Hunnycomb returns for Johnstown Christmas concert
BY KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent
Johnstown native Chloe Wieczorek will once again return home for the holidays and present a concert at Bottle Works—Arts on Third Avenue.
The concert is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Dec. 20 and doors are to open at 6:30 p.m. that evening.
This is the sixth year that Wieczorek has performed a holiday concert, but this year is a bit different in that she’ll be performing with her newly formed band, hunnycomb. She described the music that she and her band play as “jazzy pop.”
The band was formed near the beginning of 2019. Wieczorek sings and plays keys in the band, which is rounded out by Kevin Lynch on drums, Jonah Petrelli on bass and Bryce Rabideau on guitar. Wieczorek said she’s inspired by Corinne Bailey Rae and Esperanza Spalding, and the band is also influenced by Stevie Wonder, Donna Summer, Hiatus Kaiyote and many more.
“Hunnycomb is my baby,” she said. “I always wanted to be in a band where I get to sing lead. Until this group, I would perform around the city as ‘Chloe Wiecz Collective,’ which was really just me and a variety of interchanging Pittsburgh musicians. Then, as time went on, one by one, I found guys who would not only play with me but also write with me. That was the turning point. That was when I stopped playing in a collective and started playing in a family.
“Kevin, Bryce and Jonah are three of my closest friends, so my favorite thing about working with them is that I can just be myself. We feel comfortable with each other, which allows us to create and perform without hesitation. The goal for hunnycomb is to create music that is fun and attainable for any listener, while still holding true to our jazz roots. We want to make people dance without realizing they're grooving to a random bar of five or singing a melody based around the lydian-dominant scale. We're really just a bunch of music nerds.”
While hunnycomb plays primarily original music written by Wieczorek and her bandmates, she said that the setlist for the Bottle Works concert will mostly consist of familiar holiday favorites. She’s excited about this performance because, for the first time, it will feature a solidified band rather than Wieczorek and hired musician-friends from Pittsburgh.
“I love coming back and playing for my family and friends,” she said. “Johnstown has such a special place in my heart because it's where my music career started. The audience is so attentive and appreciative when we perform, which is something my visiting musicians note every year. There's just something special about Johnstown that makes this show work. Also, Bottle Works has been my favorite venue to play since I was a kid. This will be the sixth year performing this Christmas show, so I usually try to do something a little different for the audience each year. This will be the first show that I use my own band, rather than hiring out musicians, so I am pretty excited to share my new project with my hometown. It's also the first Christmas show I'll be playing keys as well.”
Three back-up vocalists will join hunnycomb on stage in Johnstown.
“They will be stellar,” Wieczorek said of the vocalists. “I am so excited about them. Any show is better with back-up vocalists. So, to me, that's the biggest treat this year for the show. We'll have Mariko Reid (back-up vocalist for The Commonheart, a nationally touring band), Lucy Clabby (vocalist for Pittsburgh-popular band, Buffalo Rose), and Tyler Kirkland, who was my near and dear mentor throughout college. Something that will be special is our energy. Since I'm performing with people I play with all the time, the music will be tight and the chemistry will be apparent.”
Wieczorek has had a busy, fulfilling year. In addition to forming hunnycomb in February, she released an album in August with Pittsburgh-based theatrical art-rock group, Working Breed.
“Over the summer, I was picked up to play keys and back-ups for Jenn Wertz, a singer-songwriter best known as a former member of multi-platinum band Rusted Root,” she said. “So, with these three groups, I've been pretty busy playing all over Pittsburgh at venues, amphitheaters, festivals, etc. Nothing can beat playing original music for a crowd of people and watching them enjoy it.”
Wieczorek also continues to teach music lessons.
She’s looking forward to what 2020 brings for hunnycomb.
“We are currently working in the studio, planning to release our first album in fall 2020,” she said. “But before that time hits, we will be dropping singles and videos along the way. Right now, we are finishing up our first single/music video, which will be released on March 13 at Spirit Lodge. That's our next big thing. I am thrilled to say we will be performing with one of my favorite bands in Pittsburgh — Donora. We'll have nationally recognized DJ and producer, Buscrates, to close the evening. March 13 will essentially just be a massive music dance party. I'm stoked.”
In the meantime, Wieczorek said she hopes people will mark their calendars for Dec. 20.
“It's kind of impossible for us to not have a fun time when we're onstage,” she said. “The energy and excitement we show when we're playing is contagious, I think. So many people tell me that (my Bottle Works concert) is their favorite event of the season, and I think that's because you can't help but leave the show feeling great. It's really a joyous occasion.”
For more information about this upcoming concert, or to purchase tickets in advance, visit www.bottleworks.org or call a Bottle Works staff member at 814-535-2020. A full cash bar will be available that evening.
“This concert has become one of the musical highlights of the holiday season at the Bottle Works,” said Melody Tisinger, Bottle Works advancement and operations director. “It is wonderful to bring together so much talent, and to put the spotlight this Johnstown native. If you are not in the spirit by the December 20, this concert will surely bring your soul merriment.”