Band jam in Pottsville showcases local talent

·3 min read

Sep. 11—POTTSVILLE — Though it is known primarily for its theatrical productions, the Majestic Theater drew a large crowd Saturday for a different venture: over 10 hours of almost nonstop, continuous rock 'n' roll and acoustic music.

The theater held its first-ever All Day Band Jam, a daylong event that featured live sets from local and regional musical artists. Billed as a BYOB, pay-what-you-want event, the jam drew more than 70 visitors over the course of the day.

Local rock band SOH Rocks kicked off the festivities at noon, followed by a stand-up comedy set from local entertainer Eric Bevan.

Other performers at the jam included Schuylkill County-based rock bands Gleasons Drift, Handsome John Pruitt, Kate and the Astronauts, Leisure Living and Magnus Crista, as well as solo performers Steve Mazur, Sweet Anne Marie and Tyler Troutman, of the acoustic punk band Condition Oakland.

Sandwiched between Magnus Crista's and Troutman's performances, Pottsville-based magician Nate Heater presented a set of comedic, often dangerous-looking magic tricks for the audience.

"I like the placement of the event because it's in the heart of the city, next to Pilger Ruh, which we've played at before," said Troutman, who is originally from Ashland.

Each performer was allotted a 45-minute set starting at the top of the hour. In the down period between performances, many patrons filed in and out of the theater, often socializing with friends and performers outside the neighboring Pilger Ruh brewery.

Gleasons Drift, a longstanding rock 'n' roll band, made a theatrical statement as they made their entrance onstage in a cloud of ambient haze. The band played an energetic set of original songs, led by the wry antics of frontman and guitarist Bill Whalen.

Their performance was flanked by two comparatively softer sets from Wilkes-Barre-based singer-songwriters Troutman and Sweet Anne Marie, who are married.

Troutman played an array of intimate compositions including "Hiccups and Sunflowers," "Not Done," "Melissa" and "You Don't Want to Be Here," while Sweet Anne Marie played a series of indie folk-influenced songs from her new album, "Parking Lots, Bars and Falling Stars."

While those artists, and a few others, played original music, other musicians at the event favored covers. Magnus Crista focused its set on selections from several classic rock and alternative bands including Weezer, R.E.M. and Black Sabbath.

Magnus Crista guitarist A.J. Avezzano, who is also the technical director for the Majestic Theater, conceived the lineup and logistics of Saturday's event. In curating the showcase, Avezzano said, he consulted a wide range of local musicians representing a variety of musical styles and aesthetics.

Executive Director Lisa Gillespie was pleased with the event's success, noting that it drew a crowd not typically associated with the theater.

"We have 10 acts, which brings in a whole bunch of people who might not ever come to the theater for a production, but they're here to see a band," she said.

She plans to continue holding the event on an annual basis.

"A.J. and Lisa put on a really good event today," Heater said. "It's something different for the area that a lot of people could use."

PJ Kurilla, drummer for Kate and the Astronauts, said the event was beneficial for both local performers and patrons. Though Pottsville's music scene has struggled during the pandemic, he said, the band jam marked a step in the right direction.

"I think we need a revival," he said. "More venues, more opportunities to set up shows and everything."

Contact the writer: hlee@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6085