NYC’s Kissing Club to visit Avenue 209

LOCK HAVEN – You may not be able to join the Kissing Club, as fun (or unsanitary?) as that may sound, but you can see them perform 7 p.m. Friday at Avenue 209 Coffee House, 209 Bellefonte Ave.

Kissing Club is a duo that prides itself on being “quiet, intimate and explosive.”

The band’s members come from the city that never sleeps, NYC; a city that seems to influence their modern sound.

They use nontraditional instruments for a small indie group; between the two, in addition to the typical guitar and vocals, they also play cello and electronics.

Although the lineup has changed a few times, currently, the band consists of Jacob Miller, a native of NYC, and John Michael Swartz, of San Diego. Miller said the arrangement was triggered when a friend hired them to perform at a wine-and-cheese mixer.

“The real pleasure of playing and writing as a guitar-cello duo is that it forces us to be very inventive with arrangements and sonic qualities,” Miller said.

“We can’t do many of the things that are possible with a full band, but we have a whole other field of possibilities open to us that aren’t available to other sounds,” Miller said.

The band released a new album, “Tapdancer,” on Jan. 26 and has since been touring the country with its “Winter Wonderland Tour” to accompany its release.

Miller and Swartz both come from diverse musical backgrounds; Miller has learned how to play many instruments – like the oboe and banjo – and Swartz has studied cello and keyboard since he was young. Additionally, Swartz has worked as an audio engineer and has performed internationally as a cellist.

Kissing Club initially contacted Avenue 209 to arrange a show. There are various booking websites for bands and venues to find one another, which is how the NYC duo stumbled upon the coffee shop.

“May I say that they sound a bit musically creepy?” said Jared Conti, barista at Avenue 209.

“They’ve got a Daniel Lanois-Iron and Wine-Ryan Adams feel to them, with instruments and looming voices that will be hard to match,” he said. “I hope they bring a crowd.”

These days, Conti said it has been a little more difficult to get people to come out for live music.

“I think it’s how the music scene is these days,” he said. “Everyone’s got their iPods and what-not; you can get everything you want at the touch of a button.”

However, by bringing in diverse, talented bands like the Kissing Club and not posing a cover charge, Conti said the coffee shop hopes to re-generate interest in live music.

The stop at Avenue 209 is the end of Kissing Club’s tour, so it worked out well for them as they ease their way back to NYC.

“[We] heard good things about Avenue 209,” Mill said. “Smaller towns in general are often more fun to play in than big cities because people get more excited about live music.”

Also performing with Kissing Club on Saturday is Ben Johnson, a folk, rock and country acoustic act from Culver City, Calif., just outside of Los Angeles.

“This is my first tour as a solo performer,” he said. “It’s exciting to be on the road playing my own songs.”

The Kissing Club duo plus Johnson are no strangers to one another, however, having known one another 10 years or more after meeting in college. The three are even in another band together called the Stevedores.

Although the Kissing Club is a new venture, they’ve been around the block in various bands over the years and have stories to tell.

“Once in Tampa Bay a man licked the sole of our old bassist’s boot. Apparently, he’s known for doing this. Look up Tampa Bay boot licker,” Miller said.

They’ll make their way to Lock Haven from Frostburg, Md. Before the show, you may catch the band members wandering around town or sipping tea at Avenue if it’s cold.

To check out Kissing Club and listen to some of their tunes, visit For Ben Johnson, visit