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HONESDALE, PA — It’s around 8 or 9 p.m. on a Friday night. You pull up in front of a local bar lugging an amp, a microphone, several different kinds of stands and a guitar.
The people who booked you kind of forgot that you were coming and aren’t too sure where to place you, so you get set up in the only available corner of the bar, which, unfortunately, is the corner nearest to the pool table.
You’re all tuned up and the mic is hot. You wonder if you should introduce yourself or just jump right into your first song. There are a lot of backs turned toward you as patrons drink, talk and watch a football game or rerun of an old sitcom on TV Land. A few faces are pointed your way, but more out of necessity than purposefully, it seems, and none of them are smiling. Last time, there was nobody here at all except you and the bartender.
When you’re a local musician, it can be hard to get noticed.
I know because I’ve been playing solo and with bands—including my current band, O&Co—around Honesdale since early high school. Last Saturday, I sat with two fellow musicians, Gabby Borges—who was profiled by The River Reporter in March—and Evan Kleinert before their gig as the Gabby Borges Duo at the Twisted Rail Tavern. Their performance was just one of many events offered during this month’s Second Saturday Honesdale, a day when local businesses are encouraged to stay open later and feature some form of entertainment.
Gabby, Evan and I swapped stories of some of the nightmare gigs we’ve endured during the early days of our musical careers. We talked about why events like Second Saturday Honesdale feel like a form of vindication.
“It definitely makes you feel special to be playing, and to have a day where you’re recognized,” said Borges.
There have been opportunities for local musicians in Honesdale for quite some time: the Wayne County Creative Arts Council has been hosting free concerts in Honesdale’s Central Park for 52 years and the annual Roots n’ Rhythm festival features local acts on the sidewalks on Main Street. DNH Discovered, run by 95.3 DNH, featured local musicians on the radio once a month this past winter. But local musicians are still eager to see the arrival of more venues and events where live music is the main draw, as opposed to where it simply exists as ambient background noise.
Kleinert said that Second Saturday is a great opportunity for musicians who have never played or sung in front of an audience before to experience their first taste of live performance.
“Even if it’s just an entryway to get your feet wet, it gives you that confidence to build up your stage presence and having that local community aspect where you know most of the people you’re performing for—it eases you into it,” he said.
A Wayne County Arts Alliance project, Second Saturday is not just about live music. This past one also included a photography gallery; art galleries; silent movies accompanied by live, original scores and even cat yoga. However, the project has offered performers like me opportunities to gig more frequently and in unique locations—in the middle of a hair salon, for instance.
Borges and Kleinert said that though they tend to get more attention from audiences when gigging in cities like Scranton, Philadelphia, or New York City, Honesdale seems to be shifting in that direction.
They quickly rattled off some of the new spaces in the area that seem to be centered, at least somewhat, around live music: The Cooperage, Basin and Main, Here & Now Brewing Co., Old School Farm, just to name a few. Borges said she hopes that list continues to grow and that live music becomes an even stronger part of the Honesdale community.
“People say [to us] that we should go somewhere like Nashville to make music, but why not here?” Borges asked. “We should make it so you don’t have to go anywhere, you can make music right here.”