Cabinet to play at the Chandelier Lobby

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First Posted: 12/15/2014

Pennsylvania native Perry Como once sang “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays.” The guys from Cabinet must agree as the band will wrap up its Holiday Tour with two shows at Wilkes-Barre’s F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.

The boys will be back in town on Friday, Dec. 19 and Saturday, Dec. 20 as part of the Kirby Center’s “Live from the Chandelier Lobby” series. Both shows begin at 8 p.m., and according to the band’s Facebook page, both shows are nearly sold out.

The band has not performed locally since its sets on Montage Mountain at the Peach Festival in August and at its own Susquehanna Breakdown in May. The holiday shows will also be the band’s first performances at the Kirby Center.

Cabinet first got together in 2005 as a string band consisting of JP Biondo (mandolin and vocals), Pappy Biondo (banjo and vocals), Mickey Coviello (acoustic guitar and vocals), Dylan Skursky (double bass and bass guitar) and Todd Kopec (fiddle and vocals). The group hired drummer and percussionist Jami Novak a year later for a recording and soon asked him to join the band, and the six-piece Cabinet has been together ever since.

“Eight years with all the original members is hard to come by,” Pappy Biondo said. “From what we have seen, most bands don’t make it past five years without making changes.”

Pappy grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, in a musical family. “My dad was one of eight kids that would harmonize, and I can remember always listening to them sing. My dad and a couple of my uncles played guitar as well.”

Pappy started playing guitar himself when he was grounded for a summer for smoking pot.

“I was bored and I found my dad’s Yamaha guitar in a closet,” he said, noting he still plays that same guitar on stage. “My dad showed me a chord and I started to play some songs, this was in like 2001 or 2002. I found I was half decent at it, so I kept playing.”

Later on, Pappy says, he was running with the wrong crowd in Cleveland and was looking to get away from that. He talked with his cousin JP, who was also playing guitar at the time, and decided to move to Northeast Pennsylvania to put together a guitar duo with his cousin.

“By the time I got here, JP was already playing with Mickey, so the three of us put a band together.

“At that point, Mickey was better than me on guitar and JP had started playing mandolin, so I needed to find a new instrument. I started messing around on keyboards, then drums, then the flute and even the clarinet. Then JP said he had an instrument under his bed and he thought I should try it – it was the banjo.”

Pappy said none of them had been listening to bluegrass, but found their way to that music because of the instruments they were playing.

“After a while, we started taking tunes to open mic nights as we were too young to play in clubs,” he said. “We met Dylan and Todd at the River Street Jazz Café in Wilkes-Barre, doing the same thing.”

Even after eight years, Pappy says one of the most difficult questions to answer is “What type of music does Cabinet play?”

“I guess ‘progressive bluegrass’ is a good term because that’s what it is,” he said. “We play bluegrass music with progressive arrangements, so that fits. We have dubbed it ‘Pennsylvania Bluegrass’.

“But I like to say we are ‘chameleon grass’ or something like that,” he continued. “Our shows can vary greatly and incorporate different styles and genres. One song might be straight-up bluegrass, then we are a rock band on the next one, and the next one might be reggae.”

As for the Kirby shows, Pappy said the band hadn’t yet figured out what they were going to do at the time of the call, but they were going to put together something special.

“We are going to play one of our studio albums in its entirety and we will throw in a few surprises to keep the people guessing,” he said. “Not only have we never played the Kirby, but I’ve never been in there at all, so it will all be exciting and special.

“This is our way of getting back home, and we are all looking forward to it.”