2013 was a great year for arts and entertainment in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and The Weekender covered (and lived) it all. Just going through about 50 issues to prepare this list brought back many fond memories and some sad times as well. It was tough to narrow it down to only 13 items, so feel free to share your favorite moments of the past year in local entertainment at facebook.com/theweekender, Tweet us @wkdr, or visit theweekender.com to comment.
13. New Visions closes: New Visions Studio & Gallery may have only been a fixture in downtown Scranton for three years, but it was an important one. It was not only an art gallery with unique and unconventional exhibits, but it was also a fun little shop and home to cultural events like a Writers Showcase and the annual Scranton Zine Fest. Perhaps most importantly, it served as one of the only all-ages venues in the area where young and original local bands could play, and themed shows like Wrestle & Rock, where music and wrestling collided, kept things interesting. Sadly, a lack of regular business forced the owners to shut down in August, but what they did for local artists and musicians will not soon be forgotten.
12. TwentyFiveEight steps up: While we lost one all-ages venue, we did gain another. TwentyFiveEight Studios is located in an unassuming warehouse in Scranton, so it’s easy to pass right by it, but there’s everything from video production to music recording to photography to graphic design going on in there, though that’s not why it has made our list. Its stage has also become a cultural hub, allowing bands to hold memorable record release shows, musicians to raise money for worthy causes, slam poets to entertain and educate, and actors to practice their craft. We eagerly wait for what they have in store next year.
11. The Weekender turns 20: Can you believe it’s been 20 years already? A lot has changed since our debut on Nov. 4, 1993, but our mission has always remained the same – to be the No. 1 arts and entertainment publication in NEPA, and thanks to our loyal readers, we’re now able to make that claim. The first cover story was about a University of Scranton student who paid her way through college working as a stripper, and our stories remain just as quirky and colorful today. We may have celebrated with a look back on our history in our Nov. 20 issue, but every week we’re always looking forward to our next issue. We hope you are too.
10. River Street Jazz Café also celebrates 20 years: Can you still consider a place a best-kept secret after 20 years? If you can, then the River Street Jazz Café in Plains has that distinction. Every weekend, it has quality entertainment for reasonable ticket prices, featuring great local acts, up-and-coming artists you should know, and industry legends slipping through the area seemingly under the radar. Despite the name, all kinds of rock bands grace the stage of the Jazz Café, and with most local venues only lasting a few years, it’s a credit to their business and the staff’s musical taste that they remain open after two decades as of November. It gives us hope for the future of smaller venues in NEPA.
9. St. Patrick’s Parades land on consecutive weekends: For years, the popular Scranton St. Patrick’s Parade was followed by Wilkes-Barre’s the very next day, but this year, as the luck of the Irish would have it, the Diamond City decided to move its festivities to the weekend after, allowing partiers to recharge before round two. It proved to be a wise move for attendance and twice the fun for parade-goers and drinkers alike. Next year, Pittston is getting in on the action with its own parade and Irish festival, so we’ll have three celebrations to slog through. Prepare your livers.
8. R3 OPS creates a race for everyone: Mud and obstacle runs have been increasing in popularity across the country, so it was only a matter of time before NEPA got its hands (and everything else) dirty. The three-mile “mud run with options” was introduced to the area in July, run by locals for locals, with all the funds donated to the Stephanie Jallen Paralympic Fund and the Pittston Township Volunteer Fire Company, so the money also stayed in the area. Set up at the Northeast Fairgrounds in Pittston Township, the “R3” stood for the levels participants could choose from – refined, rugged, or rogue – and the “OPS” was short for “options.” R3 OPS, to us, just meant pure fun.
7. “National Pastime” stops in NEPA before Broadway: The new musical comedy “National Pastime” tested in cities like Phoenix, Ariz., and Austin, Texas, then opened in October at the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre. From there, the creators hope to bring the show to Broadway, but we can say that we got to see it first. The show is about a Depression-era radio station that makes up a baseball team to report on to increase ratings, but when Life Magazine stops by to interview the players, they’ve got to do everything they can to keep the con going. It’s a fun show that we hope to see on the Great White Way someday thanks to some local tweaks.
6. What the Fork on national TV: It’s rare that a local restaurant gets national attention, but it’s even more rare when it’s a food truck. These mobile eateries exploded in NEPA in 2013, and What the Fork was at the forefront with its bright, eye-catching branding and delicious bacon jam sliders and candy sauce pulled pork tacos. Out of all the food trucks in the United States, co-owners Mario Bevilacqua and Katie Graziosi made it to the final round of a contest to determine the best food truck in the country on “LIVE! with Kelly and Michael.” Although they narrowly came in second, their unconventional menu and awesome name totally beat those cheesesteaks in our opinion, and we have a feeling that What the Fork is coming back bigger and better in 2014.
5. Cherikee Red returns: Remember that sweet cherry soda you used to drink by the case as a kid? Well apparently you weren’t the only one who fondly recalled the pop with a vaguely racist name. When The Weekender interviewed fans of Cherikee Red back in February, they were driving miles and miles to snatch up every last case as the discontinued soda suddenly reemerged – now you can find it in convenient stores and restaurants all across NEPA pretty easily. Glad to have you back, Chief.
4. Montage under new ownership: Montage Mountain was taken over by a new group this year, and it shows – the summer concert season had some great bands, all accentuated by waterpark access right next door. Adult Swim Nights were introduced and packed with people sipping drinks and riding the waves long after the kids went to bed, and the ski lodge was completely remodeled for the winter, including an incredible custom light sculpture made from old skis and chair lifts. The Whistler Terrain Park was unveiled, LED lighting was added to the trails, and mini tubing lanes were created for children. If you didn’t see what all the fuss was about in 2013, don’t make the same mistake in 2014.
3. The Kirby killed it: The F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts had the most killer lineup of any venue in NEPA in 2013. Mike Tyson, Elvis Costello, Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, Alice Cooper, Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Ross, Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Merle Haggard, Ghost Hunters, and many more entertainers stopped in Wilkes-Barre thanks to the dedicated staff at the Kirby, delivering high-quality shows right in our backyard that would usually pass right through on the way to Philadelphia or New York. Without this essential venue, our nights would have been a lot quieter this year.
2. “The Office” comes to Scranton: Television shows come and go, but none have had such an impact locally as “The Office.” While the NBC sitcom wasn’t made in Scranton, the stories of fictional paper company Dunder Mifflin were set in the Electric City, and many outside shots, particularly during the opening theme, were filmed right here. Cast and crew have visited the area several times throughout its nine-season run, but “The Office Wrap Party” brought practically the whole gang together in May – with a surprise appearance by Michael Scott himself, Steve Carell. Scranton threw a parade for the stars and then gathered for a final farewell at PNC Field, fireworks and all. At least they left us satisfied and smiling… That’s what she said!
1. New annual festivals debut: The Peach Music Festival returned to Montage Mountain for the second year, and following in its successful footsteps, several more original festivals conquered the Mountain in 2013. Old Farmers Ball, organized by local bluegrass group Cabinet, kicked things off, followed by the Steamtown Beer and Music Festival with Fuel and The Menzingers, and Music, Motors, & More ended the season with The Badlees and other NEPA musicians raising money for The Bridge Youth Services’ Anti-Bullying Program. Each of these shows is slated to come back in 2014; Cabinet recently announced that Old Farmers Ball would be renamed Susquehanna Breakdown and be held Saturday, May 10. We’re looking forward to future announcements soon.
By Sara Pokorny, Weekender Staff Writer
It seems not a year – nay, not even a day – can pass without a celebrity doing something absolutely cringe-worthy. This past set of 365 days was no exception, with celebrities having us shaking our heads – sometimes in awe, sometimes in disgust. We present to you the Top 13 fails of 2013. Go ahead and feel so much better about your life after reading this list.
13. Showin’ some Disney D: This is a fail only in the way that people STILL haven’t learned to stop taking naked photos. An ex-girlfriend of former Disney Channel darling Dylan Sprouse leaked a nude snap of him on Twitter. Thankfully, Sprouse knew how to handle it, tweeting things like, “At least you can’t see my third testicle,” “Whoops, guess I’m not 14 and fat anymore,” and, “I messed up… but I’d be a fool not to own up to it.”
12. TMI, sir, TMI: If there was even a shred of hope for Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ relationship when it hit a rocky patch, Douglas promptly ruined that by shooting his mouth off about his throat cancer. The actor claimed it was caused by all the oral sex he was having – pretty much putting the blame on dear wifey.
11. So ducked up: Phil Robertson, a star of A&E’s wildly popular “Duck Dynasty,” was suspended indefinitely after slamming homosexuals in GQ. He even went so far as to put being gay in the same category as bestiality and promiscuity. His views of racism in the South prior to Civil Rights include ignorant gems like, “(Black people) were happy.”
10. Foul play: College football star Manti Te’o was put on full blast by the media earlier this year when it was revealed that his former girlfriend – who he claimed died in late 2012 – actually never existed. Talk about unsportsmanlike conduct.
9. Just let her go: While it was a shock that Avril Lavigne married Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger, the even bigger surprise was from Lavigne’s former hubby, Deryck Whibley. The Sum 41 singer took the pop star’s name when they got married – but still hadn’t dropped it post-2010 divorce, until this year.
8. Brown-out: Further proving that he hasn’t really learned much over time, Chris Brown got himself into more hot water after being kicked out of a rehab facility following an incident where he chucked a rock through his mother’s car window.
7. Momma knows best: Farrah Abraham is best known for her lovely parenting skills displayed via MTV’s “Teen Mom” (oh, and that pesky sex tape), so it may be no surprise that the big uproar she caused this year concerned waxing her four-year-old daughter’s eyebrows – while she slept. The best part is that Abraham was quite confused as to what the big deal was.
6. A royal pain: Lorde really knows how to shoot her mouth off. The songstress attacked the holy trifecta that teens go nuts for – Bieber, Gomez, and Swift – and even went so far as to call dance music producer and DJ David Guetta “gross.”
5. Up in smoke: You make a stupid statement and – boom – bye bye career. Chef Paula Deen, best known for her love of butter, admitted to using the N-word in the past, and it cost her her TV show, a book deal, and several endorsement deals.
4. Bound for failure: There are few couples like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West that make us facepalm this hard. There’s the engagement, the baby, and if that annoyance wasn’t enough, there’s the travesty that is the music video for “Bound 2,” an uncomfortable four minutes and 14 seconds of your life you will never get back.
3. The Amanda show: She wore gnarly wigs, tweeted total weirdness to Drake, almost lit her dog on fire, joined the 5150 club after being diagnosed with schizophrenia and going to rehab – it was quite the year for poor Amanda Bynes.
2. Twerk it: Miley Cyrus simply lit up the pop culture world with her 2013 antics. She chopped her hair, bleached her eyebrows, had no shame in twerking on everyone and everything, and has taken on a totally different persona. Sigh. Remember when it was a big deal in 2008 when she was shot wearing nothing but a sheet? Yeah, we kind of miss those days, too.
1. Belieb it: Is there anything that Justin Bieber has done this year that wasn’t wrong? This kid, who says he’s simply growing up and learning as he goes, pretty much forgot that wearing shirts is an actual thing, pegged Anne Frank as a “Belieber,” maybe slept with a prostitute, peed in a mop bucket, was carried up the Great Wall of China by his bodyguards, got into some fights – you know what? Forget it. We could keep you here all day with this one.