Wednesday, November 20, 2019

MiZ to rock Jazz Café with full set of Clapton 

Mike Mizwinski, while finding success in Nashville,
returns home for special holiday show

Special to The Weekender

For more than 10 years, Mike Mizwinski has been regarded as one of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s best guitarists. And on Thanksgiving Eve, he’ll be paying tribute to one of the greatest guitarists of all-time.  

“MiZ plays Clapton, with special guest Justin Mazer,” will blast the River Street Jazz Café on November 27 with a show featuring nothing but the music of “Slowhand.” Mizwinski, a native of Pittston who relocated to Nashville last year, has done tribute-type shows before celebrating the music of Tom Petty, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead. Wednesday’s show will be the third time he’ll be doing a full night of Clapton.  

“Growing up, I was a huge fan,” says Mizwinski, calling from Nashville. “My father got me into him. The first song I ever learned how to play was a Clapton song. The thing about Clapton that's fun is his songs are great vehicles to jam on, and to improvise on, and to extend and sort of interpret in your own way. With some artists you have to kind of have to stick to book, and then there's some that are more fun to just kind of interpret.  I just have a blast interpreting his songs and making them our own.”

Clapton’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career spans five decades. In the ‘60s, there was his pioneering work with The Yardbirds, Cream and Blind Faith. Later, “Times Pieces,” a greatest hits package that featured some of his best work of the ‘70s, contained tracks such as "I Shot the Sheriff," "After Midnight," "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," “Wonderful Tonight," “Cocaine,” “Promises,” “Lay Down Sally” and “Layla." That alone would have made for a remarkable career, but Clapton forged on into the ‘80s with hits such as “Forever Man,” “It’s In The Way That You Use It,” “Pretending” and “Bad Love,” the latter two of which came from his multi-platinum album, “Journeyman.” In the ‘90s, Clapton gave a landmark performance on “MTV Unplugged,” which is best known best for his deeply personal performance of “Tears In Heaven” and his brilliant reworking of “Layla.” He has continued to tour and record, he has won 18 Grammy Awards, and he is widely considered to be one of the greatest musicians of all-time.

Mizwinski says he’s a fan Clapton’s complete catalog of work.

“I like it all,” he says. “If I had to pick a favorite era, I’d say it was the Cream days. I love that old Cream stuff. And I guess the reason that I love it is because it’s what got me so interested in him. That’s what got me playing.  ‘Journeyman’ was also a big album for me growing up. My parents had it and we used to listen to it. Later, when I went to college, I got into ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’ and the ‘70s stuff. Throughout my life I’ve gotten into different aspects of his career. There’s a few ‘lost’ albums in there, too, that I‘ve heard recently, but I hadn’t even heard of before. I really like his whole career.”

Success and artistic growth in Nashville  

Mizwinski himself has been actively recording for more than a decade and has released several critically acclaimed, roots-rock albums, including “East Hope Avenue,” “Parking Meters” and “A Year Ago Today.” And though he’s also lived in Central Pennsylvania and in the New York City area - and though Northeastern Pennsylvania has always been home - he decided last year to move to Nashville.

“I wanted to learn,” he says. “I wanted to further my career. I wanted to sit down with guitar players and songwriters that were better than me and that challenged me and that inspired me. And I wanted to become a better guitar player and a better songwriter. That was my real reason to come here. A lot of people come here and are straight out planning on ‘making it.’ My plan was a little bit different. I came here and kind of hung around in the background for a while and watched what's going on and got to meet a lot of people that were influences of mine. I got to take guitar lessons from some of my favorite players and got to do some recording. I just wanted learn. And I felt like it was the right move for my career as a musician.”

 Mike Mizwinski has found a welcome place for his music in Nashville 
Mizwinski says he received encouragement about the move from everyone, including Bob Lewis, another well-known NEPA musician that had also relocated to Nashville a few years prior.

“He's been a big part of me being down here,” says Mizwinski. “He’s over the house all the time and we've been writing together a lot. My manager had moved down here, too, and there were a few other people that I knew that were living down here. It just was like to the next step for me, and the right step, and I'm really glad I did it. I’ve really been loving it.”

Since his move to Nashville, Mizwinski has recorded two new songs - “Virginia and “High For Now” - at Gold Cassette recording studio, which is owned by multi-platinum country star Luke Combs. Working with Mizwinski on the music were producer Alex Gilson and guitarist Sol Philcox, who have also worked with Combs. And the tracks were mixed by Craig Alvin, who recently won the “Album of The Year” Grammy for his work on Kacey Musgraves.

“That’s been really exciting because obviously I hadn’t worked with Grammy-winning people before,” says Mizwinski. “We’re going to be releasing the songs soon. We’re just waiting on the mastering.”

Philcox is known as one of Nashville’s top session guitarists. Still, given his own capabilities, Mizwinski is asked why he felt the need to have a session player play guitar on his own original songs.

“That’s a funny story,” he says. “Sol and I barely even knew each other. He’s a mastermind in studio, but he didn't realize that I played lead guitar. He hired all these musicians and called in all of these all-star Nashville guys, and they charted out the songs. At the end of ‘Virginia,’ he said, ‘We’re just going to jam out the end,’ and he hits record, and we jam, and he plays a guitar solo, and I just kind of ripped into one after him, and that take is the one that we kept. It was the first time I ever actually did a live recording in the studio with five guys just letting it rip. The vocals. Everything. What you hear in the recording is five guys playing live in the studio. When we ended the song, Sol was like, ‘Holy crap. I didn’t know you played guitar like that!’ And since then - and it’s been a joy for me - me and Sol became buddies.”

The new friendship has helped open additional doors for Mizwinski, including performing live with Kashena Sampson, Emma White and Jenna Paulette. All three women appeared on Rolling Stone’s list of top-10 up and coming country artists.

“Sol has been sending me a lot of the work that he can’t do,” says Mizwinski. “He gets so many calls that it’s just insane. But I kind of quickly found out that was not what I want to do. Playing guitar for modern-country singers … it's just not my thing. It was a killer experience I can't say enough about how great it was to work with them, and their bands, and how nice they were. But it also made me realize that I really want to stay focused on my own music.”

Apparently, playing his own music in Nashville is also working out just fine.

“I got to play ‘New Faces Night’ at The Basement, which is one of the most prominent clubs in Nashville for the type of music I play,” he says. “It's a really, really big deal to get added onto ‘New Faces Night.’  After the owner saw our set,  I got a call, and he not only rebooked us, but he actually let me put my own bill together for my own night at The Basement. I played and headlined and I had to two other people come and play, too. It’s been great. My mindset coming down here has been strictly that I want to soak this all in and I want to purposely put myself around people that are that are better players, singers and writers than and I am.”

Even Mizwinski’s Nashville roommate, an artist named Boo Ray, is a talented musician. Stephen Ferrone, the former drummer for Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, appeared on his album and he’s been getting airplay on Sirius XM Radio. Mizwinski has also recorded with Boo Ray and, once again, has worked with some of the industry’s top producers. Boo Ray also introduced him to the legendary John Hiatt, with whom he now sometimes meets for lunch.

“That’s just crazy,” says Mizwinski.

Coming home

For the “MiZ plays Clapton” show, Mizwinski will be joined by his friend Justin Mazer, another NEPA native and dazzling guitarist who has also toured the country and has been featured in national publications such as Rolling Stone, Relix, and Guitar Player magazine. Mazur has also played some of the country’s top music festivals and is currently working and touring with Ryan Montbleau.

“We’ve got backup singers and we’ve got some other guests coming down,” says Mizwinski. “It's going to be phenomenal.”

Though Mizwinski is making great strides in Nashville, he adds that it’s nice to come home.

“It’s always great,” he says.  “I miss it. I'm one of these people that loves Northeast PA. I think it's a great place, and I miss being there. I miss home. I miss seeing the people.  Coming home feels good, and when I do come home to play I feel so lucky. People are so good to me and they're so supportive of me. I’m so lucky to have this dynamic, or this opportunity, to be able to come home every few months to play, and to have people coming out and supporting me. It's really cool. Even moving down here, people were really supportive of it and I can’t thank him enough.

“It's a great, music-loving community.”

WHAT: MiZ plays Clapton with special guest Justin Mazer
WHERE: River Street Jazz Café, Plains Township
WHEN: Wednesday, November 27, 10 p.m.
TICKETS: $10 in advance, $15 at the door
INFO: www.

Photos courtesy of Sam Watson. This story also appeared as the Weekender's cover story on November 20, 2019. The Weekender version can be found here:

Sunday, August 25, 2019

KISS kisses Pennsylvania goodbye in Hershey 

Cara Lombardo and Adam Nulton are all smiles before KISS’ recent show at Hersheypark Stadium.

Local fans share their thoughts on ‘End Of The Road’ tour


HERSHEY, PA - For the past 45 years, the state of Pennsylvania has been a frequent tour stop for the rock group KISS. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre, Allentown, Harrisburg, Scranton, Erie, State College … the iconic band has played them all. And on Wednesday, with its show in Hershey, the group made what was probably its final stop in the Keystone State. And for the 20,000 fans at Hersheypark Stadium – many of whom had traveled from Northeastern Pennsylvania - it was apparently a most memorable KISS goodbye.

Jim Donnelly of Back Mountain, who had previously seen KISS about 15 times, was at the show in Hershey. Afterwards, he had no regrets about traveling 100 miles to see the band again.

“I’d seen a lot of the new show on YouTube, so I kind of had an idea of what it was going to look like, but it was just incredible in person,” said Donnelly. “The guys were on fire. There’s a lot of energy in this show. They’re saying it’s their last hurrah, and I thought it was incredible.”

Angela Thomas (right ) poses with a fellow
KISS fan at Hersheypark Stadium
Donnelly has been on the annual KISS Kruise four times and will be setting sail with the band again this fall, and thus he will see the group perform again in a smaller setting. But Wednesday’s show in Hershey will likely be the last time he saw a full KISS arena/stadium show.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” he said. “I had some friends there, and we were kind of looking back, because there’s a very good chance it will be the last show that I’ll see them at the level. But we say, ‘Thanks for the memories.’ ”

Adam Nulton of Wilkes-Barre was also at the show on Wednesday, which he said was about his 10th KISS concert.   

“I saw them a few years back and I thought that was going to be my last chance to see them,” he said. “But I think they felt the fans still needed the music that they deliver. And I think a lot of the fans that are older want to share that experience with their children and say, 'This is what I grew up on. This is what you need to experience.’ And people definitely need to see the band before they call it a day.”

Steve Middaugh and his friend Bill Evanicki rock 'n roll all
nite at KISS' 'End of The Road" show in Hershey
Nulton made sure that his girlfriend, Cara Lombardo of Tamaqua, was one of those people. And thus she was at her first KISS show in Hershey.

“I was so excited,” said Lombardo. “I’d heard it’s an experience that you’ll never, ever forget. Since I was so late in first getting to see them, I kind of wish they’d stick around a little bit longer, but I get it. They’re getting older. But I feel blessed to have been able to see them before it’s really farewell.”

According to Curt Gooch and Jeff Suhs, the authors of “Kiss Alive Forever: The Complete Touring History,” KISS has played Pennsylvania 84 times. Additionally, they’ve played nine shows in Camden, N.J. – shows that were primarily aimed at the Philadelphia market. The band has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and as an America band, has more certified gold albums than any other group.  Steve Middaugh of Exeter saw his fifth KISS concert in Hershey on Wednesday. He said he’s been a loyal fan for most of his life and that it’s always been the band’s music that he enjoys the most. He added that he was not about to miss the “End Of The Road” tour.

“This is it,” said Middaugh. “That’s why I really wanted to get to the show. And I thought it was great. I really, really enjoyed it. We had a blast. The theatrics were so good and they played some of the stuff from the non-makeup era (“Lick It Up,” “Heaven’s On Fire,” “Crazy Crazy Nights”), and I liked that a lot. They really went all out.”

Traci Strungis of Mountaintop caught her third KISS show on Wednesday. She agreed with Middaugh about songs performed. 

Traci Strungis (left) and friends bid farewell to KISS in Hershey 
“The set list was really well thought out,” said Strungis. “It had a mix of old KISS and songs from different eras, so I think diehard fans were pleased, as well as first-time fans. It covered their whole timespan. And I liked that. I really love when they segue from ‘Lick It Up’ into ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again.’ That’s awesome. The guitar work is incredible.  And the stage show was fantastic … with all of the pyrotechnics, fireworks and confetti. Paul Stanley flies out to the middle of the stadium on a zip-line so that you can be closer to him. It’s definitely a great visual show. 

“They looked so good and sounded so good that I think they should keep going,” she added. “But I realize that they would probably like to go out on top. And they are. I’ve seen them a few times before, and they just keep getting better. They were just phenomenal.”
Angela Thomas of Wilkes-Barre attended her second KISS show in Hershey. She said that KISS, live in concert, is still “The Hottest Band In The World.”

“I had a great time,” said Thomas. “Paul Stanley is my favorite and I just absolutely love seeing him. And there were so many people there that were there for the same reason that I was – for the love of their music. It was just, ‘Wow.’ I just had an amazing time.

“I get it,” said Thomas, when asked how she feels about this being KISS’ final tour. “They’ve been around for a long time. But hopefully it isn’t. They’re one of my favorite bands and I’d like to see them again and again.”

Dave Donati of Dupont has seen KISS in concert 22 times, including every tour since 1992. Wednesday’s show was his third time catching the band on this tour. Having seen every tour over the past 25 years, he ranks ‘End Of The Road’ as among the band’s best.

“I’ve enjoyed every tour, but this one certainly has more energy and more feel,” said Donati.  “The guys on stage have just given a new level of energy and have really given something back to the fans. There’s no opening band. There’s no foolin’ around. I saw the tours they did with Motley Cue and Def Leppard and I loved those tours, but I’m not a co-headline kind of guy. This is KISS’ show. Tommy Thayer has been on another level on this tour. I’ve watched him with awe.  And Gene has always been my favorite. That will never change. And I think he’s having a great time up there right now saying goodbye.

“I’m a concert junkie,” added Donati. “I’ve been to more than 100 concerts and nothing compares to a KISS concert. Nothing.”
Debra Ann Caruso channels her inner Starchild
for her 50th KISS concert in Hershey 

For Debra Ann Caruso of Jermyn, Wednesday’s show in Hershey was her 50th KISS concert and marked the fourth time she’s seen the band on the “End Of The Road” tour.  She says that at some point, during every show on this tour, she’s been brought to tears. She also feels it’s one of the band’s greatest tours, ever.

“The production is amazing,” said Caruso. “The first time I saw this stage was at Madison Square Garden. Then I went to Philly. Then I flew to Tennessee, to take my niece to see the show. And I’ve been blown away. I’ve been blown away by the production, and I’ve been blown away by how they’ve looked and how they’ve sounded. Paul Stanley is 67 and looks amazing. He’s miraculous to me. They’re just amazing.”

Despite perhaps being the band’s biggest fan in NEPA, Caruso says she’s OK with the group's decision to stop touring sometime next year.

“They deserve the break,” she said. “And their families, more than anything, deserve the break. But personally, I’m sad. I’m sad because it’s been a huge part of my life. When people ask me, ‘How are you still a fan after all of this time?’ and ‘How do you still get so excited and emotional?,’ I say that it’s the one singular thing that’s been in my heart and been in my life for as long as my love of family. I can’t imagine it going away. But I’m happy for them that they’re going out on such a high, and that they’re retiring with grace and on the top of their game.  And I feel like they’re doing that.”

(Alan K. Stout has covered rock and pop music in Northeastern Pennsylvania since 1992. His weekly radio show, “Music On The Menu,” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on The River. Reach him at 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Woodstock turns 50 at Bethel Woods

Site of original 1969 festival celebrates golden anniversary

“By the time we got to Woodstock, we were a half a million strong, and everywhere was a song and celebration” – “Woodstock,” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.


Despite what you may have seen in the headlines this summer, Woodstock’s 50th anniversary celebration was not cancelled. It went on as planned last week, for several days, on the anniversary of the milestone event. Several acts that were on the historic musical bill in August of 1969 – Santana, John Fogerty, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Edgar Winter and Arlo Guthrie – also performed in August of 2019, as did Ringo Starr, the former Beatle who has made “Peace and Love” his personal motto. And it happened in Bethel, New York, at essentially the exact same site where Woodstock took place 50 years ago.

The four-day celebration, which happened at the Bethel Woods Center for The Arts, was planned long ago and most of the acts that performed were announced earlier this year. And it all went off without a hitch, which is why every time I saw a headline this summer saying that “Woodstock 50” was postponed, or had been moved, or was cancelled, I had to laugh.

For those that may be confused, here’s what happened: Michael Lang, one of the producers of the original Woodstock event in 1969 – and who had also produced Woodstock  ‘94 and Woodstock ‘99 – had hoped to do another large scale event for the 50th anniversary. And though he apparently has a nice relationship with the Bethel Woods Center for The Arts and has made appearances there in the past, he felt the original location, even with its gorgeous amphitheater, had become too developed and was now too small to host Woodstock 50. And so he made plans elsewhere. And those plans fell through. And thus all of the “Woodstock is canceled” headlines.

Thankfully, none of it had anything to do with what was happening in Bethel. And it was a fabulous anniversary weekend.

Woodstock - Bethel, New York, 1969 
The Bethel Woods Center for The Arts is one of the finest amphitheaters in the United States. On its historic grounds you will also find a wonderful Woodstock museum and the actual Yasgur’s Farm field where the original Woodstock event took place in 1969. A large “peace” symbol is cut into the grass of its slopping fields, which are nestled amid the rolling Catskills. An historical marker is also in place. It is the place where Woodstock actually happened, and thus where else would you rather be on its 50th anniversary?

Apparently, for about 60,000 people over the course of four days, that place was Bethel Woods. And I was one of them. I took a drive up on Friday and, in my own way, I tried to celebrate all-things Woodstock. Though the original event took place when I was only two years old, I’ve always felt a connection to it. At the time that I arrived on this Earth, America was changing, the war in Vietnam was raging, and thus, in some ways, I am a product of those times. In the photographs from my third birthday party, the balloons are decorated with “peace” symbols, and I grew up listening to most of the bands on the Woodstock bill, especially The Who. And though I’d been to a few shows in Bethel before, I was feeling a strong pull to go back for the 50th, and so off I went …

Historical marker at the original site of Woodstock 

The night prior, on the night they were showing the original Woodstock film at Bethel Woods, I was watching it at home. In one segment, Lang was talking about how when the promoters, after being displaced from two prior possible locations, were looking for a site to hold the event, they found themselves driving all throughout the hills and along backroads of the Catskills, looking for the right place. And when they came across Yasgur’s Farm, they knew they’d found it. When I drove there on Friday, my GPS, for some reason, took me on a different route from the way I’d gone there before, and I found myself on lots of little backroads, riding throughout the hills of the Catskills. And I loved it. I imagined those guys travelling those same roads 50 years earlier, and all of the young people jammed up in traffic trying to find this remote place without the use of anything like GPS. I imaged all of the hitchhikers and Volkswagen vans, and in an effort to try to harness some of that energy, I rolled down my windows, turned off the air conditioner in the car and breathed in the spirit of ‘69.  It was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Though I’d been there before, I also visited the Woodstock monument, and for the 50th anniversary, you were permitted to walk around on the historic field of the concert. I strolled over to where the original stage was located, and of course I thought of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, Crosby, Stills & Nash and all of the others. At sundown, I caught a glimpse of a beautiful golden sunset over the Catskills. It was perfect.

Ringo Starr, Bethel Woods, 2019
Ringo Starr & His All-Star Band, which performed on Friday night, were fabulous. Not only did Starr sing his best Beatles and solo songs, but he also played drums throughout most of the show. Any night that you can see a Beatle playing Beatles’ songs is a good might, but I also really enjoyed just watching him drum. At 79, he played with sheer joy. He’s got to be the most youthful man on the planet.

One of the members of Starr’s All-Star band is Gregg Rolie of Santana, who actually performed at Woodstock in 1969. He talked about playing at the big how “right over the hill” 50 years prior and sang songs such as “Black Magic Woman,” “Evil Ways” and “Oye Como Va.” It was incredibly fitting for the vibe, and Starr closed the night with “With A Little Help From My Friends” – which Joe Cocker had covered so beautifully at Woodstock - and then segued into a few verses of John Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance.” Given how much the weight of the Vietnam War had hovered over the original festival, it was most appropriate.

About halfway through Starr’s set, a bright, beautiful moon rose from behind the amphitheater. It too seemed fitting, almost cosmically, on anniversary weekend. And just as the band was playing the final notes of its very last song, a dark cloud briefly moved in front of the moon and hid its light. The spirit of Woodstock had spoken. Day #2 of the celebration was over.

Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, 1969

At one point, shortly after dusk, I walked from the amphitheater back over to the original concert field and pretty much had it all to myself. I thought of the more than 400,000 people that had gathered there 50 years prior, and how that moment in time has stayed with this country in so many ways for the past five decades. I also realized that a good portion of those young people that we see in those video clips may have since passed on. Woodstock, 50 years later, also reminded us of our mortality, but not in a somber way. It reminded us of how important it is to live life to the fullest and to appreciate the vibrancy of youth.

The Bethel Woods 50th anniversary celebration of Woodstock didn’t try to recreate anything. Traffic was managed perfectly and there was plenty of parking, food and restrooms. Nobody overdosed or slid down the hills in the mud. There were plenty of young people there, but a good portion of them were of the Woodstock generation or, like me, the following generation that also grew up with the music. And at this point in our lives, we prefer a clean restroom and plenty of choices of good food. Bethel Woods has all of that, as well as a great gift shop. Trying to recreate Woodstock would have felt forced, but celebrating it in a very 2019 way did not.

While walking in the concert field, however, I did feel a sense that, like in 1969, we are once again a nation divided. This time, it’s not over a war happening overseas, but rather one happening right here in America. I found myself - at a place synonymous with peace and love - thinking about gun control. And I was pleased to learn that Michael Lang himself showed up in Bethel over the weekend to talk about that issue. I'm glad he hasn't changed.
Woodstock’s 50th anniversary celebration was not canceled. It went on, in Bethel, as planned. And, more than anything, it was fun. And perhaps that was the best way to honor it. I recently watched the new PBS documentary, “Woodstock: Three Days That Defined A Generation.” At one point during the festival, Max Yasgur, the owner of the farm, can be seen on stage addressing the enormous crowd. He was 49 years old at the time and was viewed as an old-school conservative, or in those days, as one of the “establishment.” Yet it was he who allowed Woodstock to take place on his land. And by all accounts, Max was a pretty cool guy. When the event ran out of food, he sent food from his farm. He said “we’ve got to feed those kids.” When the event ran out of water, he sent water. And though he was surely no hippie, he looked at them all – all 400,000 of them - as a bunch of nice kids having a good time. And he was happy to have them there.

Sunset in Bethel on the 50th anniversary of Woodstock
“I’m a farmer,” he said on stage that day, 50 years ago. “I don’t know how to speak to 20 people at one time, let alone a crowd like this. But I think that you people have proven something to the world. Not only to the town of Bethel and Sullivan County and New York State … you’re proving something to the world. This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place. We had no idea there would be this size group, and because of that, you’ve had quite a few inconveniences … but the one thing that you’ve proven to the world is that a half a million kids – and I call you kids because I have children older than you are – a half a million young people can get together, and have three days of fun and music, and have nothing but fun and music. And God bless you for it.”


Three days of peace, love, music and fun. There is still an aura there. You can feel it.

Happy 50th Woodstock. And well done, Bethel Woods.

(Alan K. Stout has covered rock and pop music in Northeastern Pennsylvania since 1992. His weekly radio show, “Music On The Menu,” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on The River. Reach him at  

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Frehley’s guitar blasts Kirby

Photo courtesy of JA Donnelly

Backed by a polished and energetic band, former KISS guitarist delivers   


WILKES-BARRE – Ace Frehley must like Northeastern Pennsylvania. On Saturday night, the former KISS guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer performed in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market for the sixth time as a solo artist, dating back to 1985. This time, he was back at the F.M Kirby Center, where he had also played in 2016. And, like last time, he rocked the joint pretty good.

Frehley took the stage to the sound of “Fractured Mirror” – an instrumental piece which closes his 1978 solo album - filling the theater. He then opened the show with “Rip It Out,” the opening track from that same album. “Parasite,” from KISS’ second LP, “Hotter Than Hell,” followed, and chances are it probably wasn’t the first time Frehley performed the song on that same stage, as KISS had played the former Paramount Theater twice in 1974.

 “How ya doing Wilkes-Barre?” said Frehley after the second number. “You ready to rock?

The answer was ,”Yes,” and Frehley then tore into 1979’s “Hard Times,” a KISS gem that deals with Frehley’s teen years and the tough street life of the Bronx. Frehley offered an extended solo during the number, aptly displaying his lead guitar skills which have not diminished over the past 40 years.

One of the highlights of the show was Frehley’s new backing band, most of which he discovered last year while doing some shows with former bandmate Gene Simmons. Three members of the unit - guitarist/vocalists Ryan Cook and Jeremy Asbrock and bassist/vocalist Philip Shouse - had previously backed Simmons at some of his solo concerts. Frehley was impressed and hired them. The three additions, along with longtime drummer Matt Starr, give Frehley one of the best bands he’s ever toured with. The triple-guitar attack bolstered his sound and the harmonies were spot-on. Frehley was also generous to the musicians, allowing them take lead vocals on some numbers and solo. That, and their own charisma, made the concert experience even more enjoyable.

A churning performance of “Watching You” also connected with the KISS faithful and during a performance of the new “Rockin' With The Boys” Frehley frequently tossed guitar picks into the audience.

“It’s starting to get hot up here,” said Frehley, while taking off his blazer about five songs into the show. “I don’t want to pass out like I did last time.”

The comment - referring to his 2016 performance at The Kirby, during which he became ill,  had to cut the show short, and was treated for dehydration at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital – drew a chuckle from both Frehley and the crowd. On this night, however, all was well, and Frehley and the band then ripped through guitar-heavy renditions of “Rocket Ride,” "Mission To Mars” and “Strange Ways,” the latter of which featured another extended guitar solo. ”2,000 Man,” a song written and first recorded by The Rolling Stones, but has become a signature song for Frehley, also got one of the night’s biggest cheers.

“I’m looking out there and I think I see a few rock soldiers,” said Frehley, before launching into “Rock Soldiers.”  The anthem-like song, which appeared on 1987’s “Frehley’s Comet” album, remains a fan-favorite and also had the crowd singing along. And for his performance of the 1978 hit “New York Groove,” he brought out his famous lighted guitar which pulsated to the beat of the song. It, too, had plenty of fists pumping in the air.

It was during “Shock Me,” however, that Frehley showed his fans why he is the quintessential lead guitarist. Sure, he hauled out his trademark smoking guitar for a part of the solo, which made for a fun visual, but it was what he played that seemed to impress the crowd the most. It was one of the longest guitar solos Frehley has ever performed, full of both beefy riffs and quick playing. Frehley was already a guitar hero to many before the “shredders” of the ‘80s arrived on the music scene, and that’s never really been his style, but on Saturday night, at least for parts of his solo, Frehley was shredding. It was almost as if he was just having some fun showing off. And it was impressive.

The set ended with a pounding rendition of “Cold Gin,” which also featured an extended guitar solo.

Encores included “Detroit Rock City” and “Deuce,” and it is when you see Frehley tearing through the guitar parts of “Deuce” that you realize how important he was to KISS’ initial success. His sound is very much the sound of KISS “Alive,” the band’s now classic 1975 breakthrough album, and it is clearly a sound that he still holds dear and can still deliver.

Ace Frehley apparently likes Northeastern Pennsylvania.

And apparently it also likes him.

Another good show from the Spaceman.


This story also appears in The Times Leader newspaper and can be read online here:

Alan K. Stout has covered rock and pop music in Northeastern Pennsylvania since 1992. His weekly radio show, “Music On The Menu,” airs every Sunday from 9-10 p.m. on The River. Reach him at

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Frehley ready for blastoff

Former KISS guitarist set to take 
F.M. Kirby Center on a guitar-fueled rocket ride

Special to The Weekender

Ace Frehley is in fine spirits. During a recent phone interview, the former KISS guitarist cracked his trademark laugh several times as he chatted freely about his most recent solo effort, “Spaceman,” his next album, “Origins, Vol. 2,” his two highly memorable stints with KISS, and his upcoming show at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre.  He also spoke about his complicated current relationship with the members of KISS, his influence on younger guitarists, and of his last appearance at The Kirby Center, in April of 2016, during which he became ill and ended up spending a few days in a Wilkes-Barre hospital.

“Spaceman,” released last fall, is Frehley’s ninth solo studio album and twelfth solo release if you include live albums and compilations. It came exactly 40 years after his first solo effort, which is why he says he originally considered naming the album “40 Years Later.” But when his former bandmate Gene Simmons, who co-wrote two tracks on the album, suggested the “Spaceman” title, Frehley says he decided to go with it. The title, of course, comes from the onstage persona that Frehley had created with KISS in 1973.

“The mindset I was in during the making of ‘Spaceman’ … I was really thinking about my first ’78 solo record,” says Frehley. “It was the 40th anniversary, and I actually did nine songs on purpose, as kind of a good luck thing. (His 1978 solo album contained nine tracks, including the hit single “New York Groove.”) I approached ‘Spaceman’ kind of like I approached my ’78 solo album. On the track ‘Mission To Mars’ I was using old delay effects and it brought back memories of when I used to use an Echoplex in the studio with KISS, and live.”

Ace Frehley's "Spaceman" was released last fall. 
One track on the album, “Bronx Boy” is reflective of Frehley’s youth and growing up in New York City, which he had also touched upon with the 1979 KISS gem, “Hard Times.” Another track, “Rocking With The Boys” was first penned in the ‘70s and, thematically, is similar to the KISS classic “Beth” in that it tells the tale of a musician that’s too busy working with the band to spend time with his lady.

“I wrote the chorus to that song before ‘Beth’ ever happened,” says Frehley. “I have like three different versions of that song. The problem with it, up until ‘Spaceman,’ was I was never really happy with the bridge and the verses. You get a good hook, but sometimes the rest of the song just doesn’t hold up. You can have a great hook, but if you don’t have good verses and a bridge, it’s not going to cut it. Finally, when I was writing songs for ‘Spaceman,” I decided to take a hard look at that song and it worked out great. I’m really happy with the end results.”

With the track “Pursuit of Rock and Roll,” Frehley sings of his love for the all-time greats, referencing Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. And, in other interviews over the years, he has cited Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton as influences. Since the late ‘70s, however, it’s been Frehley that’s been a major influence on others. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he is often named by musicians as the reason they first wanted to play guitar. He has also forged friendships with some of those disciples, such as Slash. Frehley says he enjoys the musical camaraderie.

“I’m very good friends with John 5 and Mike McCready of Pearl Jam,” says Frehley. “I was also really good friends with Dimebag. I ended up spending a weekend at his house. I was in Las Vegas when Vinnie Paul passed away. I flew down to Dallas for the funeral and gave a little speech. That came as a real big shock.”

Frehley says he appreciates the accolades he gets from other musicians, though he admits he’s still often surprised by it.

“It feels great,” he says. “I’m dumfounded by it. I’m not classically trained, and it just amazes me that I’ve influenced so many musicians. Not only superstar musicians, but just regular guys off the street. Every time I do a meet-and-greet and I meet fans, or any guitar player, they always say they picked up the guitar because of the ‘Alive!’ album.”

Ace Frehley is a member of the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 
Frehley was the original lead guitarist in KISS and was a member of the band from 1973 to 1982. He then rejoined the group from 1996-2002. Like most bands, KISS has had its share of inner turmoil and Frehley has had his ups and downs with his former bandmates. Regardless, he looks back at both of his successful stints with “The Hottest Band In The World” with fondness.

“The ‘70s were the highlight of my life,” says Frehley. “Being voted in a Gallup Poll as the No. 1 rock group in the world. Going over to Australia and getting the key to the city from the Lord Mayor in Sidney and playing stadiums. My childhood dream had come true. And it all fell apart, partially because of drugs and alcohol. Peter (Criss) left. And then I decided to leave. But when we put together the reunion tour, it was so bizarre. I remember the first night, at Tiger Stadium, I really got a sense of deja vu. Here I am, years later, in the same make-up playing the same songs, and I’m scratching my head going, ‘Did I ever leave the band?’ What happened?’ ”

Ace Frehley served as KISS' lead guitarist
from 1973-1982 and 1996-2002.
What did happen? After splitting from KISS in 1982, Frehley, at last initially, had a busy solo career. Throughout the latter half of the ‘80s, he released several solo albums under his own name or with his band, Frehley’s Comet. But, from 1989’s “Trouble Walking” until 2009’s “Anomaly” there was no new music other than his appearance with KISS on 1998’s “Psycho Circus.” Since 2009, however, he has released four new studio albums and a fifth, “Origins, Vol. 2,” will be released later this year. Frehley says sobriety has been the key to productivity.

“I was beside myself, when I got sober 13 year ago, and somebody came up to me and said, ‘Ace, do you know you haven’t done an album in 20 years?’ ” he says. “That’s what alcohol can do to you. I was completely oblivious to the fact that I hadn’t done a record in 20 years. I said to myself, at that juncture in my life, ‘It’s time to make up for lost time.’ And I think I have.”

Indeed. “Origins Vol. 1,” released in April of 2016, featured Frehley revisiting some KISS classics and putting his spin on songs from artists such as Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. One track, a cover of Free’s “Fire and Water,” featured guest vocals from former bandmate Paul Stanley. For “Origins, Vol. 2,” Frehley says he’s taken a similar approach and that it will again feature a Zeppelin tune, “Good Times Bad Times.” Other than a final mix, the album is ready to go.

“I’m really excited about ‘Origins, Vol. 2’ ” he says. “It’s surpassed my expectations. I got Lita Ford singing ‘Jumping Jack Flash,’ and she’s amazing. She came to my home and I coached her for two days with vocals and she just (expletive) killed it.  I also have Robin Zander singing ‘30 Days In The Hole’ by Humble Pie. I really wanted to do the Humble Pie song, but I just couldn’t cut it, vocally, because Marriott’s just too good of a god-damn singer. I just couldn’t do justice to his vocals. But I remembered that I had bumped into Robin Zander years ago at a meet-and-greet and he had mentioned to me that he’d like to sing on one of my upcoming records, so I remembered that and gave him a call. And he killed it as well. He sounds like a young Marriott.”

Frehley’s current relationship with KISS is, as it has often been, complicated. Less than a year ago, it appeared things were better than they’d been in quite some time. In 2016, Stanley had appeared on “Origins, Vol. 1” and, in 2018, Simmons had co-penned two songs and helped name the “Spaceman” album. Frehley also made several appearances with Simmons as the KISS bassist/vocalist promoted his “Vault” box set and Simmons and Frehley actually did a short tour of Australia together with Frehley using Simmons’ band for his sets. Photos of the two, having a good time together, spread throughout social media. Frehley also appeared on last year’s annual KISS Kruise and even joined his former band on stage, sans make-up, for a few songs.

Ace Frehley plays the F.M. Kirby Center on Saturday 
In January, however, KISS began its “End of The Road” final tour, and though the band let it be known they were open to the idea of having some guest appearances from former members, Frehley let it be known he’d prefer to be included on the entire tour. That didn’t happen. Shortly before the start of the tour, Simmons, in an interview with Guitar World magazine, rehashed some of Frehley’s past problems with alcohol, which irked Frehley and his wife, Rachel. A retaliatory post on Frehley’s Facebook page, blasting Simmons and accusing him of inappropriate behavior towards Rachel, went viral. And just like that, all of the good will that had been forged between 2016-2018 appeared to be gone.

Frehley is asked if, since the January blowup, he’s had the chance to try and mend things with Simmons.

“I have had no contact with Gene, and Gene hasn’t commented on Rachel’s accusations,” says Frehley. “He hasn’t said ‘Yay’ or ‘Nay’ or denied it, or apologized. It’s just very unsettling and an unfortunate situation that that had to go down. I don’t know the specifics, exactly, because I did not witness anything. In reality, talking hypothetically, if Rachel decided to sue Gene … in the court of law, I would have to have to say, if they put me on the stand, that I did not witness anything. It’s a tough situation. And that’s all I really have to say about it.”

Frehley says that he has had some contact with Stanley, who had recently written, in his new book, “Backstage Pass,” that he’s glad to have redeveloped a friendship with Frehley.

“I spoke with Paul last week,” says Frehley.  “I just touched base. He didn’t really want to talk about the feud between me and Gene. I heard he’d said some nice things (in the book), and I actually sent him a text thanking him for the kind words …. That’s what prompted me to get a hold of him and thank him, and wish him luck on the European tour that they’re on right now. I always try to keep the door open.”

KISS’ “End of The Road Tour” has been a success, selling out arenas in the United States and stadiums in Europe. Stanley recently stated that the band does have a date and venue for the final show, but it has not yet been revealed. It is assumed it will be in New York. Frehley says that, despite the unresolved issue with Simmons, he’s still open to doing some shows with the band, though he admits it would be awkward to stand on stage with current KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer, who has capably held the gig for the past 15 years, dressed as the Spaceman.

“I’m not about to just show up at a KISS concert,” he says. “If the situation presented itself, and it was offered to me in the right way, sure. Even if I didn’t want to do it, I’d do it for my fans, because I know my fans want it …. But unless I was invited, and we could figure something out, where Tommy goes backstage and I takeover for a few songs - I don’t know. It’s a difficult question. And it’s an awkward question.”

What is not awkward for Frehley is playing solo shows, which he’s been doing since 1985. Even during the years when he didn’t record, he always toured. His shows are peppered with his KISS classics such as “Shock Me” and “Rocket Ride,” as well as KISS songs that he didn’t originally sing, such as “Detroit Rock City” and “Cold Gin.” There are also tunes from Frehley’s Comet and more recent numbers and, of course, some smoking guitars. (Literally.) He says his band, which was once Simmons’ backing group for his solo shows, is phenomenal.

“They all sing lead, so we can do three and four part harmonies,” says Frehley. “It’s a much more cohesive unit. I enjoy working with these guys. They’re all out of Nashville and they’re really professional.”

Frehley’s return to the F.M. Kirby Center on Saturday will be the fourth time he’s played the venue. He performed there twice with KISS in 1974, when it was known as The Paramount Theater, and he was there, solo, in 2016. That day was memorable, as it was also the day that “Origins, Vol. 1” was released nationwide. That afternoon, Frehley did a record store appearance at the Wyoming Valley Mall, where he signed hundreds of autographs. Later that night, on stage at The Kirby, just before the encores, he began to feel ill onstage. He was taken to Wilkes-Barre’s General Hospital where he would stay for several days.

Frehley remembers it well.   

“I started to get palpations towards the end of the how, and I kind of had to sit on my amp a few times,” he says. “I just didn’t feel right. I started to get dizzy, and I had to cut the show short. I really didn’t know what was going on. I went to the emergency room and found out I was severely dehydrated and suffering from exhaustion. It was a little too much for me. It may not have happened if I didn’t do the in-store. I forgot to drink fluids that day and usually, when I do a concert, I just lay in bed and order room service and watch movies and save my energy for the concert. It took maybe a little more out of me than I thought it had, and it affected the show. They decided to keep me overnight for observation, because they thought something might be wrong with my heart – because of the palpations and fluttering – and they gave me an angiogram, and it came back 100% negative. In fact the doctor, who was about 45, said ‘Jesus Christ, Ace, I wish my angiogram was a good as yours. You have absolutely no blockage.' So I don’t have to worry about getting a triple by-pass anytime soon.

“Everything was fine. They took good care of me.”

Expect some encores on Saturday.
This story also appeared as the cover story of June 26, 2019 issue of The Weekender, the No. 1 arts and entertainment newspaper in Northeastern Pennsylvania, The Weekender version can be viewed here:

Who: Ace Frehley
When: Saturday, June 29, at 8 p.m.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for The Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
Info: (570) 826-1100

Alan K. Stout has covered rock and pop music in Northeastern Pennsylvania since 1992. His weekly radio show, “Music On The Menu,” airs every Sunday from 9-10 p.m. on The River. Reach him at

Monday, April 1, 2019

Ultimate KISS ARMY Experience
 gets you closer than ever to KISS

Special VIP tour offers much more than a typical meet-and-greet


Imagine that you are a KISS fan and that you have been so for many years. You’ve got all of the band’s albums and, within the KISS Army, you see yourself as a five-star general. You’ve got at least 20 ticket stubs from their concerts, and though it might be a bit hard to squeeze into it these days, you’ve still got your concert t-shirt from your very first KISS show. You’ve also got a sizable collection of KISS collectables, and you might even joke that when it comes to KISS trivia, you know more about the band than even Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.  

But … have you ever actually walked on the KISS stage? Stood right before their mic-stands? Have you ever held Gene Simmons' bass or Paul Stanley’s guitar? Sat behind Eric Singer’s drum kit? Peeked inside Tommy Thayer’s traveling guitar case? Held Gene’s torch, into which he breathes fire? Tried on Paul’s platforms and Gene’s dragon boots? Hung out with KISS in a relaxed setting before the show, where not only can you get a professionally-taken photo of you with the band, but you can also mingle with the group and take some fun selfies.

Probably not.        

Well, OK … definitely not.

But, with the “Ultimate KISS ARMY Experience,” that’s exactly what you can do. It is the most deluxe VIP package that the band has ever offered to its fans and includes a type of backstage access and on stage access that has never been available before. You literally spend about three hours backstage and then watch the show from a special area, directly in front of the stage, which is actually several feet closer than the very front row. And when KISS recently brought its “End Of The Road” tour to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, a handful of KISS die-hards did just that.

KISS fan  Raymond Scipione holds
Gene Simmons' bass guitar.
“It was awesome, “ says Jodey Mutcher, 49, of Stroudsburg, PA. Mutchler, who has been a KISS fan since she was nine years old, says that since this is indeed KISS’ final tour, she felt it would be her last chance to get a closer look at “The Hottest Band in the World.”

“I’m surprised we had such access to the stage, and were able to touch their equipment,”  she says. “That’s a lot of trust that they have in their fans.”

The “Ultimate KISS ARMY Experience” tours are run by Epic Rights, a company that also handles KISS’ tour merchandise. Cost, per person, is $6,500.They are hosted by Keith Leroux, an assistant to the band who also handles its social media. Leroux was chosen to give the tours because he’s not only an employee of the band, but also a die-hard fan of the group with encyclopedic knowledge of all-things-KISS. That, combined with his cheerful demeanor and enthusiasm, makes him the perfect tour guide.

“I enjoy just being here,” says Leroux. “It’s amazing.  I love to see fans share with the band what I get to experience all the time.”

Leroux says even he’s surprised at how much the tour offers.

“When we put it together, it was intentionally expensive, so that it was limited,” he says. “They wanted it to be limited. They wanted it to be for the die-hards, but not where there are 50 people showing up. I really didn’t think the band would allow us to do everything we did. There was a wish-list. And they approved everything. The pit, from where people see the concert – no one has ever been allowed there before. And for all kinds of reasons … insurance, the pyro … the pyro literally had to be moved back, because a person who doesn’t work for KISS can’t be within a certain number of feet of the pyro. And so by allowing the fans in the pit, it changed the layout of the stage show. Even most crew members and band members don’t go where we go on the tour. They don’t need to. Their job might be in just one area, and if you don’t need to go on stage, you don’t have a pass to go on stage.

Dwayne Wimmer poses behind the KISS drumkit
“Fans are truly going into places where nobody can go,” he adds. “And again, when we put the list together for KISS, I thought for sure they were going to pair it down. But they approved every single thing.”

KISS’ “End of The Road” show is the most mammoth of its career. It convoys from city to city with more trucks and buses than ever before. The KISS crew alone consists of 75-80 people  and about 100 local stage-hands are also brought in for each show. Even with nearly 200 people working, it still takes 10 hours to assemble. Once fans begin an “Ultimate KISS ARMY Experience” tour, they are escorted to the soundboard area, where they get their first glimpse of the stage. Soon, they are on the stage, where they are not only permitted to take any photos they’d like with their own phones or cameras, but they are also professionally photographed by Leroux or other members of the KISS staff, who later provide those photos to the fans. While on the stage, you can stand behind the band’s mic-stands and sit behind the drum kit. (It is there, behind the drums, when looking out into an 18,000 seat arena, when you truly feel as though you are sitting in the cockpit of KISS.) You also hold Simmons' torch and walk inside Simmons' special off stage area where he stores his basses and “blood” for his on-stage antics. Later, you can hold and pose with one of Simmons' basses and Stanley’s guitars, and before it’s time to go and try on their boots and hang out with the band, there’s also a special lounge with a catered meal and open bar.
Fans have never had a closer look at KISS
than they can now have with the Ultimate
KISS Army Experience, where they can
watch the show from directly in front of the stage. 
There's also a chance, at any given time while on the tour, that you might bump into Doc McGee, KISS' legendary manager, or that even one of the members of the band might join in for a while, sans makeup and costume.

The “Ultimate KISS ARMY Experience” is usually comprised of about 6-10 people in each city. And, as you’d expect, they are serious, die-hard KISS fans and ones with the means to afford it. Regarding the cost, some might compare it to attending a major sporting event. Each year, thousands of NFL fans from around the nation make a pilgrimage to the Super Bowl. They might spend thousands of dollars just for the tickets, plus airfare, hotel costs, food, souvenirs … it all adds up, rather quickly, to about the same amount as the cost of the “Ultimate KISS ARMY Experience.” But those NFL fans don’t get to walk around on the actual field before the game, or hold the footballs that are going to be used in the game, or hang out with their favorite players just before they take the field and have photos taken with them, or watch the game from right on the sidelines. That, in essence, is what “Ultimate KISS ARMY Experience” offers to KISS fans. And for them, KISS is their favorite team and “The End Of The Road Tour” is the Super Bowl. And in most cases, extensive travel isn’t even necessary, as the tour is likely coming right to you.

Get up close and personal with
Paul Stanley with the band's new
Ultimate KISS Army Experience 
Ray Scipione, 48, of Hammonton, N.J. has been a KISS fan since 1979. Once he heard about the “Ultimate KISS ARMY Experience,” he signed right up. The main reason, he says, was to be even closer than the front row.

“I really wanted to be up close,” says Scipione.  “All of this other stuff is icing on the cake.”

Scipione says that though it’s a costly VIP tour, it’s also a once-in-a-lifetime event.   

“It’s an expensive night, but I live life on experiences,” he says. “You can only buy so many cars, or jewelry or clothes. For me, it’s this. It’s waking up five years from now and saying, ‘Man, remember that night I did all of that?” There are people that just save, and they never live their life with any experiences. They just save and save, but they never do anything. I’d rather do this, where I can look back, and have pictures and videos, and I can relive the night.”

Joe Lagana, 58, or Orwigsburg, PA, has been a KISS fan since 1974 and saw them for the first time in 1976. He’s now seen them more than 75 times and he also took the “Ultimate KISS ARMY Experience” tour in Philadelphia.

“It was simply awesome,” says Langana. “To get to try on their boots - it’s just simply awesome. And it’s a very comfortable pace. Nobody was rushed. Keith is great.”

If the shoe fits, where it: Joe Lagana
tries on Gene Simmons' dragon boots

Lagana said that though he’s done other VIP packages in the past, he opted to do the “Ultimate KISS ARMY Experience” because of all of the newly added extras.

“It’s ‘The End of The Road,” he says. “It’s the final tour. You probably won’t have the opportunity to do this again.”

Dwayne Wimmer, 54, of Haverford, PA, has been a KISS fan since 1976 and has seen the band more than 30 times. He agrees.

“What’s cool about it is that it’s a small group and we got to take our time,” he says. “You’re on the stage for 20 minutes, or a half an hour, you’re walking into the areas where they go to off stage in between songs. You get to hold their guitars, put on their boots – that’s crazy. And you get to talk with like-minded fans, about your experiences and how you became a fan. You’re building relationships and making friends.

“It’s great.”

(The Ultimate KISS ARMY Experience is available before every show on the band’s “End Of The Road” tour. For more information, visit

Alan K. Stout has covered rock and pop music in Northeastern Pennsylvania since 1992. His weekly radio show, “Music On The Menu,” airs every Sunday from 9-10 p.m. on The River. Reach him at