Wyoming Valley musicians perform in the raw at Songwriter’s Confessional in Wilkes-Barre
Take away the drums, electric guitars, keyboards and backup vocals, and you’re left with a songwriter, one artist and the songs he or she has created, songs that can be a source of vulnerability and validation.
SUZE frontman and Kingston songwriter, Adam McKinley, hosts the first edition of Songwriter’s Confessional at 7:30 p.m. June 2, at Downtown Arts, 47 North Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre. He’s joined by friends and seasoned local musicians Aaron Fink, Robb Brown and Dustin Drevitch.
The event features each musician, alone on stage, with his acoustic guitar, playing original songs. After each songwriter plays a half hour set, the four get together on stage for a few mutually loved covers.
McKinley said the idea for the showcase came from a similar event held by Wilkes-Barre musician A.J. Jump before jump moved to Oregon to pursue his part in burgeoning band King Radio.
“The night was really successful,” McKinley said. “There were a lot of people there, and everybody was listening and focused on it.”
With the help of Kingston resident, James Yamrus, who rents space in the Downtown Arts building, McKinley decided to hold the event in the repurposed church. Social environments like bars, McKinley said, can take the focus away from a performance.
McKinley usually performs in a four-piece or solo in an environment where he plays covers for a bar crowd. He said performing original acoustic music is nerve-wracking but important to true appreciation of a song.
“You really get a sense of what a song is when it’s stripped down to nothing,” McKinley said. “I believe it was Neil Young who said, ‘A song isn’t a song unless you can play it on an acoustic guitar.’”
Fink, who established himself as a premier instrumentalist in Breaking Benjamin, Lifer and Stardog Champion, delved heavily into songwriting the last several years, releasing two albums of original music since March 2015. He said songwriting is a daunting task but one that is a measure of a good musician.
“A song, to me, always trumps a good vocal or a great guitar solo,” Fink said. “If you can write a song, that’s what stands the test of time.”
Brown is recognized for his vocal work and songwriting in reggae ensemble, Subnotics, but has also penned a multitude of tunes over two decades. Brown said the showcase allows musicians to share their own work.
“Other than Aaron in our group, most of us haven’t gotten to showcase our original music to an audience specifically coming to hear original music,” Brown said. “It’s a quiet moment for people to listen to our work and feel our emotions and be part of it with us.”
For McKinley, performing with the more experienced musicians is a measure of success in it’s own right.
“Nobody owes me anything, so the fact that I can do this show with these guys and they think enough of me to do it and let me put it together … I’ve accomplished something.”
McKinely hopes Songwriter’s Confessional can become a regular series, and he encourages all songwriter’s to contact him and get involved in future events.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts
IF YOU GO:
What: Songwriter’s Confessional: First Edition
Where: Downtown Arts, 47 North Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre
When: 7:30 p.m. June 2
Additional information: Admission costs $10 at the door. The event is BYOB and doors open at 6:30 p.m. Patrons must be 21 and older to attend. Musicians curious about future events can call Adam McKinley at 570-233-0875 or firstname.lastname@example.org.