When respected and beloved drummer Tommy Wynder of Exeter died June 22, the people of Northeast Pennsylvania’s music scene banded together to honor their friend.
“Basically, the way local musicians are is that we’re a super tight-knit group of people,” musician Dustin Switzer said. “When something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us.”
To celebrate Wynder’s life, dozens joined together to create the benefit concert “For Tommy: A Celebration of Life,” which takes place Sunday, Aug. 12, from 4 p.m. to midnight at River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 S. River St., Plains Twp.
The memorial and benefit concert features live music from a variety of local bands, many of which Wynder played with, including the Five Percent, M80 and Nowhere Slow. Other live acts include Andrew Jon Sleboda of Option, a Soul reunion, Proud Monkey, Brian Quinn of Candlebox and a super jam of musicians to end the night.
“It’s ironic; some of the guys coming back for the benefit, we haven’t seen each other in like 20 years,” said Greg Riley, Wynder’s longtime friend and former bandmate. “It’s a very unique and eclectic evening with the acts assembled. There are all different types of music, people from all different walks of life. It’ll be really interesting.”
Some of the top chefs in the region — including Jim Guasto of Grico’s, Michael Langdon of Alter House, Chris Mullin of Glenmaura National Golf Club, Gene Philbin of Peculiar Slurp Shop and John Tabone of Bar Pazzo — will provide street-styled food.
Various raffles also will be available and include such goodies as a Nintendo gift basket, one month of guitar lessons with Neil Nicastro, a private Proud Monkey acoustic house show and two VIP meet-and-greet tickets to see Breaking Benjamin at the Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Scranton.
All proceeds from the concert benefit an educational fund for Wynder’s two teenaged daughters. Switzer hopes to hold this show annually at various venues to keep Wynder’s name alive and celebrate him “for the talent he was.”
Riley, whose children referred to the late musician as “Uncle Tommy,” spent hours traveling and performing live with the Wynder in the Five Percent. He recalled Wynder as someone who “made a room fun” with his humor and wit.
“One of Tommy’s best qualities was he was personable and accepted everyone,” Riley said. “That’s why he was so successful in the realm of being a musician. He focused on all different styles of music. He was so accepting of everything and everybody. … It was very easy to work with him.”
Switzer and Riley agreed that those who played with Tommy were made better musicians for it.
“When you look at the groups he’s played with and the success he’s had with those groups, any one of those groups would say that he made them a better band,” Riley said. “That’s kind of hard when you’re on a drum kit in the back of the band, but he could command a drum kit on that stage. Everyone around him was better because of it.”