NEPA Scene Staff

PHOTOS: Howells Family Benefit with Lifer and more at F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, 01/18/19

PHOTOS: Howells Family Benefit with Lifer and more at F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, 01/18/19
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Early Christmas morning, the West Scranton home of the Howells family, the parents and brother of NEPA Scene founder and editor Rich Howells, caught fire, destroying everything they owned. Two days later, he reached out to fans and followers of NEPA Scene on Facebook to explain what happened as the family started a GoFundMe campaign:

Watching my parents’ house in West Scranton, the home my siblings and I grew up in and made so many good memories in, burn down on Christmas morning was only the second-worst thing I experienced that day. The first was finding out that my mother sustained severe burns on her hands, arms, and face to rescue my father and brother from the second story window. She was flown to Lehigh Valley Hospital within hours and has a long road to recovery ahead. From running the NEPA Autism Society with my father in the ’90s (when most people didn’t know or seem to care what autism was) to volunteer work to always being there whenever anyone in our family needed anything, my mom has done so much for everybody else that now we must do everything we can to take care of her, along with my displaced dad and autistic brother, who is struggling to process all this.

Judy has always been a huge influence and inspiration to me, leading me down the path that would allow me to help so many others through NEPA Scene, so while I’ll never quite be the hero she is, the least I can do is help take care of things while she is away and make something comfortable for her to come home to. My close and extended family have really been giving it their all over the last few days, and the NEPA community has been incredibly generous by donating money, clothes, food, and other necessities – so much that we can never repay. If you would like to contribute to that effort, the GoFundMe link is below. Whether or not you can afford to do so, I hope this message reminds you of what’s important this holiday season. As painful as it is to see it all go up in flames, nothing in that house matters more than those who used to live there, and the fact that I’ll have all of them here going into 2019 is the best Christmas present I’ve ever received.

In response, NEPA Scene photographers Scott Kucharski and Jason Riedmiller organized a massive benefit concert at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre with metal bands Lifer, The Crowning, and Behind the Grey; pop punk acts Send Request and Anytime Soon; Americana group Noxen; and comedians Zack Hammond and Dan Hoppel. Hosted by rapper and emcee Nate Williams, the show raised a few thousand dollars for the Howells through ticket sales and raffles for baskets donated by many local businesses while bringing the creative community together.

“I was raised to do good and help others because it’s the right thing to do, not because I expect anything in return; I’ve always run NEPA Scene the same way. We support artists because we love what they do and just want to share it with others, so this was an unexpected but welcome surprise. During one of the most difficult times in our lives, this show made my whole family feel so loved and appreciated. We can’t say it enough, but thanks again to everyone who was involved, came out in the cold weather, or donated online,” Rich Howells said after the concert.

“My mother is out of the hospital and healing nicely. While it’s going to take a long time for my family to pick up the pieces and start over, the outpouring of support has made it so much easier.”

NEPA Scene streamed every set on Facebook Live, but those videos just don’t do the performances justice. Highlights included Lifer, who just reunited last August and started playing shows again, performing their first new song in about 17 years, appropriately titled “The Start of Something New” (or simply “Something New”) for only the second time live and Behind the Grey playing an instrumental set after their singer came down with the flu and an upper respiratory infection. To make up for it, Lifer vocalist Nick Coyle decided to join BtG at the last minute for a cover of rage Again the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade,” fulfilling a longtime dream of members who grew up listening to Coyle in various local bands over the years.

For those who missed it, a second Howells Family Benefit featuring E57, Reach for the Sky, The Scripts, Threatpoint, Traverse the Abyss, The Crowning, Willrow Hood, and Lauren Minora will be held this Sunday, Jan. 27 from 2 p.m. until 10 p.m. at the Irish Wolf Pub (503 Linden St., Scranton). It’s $10 at the door, which includes free pizza and a chance to win donated prizes.

Learn more about the benefit, the acts involved, what the family has gone through over the last few weeks, and everyone’s thoughts on the local scene in a group discussion with Williams, Hammond, and members of The Crowning, Behind the Grey, and Anytime Soon in Episode 90 of the NEPA Scene Podcast:

Photos by Scott Kucharski Photography/NEPA Scene