“We’ve been through this for all these years, and it’s pretty obvious now who has seen the show before and who hasn’t, just by kind of the, at times, the dumbfounded, surprised look on certain people’s face,” said Jeff Plate, the band’s drummer.
“They have no idea, really, what’s coming next,” he added. “A lot of the audience that’s been coming to see us over the years, they may have an idea of what’s around the corner or whatever, but, you know, I think the real test or the real answer to that is, is there any empty seats at the end of the show? And we’ve been fortunate that we fill these arenas up and people stay to the very last note.
“And that’s the biggest rush of all, is just to know that everybody has been connected with us for over two hours, and they don’t want to leave. If you’re getting a standing ovation at the end of the show, and you know these people are going to come back and see you the following year, that’s what it’s all about.”

If you go
What: Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s 20th Anniversary Tour: “Ghosts of Christmas Eve”
When: Sunday, Nov. 18, 3 and 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 255 Highland Park Blvd., Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Details: Tickets start at $38.50 and are available through the box office, Ticketmaster outlets and
trans-siberian.com.

Boote Family Benefit to raise money for arts scholarship

Boote Family Benefit to raise money for arts scholarship

When tragedy strikes, it can be difficult to find a silver lining. But a local group of arts promoters determined to help a friend in need believe that finding a light in the dark is possible.
The Boote Family Benefit slated for Sunday, Nov. 11, at River Street Jazz Cafe celebrates the life of the late Fred Boote, who was killed in his South Wilkes-Barre home in September and left behind four children and four grandchildren. The event will feature performances by local bands A Proud Monkey, Clever Gents (comprised of DJ Hersh, A.J. Jump and Gino Lispi), Vine Street and the Boastfuls.
The admission is a suggested $5 donation, which will benefit the Fred and Erin Boote Scholarship for the Arts, given to a student at E.L. Meyers High School who will pursue studies in the arts.
As news of Boote’s death spread, co-organizers Johnny Popko of ALT-Natives 92.1, Rich Howells of NEPA Scene, Joe Caviston of Meat & Potatoes Entertainment, DJ Hersh of Beatteks, Heather Szeliga of River Street Jazz Cafe and Keith Perks of 1120 Creative rallied together to find a way to show support to Boote’s daughter, Brittany, a local photographer whom they all had worked with before.
“The six of us got together and just agreed to try to do something for her,” Perks said. “Benefits typically revolve around music, and we all work with a ton of local bands. Right away we were thinking of bands to get involved, that she’s friends with, and everybody hopped on right away.
“I’m proud of our local arts and music scene,” Perks added. “We have a great community. I can’t even imagine what (the Bootes) have been going through. We went from the angle (that) a lot of these events are sad, but this is something positive. We’re trying to keep this upbeat and celebrate him.”
While the pain is still vivid, Brittany Boote noted the timing of her friends’ offer couldn’t have been better. Since her mom Erin’s death in 2015, Brittany Boote has hosted an annual Shots for Tots fundraiser for the scholarship at her mother’s alma mater. She usually begins planning the event around this time of the year, but as she reels from the loss of her father, she wasn’t sure how she was going to carry it through.
“My dad was a big part of helping me with those events,” Brittany Boote said. “It was weighing on the back of my mind, so when (they offered), that weight was lifted. I would never in a million years think to ask someone for that. It’s super comforting. (My siblings and I) were all just so blown away and beside ourselves over the fact that friends would come together to do that.”
The Boote Family Benefit also will include basket raffles plus food area chefs have donated. Brittany Boote intends to go along with other family members to honor both of her parents.
“I’m trying to take everything day by day,” she said. “I’m such a people person. I feel like going to the event is going to be a way for me to try to readapt.”

If you go
What: Boote Family benefit featuring A Proud Monkey, Clever Gents, Vine Street and the Boastfuls
When: Sunday, Nov. 11, 4 to 10 p.m.
Where: River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 N. River St., Plains Twp.
Details: Admission is a $5 suggested donation to benefit the Fred and Erin Boote Scholarship for the Arts. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.

Giving back in gratitude – God Box’ show to raise money for local hospice

Giving back in gratitude – God Box’ show to raise money for local hospice

Grief can be the mother of all emotions.
Ever since her mom died suddenly in 2006, Mary Lou Quinlan’s journey to acceptance pinballed between humor and pain before finally landing at release.
Quinlan shared this emotional odyssey in her best-selling book, “The God Box,” so named for the collection of prayers, notes of goodwill and faith-filled wishes for every person her mom came into contact with over several years, which were discovered after her passing.
Quinlan turned her book into a heartfelt one-woman play — in which she plays herself along with her mom, dad and brother — called “The God Box, A Daughter’s Story,” which comes to Scranton on Thursday, Nov. 8. The show starts at 7 p.m. at the Theater at North, 1539 N. Main Ave. Tickets cost $25, and proceeds benefit Hospice of the Sacred Heart. 
From the first performance five years ago, Quinlan’s show has hit stages hundreds of times, including at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, off Broadway and in 10 cities in Ireland. She has donated nearly half a million dollars from these performances to local women’s health-related charities in memory of her mom.
The Nov. 8 show marks Quinlan’s return to the Electric City after a well-received keynote speech at the Society of Irish Women’s St. Patrick’s Day dinner in March. Before the program began, Quinlan gravitated to Laurie Cadden and Diane Baldi, R.N., who respectively are the development director and CEO of Hospice of the Sacred Heart.
The trio struck up a friendly chat about Quinlan’s passion for supporting hospice care via her show and the need for a celebratory event in November, which is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month.
“When we made that connection, I realized they were the exact women to talk to,” Quinlan said during a recent phone interview from New York. “The play opens in Pennsylvania, in Bucks County, so it felt like it belongs here.”
Quinlan donated proceeds from book sales at the society dinner to Hospice of the Sacred Heart — which has offices in Wilkes-Barre, Dunmore and Moosic — and after sharing portions of her story in her speech, she promised to bring her play to Scranton in the future.
“We were just so honored and pleased and grateful for her to donate the proceeds back in March and come back and do the same,” Baldi said. “What I saw at that dinner was remarkable, and I thought she was so engaging. When she spoke, you could hear a spoon drop. She’s kind, she’s witty, she’s smart, and she speaks from her heart.” 
“The God Box” book reads as a memoir and tribute to a mother-daughter relationship, while the play takes the perspective of a daughter who has lost her mother and digs into the soul of someone who loves, goes through the losing process, and tries to keep control and hold on, Quinlan explained.
“It’s the experience I had from growing up — truly growing up — and learning to let go,” she said. “It has music, video and visuals throughout. It’s a recreation of a life story and a very human experience.”
Handing over the proceeds is Quinlan’s way of giving back in gratitude for the care her parents each received at the ends of their lives, she added.
“‘The God Box’ is an expression of (my mother’s) compassion,” Quinlan said. “It only seems right the play itself have a heart to it.”
The show’s tagline, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to call your mother,” came naturally from the conversations Quinlan had with the audience after performances. Those who lost moms told her how they wished they could talk to them once more, and those with mothers still living expressed a need to reach out after seeing the play.  
“It does bring back beautiful memories that they have about their mothers. In the end, it’s about them and their families,” Quinlan said. “People also say they want to go home and start their own God box, and my mother would be so thrilled about that.”
Theatergoers often question her about how she handles telling such a sad and personal story on stage, but Quinlan called it the best way to remain positive about the woman she misses.
“I feel like she’s with me when I do this play,” Quinlan said. “I get to have her and keep her in this world.”

Wanda Sykes postpones Wilkes-Barre show

Wanda Sykes postpones Wilkes-Barre show

UPDATE

WILKES-BARRE — Comedian Wanda Sykes postponed her Nov. 1 show at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.

Citing a scheduling conflict, Sykes rescheduled the show for 8 p.m., Sat., April 6,. Tickets will be honored for the new date, or refunds will be offered at the point of purchase.

 

Wanda Sykes has never shied away from confronting the controversial or sharing her informed — and often hilarious — opinion on a matter.
When the celebrated comedian brings her “Oh Well” tour to Wilkes-Barre in April, audience members can expect plenty of observational humor, some of which may even touch on current news and events. Sykes will perform at 8 p.m. on April 6 at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.
“I have my set show that I’m gonna do, but if there’s like a big news story or something crazy happens, I do tend to throw that in — if I have a funny point on it,” Sykes shared recently during a phone call from Los Angeles. “There’s a lot of stuff on the fly.” 
Sykes made a name for herself through her stand-up, though she segued this success into a notable film and television career as well. Her movie credits include “Snatched” with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn, “Monster-in-Law” with Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez and “Evan Almighty” with Steve Carell, while on TV audiences have seen her in such shows as “Black-ish,” “Broad City,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”
As a writer, she’s lent her talents to “The Chris Rock Show,” which won her an Emmy, plus “Last Comic Standing” and her various namesake programs.
Sykes also released a book, “Yeah, I Said It,” in 2004, in which she shared her takes on family, race and other hot topics. It’s familiar ground for the noted activist, who often speaks out for causes she believes in, whether it’s on stage or in awareness campaigns.
“I do like to talk about social issues to give a voice to people who are in the margin,” Sykes said. “For me, I like to say something with my comedy. … It feels like it’s my responsibility. It’s just my taste.
“That’s just how I guess my mind works. But I also can tell a funny story about my family, too. I like to mix it up. If I think there’s injustice going on, I’m going to say something about it.”
Sykes still relishes the rush of performing on stage, where she said she gets to share part of her life with the crowd. Live shows present the opportunity for give and take, she explained.
“The feeling you get of the euphoria, when you’re saying something … and you can make this whole audience crack up laughing, it’s powerful, and I love making people laugh,” Sykes said. “I get just as much out of it as people get from me. It feels like a loving environment.
“They get a better sense of me — who I am — and also the jokes are memorable. I like for them to walk away with something they will remember. I love my audience. They’re just cool people. Just good people.”

 

Rescheduled laser concert tackles Pink Floyd’s greatest hits

Rescheduled laser concert tackles Pink Floyd’s greatest hits

When the Pink Floyd Laser Spectacular finally makes its way to town following a summertime rain-out, you’ll wish you were here.
The laser and music show presented by Rock 107 (a Times-Shamrock Communications property) has been rescheduled for Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Ritz Theater in downtown Scranton. Initially set for August at the Scranton Iron Furnaces, the show was moved after excessive downpours caused damage and forced a delay. Original tickets will be honored for the new show, and those who missed out the first time can still buy tickets online at eventbrite.com.
Producer and creative director Steve Monistere started with the show in 1986 and has watched it grow, change and improve in the years since then as technology ramped up.
“It started off very simple because technology was simple back then,” he said. “As computers progressed, so did the show. It’s like something you haven’t seen before in the sense that with the lasers and video and lighting, we really create a psychedelic experience right in front of you.
“And, of course, set to the music of Pink Floyd, it worked very well,” Monistere added. “It’s a concert experience without the band.”
The show will be conducted via multiple high-definition screens that set the scene against the familiar strains of Pink Floyd’s greatest hits.
“If you can imagine going to a large-scale concert with a lot of lighting and production value to support what the band is doing live … we take a different approach,” Monistere explained. “The lighting and the lasers are the stars of the show. We give visuals to what you hear. More cerebral, creative types that lean to quality music, they’ll love it.”
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If you go
What: Pink Floyd Laser Spectacular
When: Saturday, Oct. 27; doors open at 7 p.m.
Where: Ritz Theater, 222 Wyoming Ave., Scranton
Details: Original tickets will be honored for this rescheduled show, and new tickets may be bought through eventbrite.com. For more information, call 570-241-1135.

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 TheTheaterAtNorth.com for more information. Tickets available by calling 877-987-6487 or by visiting ticketfly.com 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.