NEPA bands plan holiday concerts throughout December in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, Nanticoke, and more
As everyone shops and prepares for the holidays, local musicians are planning some festive concerts, with many serving as their final shows of 2019. For those looking to get into the spirit of the season while supporting local music, NEPA Scene has wrapped up this season of shows you need to see in a nice little bow. Overplayed Christmas songs may or may not be included.
Friday, Dec. 6: Wilkes-Barre punk band Decomposition will play a Toys for Tots/Coat Drive Show at the Border Bar (333 Laurel St., Pittston) with fellow punk and metal bands Dour, L.M.I., Wife Swamp, Condition Oakland, Charles Manson Dance Academy, Masoller, and Feel Collins. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and admission is free with a new toy or a new/gently worn coat. It’s $10 at the door for everyone else, with proceeds used to buy more toys for those in need.
Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 7: After kicking off their annual tour in Scranton last week, NEPA’s own Christmas rock orchestra Twelve Twenty-Four will return to the Mauch Chunk Opera House (14 W. Broadway, Jim Thorpe) for two back-to-back concerts. This six-piece rock band with a multi-piece string section and several vocalists is the nation’s longest running tribute to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, playing TSO songs as well as their own original material and holiday standards. Doors open at 7 p.m., and both shows starts at 8 p.m. Tickets, which are $35-$40, can be purchased now at mcohjt.com.
Saturday, Dec. 7: Send Request from Nanticoke is hosting their second annual pop punk holiday show, dubbed The Holiday Slammer 2.0, at West Side Park (389 W. Grand St., Nanticoke) with their friends Mahantongo, Stay Loud, and Just Joy. The band is only accepting new toy donations for admission, which will be given to the Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville before Christmas Day. Doors at this indoor show open at 6:30 p.m., and free snacks and beverages will be included with your donation.
“Mama” Mahantongo even made a delightful baking video to promote the show:
Saturday, Dec. 7: If heavy metal headbanging is more your thing, Traverse the Abyss from Scranton will present Merry Abyssmas that same night, a “holiday bash” at Bones Bar (1110 Wilkes-Barre Township Blvd., Wilkes-Barre) with Paladin’s Death, Cruel Bomb, and Royal Hell. Doors open at 8:30 p.m., and this 21+ show is $5.
Saturday, Dec. 14: Award-winning Lehigh Valley blues rock singer/songwriter Craig Thatcher and his many talented musical friends are back at the Mauch Chunk Opera House (14 W. Broadway, Jim Thorpe) for Thatcher’s annual Rockin’ Christmas, “a popular and much-anticipated Christmas-season favorite in Jim Thorpe,” so grab your tickets for $29 at mcohjt.com before it sells out again. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 15: Get a glimpse into the future of the music scene during a free Holiday Fundraiser at The Place on the second floor of The Marketplace at Steamtown (300 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton). This new all-ages music venue also serves as the headquarters for Making Music Matter for Kids, a nonprofit organization that offers music education to kids in grades K-12 (especially those in low-income or disadvantaged situations), so the show from 2 p.m.-5:30 p.m. will feature students from the Rock School as well as the young bands Brotality and ECG (Explosive CycloGenesis). Raffle tickets will be sold for $10 for a sheet of 15 tickets, and proceeds will be used to bring the first national act to perform at The Place.
Saturday, Dec. 21: Wilkes-Barre nu metal band Lifer reunited for the first time in eight years in 2018 and has played a handful of concerts since, including a Christmas show last December, where they debuted their first new song in about 17 years, appropriately titled “The Start of Something New” (or simply “Something New”). With singer Nick Coyle busy this year as the guitarist and backing vocalist of Cold, recording an album and touring the country with the gold-selling alternative rock band, Lifer only played one other concert in 2019, so they’re back with “A Not-So-Silent Night II” at Stage West in Scranton on Dec. 21, and Scranton alternative rock band University Drive will open the 21+ show. Tickets, which are $15, are on sale now via Eventbrite.
Monday, Dec. 23: Karl Hall (57B N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre) will host its second annual Holiday Jam, bringing together some of the best and most well-known musicians in the NEPA music scene to raise money for families affected by cancer. While the 2019 lineup hasn’t been announced yet, last year’s included Bret Alexander, JP Biondo, Jami Novak, Aaron Fink, Justin Mazer, Mike Mizwinski, Christopher Kearney, Tom Graham, Sean Flynn, Charles Havira, Dustin Drevitch, Matt Gabriel, Nick Driscoll, Ian O’Hara, Mark Marshall, Mark Kiesinger, Abby Ahmad, and Rahboo Sabb, among others. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and this all-ages show starts at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 25: Kingston jazz/funk/blues band SUZE celebrated their 10th anniversary as a group in 2017, and while they haven’t played many shows in 2019, they’re still ending this year with their 10th annual Christmas Show at the River Street Jazz Cafe (667 N. River St., Plains). Doors open at 8 p.m., and the show starts at 10 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door, so if you’re looking for something to do on Christmas night, skip the movies that you can catch on the weekend and take this rare opportunity to see SUZE in action.
Saturday, Dec. 28: Christmas may be over, but the festivities will continue into the weekend. Dunmore punk rockers The Mesos are planning a Holiday Celebration at the Penny with DJ Honeyman Lightnin’ and more acts to be announced. This show at the New Penny Lounge (1827 N. Main Ave., Scranton) is set to start at 9:30 p.m.
by Rich Howells
Rich is an award-winning journalist, longtime blogger, photographer, and podcast host. He is the founder and editor of NEPA Scene.