Sean Flynn, vocalist/guitarist for local band Those Clever Foxes, can’t remember the last time he played an all-ages show in his hometown of Wilkes-Barre.
“It must have been two or three years ago,” he says.
Flynn cites the loss of all-ages venues in recent years, such as Cafe Metropolis and Redwood Art Space, as major blows to the local music scene.
“There are kids who hit us up regularly on Facebook, who are 15, 16 or 17, asking us when our next all-ages show is. We had a fan who, the day he turned 21, came to see us at a bar because it was a big deal that he could finally do that. There are so many kids in high school who’ve got nothing to do on a Friday or Saturday night that are dying to go to shows.”
For now, Friday and Saturday are off the table, but the kids will nevertheless get their chance this Sunday, when the Foxes join other local acts Esta Coda and Eww Yaboo (as well as New York-based musician Juan Wauters) for the first ever all-ages show at one of Wilkes-Barre’s newest music venues, The Other Side.
“There’s definitely something special about the youthful energy that kids bring to the shows,” Daniel Rosler, vocalist/guitarist for Esta Coda, says.
“The people going to these all-ages shows, they’re there for the music. At a 21-and-over show, you’re fighting for people’s attention. They may be there for other reasons, and maybe they didn’t even know a band was playing that night. The people at all-ages shows are the ones who keep the scene from growing decrepit or dull or boring. Those are the people who light the fires and keep it going,”
In Eww Yaboo vocalist/guitarist Nathan Andre’s view, however, Wilkes-Barre’s lack of regular all-ages shows isn’t just a matter of denying a music scene access to its most enthusiastic supporters or a band access to its audience. It also denies young, pliant minds access to the kinds of creative outlets that turn passive daydreamers into active, contributing artists.
“I started going to shows when I was 13 or 14. I never saw anything like it before in my life. I thought I was on another planet. I tried to get my mom to take me to shows almost every week, any shows that were going on, bands I’d never heard of, whatever. I remember once begging her to drive me to a show in a blizzard,” Andre says.
“Watching the different bands come through, you get exposed to different kinds of music. It’s not just punk and hardcore. There’s jazz and experimental music and world music. To be able to have that, in a small city with a limited population, it opens up so many doors.”
And that’s the most important thing for show promoter Eric Davis: opening doors. That’s why he hopes this all-ages event will be just the first of many for The Other Side.
“It’s a great thing to be able to say, ‘You know what? Since this is an all-ages event, the bar won’t be open; I can bring my kids tonight,’” he says.
“I’m at a point in my life where I work or am friends with people who have children, and typically they wouldn’t be able to attend an event I put on because of that. All-ages means, ‘Oh, I can make this a family-oriented thing. It’s not at a nightclub at midnight. I can come at 7 o’clock on a Sunday night and show my children something new.’ That alone is key. It’s expanding the possibilities.”