Rich Howells

Reunited Wilkes-Barre band Lifer headlines Christmas show at former Voodoo Lounge in Luzerne on Dec. 22

Reunited Wilkes-Barre band Lifer headlines Christmas show at former Voodoo Lounge in Luzerne on Dec. 22
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This year, three original members of Wilkes-Barre nu metal band Lifer have been kicking it old school with several well-received reunion shows, so it’s only fitting that they close out 2018 at a venue that many local music fans remember from the group’s early days.

It was announced today that Lifer will headline “A Not-So-Silent Night” Christmas show at the Coal City Tavern in Luzerne, formerly the Voodoo Lounge, on Saturday, Dec. 22 at 8 p.m. Hosted by radio DJ and on-air personality Freddie Fabbri of “The Freddie Factor,” the opening acts will be Elephants Dancing, These Idol Hands, stand-up comedy viking Thomas the Red, and DJ Diablo, bringing an eclectic mix to Lifer’s fourth and likely final show of the year.

Tickets to the 21+ event will be $15 at the door (75 Main St., Luzerne). For more details, see the Facebook event page.

Countless rock and metal shows were held at the Voodoo Lounge with touring national acts as well as the area’s biggest bands in the venue’s heyday of the late ’90s and early 2000s. While it has changed owners and names over the years, becoming Brews Brothers West and then Gator’s Pub and Eatery, it still holds special memories for many in the local music scene, including multi-platinum Wilkes-Barre rockers Breaking Benjamin, who played their sold-out comeback show there in 2014.

Originally known as Strangers with Candy when they formed in 1999, Lifer – vocalist Nick Coyle, guitarist Aaron Fink, bassist Mark Klepaski, drummer Chris Lightcap, and Tony Kruszka on the turntables – quickly made a name for themselves in Northeastern Pennsylvania with their popular “No Need” EP, and once they entered MTV’s “Ultimate Cover Band Contest” in 2000 and won with covers of “Guerrilla Radio,” “Jump Around,” “Take on Me,” and “Nookie,” they became famous across the country virtually overnight.

After signing to a major label, Universal Music/Republic Records, they released their self-titled album in 2001 that featured the singles “Boring,” “Not Like You,” and “Breathless.” Recorded with Alex Lifeson of Rush, this ended up being their only record, though they also contributed to the RIAA gold-certified soundtrack for “The Scorpion King” and “Take a Bite Outta Rhyme: A Rock Tribute to Rap.”

“Our lives changed overnight,” Coyle said in the band’s old bio. “Our e-mail boxes started blowing up, and people from all over the States were writing us and saying, ‘We saw you on MTV and we love you.’ It was kind of funny; a lot of young girls were in love with us for playing 45 seconds of another band’s song. We were just like, ‘What are you talking about?'”

“That was a huge stepping stone for me, like I couldn’t have predicted. Locally, we had a nice following around Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and we actually played the Jersey Shore quite a bit. And we were playing a club in New Jersey and some MTV scouts were at the show,” Fink recalled in Episode 3 of the NEPA Scene Podcast last year.

“Kids these days don’t really know the power of MTV like it used to be, and that was even at the end of it. For bands in the ’80s and ’90s, if your video was on MTV once, you could tour the country and sell out venues.”

Fink and Klepaski left Lifer to join Breaking Benjamin, who blew up soon after, becoming a multi-platinum sensation starting with the hit single “Polyamorous” in 2002. Derek Spencer and Ian Wiseman came in to replace them, and Lifer independently recorded an EP before changing their name to myDownfall and breaking up in 2003.

Coyle since formed The Drama Club, Stardog Champion with Fink, a solo project called Electracoustica, and he currently sings in Death Valley Dreams while playing guitar in and recording with Cold. Fink moved on as a solo artist and is now on his fourth album as a singer/songwriter, playing live as the frontman of Aaron Fink & the Fury.

The original lineup of Lifer only reunited once in 2010, playing a full-band acoustic show for a benefit in Berwick, though Kruszka filled in for Lightcap on drums.

But on Aug. 24, just over eight years later, Coyle, Fink, and Kruszka – joined by Mike Morgan of The Drama Club and Pan.a.ce.a on bass – played a half acoustic, half electric reunion show that quickly sold out Bart & Urby’s in Wilkes-Barre, prompting the group to book bigger concerts at the Scranton Iron Furnaces on Sept. 21 and the Sunbury Social Club on Nov. 3.

In their first interview since reforming, Coyle and Fink said in Episode 76 of the NEPA Scene Podcast that they are open to recording new material after all these years, and with a new website and active social media pages, it seems that this once short-lived project has been given new life and will continue into 2019.

See NEPA Scene’s review and photos of their first 2018 reunion here and watch the full episode of the NEPA Scene Podcast, where they discuss their formation and early connections to Breaking Benjamin, the burgeoning local music scene at the time, their big break on MTV, Lifer’s breakup and later reformation as Stardog Champion, revisiting Lifer’s music all these years later, their successful reunion show, and more, below:

Photo by Scott Kucharski Photography/NEPA Scene