Rich Howells

7 questions for Jess Meoni (Scranton Punk Rock Flea) and Bobby Keller (NEPA Horror Film Fest)

7 questions for Jess Meoni (Scranton Punk Rock Flea) and Bobby Keller (NEPA Horror Film Fest)
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Over the last decade or so, Jess Meoni and Bobby Keller have been organizing all types of shows and events in the area, including the Scranton Punk Rock Flea Market & Zinefest and the NEPA Horror Film Festival, respectively. After combining both of them into one last year, they decided to do it twice this year, starting with Spooky Summer in June. The film fest and flea market will be back this Saturday, Oct. 16 at the Circle Drive-In Theatre in Dickson City.

“I’ve had the idea for Spooky Summer for a few years. It was originally going to be former Nickelodeon stars doing meet and greets at Ale Mary’s [in Scranton], and it was going to have a different name, but that fell apart. The only good part of that was I talked to “Gary” from “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” on the phone while he was eating dinner in a restaurant in Canada, and I got to text message my childhood TV crush Alisa Reyes. She stopped talking to me after I got into an argument with her manager, though. But yeah, that shit never happened,” Keller recalled.

“Since I moved back to Scranton from shitty-ass ‘Muppet Baby’ milkshake Long Island, I have way more time to organize events in the area. And plus with the pandemic, we really wanted to help out local musicians and local bands and give them a place to perform. Since we had all of that land outdoors at the drive-in, we really wanted to take advantage of it and do our part to help ‘da local scene.’ Some bands still complained, though. Are you fucking shocked?”

“Before we joined our events, I was hosting the Scranton Punk Rock Flea & Zinefest up to three times at year at one point, but at a much smaller capacity. Since 2011, my event was held in June, so to me it was a logical fit to connect with Bobby’s idea for Spooky Summer,” Meoni explained.

“I guess it’s just fun to do. It’s a lot of logistical gymnastics, but in the end, it’s fun to have something to look forward to in the warmer months as well as October. We like to be spooky all year round anyway.”

In their tireless promotion of these events, they get asked a lot of the same questions year after year, so to celebrate the seventh year of the NEPA Horror Film Fest and break up their mini press tour a bit, we asked them seven fun and personal questions, getting to know them better while giving them a slight reprieve before the crazy weekend ahead.

NEPA SCENE: How would you spend an ideal weekend?

BOBBY KELLER: My ideal weekend would be working in a dunk tank as an insult clown at a real shitty carnival.

JESS MEONI: My ideal weekend is what I’ve been doing for most of my life. I love getting together with my friends and seeing their band play out or playing on stage myself. I never really get tired of it. Of course, I enjoy going to larger concerts too when I can and spending time in whatever city they’re in. I also really love just laying around at home and watching endless hours of trash television.

NS: What is your favorite meal? What are you washing it down with, and what’s for dessert?

BK: Maroni’s Pizza [in Scranton] with a can of Diet Barq’s Root Beer. Probably a 5th Avenue bar for dessert.

JM: It’s really hard not to say pizza. The first thing that usually comes to mind is Andy’s Pizza in Peckville, although I’m pretty sure I can eat an entire tray of Arcaro’s [in Taylor] by myself. I’m also fond of Mamoun’s Falafel in New York City and pineapple rice from Thai Rak Thai [in Scranton]. You’ll almost always find me ordering either a Diet Pepsi or a whiskey sour, but I also really love Crystal Club Swiss Creme Soda and RC Cola. For dessert, I like Moon Pies.

NS: What is your favorite T-shirt you currently own and wear a lot?

BK: I sadly sold most of my T-shirt collection. I collected vintage promo shirts of horror movies from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. I still have an original 1978 “Dawn of the Dead” shirt, the same one Cliff Burton wore. That will probably always be my favorite. I’m still pissed that I sold my “People Under the Stairs” shirt that I wore at the film festival last year.

JM: My favorite T-shirt is probably the Burial Fog shirt I screen printed, but I also really love this Chasity Belt shirt I bought when I find found out about them a few years ago.

NS: What is the last good horror movie you watched that you would recommend?

BK: I watched “Son of the Blob” last night and I’m shocked that more people don’t talk about how bad that movie is. If you’re a fan of “non-self-aware,” “so bad it’s good” cheesy horror, it is absolutely fantastic. As far as recent movies go, I think the last one I genuinely enjoyed was “Get Out.” Can I tell you what movie I fucking hate? The Blumhouse “Halloween” from 2018.

JM: I saw Nia DaCosta’s “Candyman” this year and the acting felt somewhat hollow emotionally for me. As soon as I went home, I had to rewatch the original, so I would probably say the 1992 original “Candyman” was the last good horror movie I watched. As for a newer film, I really enjoyed the psychological horror “Neon Demon” from 2016. I’d recommend it because the whole story unravels in a very unusual way, and I think it takes the viewer by surprise the further it goes on.

NS: If you could show any double feature at the drive-in that you wanted, what would the movies be?

BK: I would show “Mac and Me,” followed by whatever “Mac and Me” porno spoof exists. And if more than one exists, we are playing all of them.

JM: We’ve been doing a lot of double feature nights at our friend’s house all summer. I think it would be cool to show something like a Mia Farrow night of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Haunting of Julia,” which was filmed a little over a decade after the former.

NS: You’re both in local bands, so tell us about them and why you enjoy making music.

BK: I play in Christ Chopper. We have been playing together since January of this year but still haven’t played a live show. Half of the band got sick and ended up canceling our first and second shows. I love playing with those dudes because they’re all extremely talented and we’re all actually friends. Having complete artist freedom and not having to write music with delusional people who take themselves too seriously is fantastic. Looking forward to writing more music and eventually playing live with Christ Chopper.

JM: I’m the drummer for Wife Swamp, a band that came about sort of by accident. After searching online for the television show “Wife Swap” and mistakenly typing in “Swamp,” I guess a typo turned into a band. With so many willing musician friends, dreams can become realities sometime. I’ve played drums on and off for about 15 years since high school in another band called Satellite. Wife Swamp plays in the style of sludge punk metal, but I came from a background of psychedelic garage punk and surf rock. My current band has been together for about three years now. I enjoy playing in a band because music has always been a big part of my life even before adolescence. I enjoy all aspects about being in a band even beyond playing, but also screen printing merch, hanging flyers, and booking shows.

NS: How do you personally define punk rock? What does it mean to you?

BK: Punk rock is a feeling and an attitude that I believe people are born with. It’s not fashion, it’s not a certain sound. You don’t have to jump around like a lanky bitch with a mohawk and certain outfit to be punk rock – not that there’s anything wrong with jumping around like a lanky bitch. I’ve been the miserable old man in the back of the room at the show since I was 13. [laughs] Seriously, though, it’s just something that comes from your heart that is sincere and beautiful and it’s hard to put into words. I’m not very good at describing things I enjoy – I’m only good at ripping apart shitty and dumb stuff.

JM: Coming from a line of musicians, I discovered punk rock pretty early on, although most of my family was really into in heavy metal. I did a lot of reading and documentary watching growing up, especially about civil and social movements, and it inspired me that punk culture seemed to radiate this unapologetic freedom to be OK with being different and this empowerment to question the norm. I liked that it was often motivated by exposing political, environmental, or racial injustices, bringing forth issues I found to be important. Ultimately, punk rock has always been about the DIY ethics for me – creating something out of nothing, learning along the way, and going through trials and errors in the making, but I think by building our own community of musicians, artists, organizers, and venues, we can stabilize a platform where those ethics can thrive.

The NEPA Horror Film Festival and Scranton Punk Rock Flea Market & Zinefest kick off at noon at the Circle Drive-In (1911 Scranton/Carbondale Hwy., Dickson City). There will be 13 short horror films shown on the big screen, over 60 vendors, autograph signings with ’80s horror scream queens Linnea Quigley and Brinke Stevens, food trucks and concessions, DJ Quoth spinning seasonally appropriate tunes, and live music by The Mesos and rare reunion performances from Putrefied Flesh, Silhouette Lies, Kid Icarus, Those Clever Foxes, and My Dad Is a Dinosaur. Tickets to the entire day are on sale now via Eventbrite.

Photos by Rich Howells/NEPA Scene