Bright lights, big chandelier

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First Posted: 3/12/2015

WILKES-BARRE — The F.M. Center for the Performing Arts, proved this year, that sometimes the best shows in the house don’t have to be performed on the main stage.

What started out in 2014 as a developing sideline concert series performed in the lobby of the performance venue has become a bonafide hit.

Live from the Chandelier Lobby series originated as a way to bring top-quality acts to the center in a more intimate setting. Some artists might not fill an 1,800-set capacity venue, but would attract a following nonetheless. Another advantage would be a set ticket price of $20 in advance and $25 on the night of the show. Michael Cloeren, founder of the Pocono/Pennsylvania Blues Festival and director of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, serves as emcee for the shows which have a true cafe-style setting.

Amy Helm, Joan Osbourne and Alexis P. Suter have graced the lobby so far. Cabinet played back-to-back soldout shows in December. And the Craig Thatcher Band’s tribute to Eric Clapton in January sold out.

This year more shows were added and the series is being booked year-round.

“The buzz surrounding this series continues to grow, and we’re seeing the attendance numbers grow with it,” said Will Beekman, Kirby executive director. “It’s been fun watching it develop.”

The Kirby has been doing at least one show a month from the lobby and is currently booked through August.

“Much like our main theater performances, we’re trying to keep this series diverse,” Beekman said, noting that the genres have ranged from blues to Americana and from classic to contemporary rock.

The Kirby executive director himself is looking forward to the Josh Ritter concert coming on May 28. “He’s such a gifted singer, songwriter and storyteller,” he said. “He was a tough fish to reel in, so we feel very lucky to have him.”

Beekman said while the public may not always know the artists by name, they will attend based on the reputation of the series itself. “We’re seeing a lot of the same faces at each performance, but we’re also noticing new ones as well,” he said. “I believe the intimacy and affordability of this series is what’s bringing people back.”

Here are some upcoming shows:

• Friday, April 17, 8 p.m.: Roots-rock singer and songwriter Paul Thorn

• Saturday, May 16, 8 p.m. Craig Thatcher Band: Tribute to the Music of Jimi Hendrix

• Thursday, May 28, 7:30 p.m.: Josh Turner, a double-platinum-selling country artist and one of the youngest members of the Grand Ole Opry

• Saturday, June 13, 8 p.m.: The THE BAND Band. This band was conceived in the winter of 2007, the brainchild of lifelong friends and Band fans Jack Kraft and Gary Solomon, who realized that not many groups were performing the songs of The Band.

• Saturday, July 18, 8 p.m.: Girls, Guns and Glory: A Tribute to Hank Williams. Their performance features the timeless country classics of Hank Williams, plus a few obscurities picked up in their quest to absorb as much as they can from the master of heartache.

• Friday, Aug. 14, 8 p.m.: Blues performer and New Brunswick native Matt Andersen