“Musicians are all kind of lonely in the beginning. Artists start in a private room with just their tool to create, and there’s a story and there’s a reason. Maybe that reason is I’m effin’ bored and I’m a little tipsy and I know that I need to write a song right now, or maybe I am sad and I’m wallowing in a deepest fear or loneliness in my life.”
The Lonelies Tour, Robb Brown explained, was named after this creative process, and over the course of 10 years, the gathering of local musicians at various venues to jam together and share these private stories has resulted in a greater bond amongst the musicians themselves and the audiences they’ve performed for.
The last Lonelies show was in 2008, so Brown and Jay Morgans thought it was time to relaunch the series at the Rattler, a rock club in Pittston that they credit for its support of original and local music.
“The Rattler has provided a brilliant landscape for a lot of artists that don’t have to fit into the mainstream of the bar music scene circuit here, so the audience that’s there provides a wonderful environment and atmosphere. It’s all married together,” Brown pointed out.
“We like to support each other. Since we all are basically working musicians, if I want to go see Robb, it takes like four months of planning because if he’s playing somewhere, I’m probably playing somewhere else, or vice versa. These guys that we have put together I am truly, honestly fans of. If I didn’t know them, I’d still want to go see them, but we never really get to show them the kind of support that we want to because we’re off doing our own thing, too,” Morgans continued.
“This is a great opportunity just for us to see each other again. It’s like a little family reunion stuck in the middle.”
The Wednesday, Aug. 21 revival will include intimate performances from Morgans, Brown, Terry Childers, Dan Avery of New Jersey, and Bret Alexander, known for his work with the Badlees and the Cellarbirds.
“(Alexander is) great. He’s brilliant. He’s done so much work with other people and also been a major influence for everybody in this wonderful music scene that we have,” Brown commented. “It’s a wonderful gift to us to have Bret want to be a part of it as well and share his unique style and influence.”
Currently playing in the Subnotics, Brown, 36, of Wilkes-Barre describes his own sound as “R&B, soul-ish reggae,” and Morgans calls him a “crooner.”
“I’ve been singing for my whole life,” Brown said. “I love soul music and Gospel music. I’m actually going to play all piano for the Lonelies Tour. I don’t do it out. I haven’t ever, so I’m very excited to share my piano songs, which are very R&B and soul and also something completely new to the Lonelies Tour.”
Morgans, 37, of Plains recently started the psychedelic Nothinghead with Childers and agrees with Brown’s description of himself as “street wonderful.”
“I’m more of a lyricist than an actual musician, so I know just enough of the instrument to get a song out just because I want the words out. It’s really kind of bare and sparse. It’s more emotional than technically great. It’s very literary for me; it’s mostly about the words,” Morgans noted.
This particular Lonelies Tour isn’t just significant because of its return after a five-year absence – it’s also the first to feature a “multimedia experience.” The music will preceded by an art opening by Wilkes University professor Chad Stanley and a short film by Morgans.
“What we wanted to do once Chad came on was try to transition into a whole night – start with visual and mix the media so far that it could appeal to anybody that was interested. Start with the visual media, then in between 9 to 10, we’re going to do a little showcase for him, a question and answer thing, and then it’s going to go right into a short story that I wrote that got made into a film…called ‘The Quiet Sear.’ My brother Jesse and I did the soundtrack for that as well, so we figured that we’ll just transition to media with visual and audio, and then carry it right into the music,” Morgans explained.
“I’ll never complain about being in a band or playing music just because I hate those guys, but one of the things that’s hard for us, especially as solo musicians, is that all that stuff…gets lost. You’re at a bar, people want to drink and have fun, so it’s a soundtrack. It’s a background. And that’s fine – I love when people have fun. But especially at the Rattler, the built-in crowd there is so conducive to what we wanted to do, which was flip that and highlight the part that gets lost all the time.
“A fan of fine art could go that night and just check out the art opening and then jet and still have a great time, but what I would like to hope or think is that if they stayed for the rest of the night, that they’d have an even better time…. It really is a great scene going on.”
Brown compares the loose, improvisational music portion of the evening to those of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, where the stage is open to all performers and the fourth wall is broken down through crowd interaction.
“(It’s) open like that, if you’ve ever seen those shows. They have a bar on stage and they all kind of just do their things. Sometimes they’ll do a duet, and sometimes they’re solo. This is more of an acoustic singer/songwriter vibe, but we all sit on the stage and it’s basically open,” Brown said.
“There’s those moments that are very real where it’s a very serious song dealing with a drug addiction or poverty… This is a night that is important to us because we don’t have to worry about entertaining as much. We don’t have to worry about our set list
“We want to share – that’s what we do for a living. That’s what we all want.”
For working musicians playing weekend after weekend of covers, this “gift” to themselves isn’t focused so much on entertainment, Brown believes, as it is art and its ability to bring together a room full of friends and complete strangers.
“We get the ability to release ourselves from having to worry about entertaining the audience per say with music that creates an environment. It’s more of a show in a way. You’re coming because you’re specifically going to see what it is we’re doing, and what it is that we’re doing is sharing our original music but also providing the story behind it. You hear the song, but you hear why we’re singing the song.”
This takes Morgans back to the beginning, back to the reason why he isn’t so lonely anymore.
“I remember when I first started and I knew two chords and I sucked and I couldn’t change in between them, but I had all these things that I wanted to say and I didn’t know how to say them,” he recalled, until he started playing with fellow local musicians and found his voice.
“I still remember that feeling, ‘Oh man, I’m not alone. I’m not in this alone.’ And that’s really what I want to share with other musicians, other people who like music. I really want to make sure that everybody gets to have that feeling.”