Wilkes-Barre blues trio to perform at Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe
Wilkes-Barre blues musician Dustin Douglas has played to full houses inside Jim Thorpe’s Mauch Chunk Opera House as a member of The Badlees and alongside violinist Nyke Van Wyk, but his upcoming trip to the historic venue carries special significance.
Dustin Douglas & The Electric Gentlemen will perform during an evening of music that begins at 8 p.m. Friday at the more than 135-year-old vaudeville-style theater, and fellow NEPA native, songwriter and guitarist Mike “MiZ” Mizwinski will open the show.
While Douglas is no stranger to seeing the nearly 380 opera house seats occupied, Friday’s show marks the first time his name will be on the proverbial marquee.
The Electric Gentlemen, a heavy-blues power trio in which guitarist and songwriter Douglas is joined by bassist Matt “The Dane” Gabriel and drummer Tommy Smallcomb, grew out of Douglas’s solo career. He took turns being equal parts rocker and singer-songwriter before finding his niche in the blues with his longtime friends and current collaborators, and the three-piece’s creative toil is opening new doors.
“There’s more on the line,” Douglas said of the opera house gig. “As just a guitar player or a special guest, you’re not worrying about the business side of things. There’s more weight to it, but in the same respect, I’ve done it, and it’s cool that it’s a tangible thing.”
The Gentlemen, who released their self-titled debut in May of 2016, have become popular regulars at Plains Township’s River Street Jazz Cafe; and their personal brand of blues-rock has earned them an opening slot in the Chandelier Lobby of Wilkes-Barre’s F.M. Kirby Center, festival appearances at MusikFest in Bethlehem and the Briggs Farm Blues Festival in Nescopeck, and club shows in Bloomsburg and beyond.
“I think it’s cool that we’re making it one of the first attempts to make it out of the club scene to the next echelon,” Douglas said. “It’s one of the big moves that management’s making and we’re making. It feels good. I don’t think anything is going to happen if we don’t take chances.”
Currently, the band’s setlists are comprised of music from their debut, songs from their recently released “Blues I” EP — the five-song recording features four covers of classic blues numbers and one original composition — and some choice covers.
“It’s a nice position to be in to be able to play what you want,” Douglas said.
Ever generating new music, the group has roughly 55 pieces of music in various stages of development. Douglas said he hopes for their next album of originals to arrive in April or May of 2018.
The further he delves into the blues — absorbing the greats that founded the genre, the rule-breakers that paved the way for The Gentlemen’s sound, and the constantly evolving soundscape of the style — the more Douglas identifies with the raw emotion and authenticity of it.
“(It’s) the honesty of it,” Douglas said. “I take away more lyrically and message-wise. They’re just talking about (things) that happened to them that day. Their girl left them … . They’re not making up hypothetical, huge, grandiose messages. That’s what I take most from the traditional stuff. Don’t overthink what you want to say; just say what you have to say.”
IF YOU GO
What: Dustin Douglas & The Electric Gentlemen with special guest MiZ
Where: Mauch Chunk Opera House, 14 W. Broadway, Jim Thorpe
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Additional information: Tickets cost $17 and are available at bit.ly/2k1k9J.