Weekender’s Summer Concert Guide: NEPA’s 15 must-see concerts

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Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band

Loretta Lynn

Darius Rucker

American singer-songwriter, musician, rapper and five-time Grammy Award nominee Robert James Ritchie, known by his stage name Kid Rock, poses for a portrait in New York. Kid Rock will take stage at the Pavilion at Montage Mountain June 27.

Ask Darius Rucker which genre of music has the wildest fans — country or pop — and he’ll likely say “it depends on the individual.” He might even tell you about the fan he encountered — during the height of his Hootie & the Blowfish days — who claimed to be his guardian angel.

“This is a good one,” Rucker told Weekender before his Southern Style Tour comes to the area May 29 at the Pavilion at Montage. “After a show in Texas one night, I saw this dude staring at me. He had these eyes — when you looked in them, it seemed he was looking right through your soul.”

The mystifying man claimed to be more than just a fan. “He looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘I’m your guardian angel.’”

Rucker said he freaked out; unaware that what would happened next would be creepier.

Four weeks later, when playing the Hard Rock in Las Vegas, he saw the same man again.

“I was almost to the door, and out of the corner of my eyes, there he is in a white, three-piece suit. I’m talking white shirt, white shoes, white vest. He looks me in the eyes and says, ‘I’m still looking after you. I’m your guardian angel.’”

Like all great stories, Rucker’s has unusual moments as well as some detours. In 2008, he entered a solo country venture with the release of “Learn to Live” — a transition Rucker said was a long time coming. “I grew up around country music,” he said. “I always told my friends that one day I’d release a country album. When [Hootie & the Blowfish] took a break, it seemed like the right time.”

In a July 2013 interview with Rolling Stone, the “Wagon Wheel” singer lamented “so many people” didn’t want to see him succeed in Nashville — which he said only motivated him more. A Country Music Association award winner and member in the prestigious Grand Ole Opry, Rucker has indisputably reached crossover success. Rucker says he now feels accepted as a part of the country community.

He was invited to co-host this year’s iHeartRadio Country Festival alongside Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, airing as a two-hour special at 9 p.m. May 27 on NBC. The televised event features a line-up of some of country’s favorite stars including Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley and Rascall Flatts. Being included in the “who’s who” event has Rucker feeling satisfied.

“I feel I made a good decision [crossing over],” he said.

On fire right now, Rucker promises to bring the heat when his tour passes through Northeastern Pennsylvania. “It’s going to be a party,” he said.

Rucker’s tour may pledge to be a party, but it’s not the only fun to be had at a concert this summer. Artists ranging from local to international legends — including Alakazam, Melissa Etheridge, Fall Out Boy and more — are performing throughout the region.

We don’t want you to miss a good time, so here’s the ultimate guide with 16 must-see concerts.


Venue: Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Scranton

Tickets: Starting at $40

Why it’s a must: The chance to sing along to “Wagon Wheel” with Darius Rucker in front of you — and maybe a beer in your hand — is all the reason you need. When fans sing along, Rucker says there’s nothing better. “It’s like when you’re a kid and you have a dream that you want to make something of your life,” Rucker said. “When [fans sing along], think of all the great feelings you imagined and multiply them by each other. It feels like all of your dreams coming true at the same time.”


Venue: Cove Haven Resort, Lakeville

Tickets: Free for resort guests and non-guests.

Why it’s a must: NEPA is full of talented musicians, including Bryan Harmony of Kingston. For more than seven years, he’s built a name for himself as the co-front man of M-80. Harmony said he’s getting ready to leave behind covers of ’80s hits to headline Alakazam, a band he created with a more modern approach.

“I’m coming from a band that’s playing songs that are 25 to 35 years old. I want to play Top 40,” he said.

Alakazam plans on creating original pop music, Harmony said. In the meantime, they’ll perform covers by artists such as Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars and Pitbull.

“Cove Haven is a cool place to see a show. They have a big stage, a big dance floor and you have the option of staying there,” he said.

KRZ SUMMER SMASH Featuring Flo Rida, R5 and Andy Grammer, May 31

Venue: Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Scranton

Tickets: $37

Why it’s a must: KRZ’s Lissa Krahnke says she’s “stoked” that her station is able to bring such a “diverse, high-energy show to Northeast PA. With Flo Rida headlining, you know every song will be a familiar hit. It’s the perfect way to kick off summer,” she said.


Venue: Mount Airy Casino, Mt. Pocono

Tickets: $15

Why it’s a must: Jessa Mitchell of Wilkes-Barre said it’s an annual family tradition for several members of her family to watch Jimmy Buffet perform.

“My mom. My sister. We all make a weekend out of ‘wastin’ away in Margaritaville’,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s great that a local venue is bringing that atmosphere to the area this summer. Fifteen bucks? That’s very affordable.”


Venue: Mount Airy Casino Resort, Mt. Pocono

Tickets: $45-$89

Why it’s a must: Melissa Etheridge will take the stage to promote her new album, “This is M.E.” — as well as some of her greatest hits — to kick off Mount Airy’s 2015 Outdoor Summer Concert Series.

Etheridge’s performance will give the audience a chance to hear her iconic voice and witness her riveting stage presence in person. She’ll share “personal stories about her remarkable journey through life” and the inspiration behind some of her most beloved songs such as “Come to My Window” and “I’m The Only One,” according to a news release.


Venue: Keystone Ballroom, Mohegan Sun Pocono, Plains Township

Tickets: $30-$100

Why it’s a must: Unlike the atmosphere of a crowded amphitheater, Bolton’s performance will be more intimate says Mohegan Sun Pocono president Michael Bean. “Guests will enjoy the intimacy of the Keystone Grand Ballroom as Bolton performs some of his greatest hits.”


Venue: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes-Barre


Why it’s a must: Will Beekman, executive director of the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, said NEPA is a market that loves guitarists. That’s probably because we have so many talented musicians in our region. “We have two of the best in the business coming together on one stage. That’s tough to beat,” he said.

If you love guitar, better hurry and grab your ticket.


Venue: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes-Barre


Why it’s a must: Vince Durso of Forty Fort said he’s taking his wife, Diane, to see Loretta Lynn because the singer is “timeless” and a “legend.” According to Will Beekman, executive director of the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Lynn doesn’t like to be referred to as a legend. “But that’s exactly what she is,” Beekman said. “Here’s a lady who played the Grand Ole Opry, at The Ryman Auditorium with the likes of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline, and now she gets to play our stage too.”


Venue: Pavilion at Montage Mountain

Tickets: $20

Why it’s a must: Kid Rock might steal your girlfriend — or your mom — but at least he’s infamous for making sure his tickets are affordable; on-sale for $20.


Venue: Mount Airy Casino Resort, Mt. Pocono

Tickets: $39-$59

Why it’s a must: It’s the Fourth of July, fireworks will immediately follow the show.


Venue: Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Scranton

Tickets: Starting at $20

Why it’s a must: Jason McConnell of Olyphant said seeing Fall Out Boy puts the blast in “blast from the past.”

“Everyone in their twenties remembers listening to Fall Out Boy during the good old days in high school,” he said. This summer they’re joined by Wiz Khalifa and Hoodie Allen.

Matt Sterbenc of Wilkes-Barre said he’s not a Fall Out Boy fan, but has tickets just to listen to the song “See You Again,” from the “Furious 7” movie soundtrack. “People are going to go wild when that songs starts,” he said. “It’s going to be insane.”

CAMP BISCO, July 16-18

Venue: Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Scranton

Tickets: 3-day pass starting at $185.50-$799.50

Why it’s a must: Derek Crall of Moosic has been to Peach Fest for the past three years.

“Camp Bisco is where it’s at this summer. Finally a festival for people who don’t give a shit about Peach Fest,” Crall said. “The music. The people. It’s not only going to be a concert. It’s going to be an experience.”


Venue: Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Scranton


Why it’s a must: According to Sean Mellner of Wilkes-Barre, this will be a great concert to “check out bands you haven’t heard and expand the music you like and support” since many bands at Warped Tour are up-and-coming.


Venue: Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Scranton

Tickets: $25.50-$65.50

Why it’s a must: Tara Carlson of Scranton is about to see Luke Bryan in concert for the tenth time. “That man puts on a good show,” Carlson said. She “just about melted” when she saw him last year in Tennessee rising from the stage in the bed of a truck to open the show. “He’s one of those men you can get hot for and your husband won’t care, because he’s secretly admiring the man, too. Everyone loves Luke Bryan. He’s sexy. He’s damn talented. He puts on a great show,” she said.

SUBLIME with ROME, August 15

Venue: Mount Airy Casino, Mt. Pocono

Tickets: $39.50-$44

Why it’s a must: The bond between Sublime and Rome appears to be powerfully strong. After the death of Sublime’s frontman Bradley Nowell in 1996, the band’s two surviving members never considered playing again until Rome came along — according to a press release from Mount Airy’s director of player development, Vincent Jordan. And when it comes to concerts, two powerhouse groups are always better than one.

PEACH FEST, August 13-16

Venue: Pavilion at Montage, Scranton

Tickets:4-Day admission tickets $99-$155

Why it’s a must: Two words: Willie Nelson.