Pajama Factory holds fifth annual Pre-New Year’s Eve Bash
A night of blues entertainment to benefit Factory Works
Fred Daniele is no stranger to Williamsport’s music scene. Franco’s Lounge, 12 W. Fourth St., the restaurant and music club that he and his family have run since the ’80s, has been the stage for many of the area’s best local talent – from Sean Farley and Mallory Scoppa, to Jordan Lutz and David Lynn. What’s more, the club also has featured musical icons Joan Osborne, Steve Forbert and Queen Bee and the Blue Hornet Band.
The Daniele siblings have always been about giving back to the community, not only supporting its rich local talent, but also the nonprofit charities who appreciate the extra support.
For the past five years, Franco’s Lounge has been hosting its annual New Year’s Eve Blues Bash, first at the Genetti Hotel and then settling in at the Pajama Factory, 1307 Park Ave., after a conversation with owner Mark Winkelman sparked a partnership.
This year’s Fifth Annual Pre-New Year’s Eve Blues Bash will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 28 in the Community Room at the Pajama Factory. Doors will open at 5 p.m.
The year-end fundraising concert will support the Factory Works, a nonprofit organization housed within the Pajama Factory complex that was founded by Winkelman and his wife, Susie. Originally the Center for Creativity, the group’s mission is to support the development and maintenance of a collaborative and educational environment for artists, artisans and small businesses. It has grown to include a Woodshop, Clay Studio, Darkroom and Bicycle Recycle shop, as well as an Artist-in-Residence program and gallery, all of which will benefit from event proceeds.
Danielle Velkoff, event coordinator for the Pajama Factory, said the classes not only allow artists to work on their crafts and expand their portfolios, but also bridge communities and the world abroad. The annual event helps sustain this mission.
“The Blues Bash allows us to give money back to the community,” she said. “It has grown from just being a party to really a chance to give back and benefit the programs that enrich the creative community and community as a whole. It impacts the community 365 days a year.”
Presented by the Pajama Factory and Enduring Star Productions, a Fred Daniele company, Velkoff added that the date of the evening is perfect for parents who want to celebrate the New Year with a night out, while spending New Year’s Eve with their family and loved ones.
“We’ve got some really great talent that make the event worthwhile to come out,” she added.
Velkoff credits Daniele’s connections and musical influence for helping to make Williamsport the hotbed for blues artists that it has become.
“It’s Fred’s relationship to those bands, his lineage and his legacy, his nurturing of a bunch of these up-and-coming artists, that enables us to have such a great ticket,” Velkoff said.
Fred first met pal Mark Ross when he was performing as a guitar player with Queen Bee & the Blue Hornet Band in the ’80s. The band was taking the mid-Atlantic region by storm.
“They came through Williamsport and found us and wanted to play at Franco’s,” Daniele said. “We would just get packed. The blues were just starting to get really popular and people were ready for something different.”
After the original Queen Bees split in 1999, Ross continued to play with various bands, including Miss Melanie & The Valley Rats, who will perform at the New Year’s Eve Bash. Ross also put Daniele in touch with legendary blues band The Nighthawks, which, Daniele said, officially put Franco’s on the map. As is tradition, The Nighthawks also will be part of the lineup for the concert.
Celebrating 45 years and known as the world’s greatest bar band, the Nighthawk’s frontman Mark Wenner said the evening is a regional reunion, of sorts, as far as the players go.
With a capacity for 300 guests and 220 coming through the door for last year’s event, Wenner said the crowd continues to grow.
“The first year was cold, with a modest crowd,” he said. “Our guitar player was wearing long johns and outdoor hiking gear. The next year he was sweating buckets. It has evolved as a space and the last couple of years we were really crammed full. It’s becoming quite the event.”
Other featured performers include Gabe Stillman & the Billtown Giants and acoustic duo Sean Farley and David Lynn.
“And if we can, we get a hungry band to come and open the show,” Wenner said. “At the end of the show, everybody piles on the stage. That’s the one nice thing about blues music – everybody can play together who have never played together. Somebody like Gabe can come up and play with our band without rehearsing.”
The bottom line, Wenner added, is that the bash is an amazing reunion with a really positive vibe of being fun and friendly.
Although this is a BYOB event, food trucks will be available for those who wish to grab a bite to eat, as well.
Sponsorship opportunities are available for those who want to gain VIP access, which includes assigned seating, inclusion in advertising, and party blowers and hats.
Tickets are available at Franco’s Lounge, Way Cool Beans (located in the Pajama Factory) and at pajamafactory.net/bluesbash.