For 10 years, the Weekender/Mountaingrown Original Music Series has been introducing Northeast Pennsylvania to its new favorite local bands. After July 17, its residents will have to find another outlet, as the show will air its final broadcast.
The series started in 2004 at The Waterfront in Plains (now the River Grille) with three bands chosen by the venue playing every Wednesday. At the end of 2005, a tribute show to John Lennon on the 25th anniversary of his death by local musicians gave host Alan K. Stout the idea to add a live broadcast to the mix, so by 2006, it moved to The Woodlands Inn & Resort (1073 Hwy 315, Wilkes-Barre), where it became a monthly series with one featured artist broadcast live on 102.3 FM The Mountain.
“That was the thing that made it very exciting, because to have a commercial radio station do any hour of live, original music without commercials – I don’t know if there’s any other radio station in the United States that is doing anything like that,” Stout enthused.
“Local bands will always tell you it’s very, very difficult to get any airplay, and not only were we playing their music on my show on Sunday and throughout the day, once a month we were really going to give them a good blast and give them terrific exposure.”
Stout, an award-winning music journalist for The Times Leader and The Weekender for over 20 years and the host of “Music on the Menu” on The Mountain, has booked some impressive local acts for the Weekender/Mountaingrown Series over the years, with some receiving national attention as they grew.
“The music that we have being written and recorded in Northeastern Pennsylvania is just as good, if not better, than any music that’s being released by major labels. At some point, any band that you ever liked, you didn’t know anything about them. It doesn’t matter if they’re local or if they’re a national act – at some point, you heard them for the first time and said, ‘That’s a really good song. I’d like to hear more.’ I don’t look at music any differently, locally or from a national act, probably because of what happened to me in the early ‘90s with The Badlees. They were the first band that made me think that way,” Stout said of the Selinsgrove roots rock act who received nationwide acclaim.
“Look what we saw happen with Breaking Benjamin. They launched out of The Voodoo Lounge. They had 20 people a night down there watching them on Thursday nights. Within a couple years, they’re headlining the arena. These are guys that cut their teeth right here in our own bars and clubs.”
One of the things he’ll miss about the show is the “gift” of thousands of listeners, whether they were friends, family, or “diehard fans,” but what he thinks about most are those who may be discovering something new as they turn their radio dial.
“The thing that was interesting to me about it and exciting to me about it was the randomness of radio – the guy washing the dishes in the back room of T.G.I. Fridays or the local restaurant and he’s got the boombox on and he’s just listening to the radio and listens to an hour of Eddie Apnell doing his own material, or the person who’s just driving around, driving through town, and they’re scanning the radio stations trying to find something good and they come across this tune that they dig and they keep listening to it for a while, and before you know it, they’ve listened to a half an hour of some local artist doing their own music, and maybe they made a new fan,” Stout explained.
“I think what I’ll miss the most is knowing that those random moments won’t happen anymore.”
The question remains, however: Why is the series ending?
“There’s some changes coming at The Mountain in the coming weeks, there have been some changes at The Woodlands that have made it a little more difficult to do the radio broadcast, and considering those two things and the fact that we’ve been doing it for 10 years, we thought it was a good time to end it,” Stout said.
“It just seemed like the perfect time to wrap it up and say thank you and go out with a smile, and more importantly, an echoing power chord.”
Delivering those epic chords will be artists who have all graced the series with their original tunes before: Mike Miz, George Wesley and Annette Miraglia, the Nowhere Slow duo, k8, Tim Farley and Paul Young, Ed Randazzo, Three Imaginary Boys, the OurAfter trio, Dustin Drevitch, and Bret Alexander.
“I’ve played it three or four times, both in Pan.a.ce.a and in my current band, Farley. There’s always been a great vibe this show. There’s a lot of great talent in NEPA, and this show was all about showcasing it,” Tim Farley commented.
“This show was one of the last few outlets for original music in NEPA. That’s something we’re all going to miss in one way or another.”
“When Mountaingrown began, I worked at The Weekender and was able to be a part of it from the ground up. Alan Stout came to me with the idea and asked me to create some promotional pieces/imagery for it and told me that we were going to kick it off with a cover story, which happened to be my seventh issue at The Weekender. The whole concept of broadcasting live from somewhere just instantly reminded me of the vintage RKO (Radio Pictures) towers with the lightning bolts coming from it. Looking back, it’s great to have been a part of it both as the designer and a musician,” OurAfter guitarist Steve Husted recalled.
“I’ve played the series three times, once with Lesson One and twice with my current band, OurAfter. Every time we’ve performed, it’s always been a blast. Realizing that most people can’t see what you do makes you acutely aware of what you are saying… It’s funny; we have said some stupid stuff on the air.”
It has not only brought listeners closer to the bands, but the musician closer to each other.
“Musicians always say that it’s great to see each other play, since we don’t often get the opportunity to get out to a show and see our friends perform. I’m excited to hang with everyone and experience the close of an awesome chapter,” Husted noted, wondering what he’ll end up saying on-air this time.
“I think the most special thing is all of the musicians there supporting each other. There’s a real family-type feel in the music community. It’s really quite remarkable,” Farley agreed.
“(I look forward to) seeing and playing with so many friends I’ve made over the years. We’re all very lucky to have each other.”
Whether it was packed on summer nights or quiet during a winter snowstorm, Stout is proud of the series’ ability to survive through a decade.
“It’s had longevity, and a lot of music showcases that have the best of intentions…don’t last, for whatever reason. People start them up and they’ll go for six months and disappear. We’re very fortunate to have a commitment from the radio station, from The Woodlands. We always had artists willing to perform… When we needed to promote it, The Weekender was there. It’s hard to get people on the same page long-term,” he pointed out.
The last show will remain an hour long, with each group allowed to perform one song, though Stout expects some jamming by the end as the musicians go out with a bang.
“When we ended the Concert for a Cause two years ago, it was not a sad affair at all. We had a big bash and we blew the roof off the joint and we celebrating everything that we had done for 12 years. That’s kind of the way I like to do things, if you’re granted that opportrunity. Don’t fizzle out; don’t just disappear. Let everybody know this is big and try to go out with style,” Stout said of the benefit show he founded.
“I think it’s a great lineup, and it’s pretty representative of the work we did there over the years.”
Whether it’s George Graham’s Homegrown Music concerts on WVIA, The Weekender’s weekly coverage, or his own show, “Music on the Menu,” every Sunday from 8 to 9 p.m., Stout feels that there are still plenty of ways for people to catch local bands, though nothing beats a live performance.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to get off your ass and see somebody,” he stated with a laugh.
“And I would highly recommend that.”
Weekender/Mountaingrown Original Music Series Final Show Lineup
1. Mike Miz
2. George Wesley/Annette Miraglia
3. Nowhere Slow duo
5. Tim Farley/Paul Young
6. Ed Randazzo
7. Three Imaginary Boys
8. OurAfter trio
9. Dustin Drevitch
10. Bret Alexander
The show will broadcast live on 102.3 FM The Mountain from The Woodlands Inn & Resort (1073 Hwy 315, Wilkes-Barre) from 10-11 p.m. on July 17 and online at 102themountain.com.