In One Ear: Notes From the Local Music Scene


Matthew Gromala , Columnist

I’d be remiss to not open this column by noting a recent anniversary, one that changed the course of music (specifically rock & roll) forever.

I’m referring, of course, to “The Day the Music Died.”

February 3, 1959: Buddy Holly & The Crickets and his supporting acts had just finished a performance at the Big Surf Ball Room in Clear Lake, Iowa. There was a plane and a bus available to transport everyone to the next stop on the tour, but limited space on both.

Waylon Jennings, who was just starting out in the music industry, was on that tour, and in the course of some good-natured games of chance for spots on the plane, strung together a sentence that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Buddy Holly began by saying “I hope your old bus breaks down.” Never one to be topped, Jennings responded with, “And I hope your plane crashes.”

Unfortunately that is exactly what happened.

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper (a noted radio personality and musician), and the pilot were killed on impact.

The incident inspired the Don McClean song, “American Pie” (no, not the series of comedic movies).

The story deserves a thorough telling. These men were pioneers who pushed the boundaries of music, and without them we may never have gotten to the popular music of today.

Spotlight: South Side Bandits

These guys have been around for a little while, but what really brought them to my attention was hearing my buddy Ryan Ceccacci had come on board. If that name sounds familiar, it is because he was a founding member of Karate Camp, one of the first bands I profiled for this column.

Lead singer and guitarist Jamie Zaleski said the band came together quickly in the early days.

“The band formed somewhere between 2009-2010, when Brian Green and I met while working in the kitchen of Zaleski’s Clubhouse Café. We talked about music and playing, and Brian had a friend (Andy Spangenberg) that played drums and they jammed together. So I invited them to over my house for a jam session. They came over several times and we would jam for hours. I still remember them getting dropped off by Brian’s mom,” said Zaleski.

Though they had the core membership down, it would still be a few years until they formed a proper band and began booking gigs. They payed their dues, and built their reputation as good, technically sound musicians.

Eventually though, Spanenberg moved to bass, and Bill Lieback came in on drums, and a few years later, my buddy Ceccacci came on board, rounding out and completing the band.

Since the addition of Ceccacci, the band has begun work on rerecording their second album, though no date has been set for its rerelease.

The band meshes together many sounds to create one all their own.

“Our sound has got a powerful vibe, a very energetic vocal supplemented by a smooth style of rhythm underneath jaw dropping lead guitar,” said Zaleski.

Their influences range across the musical spectrum, something I can appreciate, as I like to listen to a bit of everything myself. From their website,, “They wear their influences like badges, honoring the canon of classic rock, blues, Southern Rock, alternative and Reggae, weaving these sounds into a unique sound that is their own.”

The band performs just as much as they are recording, though many shows take them out of the area. Their next local show is going to be on Parade Day in Scranton (The notorious Saint Paddy’s Day parade, of course) March 11 from12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Leonard Theater in Scranton, conveniently near The Bog (one of my favorite bars/venues) and Embassy Vinyl, one of the best record stores in the area.

The band plays many venues and bars, but their hearts lie with a few in the Electric City. “We enjoy playing at the newly opened Leonard Theater as well as Mert’s and O’Leary’s.”

And for a band that’s been around awhile, they have favorite memories. But for the South Side Bandits, those memories focus on playing live, and the energy of a crowd, no matter the size.

“Our favorite memories are always the shows, whether it was playing to a crowd of 300-plus people at O’Leary’s or 600-plus at the Leonard Theater or one of the many other great turnouts we’ve had. The memory that will stay with me is the amazing support we have had the last three years from all the banditos and banditas. You all show love and support every show and we would be nothing without you. Peace and love,” said Zaleski.

Listen to some of their music at, and email them if you’re looking for a band at [email protected].

Keep the tunes blasting and in the immortal words of Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan, “Be excellent to each other, and party on dudes!”