By Ryan O’Malley | For Weekender

Concerts by diverse group of artists in 2015 shows promise for Northeastern Pennsylvania in 2016.

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ZZ Top performs to a sold out crowd March 8th at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre.
Amanda Hrycyna | For Weekender
Dylan Skursky of Cabinet plays the stand-up bass at The Peach Music Festival on Aug. 13.
Ryan O’Malley | For Weekender
The Aug. 13 crowd during the Peach Music Festival. The fourth annual events runs through Aug. 16 at Montage Mountain.
Ryan O’Malley | For Weekender

With 2015 about to wrap up, we figured we would take a look back at some of the artists who came through our area over the last year. Music is all about opinion, and while we don’t expect everyone to agree with the concerts we’ve highlighted, the diversity of the music we’ve seen in 2015 shows promise for what’s to come to our area in 2016.

10. Doobie Brothers, Aug. 1, Mohegan Sun Pocono

Say what you will about the Doobies. They’re old, it’s the same songs in the same order, and they act like it’s still 1977. Most important, however, is they’re a damn good time in concert. It’s an affordable experience and one where you might wake up with a sore throat the next day from singing along to their extensive back catalogue. With the intimacy of the event center at Mohegan Sun Pocono, it was impossible to not have a good time.

9. Zappa Plays Zappa, July 26, Sherman Theater

The music of Frank Zappa is one of the finest examples of love it or hate it. For those who love it, getting his music out to the masses is an uphill battle. The late composers son, Dweezil, has been consistently spreading his father’s music to a younger crowd with his cast of impeccable backing musicians. For this tour, he celebrated the 40th anniversary of his father’s masterpiece “One Size Fits All” along with a four piece band of the best musicians to come through this area in some time.

8. ZZ Top, March 8, FM Kirby Center

If you are wondering why ZZ Top – a band nearing its 50th anniversary – is still considered a great live show, you probably haven’t seen them live.

7. Breaking Benjamin and Sevendust, Sept. 18, The Pavilion at Montage

Breaking Benjamin is one of the biggest bands to come out of NEPA, but also a band who strikes up some debate. For the older fans, it could be tough to overlook the obvious lineup changes. For others, the band members are not as important as the music. Whatever the case, one thing was clear about this years’ performance – the band delivered. A large and devoted crowd welcomed Ben Burnley and company home with full support, including a memorable “Give Me a Sign.” Opening act Sevendust – one of the best live acts in hard rock – should not be overlooked, either.

6. Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, May 5, Sherman Theater

Long black curls hanging down from a leather top hat with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. It’s what you think of when you think of Slash. However true those things are to his appearance, another thing that comes to mind is rock and roll. Real rock and roll. It’s something that defined his career with Guns N Roses, and something he still loves doing. His current band is nothing short of exceptional, and Kennedy may have the perfect voice for both GNR material, like “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” and “Paradise City,” but also original cuts like “World on Fire.” It was the perfect night of rock and roll the way it was meant to be played.

5. Golden Gate Wingmen, July 28, Coal City Tavern

All-star lineups don’t really come through our area too often, so when it was announced that Golden Gate Wingmen – an outfit featuring a wish list of Grateful Dead side band musicians – were coming to Coal City Tavern in Luzerne, the anticipation was high. John Kadlecik from Furthur and Dark Star Orchestra on guitar, with Reed Mathis from Bill Kreutzmann’s band on bass, Jay Lane – a 20 year member of Bob Weir and RatDog – on drums, and Jeff Chimenti from nearly every post-Dead band on keyboards, delivered a powerhouse performance full of Dead related music to a near-capacity crowd. While the future of the band is a mystery at this point, the Luzerne show stands to be one of the last they played.

4. Susquehanna Breakdown, May 8 and 9, The Pavilion at Montage

Local bluegrass boys Cabinet have been gaining quite a reputation for themselves on the national scene, but still find time to return to their hometown a couple of times a year, including hosting the annual Susquehanna Breakdown. This year’s edition was partly a showcase for local artists and an introduction to some friends they made on the road, many of whom were new to our region.

For anyone who was there, the band delivered a festival highlight on May 9 as the second set was one of the most experimental sets the band has done in its career.

3. Camp Bisco, July 16-18, The Pavilion at Montage

Almost 20,000 young people. DJ’s and electronic dance music after hours. All night parties. A reputation that was questionable.

When it was announced that the annual festival hosted by Philadelphia’s Disco Biscuits, Camp Bisco, found a new home in Scranton, the Internet went wild with concerns about hosting the event. When the time rolled around for Bisco, everyone threw a party with the likes of Atmosphere, STS9, Pretty Lights, Bassnectar, and the festivals hosts. Afterwards, some complaints were going around, but they were nothing uncommon for festivals of its size. For the most part, Bisco was a success and a surprisingly welcomed addition to the summer lineup.

2. Luke Bryan, July 30, The Pavilion at Montage

People can feel how they want about country music, but one thing has to be said – it’s an extremely popular genre of music, including in our own backyard. The crowd was saturated with females who screamed admiration for the young country star, while he constantly worked the crowd into a frenzy. As a testament to how popular the show was, it set a new attendance record for the venue. He beat out classic rockers Rush, Ozzy Osbourne’s OzzFest and even rock royalty like David Bowie.

1. The Peach Music Festival, August 13-16, The Pavilion at Montage

Coming up on its fifth year, The Peach Music Festival – or Peach Fest as we’ve grown to call it – has consistently become one of the best concerts of the summer. While many of the acts have played the pavilion in the past, the 2015 edition was regarded as one of the best lineups on the East Coast. Jamband titans like mostly every member of the Allman Brothers Band and Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann of The Grateful Dead played alongside country music icon Willie Nelson and rock legends Santana. Although Peach Fest has not been 100 percent flawless, it has garnered itself a great reputation on the festival circuit and has become a destination for concert goers looking for a relaxing weekend.

Ryan O’Malley is a music writer and photographer who has contributed to the Weekender since 2007.

Diverse performances show promise

By Ryan O’Malley | For Weekender

ZZ Top performs to a sold out crowd March 8th at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_zz-top-1.jpgZZ Top performs to a sold out crowd March 8th at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre. Amanda Hrycyna | For Weekender

Dylan Skursky of Cabinet plays the stand-up bass at The Peach Music Festival on Aug. 13.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_peach1.jpgDylan Skursky of Cabinet plays the stand-up bass at The Peach Music Festival on Aug. 13. Ryan O’Malley | For Weekender

The Aug. 13 crowd during the Peach Music Festival. The fourth annual events runs through Aug. 16 at Montage Mountain.
http://theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/web1_peach3.jpgThe Aug. 13 crowd during the Peach Music Festival. The fourth annual events runs through Aug. 16 at Montage Mountain.Ryan O’Malley | For Weekender
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Ryan O’Malley is a music writer and photographer who has contributed to the Weekender since 2007.