City of Scranton shuts down new Lackawanna Music Festival at 2 different venues
After the city of Scranton temporarily shut down live public events at Back Breakers Training Center on Tuesday due to safety concerns, the brand new Lackawanna Music Festival was set to move its inaugural event to the nearby Irish Wolf Pub in downtown Scranton with only minor changes to its scheduled lineup on Saturday, July 7 and Sunday, July 8. Those plans fell through yesterday when the city stepped in again, allegedly deeming the venue too small to host the festival.
The first-time event, geared towards all ages since most live music venues in Northeastern Pennsylvania are 21+, was going to feature both local and national acts that span multiple musical genres, including Kulick, Young Thieves, Black Tie Stereo, and Lucas Hex on Day 1 and Strength for a Reason, Koji, Behind the Grey, and Moral Code on Day 2.
While the festival was relatively small and independently produced, 17 different acts were set to perform on Saturday and 16 were ready to take the stage on Sunday. Combined with crowds of music fans, this may have been too many people packed into one place for the city’s Department of Licensing, Inspections, and Permits to allow, no matter which building it was held in.
“We regret to inform you that this weekend’s Lackawanna Music Festival has been cancelled. It seems as though circumstances beyond the control of the Irish Wolf Pub have also arisen. At this point, we’ve exhausted all of our efforts and resources,” co-organizer Joe Caviston posted on the festival’s Facebook page on Thursday afternoon.
“Although we wished to make the event happen, forces outside our control have determined that it can not be. We’re extremely bummed out about this and are extremely sorry and grateful for the effort everyone put in. We’ll make it up to you somehow.”
Back Breakers began hosting all-ages concerts in its upstairs lounge in March. The professional wrestling facility has also been training athletes in its 16×16-foot wrestling ring and hosting wrestling seminars, meet and greets with pro wrestlers, and WWE pay-per-view parties and other related events for years, but owner Justyn Glory said the city is “being really nice and understanding of everything,” and he attributes this sudden regulatory change to the “growing pains” of the venue as it expands with new types of events.
“Right now, we are just in the process of getting everything up to code. It’s the city who asked that we make some updates to the facility so that it’s up to city standards and is the safest it can be for when we have events. Hopefully everything can resume once all that is done, but the ETA is unknown right now. An unfortunate bump in the road as we continue to grow,” Glory told NEPA Scene on July 3.
“They love the idea of what we are doing for the community. [They] just want to make sure it’s the safest it can be.”
Located just on the outskirts of the downtown area, Back Breakers (1008 N. Washington Ave., Scranton) can still run its week-to-week athlete training, just not anything else for now, Glory said. He hopes to back up and running for his next planned wrestling event, a seminar with “Brutal” Bob Evans, on Aug. 5.
Meanwhile, the Irish Wolf Pub (503 Linden St., Scranton), which recently installed a new stage and sound system, was allegedly inspected by the city on Thursday. According to one of the bands, Strength for a Reason, the city told the bar that only 50-55 patrons can be in the building at one time. The pub can continue to host its weekly 21+ concerts, but not anything larger than that. NEPA Scene’s calls to the Department of Licensing, Inspections, and Permits and messages to pub owner Peter Kelly were not returned on Friday.
In a public Facebook post on Thursday, Caviston said, “Today was extremely defeating. But, we’ll be back. Stronger. Sorry to anyone that we’ve disappointed. We exhausted every effort to make the festival work out. Unfortunately, with time constraints and powers that be coming down on us, we couldn’t make it work this time. Please accept our apologies and know that everything [co-organizer] Kenneth Norton and I do, we try to do well. It sucks they took that opportunity away from you and us this weekend. But, we’ll try make it up to you.
“The Irish Wolf Pub will still have a few bands play this weekend, support them if possible. They ate a ton of shit on our behalf today. Along with Back Breakers, go sign up for wrestling classes and support Justyn,” he continued. “We’re a community. It’s what we do.”
While the festival is canceled and its future is uncertain, a few of the participating bands aren’t letting it get them down. They have since come together and organized a much smaller 21+ event of their own at the Irish Wolf Pub on Saturday, July 7 with American Opera, Young Thieves, Black Tie Stereo, Lucas Hex, Black Hole Heart, and The Holtzmann Effect, starting at 7:30 p.m.
Learn more about The Holtzmann Effect, a new alternative hard rock band that will officially debut on Saturday, and watch an exclusive acoustic performance by the Scranton-based group in Episode 65 of the NEPA Scene Podcast:
Photo by Rich Howells/NEPA Scene