Scranton band E57 looks to next goal after releasing EP

Scranton band E57 looks to next goal after releasing EP

The guys in four-piece rock outfit E57 grew from highly musical backgrounds, from families full of musicians to “stealing” their parents’ cassette tapes. So ending up with instruments in hand, writing their own music, never seemed like a stretch of the imagination.
Now the quartet — made up of Johsua Zurek on vocals and guitar, Michael “Duds” McDonald on lead guitar, Chris Sheerin on bass and A.J. Lanieski on drums — performs all over the region and released an EP, “Ep57.” The record is a mix of upbeat, happy songs with funky tunes and some “straight-up rock” the group performed over the years. It is available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music.

Q: Where did your band name come from?
Joshua Zurek: Well, Duds and I were hanging out one time… My old car had a display above the rear-view mirror that read what direction the car was facing and what the temperature was outside. I remember asking him, “Well, we’re never going to come up with a name, so do you just want to use that?” as I pointed to the display reading ‘E57.’

Q: Tell me about “Ep57.” How long have
you guys been working on it? And what is the sound like?
Chris Sheerin: “Ep57” is a compilation of songs new and old that we’ve been playing during our time as a band. Songs like “Pinch Better” and “Angels” are older songs Josh and Duds wrote before I joined the band. Then we have newer songs like “Say My Name” and “Tomorrow’s Too Late.”
A.J. Lanieski: For the time I’ve been with them, it’s been energetic, and they’re all dedicated to the music. The sound is a nice blend of Josh’s catchy vocals and rhythm mixed with Mike’s awesome leads and solos, topped off with great bass lines rolled out by Chris. Everybody works well together, and it shows in the music.

Q: How have you changed as a musician over the years?
JZ: I like to believe I’ve become more open-minded to music I listen to and music we write. Back in high school, I listened strictly to heavier music and tried to force myself to write heavier stuff myself. Now, I don’t try to force myself to listen to anything or to write a certain way. I listen to whatever I’m in the mood for and play whatever I’m having fun with.
Michael “Duds” McDonald: I started out just learning classic rock tunes and playing for family. When I started playing original music, I naturally went for a fast solos, shred vibe. Playing with E57, I’ve learned to not go overboard and really write what fits better musically, and adds to the song, rather than what sounds fancy.
AL: I started out with classic rock, grunge, thrash metal and punk. Music of that nature. As time went on, I branched into a slower style… E57 brings a lot of energy and makes it a lot of fun to play, allowing me to mix all the styles I’ve enjoyed and be creative and wild as possible.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories as a part of this band?
JZ: There are a lot of favorite memories I have from this band. We were nominated for best local alternative act in the Scranton Music Awards this past summer, which was surreal.
MM: Seeing the growth of the band has been really exciting. From jamming in a bedroom to opening up for the Ataris at the Leonard (Theater) — it’s a great feeling to see our progression.
CS: Recording the EP at JL Studios was definitely a highlight, especially with how well it came out. Getting to play the FuzzFest Battle of the Bands this year was another great memory. We didn’t win, but we got to play with all these great local bands like Black Tie Stereo and Jung Bergo for a chance to open for Weezer.
AL: Hanging out and laughing at stupid stuff is a great time aside from playing. Opening at the Leonard Theatre for the Ataris was a wild experience. And the following gigs introduced me to some awesome bands and people.

Q: How has the Northeast Pennsylvania music scene changed over the years?
MM: I’ve only been a part of the scene for about two years, but the talent is endless. The support for local musicians is growing.
CS: I think it’s gotten bigger and better in a lot of ways. When I was growing up, the local scene was much smaller, and the vast majority of bands were either pop punk bands or screamo/hardcore bands, but now there are so many different bands and genres. I would only say there’s one downside to the local music scene, and that is that the shows and venues aren’t as big as they used to be. There used to be a lot more all-age venues and places for bands to play, which helped bring a larger, more diverse crowd.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a musician?
JZ: Back in the summer, I started wondering if I should give up music. I won’t get much more into it, but it was definitely one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make. I’m glad I didn’t give it up; that would have been a huge mistake.
MM: Believing in my abilities.
CS: Just keeping up with it. Balancing my work life, social life and band life is a challenge.
AL: Balancing life, fighting existential dread. It’s not easy to make your own way.

Q: What are your future goals for the band?
JZ: Some of our goals are to definitely get more shows, get bigger shows and to do our best to expand our music out and get it heard.
CS: Releasing our EP was a big goal of mine that I’m happy we accomplished. Next big goal would be to record and release a full-length album.
— charlotte l. jacobson

Meet the band
Founded: 2014
Based out of: Scranton
Members: Joshua Zurek, vocals and rhythm guitar; Michael “Duds” McDonald, lead guitar; Chris Sheerin, bass guitar; and A.J. Lanieski, drums.
For fans of: A Day To Remember, Say Anything, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blink-182
Online: facebook.com/E57Band,
reverbnation.com/e57 and @E57Music on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat

Sounds: Jan. 19, 2017

Sounds: Jan. 19, 2017

Slightly Trippy

LOCAL NATIVES —
“Sunlit Youth”
THE GOOD: California indie pop outfit Local Natives gets “sparkly” on its third.
THE BAD: For some, the band’s sound already shifted in the wrong direction, away from the early modern, folk-influenced stuff into more mainstream territories with synths and layered rhythms. “Sunlit Youth” continues that trend. Whether that’s “bad” or not depends upon
the listener.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Singer/guitarist Taylor Rice leads his crew through a set of solid poppers. Brightly colored, rolling pieces such as “Past Lives” and “Masters” tumble across our ears on big world beats and jangly guitars. “Coins” is a stab at blue-eyed soul. The bittersweet “Dark Days” finds the boys sharing the spotlight with Cardigans frontwoman Nina Persson. “Sea of Years” is the big, bold closer that could serve as the perfect swaying climax to any Local Natives show.
It all adds up to an enjoyable, albeit somewhat predictable, album. You’ve heard the bulk of “Youth” in other places before. Still, good pop ain’t bad.
BUY IT?: Your choice.

ELEPHANT STONE — “Ship of Fools”
THE GOOD: Canadian psychedelic indie rockers Elephant Stone come back with their fourth.
THE BAD: No real complaints.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Still fronted by vocalist/bassist/sitar player Rishi Dhir, Elephant Stone turned down the psychedelics (just a smidge) and turned up the pop sensibilities on “Ship.” No worries, though; the record doesn’t play it completely straight as the sonic soundscapes remain. The new album, however, is a little less Kula Shaker and a little more Oasis or even World Party (hey — it had a “Ship of Fools,” too).
More than a few tunes latch onto a seamless groove (“Where I’m Going”) or a huge melody (“Photograph”) and prove what we’ve suspected all along — that Dhir has just as much respect for classic pop as he does for the sounds of India. And when he combines the two, the end result can be hypnotic. “Ship” simply makes the music more accessible without taking it into dull or predictable territories.
BUY IT?: Surely.

JAMIE LIDELL — “Building a Beginning”
THE GOOD: British modern soul singer/songwriter Jamie Lidell comes back with his seventh.
THE BAD: No gripes.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Falling somewhere between the funky safe zone that was “Jim” (2008) and the noisy experimentation spread across “Compass” (2010), the smart, soulful “Beginning” is indeed just that. It’s Lidell’s first release since leaving indie electronic powerhouse Warp Records and his first work written and recorded after the birth of his son, Julian, the namesake of one of the set’s most jubilant, catchy tracks.
From the reggae-flavored “How Did I Live Before Your Love” to the gospel-tinged “Motionless,” the album is packed with both pure (and rather positive) emotion and honest performances. Lidell makes the electronic enhancements of past albums take a back seat to more stripped-down instrumentation. “Beginning” gives off a more spontaneous vibe.
This new (or classic?) attitude works extremely well for both the singer and the material, and everything comes together to make a big, beautiful noise.
BUY IT?: Yes.

Up Close: Aaron Fink

Up Close: Aaron Fink

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT

Aaron Fink is a professional musician who will release his third solo album, “Galaxies,” on Jan. 20. Fink is a native of Rochester, New York, but grew up in Selinsgrove and has lived in the Wyoming Valley/Luzerne County area for the past 18 years. He studied music at Duquesne University and received a degree in music engineering from Full Sail University. Before launching his solo career, he was lead guitarist for Breaking Benjamin and a member of Lifer, both national recording artists. In addition to his solo work, he plays with the band Gentleman East. He has a son, Gavin, 15. He lives in Dallas.
Meet Aaron Fink …

“Galaxies” is your third solo album in just three years, and you continue to be very prolific as an artist. I can’t think of any other regional songwriter who has released more music in recent years. What do you attribute that to?
I’m just writing a lot. I started writing, like it’s my job, six or seven years ago, so I’ve cataloged quite a number of songs. There’s a song on “Galaxies” that’s 12 years old. Some were songs that were just laying around and I dusted off. I chip away at it. And I also overwrite. For every song that I release out into the wild, I may have written 10.

But still, even though you’ve taken a workman-like approach to writing, you need to be inspired. What’s your muse these days when it comes to songwriting?
Life. It’s as simple as that. And, a) I think I’m an old soul, and b) I had all of this crazy (stuff) happen to me before I was 25 years old. By the time I was 25, I was a father, I was on my second record deal, I owned a house, and then all of this other stuff happened beyond that. I certainly haven’t had a boring life. It’s been quite eventful, and sometimes with extreme highs and extreme lows, so I feel like I have a lot to draw from. I guess everybody does, but I guess I just figured out a way to channel that into lyrics and melodies and something that fits around some chords on a guitar. Some stuff is personal, and some is more relatable to everybody. I think all great songs may start personally, but they’re open-ended enough that someone could say, “That means something to me,” and you could put yourself in it.
You’re not only a guitarist but also a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. You even play drums, and you’re a producer and a songwriter. What do you consider yourself the most?
On a good day, I think I’m a good guitar player. Although if I practiced more, I’d probably be better. And I think I’m blossoming into a good songwriter. I use the guitar as a tool, but the thing I care about the most is good songs. I like good songs. I think everybody does. And that helps me as a producer or playing other instruments, because I’m not just focused on the guitar.

“Galaxies” was recorded at S.I. Studios in Old Forge, and you’ve now recorded three solo albums at three studios. Why have you chosen to keep moving around?
Mostly just to mix it up and keep it fresh. And maybe just to get some different sounds and meet some different people that might push me in a way I haven’t been pushed. To me, I equate making a record to making a movie, and you wouldn’t make the same movie in the same location over and over.

Your time with Breaking Benjamin was remarkable, in that you were a part of several gold and platinum albums. And yet your departure from the band was fairly turbulent. How does it feel to you today when you hear one of those songs on the radio?
I have mixed emotions. I guess it depends on the song and what was going on at that time. But that’s a good problem to have. I’m pretty OK with all of that at this juncture. It’s been quite a few years, and I’m moving on with different stuff. I feel comfortable with what I’m doing now and comfortable with my past. It was a good band, and the songs I was a part of were good songs.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
First and foremost, for me, is being a dad and being the best father I can be. Other than that, I guess I’m a bit of a movie buff. I don’t go to the theaters as much as I used to, but I digest a lot at home on Netflix.

Who are some of your all-time favorite musical artists?
I like a lot of oddball stuff, but I always come back to the same stuff that everyone else likes: the Beatles, Tom Petty, Zeppelin, Floyd … I really like Dave Matthews and Pearl Jam and a lot of that early ’90s stuff. Chili Peppers, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. And I like old-school hip-hop, like Run-D.M.C. and Ice-T. I like a little bit of it all.

Do you follow sports?
I like nerdy sports, like golf and tennis, but If I had to pick a city I associate with the most, it’s Pittsburgh. The Steelers, Pirates and Penguins.

Do you remember your first car?
Yes, unfortunately. It was a 1983 maroon Nissan Sentra station wagon with a hole on the driver’s side floor. When it rained, it would fill up an inch or two, and I’d have to let it air out. Pretty rugged. But you’ve got to start somewhere.

Favorite food?
Either sushi of good Mexican.

You’ve toured the entire country several times. What’s your favorite city?
The ones that I’ve always liked were northern and kind of mountainous and had some water going on. That’s Seattle. That’s Pittsburgh; Portland, Oregon; and Portland, Maine. And San Francisco is great. But if I had to pick one, Seattle.

Favorite thing about Northeast Pennsylvania?
Probably the people. I’ve garnered quite a few really good, lifelong friends here. And this city has been very generous to me in terms of my career, which I’m thankful for.

All-time favorite movie?
I like all of the Kubrick stuff — “The Shining” and “A Clockwork Orange.” I also like “Dazed and Confused” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

Favorite TV show?
“Breaking Bad.” And I was a huge fan of Miami Vice.”

Favorite book or author?
My favorite author is Jim Harrison, who just passed away last year. He’s best known for “Legends of the Fall,” which was made into a movie, but he’s got a great repertoire of awesome stuff.

Any pets?
My best friend, Lola. She’s a Weimaraner.

Guilty pleasure?
Def Leppard.

Have you had a moment in your life, or a time in your life, that has helped define you and make you the person you are today?
Becoming a father. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me responsible. It keeps me working. It keeps me behaving. It keeps me focused on things that matter. Especially being a professional musician, I think I could have gotten really lost without that. When I came home from the road, being a dad was the thing I could always hang my hat on. It just makes me a better man.

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at alankstout@comcast.net.

PHOTOS BY EMMA BLACK

Scranton’s Threatpoint finds success in musical ‘marriage’

Scranton’s Threatpoint finds success in musical ‘marriage’

Chris James and C.J. Krukowski laughed as they described being in a band as like being in a marriage.
They might not share a Netflix queue or fight over picking drapes, but bandmates do spend a lot of time together, eat together and travel together.
“You really get to know each other,” said James, who performs in Threatpoint with Krukowski, Alex Olivetti and Matt Van Fleet.
When the connection really works, it benefits the song—creation process.
“The other person already knows where they’re going with it,” James said.
Krukowski said getting into that groove can take some time.
“The more you play, the more shows you get, the more you write,” he said. “It’s more serious. You chalk it down as experience.”
The band started in 2012 after bands the founding members belonged to — James with Dropveil and Krukowski and Olivetti with Temptation Denied — both folded. When the trio got together, they knew they had something, as each member brought different musical tastes. James grew up listening to the Doors, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, while Krukowski had a taste for Metallica. Olivetti, meanwhile, grew up liking bands such as Pantera and Sevendust.
Together they released the albums “Dead To Rise” and “Careful What You Wish For” in 2013 and 2014, respectively. The group switched up its lineup in late 2015 when it added Van Fleet, who didn’t get his start in music until after serving as a Marine (he performed with Cause of Affliction for a couple of years before that band split up).
With this lineup, the “marriage” seems to be working. The groove metal band was in sync as it put together its third album, “R.I.P.,” released in October.
“You get a knack for what works and what doesn’t,” Krukowski said. “Some songs come easier.”
The album took a year to make, he said, and the group hopes it expands its fan base. The CD is available for $10 on the group’s website, www.threatpointofficial.com, and iTunes.
“We’re happy it’s released,” Krukowski said.
— patrick abdalla

 

Meet Threatpoint
Members: Chris James, vocals; Alex Olivetti, guitar; C.J. Krukowski, drums; and Matt Van Fleet, bass
Established: 2012
Based out of: Scranton
Genre: Groove metal
For fans of: Black Label Society, Devil Driver, Avenged Sevenfold
Online: Threatpointofficial.com, facebook.com/threatpoint

Kira is here

Kira is here

Drums native Kira Krakovesky builds fanbase with voice, social media

Kira Krakovesky’s Instagram profile keeps it simple: “I sing and play with hair.” Those two hobbies leave her busy.
The Drums native spends time in New York City and Northeast Pennsylvania, styling and coloring hair, modeling and singing at different venues. As part of the duo Kira + Brooke with Brooke Gerhart, she performs locally at places such as the bars inside Mohegan Sun Pocono.
She belts out the vocals on covers of “What’s Up,” “Creep” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” and she and Gerhart even earned a slot opening for Foreigner at the Pavilion on Montage Mountain a few years ago.
Krakovesky recently took time out of her
schedule to discuss her music career.

Q: How did you get involved in music?
A: I got involved in music from a young age. I always really enjoyed singing and entertaining people. I eventually picked up piano and took lessons, and it just inspired me to be able to accompany myself and write.

Q: What do you remember about the first time you performed in public?
A: I was about 12. It made me feel alive and like I could really express myself.

Q: How have you changed as a musician over the years?
A: I changed throughout the years in the sense of what genres I enjoy and the different directions I’ve chosen to follow career-wise as a musician.

Q: How did you end up teaming with Brooke?
A: Brooke and I have been friends for nearly 10 years. … Music actually brought us together back in the days of Myspace, and from there we’ve played shows together on and off in our own separate musical endeavors. We’ve remained friends throughout the years and just ended up doing acoustic duo stuff within the past year. We work so well together because we are musically compatible (and) flow harmoniously together while also adding our individuality and just simply have fun playing. Our personalities mesh so well together that music just becomes an extension of that.

Q: Who has influenced you over the years?
A: I’ve had a lot of huge influences over my life. … I grew up with a lot of classic rock. I would have to say Stevie Nicks has played a huge role in inspiring me, not just as a writer but also having stamina and holding her own as an independent female artist in this industry.

Q: How have you developed a fan base over the years?
A: Social media. I think social media has been a great influence in connecting with people and just reaching out or keeping them involved in different events.

Q: What is the most challenging part of being a musician?
A: The most challenging part of being a musician is keeping your head up and keeping your passion strong throughout the downfalls and flaws of what the music industry has become. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone is constantly trying to change you. I would have to say the biggest challenge is staying true to yourself.
— patrick abdalla

Sounds: Jan. 12, 2017

Sounds: Jan. 12, 2017

BASHING ABOUT

CYMBALS EAT GUITARS — “Pretty Years”
THE GOOD: Long Island indie rockers Cymbals Eat Guitars come back with a more grounded (and maybe hopeful?) fourth record.
THE BAD: No complaints.
THE NITTY GRITTY: With the
jittery wail of singer/guitarist Joseph D’Agostino way out in front, the band crashes and burns through tracks both focused and upbeat (“Have a Heart”) and more down-tempo and emotionally
frenetic (murky closer “Shrine”). And in order to keep things intensely interesting, “Pretty Years” covers all points in between these two extremes.
The overall style remains what we’ve come to expect, a brash and crunchy combination of ’80s post-punk (“Close” resembles an early Cure outtake), ’90s indie (Pavement vibes continue to run rampant) and a hint of the spaced-out and quirky (noisy bits a la Flaming Lips).
Lyrically, “Years” is less pessimistic than “Lose” was two years ago. However, D’Agostino remains cautious. We’re not out of the deep, dark forest just yet. So I guess that makes “Pretty Years” a damn fine transitional record.
BUY IT?: Yes.

THEE OH SEES — “A Weird Exits”
THE GOOD: San Francisco indie garage outfit Thee Oh Sees regroups (now boasting TWO drummers) and gives us a cosmic 12th.
THE BAD: Nope. Just be prepared for a not-so-predictable time. Keep a wide-open mind.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist and band founder John Dwyer leads his crew through an eclectic eight-song set featuring everything from simple stomping rockers (“Dead Man’s Gun”) to noise-infused drones (“Ticklish Warrior”) to fuzzy, psychedelic dreamscapes (“Crawl Out into the Fallout”). “Jammed Entrance” is a funk-infused instrumental (having two drummers is rather advantageous). Hazy, organ-soaked closer “The Axis” recalls the stoned splendor of Pink Floyd’s “A Saucerful of Secrets.”
“A Weird Exits” is that rare case in which a band decides to spread out musically and then actually pulls off nearly every experiment with flying colors. One is hard-pressed to find any huge missteps, and the album truly makes us hopeful for more wild sessions in the near future.
BUY IT?: Oh yeah.

WARPAINT — “Head’s Up”
THE GOOD: Female Los Angeles indie rockers Warpaint unleash their third.
THE BAD: Lead single “New Song” may have scared off some longtime fans. It’s a glossy, rhythmic tune that resembles HAIM as opposed to the group’s past progressive tendencies. But fear not — while there are some beat-heavy and/or “pop” moments on the new album, it’s mostly just Warpaint being themselves.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Songs such as “So Good” and “Above Control” bring back the non-traditional song structures, spaced-out settings, layered guitar work and fizzy psychedelics. In many instances, the ladies seem to latch onto bolder and tighter melodies. But they do that without sacrificing the half-dreamy, half-complex uniqueness that put them on the indie map almost a decade ago.
One could argue the band is doing a damn fine job of not falling into the trappings of delivering the same album over and over again. And “Head’s Up” is intriguing and accomplished enough to make us thoroughly optimistic for the NEXT set.
BUY IT?: OK.

Year in Preview

Year in Preview

A look at the year ahead in local entertainment

Theater
Some of Broadway’s most beloved shows drop into Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., in 2017, starting with Tony-winning musical “Jersey Boys.” Broadway Theatre League of Northeastern Pennsylvania presents the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons from Jan. 17 to 22. Then follows “Cinderella,” which features a new book by Northeast Pennsylvania native Douglas Carter Beane, from March 17 to 19; “The Illusionists” magic show April 22 only; and “Pippin” from May 5 to 7.
Among community theater troupes, Actors Circle presents “Terra Nova” from Feb. 2 to 5 and 9 to 12, “The Women” from March 23 to 26 and March 30 to April 2, and “The Uninvited” from May 25 to 28 and June 1 to 4 at Providence Playhouse, 1256 Providence Road, Scranton.
Diva Theater, 126 W. Market St., Scranton, presents its fourth annual program of original one-act plays, featuring 10 shows from five directors, from Jan. 26 to 29.
At the Dietrich Theater, 60 E. Tioga St., Tunkhannock, the After School Players present “Third Class” on March 4 followed by a community production of “George Washington Slept Here” from April 28 to 30.
F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes-Barre, hosts four major theatrical performances this year, starting with the ABBA musical “Mamma Mia!” on Sunday. Neil Simon’s “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” takes the stage Feb. 17, presented by Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theater. Iconic musical “Annie” visits Feb. 23 followed by the quintessential backstage musical comedy, “42nd Street,” on March 29.
— caitlin heaney west and charlotte l. jacobson

Leesa Bailey, 17, of Binghamton, N.Y., is surrounded in a sea of people as she watches Scranton band Motionless in White perform on Monday during the Vans Warped Tour ‘16 held at Montage Mountain in Scranton. Butch Comegys / Staff Photographer

Concerts
The concert calendar already is filling up with a range of genres at venues across the region.
Scranton native rockers the Menzingers celebrate their newest album, “After the Party,” with a free, all-ages release show and meet-and-greet Feb. 4 at Gallery of Sound, 186 Mundy St., Wilkes-Barre.
Soul singer and Broadway veteran Morgan James shares songs from her full-length debut album, “Hunter,” during a March 31 show at Peoples Security Bank Theater at Lackawanna College, 501 Vine St., Scranton.
F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre ushers in a year of robust talent, starting with a trio of tribute acts: Elvis Lives on Feb. 1, in honor of the King; God Save the Queen on Feb. 3, paying homage to Queen; and “Rain: A Tribute To the Beatles” on March 26.
The Kirby also welcomes country superstar Martina McBride on March 11 and bagpipe-playing rock band Red Hot Chilli Pipers on March 25. Blues group Alexis P. Suter Ministers of Sound celebrates the release of a live album with a performance March 31, while Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame brings his “Pet Sounds: The Final Performances” tour May 2.
The NEPA Philharmonic’s chamber concerts include “The Enchanting Harp” on Jan. 19; “Meet Laura Gilbert,” March 2; and “Unbuttoned Dvorak,” April 20, all at Sordoni Theater at WVIA, Pittston. The Pops series continues with “A Night at the Oscars” on Feb. 4, and “The Piano Men” on April 1, both in Keystone Grand Ballroom at Mohegan Sun Pocono, Plains Twp. The Masterworks concerts resume with “Orchestra Spotlight: Passion” at Lackawanna College on March 4 and wrap up with “Season’s Grand Finale: Heroes. Passion. Inspiration.” on May 5 at the Kirby.
Grammy-winning country star Dwight Yoakam supports the recent release of his first bluegrass album with a show on Feb. 3 in Keystone Grand Ballroom at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The country craze continues with Brad Paisley on Feb. 16 and Thomas Rhett on March 9 at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Cove Haven Resort, Lakeville, also offers a year of diverse musical talent, starting with Ja Rule and Dru Hill on March 5. Summer welcomes country singer and “The Voice” champion Cassadee Pope on June 25, while Grammy-winning band Blues Traveler arrives Sept. 3.
Vans Warped Tour plays Scranton again July 10, according to its website, although a venue was not announced.
— charlotte l. jacobson and patrice wilding

Comedy
After a year that left many feeling pretty down, locals could use a few good laughs. The region serves up some big names and variety with comedy shows in 2017.
Superstars Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy are ready to get ’er done at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre Twp., on Friday, Jan. 20, at 7:30 p.m. as part of their “We’ve Been Thinking” tour.
Comedy legend John Cleese engages his audience in a Q&A after a screening of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes-Barre, on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 7:30 p.m.
The next night, Jan. 29, catch “America’s Got Talent” judge and “Bobby’s World” creator Howie Mandel at Cove Haven Resort, Lakeville.
Just for Laughs’ Stand-Up Comedian of 2016, Sebastian Maniscalco, stops by F.M. Kirby Center on Feb. 11 at 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Stand-up comic Kathleen Madigan takes her “Bothering Jesus” tour to Peoples Security Bank Theater at Lackawanna College, 501 Vine St., Scranton, on Friday, March 10, at 8 p.m. as part of the Community Concerts series.
Wisecrackers, meanwhile, continues to host comedians on Friday and Saturday nights at Mohegan Sun Pocono, Plains Twp.
— patrice wilding and charlotte l. jacobson

Festivals
Whether for food or fun, a number of festivals take place around the region each year.
Enjoy the wonders of the Lackawanna River during Shiverfest on Jan. 14, then head to Dietrich Theater, 60 E. Tioga St., Tunkhannock, for two film festivals featuring foreign, independent and art films. Winter Fest runs Feb. 17 through March 2, and the Spring Film Festival then takes place April 7 through 27 with special activities on each opening night and free post-festival discussions March 3 and April 28.
Clarks Summit hosts the Annual Festival of Ice from Feb. 17 to 20. Join one of the biggest events in downtown Wilkes-Barre, the annual Fine Arts Fiesta on Public Square, from May 18 to 21. On May 27, celebrate a Midvalley tradition, St. Ubaldo Day and Race of the Saints, in Jessup over Memorial Day weekend.
The region celebrates its love of food with the fourth annual Edwardsville Pierogi Festival, June 9 and 10; the Pittston Tomato Festival, Aug. 17 to 20; and Plymouth’s annual Kielbasa Festival, the second weekend of August.
Labor Day weekend offers the chance to commemorate the area’s rich locomotive history during Railfest at Steamtown National Historic Site and its Italian heritage at La Festa Italiana on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square.
— charlotte l. jacobson and gia mazur

Family events
Families have a wide selection of events in the area this year, from parades to children’s theater, sports events and circus acts.
At Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre Twp., events include “Disney on Ice: Passport To Adventure,” Jan. 12 to 16; “Monster Jam,” Feb. 24 to 26; and the Harlem Globetrotters, March 12.
F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Public Square, meanwhile, hosts several free children’s events, including “Doktor Kaboom Live Wire! The Electricity Tour” on Jan. 12; Bill Blagg’s “Science of Magic,” Feb. 13; “Story Pirates” interactive stage show, April 7; and “Elephant and Piggie’s We Are in a Play,” May 16.
In addition to the free shows, family-friendly productions coming to the Kirby Center include Cirque du Soleil-type show “Cirque Zuma Zuma,” Feb. 16; percussion sensation “Stomp,” March 15 and 16; “Odd Squad Live,” March 24; Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, April 1; and rhythmic circus “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” April 30.
Back in Scranton, families can get into the Irish spirit with the city’s 56th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, set for March 11.
At Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., see a favorite TV shows come to life with “Paw Patrol Live! Race To the Rescue” today at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live!” on March 22 at 2 and 5:30 p.m.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins play at the arena through April, with the next home game occurring Friday against the Hershey Bears, and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders hold their home opener April 10 against Lehigh Valley at PNC Field, Moosic.
— charlotte l. jacobson and caitlin heaney west

Sounds – Dec. 29, 2016

Sounds – Dec. 29, 2016

THE BEST OF 2016

As 2017 inches ever so closer, it’s time to look back and count down the 20 albums that mattered most over the past 12 months.

20. THE LONDON SUEDE — “Night Thoughts” (January)
The Britpop legends continued the comeback that started with 2013’s “Bloodsports” by releasing a record that was even more intriguing and ambitious. “Night Thoughts” ended up being one of the finest albums of a career we thought was over a decade ago.

19. PETER BJORN AND JOHN — “Breaking Point” (June)
The Swedish indie pop band recovered with an album that was its most accomplished since what many consider the group’s career peak, 2006’s “Writer’s Block.” “Breaking Point” found the boys rejuvenated. The songs were their best in quite a while.

18. SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS — “SVIIB” (February)
The most bittersweet entry on the list, “SVIIB” would be this indie duo’s final release. The album was completed shortly before multi-instrumentalist/producer Benjamin Curtis’ sudden death because of lymphoma. The record did, however, find the band going out on a very high note.

17. THERMALS — “We Disappear” (March)
The Oregon indie rockers continued to keep things short and sweet, delivering another loud, punchy and, most importantly, catchy collection of terse tunes and fiery deliveries. And even though the band didn’t necessarily break new ground on “Disappear,” it captivated us all by doing what it does best.

16. DAWES — “We’re All Gonna Die” (September)
California folk/rock outfit Dawes always made honest albums, blending indie rock with elements of roots music and modern country effortlessly. “Die” just happened to be its most satisfying and tightest roster of songs so far this decade.

15. CRYSTAL CASTLES — “Amnesty” (August)
Canadian electronic duo Crystal Castles almost imploded shortly after the release of 2012’s “III.” Vocalist Alice Glass split with producer Ethan Kath over the usual pesky “creative differences.” Kath later found vocalist Edith Frances, and the end result was the wickedly compelling “Amnesty.”

14. PORCHES — “Pool” (February)
New York synth-pop outfit Porches dodged the sophomore slump with an album recorded in leader Aaron Maine’s apartment. More “intimate” than most electronic albums, “Pool” was a tidy affair with acoustic tendencies placed within switched-on settings. This juxtaposition of sensibilities simply clicked.

13. MARISSA NADLER — “Strangers” (May)
New England modern folkie Marissa Nadler continued to dazzle us with her stunning voice and candid songwriting. “Strangers” held very few surprises but further displayed the woman’s genuine talents, giving us stark performances without an ounce of gloss in the process.

12. BLEACHED — “Welcome the Worms” (April)
Another dodge of the sophomore slump, this time with the California Clavin sisters and crew giving us an album equally aggressive and infectious. The melodies might have forced you to call this concoction “pop punk,” but that assessment would have been unfair.

11. SANTIGOLD — “99 Cents”
(February)
Musically, this record was all over the map. Santigold co-wrote the entire album herself, and “99 Cents” embraced everything from pure pop to electronic to hip-hop to R&B. A highly unpredictable undertaking, the set was worth far more than its title implied.

Uh-oh. Out of room. Come back next week (and next year) and we’ll go over the top ten.

A Cabinet Holiday

A Cabinet Holiday

Cabinet takes Kirby main stage with Holiday Show

Cabinet grabs a bigger spotlight than usual when it returns to Northeast Pennsylvania for its annual Holiday Show.
The Scranton-based roots, folk and bluegrass band booked Wilkes-Barre’s F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts for the show the past three years, but this time the group graduates from the Chandelier Lobby to take over the main stage. The concert, which also includes a performance by pianist Holly Bowling, starts at 8 p.m. Friday, and tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the day of the show, plus fees.
“It’s fantastic,” singer and mandolin player J.P. Biondo said of moving to the main stage. “I’ve gone to see many a show at the Kirby, and I just love it. We’re super excited and proud and honored.”
For the past decade, Cabinet has played across the country in venues of all sizes, even at large music festivals. It developed its sound locally, though. After high school, Biondo began playing with friends at open mics as the rest of the band began to fill in. Through writing songs on guitar and mandolin — not fully understanding the genre of music they were creating — and performing semi-regularly at River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains Twp., Cabinet turned out to be a unique, Americana-blended group.
And the landscape of Northeast Pennsylvania seemed to influence the group when it came to writing its multi-genre music.
“When we first started writing, we were writing based on experience in our lives around this area,” Biondo said. “The landscape, more so than anything. Some would be relationship-based, but mostly the landscape really inspired us. It wasn’t really like any other music from around here, but just the lay of the land created us. How it’s just home.”
So it only makes sense that the septet returns each year for the ongoing tradition of performing back home. Biondo credited the region’s fans for boosting their popularity and embracing the group, claiming it “wouldn’t have been possible” without them.
“I always feel very lucky to be playing with this band with the guys, I do,” he added. “Beyond that, I think our fan base really drives this part of it home — we’re good people, too. We just like to have a good time and share some smiles, hang out with friends. At the end of the day, we’re just regular dudes, and that point gets across to our fans. They hold onto that pretty strongly. … They know that when they come out and see a Cabinet show, they are going to be having a good time with friends and like-minded people.”
In addition to Biondo, the band consists of Mickey Coviello, guitar and vocals; Patrick “Pappy” Biondo, banjo and vocals; Dylan Skursky, bass; Todd Kopec, fiddles and vocals; and Jami Novak and Josh Karis, drums and percussion.
While the group works to create a fun atmosphere at its concerts, writing new music on tour is difficult. But for now, J.P. Biondo said, the group is focused on enjoying its upcoming shows, both
at the Kirby Center and its New Year’s Eve concert at the Theatre of Living Arts, Philadelphia.
“We have the greatest job in the world,” he said. “Once you’re on that stage, there’s nothing else like it. You get to express your art and yourself, and do it with your friends. We play some fun awesome music and get paid for it. For me, that’s not even part of the job; getting in the van and driving for eight hours is the job. Playing on stage is all gravy.”
— charlotte l. jacobson

If you go
What: Cabinet Holiday Show, featuring Holly Bowling
When: Friday, 8 p.m.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the day of the show, available at the box office, 570-826-1100 and kirbycenter.org.

Sounds – Dec. 22, 2016

Sounds – Dec. 22, 2016

Strong Sisters

LADY GAGA — “Joanne”
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter Lady Gaga turns 30, ditches most of the theatrics (no meat dress this time) and releases a stripped-down fifth album.
THE BAD: No real gripes.
THE NITTY GRITTY: 2013’s “Artpop” may have been too pretentious for its own good. While the record had its fantastic moments, the concept sometimes overshadowed the music. Now “Joanne” (named after a late aunt who died about a decade before Gaga was even born) finds the singer tackling a multitude of genres with a bevy of producers (Mark Ronson serves as “executive producer”). However, the songs and the woman’s vocal abilities always take center stage.
Even a slew of high-profile guests stars (everyone from Beck to Brian May) can’t steal away the spotlight from these raw vocal performances. Whether it’s the country-tinged ballad “Million Reasons” or the stomping and soaring “Dancing in Circles,” the songs are direct, crisp and packed with emotion. And the album’s mood swings from jubilant (“A-Yo”) to somber (“Angel Down”) keep things unpredictable.
BUY IT?: Surely.

REGINA SPEKTOR — “Remember Us To Life”
THE GOOD: Russian-born singer/songwriter Regina Spektor comes back with her fifth major-label album.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Guided by British composer/producer Leo Abrahams (Frightened Rabbit, Wild Beasts) and recorded with a full orchestra, “Life” is a lush affair. Yet it features many instances of that bubbly brand of Spektor pop — feisty vocals guiding bold melodies that bounce over cruising rhythms. Bright bits such as “Older and Taller” and “Small Bills” pull you in immediately and never let go.
Much of the album, however, is more subdued and serious; mid-tempo pieces find Spektor and her piano placed against a backdrop of warm, sweeping strings. Those are the most memorable moments. Songs like “The Light” with its graceful ebb and flow or the brash and ever-shifting epic, “The Trapper and the Furrier,” show off her stirring vocal abilities (minus the silly yet charming chirps and quirks of records past). “Obsolete” is a sumptuous study in sadness and loss.
BUY IT?: Definitely.

THE PRETENDERS — “Alone”
THE GOOD: Post-punk indie legends the Pretenders are back with their 11th (and first in eight years).
THE BAD: Not necessarily “bad,” but this time, the “Pretenders” are essentially songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Chrissie Hynde and the musicians she happened to play with in the studio. (Remember “Packed” in 1990?)
THE NITTY GRITTY: And since Hynde is working with producer Dan Auerbach, “Alone” often sounds like a later Black Keys album for which Hynde happens to supply all the lead vocals.
Still, at 65, Hynde’s songwriting and voice both remain strong. Auerbach helps add some jagged textures to even the gentler tunes, giving the entire record a much-welcome realism that’s painted in both light (the sharp title track and growling “Chord Lord”) and shadow (the cloudy “Let’s Get Lost” and moody “Blue Eyed Sky”).
The ballads aren’t syrupy. The rockers don’t reek of desperation. And even the keyboard-colored, pop-infused closer “Holy Commotion” doesn’t come off as forced. Hynde and Auerbach made a damn fine record.
BUY IT?: Sure.

BEST OF 2016

BEST OF 2016

The Best of the Best

It’s time to announce Electric City’s Best of 2016 Readers’ Poll winners.
Each year, we highlight the fantastic people, places and things we love in Northeast Pennsylvania. Voters registered online at www.the570.com, created a user profile and filled out their online ballot. Each category started completely blank, and users entered the names of nominees in each category. Once a name was entered, it became part of the ballot. Voters then cast their ballots for favorites within nine categories: Love and Romance, Eats and Drinks, Goods and Services, Arts and Entertainment, Nightlife, Media, Health and Recreation, and Superstars. We also wanted our readers to let us know their WTF Moment of 2016. Online voting kicked off early in the morning on Nov. 4, and the votes kept flooding in until noon on Nov. 18. This year’s voting smashed previous records with votes tallying in at more than 245,000. And now the results are in.

Congratulations to all the winners and a sincere thank you to all of the readers who took the time to cast their votes.

We hope to see you at our annual Best of Bash, taking place Wednesday Jan. 11, at 7 p.m. at The Backyard Ale House, 523 Linden St., Scranton. It’s always a legendary party with a room packed full of winners celebrating the best of the best our area has to offer.

Keep on reading Electric City every week as we continue to provide you with exclusive features, photo galleries, columns, a robust calendar of local events and so much more. – tom graham, managing editor

 

Love & Romance

ecbestof15_25_web

Best Place To Buy an Engagement Ring – Boccardo Jewelers

Best Flower Shop
McCarthy Flowers

Best Limo Service
Nasser Limousine Service

Best Place for a Bachelor Party
Mohegan Sun Pocono

Best Place for a Bachelorette Party
Mohegan Sun Pocono

Best Place for a First Date
Electric City winner: Market Street Bar
and Grill
Diamond City winner: Fire and Ice on Toby Creek

Best Place To Buy an Engagement Ring
Boccardo Jewelers

Best Place To Buy Lingerie
Victoria’s Secret

Best Wedding Gowns
David’s Bridal

Best Wedding Registry
Live with It by Lora Hobbs

Best Wedding Venue
Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple

 

Arts & Entertainment

Best New Local CD - “Monsters” — Pat McGlynn

Best New Local CD – “Monsters” — Pat McGlynn

Best All Ages Venue
The Pavilion at Montage Mountain

Best Art Venue
Everhart Museum

Best Casino
Mohegan Sun Pocono

Best Concert Venue
Electric City winner: The Pavilion at Montage Mountain
Diamond City winner: The F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts

Best Dance Company
Dave Ragnacci School of Dance

Best Local Band Name – Clever Clever

Best Theater Production - “Hamlet” — New Vintage Ensemble

Best Theater Production – “Hamlet” — New Vintage Ensemble

Best Local Festival
Electric City winner: La Festa Italiana
Diamond City winner: Pittston Tomato Festival

Best Movie Theater
Electric City winner: Cinemark 20 and XD
Diamond City winner: RC Wilkes-Barre
Movies 14

Best Museum
Everhart Museum

Best New Event
#Bekindscranton

Best New Local CD
“Monsters” — Pat McGlynn

Best Ongoing Cultural Event
Electric City winner: First Friday Scranton
Diamond City winner: Fine Arts Fiesta

Best Open Mic
Legends Saloon

Best Original Band
Clever Clever

Best Party Cover Band
Flaxy Morgan

ecbestof15_22_web

Best Original Band and Best Band Name – Clever Clever

Best Place To Shoot Pool
The V Spot

Best Theater Production
“Hamlet” — New Vintage Ensemble

 

Eats & Drinks

Best Sushi - Osaka Restaurant

Best Sushi – Osaka Restaurant

Best Ambience
State Street Grill

Best Bagels
National Bakery

Best Bakery
Lynn Sandy’s

Best Beer Menu
Electric City winner: Backyard Ale House
Diamond City winner: Sabatini’s Bottleshop and Bar

Best Boneless Wings
Electric City winner: Nina’s Restaurant
Diamond City winner: The Tipsy Turtle

Best Breakfast
The Eatery by Jessica

Best Brunch
Backyard Ale House

Best Cheesesteak
Cosmo’s Cheesesteaks

Best Chinese Restaurant
China Palace Inn

Best Chocolate
Gertrude Hawk Chocolates

Best Coffee Shop
Zummo’s Cafe

Best Cup of Coffee
Northern Lights Espresso Bar and Cafe

Best Deli
Cara Mia’s Delicatessen

Best Desserts
Market Street Sweets

Best Diner
Glider Restaurant

Best Doughnuts
Krispy Crème

Best Food Truck
Electric City winner: The Bitemobile by Nina’s
Diamond City winner: Peculiar Culinary Co.

Best French Fries
Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Best Frozen Yogurt
Manning Farm Dairy

Best Hamburger
Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Best Hoagie
Catalano’s

Best Hot Dogs
Coney Island Lunch

Best Ice Cream
Manning Farm Dairy

Best Italian Food
Casa Bella

Best Italian Ice
Rita’s Italian Ice

Best Japanese Restaurant
Electric City winner: Osaka Japanese
Restaurant
Diamond City winner: Mirakuya Japanese Restaurant

Best Liquid Lunch
Backyard Ale House

Best Long Lunch
The Loading Dock Bar and Grill

Best Lunch on a Budget
Chicano’s Restaurant

Best Lunch on the Go
JJ McNally’s

Best Mexican/Southwestern Restaurant
La Tonalteca, Scranton

Best New Restaurant
Bar Pazzo

Best Patio Dining
State Street Grill

Best Pierogies
Plumpy’s Pierogies

Best Place To Eat Organic
Terra Preta Restaurant

Best Potato Pancakes
Abe’s Deli

Best Restaurant
Electric City winner: Market Street Bar
and Grill
Diamond City winner: Aurants

Best Romantic Restaurant
Electric City winner: POSH at the
Scranton Club
Diamond City winner: Pazzo

Best Round Pizza
Buona Pizza, Inc.

Best Salads
The Loading Dock Bar and Grill

Best Sandwiches
Cara Mia’s Delicatessen

ecbestof15_7_web

Best Seafood- Electric City winner: Cooper’s Seafood House

Best Seafood
Electric City winner: Cooper’s Seafood House
Diamond City winner: J J Banko’s Seafood

Best Service
Casa Bella

Best Soup
Zuppa Del Giorno

Best Square Pizza
Maroni’s Pizza House

Best Steakhouse
Electric City winner: Carl Von Luger Steak
and Seafood
Diamond City winner: Ruth’s Chris
Steak House

Best Stromboli
Fratelli’s Pizza and Pasta House

Best Sushi
Osaka Restaurant

Best Thai Restaurant
Thai Rak Thai

Best Vegetarian Menu
Eden — a vegan café

Best Wine Menu
Bar Pazzo

Best Wings
Kelly’s Pub and Eatery

 
Goods & Services

ecbestof15_2_web

Best Barbershop – Loyalty Barber Shop

Best Animal Hospital Veterinarian
Dr. Robert Noto at Memorial Veterinary Hospital

Best Barbershop
Loyalty Barber Shop

Best Bicycle Shop
Sickler’s Bike and Sport Shop

Best Boutique
The Daisy Collective

Best Car Dealership
Toyota of Scranton

Best Car Wash
Wizard Car Wash

Best Cigar Shop
Big House Tobacco

Best Comic Book Store
Electric City winner: Comics on the Green
Diamond City winner: Rubber Mallet Comics

Best Day Spa
Alexander’s Salon and Spa

Best Dry Cleaner
Spotless Cleaners

Best Farmers Market
Farmers’ Co-Op Market

Best Garden Store
Jerry’s for All Seasons

ecbestof15_5_web

Best Animal Hospital Veterinarian – Dr. Robert Noto at Memorial Veterinary Hospital

Best Hair Salon
Hez Studio Salon and Spa

Best Health Food Store
Everything Natural

Best Jewelry Store
Boccardo Jewelers

Best Local Brewery
Electric City winner: 3 Guys and a Beer’d
Diamond City winner: Susquehanna
Brewing Co.

Best Massage
Electric City winner: Alexander’s Salon and Spa
Diamond City winner: The Sapphire Salon
Best Men’s Clothing Store
Burlap and Bourbon

Best Grocery Store
Gerrity’s Supermarket

Best Pet Supply Store
Pet Supplies Plus

Best Pipe Shop
Headdies Pipe and Vape Shop

Best Place To Buy Beer
Electric City winner: Backyard Ale House
Diamond City winner: Sabatini’s Bottleshop and Bar

Best Place To Buy Music
Joe Nardone’s Gallery of Sound

Best Shoe Store
Scranton Running Co.

Best Ski Shop
The Ski Corner

ecbestof15_1_web

Best Women’s Clothing Store and Best Boutique – The Daisy Collective

Best Store for Music Equipment
Electric City winner: Magdon Music
Diamond City winner: Rock Street Music

Best Tanning Salon
Tanfastic Sun Tan Center

Best Tattoo Parlor
Electric City Tattoo

Best Unique Gift Shop
Willow Tree Shop

Best Vintage Clothing Store
On & On

Best Winery
Maiolatesi Winery

Best Women’s Clothing Store
The Daisy Collective

 

Nightlife

Best Bar in a Restaurant
Backyard Ale House
Best Bar You Can Smoke In
The V Spot

Best Bike Night
Thirst T’s Bar and Grill

Best Cocktails
Billy B’s Martini Bar and Restaurant

Best College Bar
Electric City winner: The Green Frog
Diamond City winner: Senunas’ Bar & Grill

Best Corner Bar
The Roosevelt Beer Garden

Best Drink Specials
Legend’s Saloon

Best Gay/Lesbian-Friendly Bar
Electric City winner: 12 Penny Saloon
Diamond City winner: HEAT

Best Happy Hour
Backyard Ale House

Best Happy Hour Food
Ale Mary’s at the Bittenbender

Best Jukebox
The Bog

Best Karaoke
The V Spot

Best-Looking Bar Crowd
Backyard Ale House

Best Margaritas
La Tonalteca, Scranton

Best Martinis
Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe

Best New Bar/Club
Levels Bar and Grill

Best Place To Shake It
Panked! Dance Party

Best Pub Trivia
The Bog

Best Sports Bar
Happy Valley Sports Bar

Best St. Patrick’s Day Parade Bar
The Bog

Best Strip Club
The Grandview Gentlemen’s Club

Best Venue To Hear Live Music at
Electric City winner: O’Leary’s Pub
Diamond City winner: Breakers at Mohegan Sun Pocono

Best Young Professionals Bar
Ale Mary’s at the Bittenbender

 

Media

ecbestof15_28_web

Best Local Filmmaker – Lindsay Barrasse

Best College Radio Station
Marywood VMFM 91.7

Best Local Website
The570.com

Best Morning Radio Show
Prospector on Rock 107

Best Radio Station
FUZZ 92.1

 

Health & Recreation

Best Bowling Alley
South Side Bowl

Best Gym/Health Club
Crunch Fitness

Best Pilates
Jaya Yoga

Best Place To Picnic
Electric City winner: Lackawanna State Park
Diamond City winner: Kirby Park

Best Place To Go Camping
Ricketts Glen State Park

Best Skiing
Elk Mountain

Best Trip Just an Hour Away
Jim Thorpe

Best Yoga
Mission Yoga

Best Zumba
Studio LA

 

Superstars

Best Bartender - Brian Craig

Best Bartender – Brian Craig

Best Bartender
Brian Craig

Best Bouncer
Rich DePoley at the Bog

Best Caterer
Electric City winner: Stirna’s Restaurant
and Bar
Diamond City winner: Peculiar Culinary Co.

Best Chef
Electric City winner: Rory Flynn (Ale Mary’s)
Diamond City winner: Gene Philbin
(Peculiar Culinary Co.)

Best Dentist
Dr. Corey Chmil

Best DJ
EJ the DJ

Best Doctor
Dr. Linda Barrasse

Best Local Actor
Conor McGuigan

Best Local Actress
Camille Reinecke

Best Local Author
Joe McGurl

Best Local Blogger
Chris Kelly

Best Local Comedian
Here We Are in Spain

Best Local Dancer
Laura Naro

ecbestof15_26_web

Best Local Visual Artist – Allison LaRusso

Best Local Filmmaker
Lindsay Barrasse

Best Local Radio Personality
Prospector on Rock 107

Best Local TV News Personality
Ryan Leckey

Best Local Visual Artist
Allison LaRusso

Best Mechanic
Chris Eibach

Best Newspaper Reporter
Patrice Wilding

Best Nip/Tuck
Electric City winner: Dr. Eric Blomain
Diamond City winner: Dr. Ira Krafchin

Best Pet Groomer
Shampooch Grooming Salon

Best Piercer
Eli Gerrity (Electric City Tattoo)

Best Solo Musician
Jackson Vee

Best Stylist
Thomas Frable (Alexander’s Salon and Spa)

Best Tattoo Artist
Tyler Pawelzik (Black Casket)

Best Travel Agent
John Madden of Travel World

Best Wedding DJ
Mike Walton Entertainment

Best Wedding Photographer
Amanda Krieg Photography

Best Wedding Planner
Kelly Trapper (Constantino’s Catering
and Events)

Best Wedding Singer/Band
Daddy-O and the Sax Maniacs

 

 

WTF Moment of 2016

trumpwtf_2_webWinning, at least here, in the popular vote, by a landslide, Donald J. Trump and his controversial rise to the oval office is the WTF Moment in Electric City’s Best of 2016 Readers’ Poll. Coming in at a close second were the presidential campaigns — including the debates and scandals — of both Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Honorable mention once again goes to two of our repeat offenders: Disgraced former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane — sentenced to 10 to 23 months in prison for her conviction on charges she leaked grand jury information then lied about her actions — and the ever-frustrating traffic, accidents and construction on Interstate 81.
And last but not least, congratulations to the creepy killer clowns who did their best to scare up media attention while roaming dark city streets and wooded areas throughout the country. Your fleeting 15 minutes of fame may have ended, but you still made Electric City readers think, “WTF?!?”

Rock the Halls

Rock the Halls

NEPA Holiday Show a homecoming for bands

What started out as a way to get friends together around the holidays turned into an annual performance.
The NEPA Holiday Show, curated by Scranton natives the Menzingers and Tigers Jaw, hits Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave., on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 5 p.m.
This event grew rapidly in size over the past six years, from the first show at Keyser Valley Community Center to, later, the Leonard Theater, and now at the cultural center for the second year in a row.
“I think it was something that we always wanted to happen,” Menzingers singer and guitarist Tom May, said. “(The growth) has been really surprising. We didn’t take it for granted, but we really pushed it until it happened.”
The Menzingers headline the all-ages show with Tigers Jaw with support from locally started bands Captain, We’re Sinking; the Swims; Three Man Cannon and Petal.
Tickets cost $20 in advance and $25 at the door and are available at www.nepaholidayshow.com. Proceeds benefit the Arts Alive program, which introduces children in kindergarten through 12th grade to a range of artistic avenues.
ec08_menzingers_tt07holidayshow_1_webSeveral band members from the show’s lineup went through Arts Alive during grade school and hoped to help the community program that helped them as they got their feet wet, May explained.
“A couple of us became moderately successful,” he said. “So we wanted to do the best we could to foster some sort of positive arts scene in the area. The best way to do that is to give the artists resources.”
May and his bandmates credit much of their sound and experiences to growing up in Northeast Pennsylvania, from connecting with other musicians from the area and being able to joke about the etymology of “heyna” to the way they write their songs.
“There’s a nostalgic approach that is definitely dreamed up by growing up in this area,” May said. “It’s a very honest, genuine music scene. There’s not much to take advantage of, which sounds like a negative approach. But really, everyone was happy to be involved, everyone was more open. There wasn’t as much to do, so we played with every kind of band. It was a very open and accepting scene where everyone wanted the best for each other.”
The Menzingers recently announced a national tour for this winter to coincide with the release of the band’s newest album, “After the Party,” which hits stores Feb. 3 via Epitaph Records. According to May, the album leans toward a new, more focused sound.
“We have a new producer, and we spent a lot more time writing this record,” he said. “We took the end of winter and all of spring off to write and record. It’s been a whole lot of time doing it, and we’ve been really focused. It was a great, positive experience. We toured so long after ‘Rented World’ came out, we were a little bit disconnected from home. This was the longest we’ve been home for eight years.”
Local fans can pre-order the album on Kings Road Merch or wait to pick it up at a free record release party at Gallery of Sound, Wilkes-Barre, on Feb. 4, which includes a meet-and-greet with the group.
—charlotte l. jacobson

IF YOU GO
What: NEPA Holiday Show
When: Saturday, Dec. 17, 5 p.m.
Location: Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 Washington Ave.
Details: Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door, available at the box office, 888-669-8966 and nepaholidayshow.com.

Country Christmas

Country Christmas

Singer Kacey Musgraves celebrates season with festive tour

Country star Kacey Musgraves spreads Christmas cheer on the road this season.
To coincide with her new holiday album, “A Very Kacey Christmas,” the Texas-born singer launched a nine-city mini tour, which includes a stop Friday at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
“It’s a really, really incredible and great group of musicians coming with me on the tour,” Musgraves said. “This tour is different than the normal ones. It’s a bigger production musically with new instruments. There’s a string section with a cello and two violins. We have bass drums, an accordion, bass sax, bass clarinet and a piano. It all really makes the Christmas season come alive.”
In order to get into the holiday spirit during its July recording sessions, the band decorated the studio with paper snowflakes, a Christmas tree and stockings for each musician, all the while drinking ample amounts of cider.
The two-time Grammy Award-winner, meanwhile, wanted to shake up things and create her own sound for the traditional holiday songs, citing sounds ranging from Western twang and classic pop to Hawaiian and traditional mariachi moments.
“I feel like Christmas music lends itself to being as creative as you want it to be,” Musgraves said. “The traditional arrangements are there. If you copy those, it’s not the worst thing in the world; we’ve all grown up with those versions. But I wanted to do something different. We worked on chopping up the traditional arrangements and making them our own.”
She introduced four originals to the batch of classics, with special guest Willie Nelson on “A Willie Nice Christmas” and Leon Bridges in “Present Without A Bow.” The Quebe Sisters also feature in “Let It Snow.”
Musgraves said her favorite tracks from the 12-song album are “Feliz Navidad” and one of her originals, “Christmas Makes Me Cry.”
“Growing up in Texas, I heard ‘Feliz Navidad’ a billion times, so I wanted to create a version that would stand up to the classic one,” she said. “I love Spanish music and culture, so that was really fun to play with. … ‘Christmas Makes Me Cry’ touches on the sadder side of the holiday. As a songwriter, I wanted to include that sentiment. It’s not always trees and presents and happiness for everyone.”
The experience of creating a Christmas album was enriching for the 28-year-old artist, and the fun of creating the album should be apparent during the live show, she said.
“When you’re really in the moment, connecting with people through music and seeing them really enjoy themselves, that’s a really cool thing,” Musgraves said.
— charlotte l. jacobson

Kacey Musgraves
When: Friday, 8 p.m.; doors open at 6:30.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $29.50 to $49.50, available at the box office, 570-826-1100 and www.kaceymusgraves.com.

Sounds: Dec. 8, 2016

Sounds: Dec. 8, 2016

FUZZED OUT AND FIZZY

WILD BEASTS — “Boy King”
THE GOOD: British indie rockers Wild Beasts come back with a funkier fifth.
THE BAD: The music is less intriguing, while the lyrical concept can be overbearing. This record is good but flawed.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The guys attack masculinity, or at least “masculinity run amok.” And with song titles like “Tough Guy,” “He the Colossus” and “Eat Your Heart Out Adonis,” the message is hardly subtle.
There’s a musical shift too. The guitars take a backseat to more prominent electronics and bigger rhythms. “Boy King” remains a rock album at its core, but a song such as “Get My Bang” sounds less like Clinic or Liars (past resemblances) and more like ’90s-era Prince.
One definitely has to approach this challenging record with fresh ears and a tolerant attitude. Only time will tell if “Boy King” is a good move or not. The band either will build upon these sounds next time around, or this album will end up that strange misfire in the catalog.
BUY IT?: Your choice.

ec08_sounds_3_webBAD SUNS — “Disappear Here”
THE GOOD: Los Angeles-based indie rockers Bad Suns dodge the sophomore slump.
THE BAD: “Disappear Here” won’t shake up any established rules. However, it doesn’t need to.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Sometimes you crave a tight record with momentous backbeats, decent riffs and big hooks. No frills, nothing else. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong that, especially if you latch onto a set that’s done CORRECTLY.
“Disappear” is that set. Guided by vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Christo Bowman, Bad Suns pulls us through 13 cuts of varying tempos and attitudes, each one a potential single and semi-epic slice of guitar pop. With its rolling rhythms and soaring chorus, the driving title cut launches this session with great confidence. From there, it’s neither uphill nor downhill, just strong songs bursting fourth on an even keel.
Personal favorites include the equally infectious “Heartbreaker” and the more delicate and cascading “Swimming in the Moonlight.” After a while though, singling out individual tracks becomes irrelevant, because they all carry a certain straightforward, simple charm.
BUY IT?: Surely.

ec08_sounds_1_webCROCODILES— “Dreamless”
THE GOOD: San Diego post-punk indie outfit Crocodiles gives us its sixth.
THE BAD: “Dreamless” is solid but doesn’t break new ground within the catalog.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Fronted by singer/guitarist Brandon Welchez, Crocodiles continues to recall much of what was great about the 1980s — namely the noisy, deadpan, Gothic grooves kicked out by the likes of Love and Rockets or the Jesus & Mary Chain. This time, the lively yet sinister “Maximum Penetration” even conjures up the Madchester beats of Happy Mondays (never a bad thing).
So what the guys lack in originality they more than make up for in cruising (if not slightly spooky) jams worth cranking a few times. “Dreamless” is a record that works best after sunset, whether your current setting is a lonely, remote farmhouse or a run-down dwelling on the wrong side of town. While we’ve heard these sounds before, a wild unpredictability still permeates the songs. A jagged edge here, a hint of danger there; yeah, we like that.
BUY IT?: Yep.

 

Game On: The Ataris take no-frills rock to Leonard Theater

Game On: The Ataris take no-frills rock to Leonard Theater

The Ataris first earned chart-topping success for a pop-punk cover of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer,” but now the group brings its winter tour to Scranton for a dose of cold-weather rock.
The band behind hits such as “In This Diary” and “The Saddest Song” plays Thursday at 6 p.m. at The Leonard Theater, 335 Adams Ave. In a recent phone interview from the Chicago area, lead singer, rhythm guitarist and founding member Kristopher Roe said the band looks forward to returning to the Electric City as a sort of winter vacation.
Since forming in 1996, the band played Vans Warped Tour and headlined several other cross-country tours in support of its music catalog, which combines influences as diverse as the Replacements, Foo Fighters and Tom Waits. The newest songs show a more personal side of the band, explained Roe, the main lyricist.
“I like more singer-songwriter-storyteller lyrics with vivid imagery,” he said. “I’m from the Midwest originally, so I like that sad, broken beauty you find in small-town Americana. I think every song needs these kinds of in-depth, detailed pictures, like little postcards.
“That became more what this band was about and fans related to as I got better as a songwriter. Musically, the songs are straight-forward rock-and-roll songs, but big, kind of atmospheric and droney, with pretty, lush breakdowns.”
It’s a marked maturation since the band’s days of popularity in the underground, DIY market that appeals to teen fans. Much of the old audience grew up with the group, but the evolution of its sound brings in new listeners, too.
For Ataris supporters old and new, Roe promised a show of old material that sounds new, and new material that harkens back to classic rock artists who inspired the band.
“We’re very no-frills, just two guitars, bass and drums,” he said. “I like honesty and unpredictability, that danger that was in rock-and-roll bands in the ’60s and ’70s and ’90s, like Nirvana, that’s lost on newer bands.
“Being in a band for so long, we definitely see the songs have taken on a new life. When you see us live, we play the songs we feel as a fan you’d want to see, fan favorites. I feel stronger as a live band. There’s a lot more energy; you just have to come out and see it. We evolve on the songs and try to make it different live. We mix it up every night the way the songs come across.”
Despite some lineup changes over the years, the Ataris remain as polished and tight as ever, thanks to a shared mentality among band members happy to still play music for a living.
“In the studio, the band is a very angular, focused thing. With the live lineup, there’s an energy and vibe of four individuals playing off each other,” Roe said. “For me, the most important thing is the crowd. You feed off the energy.
“Hopefully, people have as much fun as we do. As long as you’re out doing what you love and giving it your heart, there’s not a day in my life I don’t feel blessed or grateful to be doing what I love.”
—patrice wilding