Rich Howells

The Menzingers shake up NEPA Holiday Show lineup at Scranton Cultural Center on Dec. 22

The Menzingers shake up NEPA Holiday Show lineup at Scranton Cultural Center on Dec. 22
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Since it was first announced in October, fans of The Menzingers have been eager to learn who would perform with them at the punk band’s annual Scranton homecoming – the NEPA Holiday Show at the Scranton Cultural Center – on Saturday, Dec. 22.

For years, fellow Scranton bands Tigers Jaw; Captain, We’re Sinking; and Three Man Cannon were staples of the show that benefits Arts Alive, a local intensive arts institute for students in kindergarten through grade 12, through its net proceeds. As the weeks went on with no announcement of the opening acts, however, it became clear that this year would be different, particularly after Tigers Jaw played in Scranton on Oct. 19 and said that they would not be returning for the eighth annual Christmas concert. Captain, We’re Sinking also parted ways after 12 years in February, so they were not a likely addition.

Currently based in Philadelphia, The Menzingers revealed the new lineup yesterday: Philly punk bands Dark Thoughts and Ramona, along with Scranton indie rocker James Barrett, who kicked off last year’s show with a solo acoustic set. This time, he’ll be joined by a full band consisting of Doug Griffiths, Angelo Maruzzelli, and his brother, Tyler Barrett.

Doors open at 5 p.m., and the all-ages concert (21+ to drink) is standing room only.

Once again raising money for Arts Alive, tickets are $20 in advance or $25 the day of the show and are on sale now at, all Ticketmaster outlets, and the Scranton Cultural Center box office (420 N. Washington Ave., Scranton).

Dark Thoughts, a trio playing fast-paced old school punk, released their latest album, “At Work,” on June 15, 2018, the follow-up to their 2016 self-titled debut. The group has a local connection in bassist Amy Opsasnick, who is originally from Scranton.

“I came up with the title a long time ago. I think I liked the ring that it has – ‘Dark Thoughts At Work’ – and it’s sort of a nod to [the Ramones album] ‘Leave Home.’ It’s weirdly representative of the last two years of us figuring out how to be a band and go away as much as we can. ‘Cause we’ve done a lot of traveling over the past few years, which is really cool, but nobody is paying for us to travel,” vocalist/guitarist Jim Shomo told The Key in an interview last summer.

Additionally, he talked about each band member’s previous jobs, including Opsasnick’s.

“She used to run an art gallery in Scranton. She had a weird job where she painted model Elvis heads for resale. It was a sick job. I think she also worked at a Salvation Army in Scranton.”

Similarly, Ramona has three members, with origins in both Philly and Seattle, and also plays short, energetic indie punk tunes, so these opening acts will certainly pair well together. With a 2016 EP called “Sad Brunch,” a 2017 split with Hard Sulks, and a few songs on compilation albums under their belts, the band recently toured with The Menzingers, performing in a well-received show at the Musikfest Café in Bethlehem in August.

“Ramona, a Philadelphia-based trio, was far closer to The Ramones style of punk – speedy songs, prominent drums, and good-sounding, melodic songs in a nine-tune, 20-minute set,” reviewer John Moser wrote about their opening set.

“The band’s best was when it offered bassist/singer Abby V. on vocals. She had an uninhibited style – a sometimes-snarling, often Joan Jett-sounding female element that was fresh and interesting.”

As for Clarks Summit native James Barrett, he is currently working on the follow-up to last year’s six-song EP “Twenty.” The young singer/songwriter, who also released “One More” and “The Metamorphosis EP” in 2016, is known for his deeply personal and emotional solo material as well as for fronting a band called Emberá. The group’s 2017 EP “Skinny” featured Tyler Barrett on drums and Angelo Maruzzelli on bass and backing vocals, two of the musicians he will perform with at the Holiday Show. Barrett has been expanding his solo act to include a full band, playing his first show with the group in Philadelphia on Oct 11.

Meanwhile, The Menzingers continued to travel the world in 2018 in support of their latest album on Epitaph Records, “After the Party,” headlining tours and selling out shows overseas as well as back in the States. They also hit several festivals over the summer, including Boston Calling, Governors Ball at Randall’s Island Park in New York City, and the inaugural Sea.Hear.Now Festival at North Beach Asbury Park and Bradley Park in New Jersey.

Additionally, the quartet surprised fans with two new singles this year, “Toy Soldier” and “The Freaks,” with the latter receiving its own music video on Oct. 23 (seen below), while singer/guitarist Tom May started his own podcast called Future Friday.

Last year, the band returned to their hometown area for an acoustic album release show for “After the Party” in Wilkes-Barre, made their television debut on “Last Call with Carson Daly” on NBC, headlined their own national tour and the Project Pabst Music Festival in Philadelphia, and toured with The Offspring and Sublime with Rome before capping the year off with the seventh annual NEPA Holiday Show at the Scranton Cultural Center on Dec. 16.

Read NEPA Scene’s review and see photos of The Menzingers’ show in Bethlehem in August here. See a review of the 2017 NEPA Holiday Show with photos here.

Photo of The Menzingers by Keith Perks/1120 Studios/NEPA Scene