Rich Howells

EXCLUSIVE: Good Things Are Happening again – Scranton music fest returns to Iron Furnaces on Aug. 12

EXCLUSIVE: Good Things Are Happening again – Scranton music fest returns to Iron Furnaces on Aug. 12
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The local news station can assure viewers that “good things are happening” in their area all they want, but it seems the often skeptical citizens of Northeastern Pennsylvania need more than just a segment on TV to be reminded of that fact.

That’s where James Barrett comes in, a Scranton singer/songwriter with big songs and even bigger aspirations. Borrowing the name from WNEP and running with it, he co-founded Good Things Are Happening Fest with fellow musician James Jaskolka in 2022, curating a full day of indie, alternative, pop, and punk rock at the historic Scranton Iron Furnaces that brought Captain, We’re Sinking back for their first live show in nearly five years. The acts proudly displayed their ties to NEPA in what ended up becoming one of the year’s biggest local shows.

“Year one was a huge success for the festival and for me and James personally. We threw the first festival together in a short span of three months and were blown away by the overwhelming support and drive for events of this nature. We hit about 400 people total last year, which we intend to double or hopefully triple this year,” Barrett said.

“We were pretty terrified going into it despite the underlining confidence we had in ourselves and our community to help make the day a success. It was the first time we ever did anything like it, and we were trying to plan for everything that could go wrong and somehow nothing did! It felt meant to be. I think the best part about the festival was the positivity that everyone brought to it. The vendors and attendees had extremely kind words and that left an everlasting mark on me, which will serve as a reminder of why we do what we do. Good Things Are Happening Fest is an event that is welcoming to all while shining a light on the incredible art and music scene we have in our town.”

The event is set to return to the Iron Furnaces (159 Cedar Ave., Scranton) on Saturday, Aug. 12 from noon through 10:30 p.m., and today, he is announcing the initial lineup exclusively on NEPA Scene. Alyssa Lazar, a Clarks Summit singer currently based in Nashville, will return home following her recent appearance on NBC’s “The Voice” to perform alongside New York City indie rockers Wild Pink, Wilkes-Barre soul funk sextet The Tribe, New Jersey indie band Little Hag, Scranton indie favorites Esta Coda, Scranton funk rock jam trio Channel 65, Kingston dark dream pop group Glass Mask, Wilkes-Barre indie jam quartet Brendan Brisk Band, Lehigh Valley indie/alternative band We’re From Antarctica, Barrett and his full band, and more yet to be revealed.

“As always, [choosing the lineup] is the hardest part of planning this festival because there are simply too many amazing bands and artists that I would love to have. In a perfect world, this festival would be three days long so I can have everyone I want on it. James and I worked really hard on picking this year’s bands, and we ran everything through our team to vote on. We are super excited for this year’s group, and I think it’s a big change from last year,” Barrett noted.

“I really wanted to get Wild Pink especially. Their record ‘A Billion Little Lights’ was my favorite album of 2021 and still one of my most-listened-to records, even more so in the summer when the weather is nice. They’re all super nice people, and I think Scranton will really enjoy their music.”

There will also be food, beer from local breweries, and art vendors. Tickets, which are $25 in advance or $30 at the door, are on sale now via Ticketleap.

For the inaugural show, the two James put themselves “through the ringer” to set everything up in just a few months, so they started planning much earlier this time around and are excited to add more names to the 2023 edition.

“The more time you have the better because there are so many components to putting together something of this scale. We are stoked to have Matt Kester Productions back on board this year. Our stage is going to be much bigger this year with an LED screen behind it. We simply wanna make each year better and better, and I think we are on the right track,” Barrett enthused.

“We have a few artists that we are trying to lock down but haven’t been able to yet. We didn’t wanna hold off on getting the rest of the lineup announced, so that’s why we’re letting the suspense build a bit! I think people will be pleasantly surprised either way.”

The 26-year-old Clarks Summit native is the kind of young musician that dreams big, first turning his solo work into a full six-piece band and soon plotting tours around the country. Once he was filling the fourth floor of the Scranton Cultural Center with fans, it was only a matter of time before he was organizing festivals. Now he just needs to figure out how he will exceed his own expectations.

“Our set last year was probably some of the most fun I ever had playing music, so it’ll be tough to top that, but we will do our best! We hope to play some new songs by then and maybe another fun cover in the mix,” he said.

“In the meantime, we are still looking for festival vendors and sponsors. People interested can apply on the website,”

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Photo by Jason Riedmiller Photography/NEPA Scene