In One Ear: Notes from the Local Music Scene


Matthew Gromala, Columnist


Music is one of those universal things: The genre doesn’t matter because someone out there will like it. On a sort of primitive level, the arrangement of noises (which, really, is what music is) evokes a wide range of emotions in listeners.

Geography and culture has a lot to do with the type of music that is popular in any locale, and such is the case in this area.

The Wyoming Valley, specifically, and Northeastern Pennsylvania as a whole, has a rich musical history, including one of the first jazz festivals in the country, held in 1951 in Wilkes-Barre; a burgeoning punk rock scene in Pittston in the 1970’s; and respectable indie rock and hip hop scenes throughout area today.

Northeastern Pennsylvania has been home to many great venues over the last 30 years, from The Staircase Lounge in Pittston, to the Café Metropolis in Wilkes-Barre, Eleanor Rigby’s in Jermyn and The Vintage Theater and New Visions, both in Scranton. All of these venues are sadly closed today for a variety of reasons, from insurance premium hikes, lawsuits or  simply a lack of paying customers walking through the door.

Apathy has nearly caused the death of any semblance of music scene in the area, but the commitment and dedication of both musicians and fans has kept it hanging on by a thread.

People who go to metal shows in the parking lots of Dunkin Donuts stores in Wilkes-Barre, people who open their homes  for charity shows in Scott Township, or venue owners who take a chance and hold an all-ages night and hope to God nothing goes wrong, these are the people who make sure everyone has the chance to see live music in the valley, and not only cover bands (not to dis cover bands, of course).

Nationally known bands such as The Buoys (yes, the one-hit wonder with the song about cannibalism), Breaking Benjamin, The Menzingers and Motionless in White are all local sons, who grew up influenced not only by the popular music of the day, but also by bands they saw perform in VFW halls, at school dances and dive bars that put up  basic sound systems and proclaimed to be  music venues.

And it’s not just local sons, either. Not too far outside the valley, from the small town of Wyomissing, came country and pop megastar Taylor Swift.

They saw that hard work pays off, and they inspired kids who came after them that if you have a dream of getting into the music industry, you can come from the valley and make it one day.

I have been lucky enough to grow up in this setting, and I have been going to local concerts since I was out of kindergarten. I still have some vague memories of my first concert. It was at the F.M. Kirby Center (formerly the Paramount Theater), and it was Tom Chapin, brother to famed musician Harry Chapin, who wrote “30,000 Pounds of Bananas,” the song about an infamous produce truck crash in Scranton. Tom Chapin is more famous for his kid-friendly catalog of work, and that’s exactly the show he put on that night.

That concert lit a fire for live music in me, and to this this day it has not burned out.

My  musical tastes range from both ends of the spectrum, classical to rave music, country to metal. If I enjoy it, I listen to it. I am also lucky enough to have friends in local bands, which helps me stay plugged in with upcoming concerts in the venues that remain.

Spotlight: Karate Camp

One band I’ve been listening to a lot recently is Scranton-based indie rock band Karate Camp. Rhythm guitarist, bassist and co-lead vocalist Connor Langan describes their sound as “so hot that you can’t get them off the stove quick enough.”

Formed 2014, the band has been mainly writing and recording, with a show here or there as time and available venues permit. As back-up guitarist Dom Ludovici remembers it, “One lonely winter evening, I butchered an early Blink [182] song in Josh’s (lead guitarist and co-lead vocalist) living room, and that’s about the start of it.”

The bands influences range from The Beatles (and, really, what modern rock band doesn’t claim The Beatles as an influence?) to rapper DMX, from The Who to the pioneer punk band Fear. In a sense, all of these bands came together to form the sound that is Karate Camp.

The band went through a bit of a hiatus after the departure of bassist and vocalist Ryan Ceccacci but made up for the absence with some key changes, namely moving Ludovici to guitar from drums, and adding drummer Paul “Thor” Howe to the mix.

Though this would end up causing the band to re-record much of their previous material, they still play many of the songs so that listeners can hear the tracks as they would hear them if they saw the band perform today.

“Since Ryan’s gone now and Thor has joined, I feel like we’re starting to come into our own a bit more, though,” said lead guitarist and co-lead vocalist Josh Mann.

Their newest release is an EP (extended play) called “Ideal 2.0,” which can only be purchased  as a physical CD, though listeners can go to the band’s old bandcamp page at www. for a taste of the sound before the lineup change.

Karate Camp also has a few shows coming up, the first of which is part of the Electric City Music Conference, which is a multi-night showcase of the local music scene that has been held for several years. The event is spread over a few venues in the Scranton area as well, with Karate Camps’s set scheduled for Friday, September 16 at Lyrics Bar & Grill in Carbondale.

More information on the Electric City Music Conference, including all venues, dates, times and bands  is on

Karate Camp is also playing a Halloween-themed concert, Hallowfest II, at Nay Aug Park in Scranton on Saturday September 24.

The band is also hoping to get back into the studio soon to work on their next release. “Ideally I’d like to have our next release out by the springtime, but we’ll see what’s possible,” said Mann.

This is only the first of many more profiles of local bands and information on concerts in the area. While diminished by a lack of venues, especially those for all ages, the scene has never lost its heart or its guts, two vital things for it to have made it this far and continue to survive into the future.


Here are are some sound clips from Karate Camp:

Interest or Ignorance:

I Don’t Like it:

Mikey’s Gonna Cry: