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River City Extension goes with its own flow

’The Unmistakable Man’ is the band’s first full-length album.

Mike Costaney, left, Jenn Fantaccione, Samantha Tacon, Joe Michelini, Daniel Melius, Pat O’Brien, Nick Cucci and James Ramirez make up New Jersey’s River City Extension.

Musicians are always looking for something to set them apart from the crowd. For eight-piece band River City Extension and its guiding force, singer-songwriter Joe Michelini, that meant creating its own sub-genre: “chamber punk.”

“That term comes from ‘chamber pop,’ the music of the ’60s and ’70s that incorporated classical elements into pop,” Michelini says. “There are current bands such as The Decemberists doing music like that, but we have been told we have a ‘punkier’ live show. So we thought this term was much more inclusive.”

The octet from Toms River, N.J., touring in support of a vinyl re-release of its first album, will perform at the Vintage Theater & Cafe in Scranton on Feb. 11.

Formed in the fall of 2007 and often compared to The Avett Brothers (who will be at the Kirby Center on Feb. 19), the band combines elements of Americana, calypso, mariachi and a whole host of other types of music to create its distinctive hybrid. In addition to Michelini, who plays guitar and piano, the group consists of Mike Costaney (drums), Pat O’Brien (keyboards, percussion), Dan Melius (trumpet, vocals, percussion), Samantha Tacon (vocals, percussion), Nick Cucci (guitar, djembe, vocals), Jenn Fantaccione (cello, bass, trumpet) and James Ramirez (bass, banjo).

After building a loyal following on the Jersey shore, River City Extension self-released an EP in 2009 and followed up in May 2010 with its first full-length album, “The Unmistakable Man.”

The album garnered praise from “Paste” and “Alternative Press” magazines, and NPR chose one of its tracks, “Something Salty, Something Sweet” as a “Song of the Day” in September. The vinyl re-release offers a bonus track with guest vocals by Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze.

“I think it’s a rite of passage for every musician to release your album on vinyl,” Michelini said. “And ours is just a little bit cooler because one of our heroes sings on it.”

On its current tour, the band is crisscrossing the continent, playing headlining shows (like the one in Scranton) and others as support first for The Get Up Kids and Steel Train, then for Max Bemis (from “Say Anything”), whom Michelini lists as one of his biggest influences. The tour will be capped by the group’s showcase at the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in mid-March.

“I’m trying not to expect anything going in,” he said of the Austin, Texas, festival that has launched many a music career during the past 25 years. “Someone much wiser than me once said, ‘Expect nothing but hope for everything.’

“It’s going to happen however it is going to happen, whether I put expectations on it or not.”

For now, Michelini is looking forward to returning to Scranton (the group played here about four months ago, he said) and winning over some more fans.

“To this day, I’m still too close to the music to understand what makes it different,” he said. “For us, it is a cathartic release and a way of being creative. But if what we’re doing is helping to open other people’s minds and hearts, then that’s a good thing.”

On Feb. 12, local music fans will have something they haven’t had in a while: two shows from which to choose.

Smooth-jazz saxophonist Dave Koz will bring his romantic music to the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre for the Saturday before Valentine’s Day.

Koz’s career spans more than 20 years and nearly a dozen albums, and he has become a fixture on the Contemporary Jazz charts. Three of his albums have been certified Gold (signifying sales of 500,000 copies), and his 2007 collaboration with producer Phil Ramone, “At The Movies,” topped the charts for 12 weeks and was nominated for a Grammy. His “Greatest Hits” collection debuted at No. 1 on both the Contemporary Jazz and iTunes Jazz Album charts in the fall of 2008. His latest album, “Hello Tomorrow,” was released in October.

Tickets for the 8 p.m. Kirby Center appearance cost $44.50 to $55.25 and are available at the Kirby Center box office and through Ticketmaster.

Meanwhile, ’80s power-pop band The Romantics – who incidentally formed on Valentine’s Day in 1977 – will take the stage at Gypsies Lounge and Nightclub at the Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono.

The Detroit-based band is best remembered for 1983’s “In Heat” album, which spawned two hit singles: “Talking In Your Sleep,” which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “One In A Million,” which peaked at No. 37. The band’s first hit, 1980’s “What I Like About You,” reached No. 49 and has become a mainstay on the radio ever since.

Tickets for the 9 p.m. performance are $25 to $40; for more information, visit www.mountairycasino.com.

Your best bet for live music this weekend, meanwhile, might be two performances of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band at the Sellersville Theater in Sellersville (about 80 minutes from Wilkes-Barre).

Tomorrow’s 8 p.m. performance is sold out, but tickets might still be available for the 3 p.m. performance. Make sure you check the theater’s website, www.st94.com, before starting your road trip.

The band was formed in Long Beach, Calif., in 1966 and still includes three original members. Singer-guitarist Jeff Hanna and drummer Jimmie Fadden have been there since day one; multi-instrumentalist John McEuen was with them until 1986 and rejoined in 2001. Rounding out the lineup is keyboardist Bob Carpenter, who joined in 1977.

The group is famous for its blend of country, rock, bluegrass, folk and jug-band music and scored its biggest success on the pop charts in 1972 with “Mr. Bojangles” and the album “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” which showcased some of the pioneers of country music and eventually went Platinum (signifying sales of 1 million copies).

Beginning in 1984, the band found huge success on the Country charts, hitting No. 1 three times with “Long Hard Road (The Sharecropper’s Dream)” in 1984, “Modern Day Romance” in 1985 and “Fishin’ in the Dark” in 1987. They also scored 13 other Top 10 hits between 1984 and 1989.

The 1989 sequel “Will The Circle Be Unbroken: Volume Two” reached No. 5 on the album charts and matched the Platinum success of its predecessor. A third volume was released in 2002, and the group’s latest album is 2009’s “SPEED of LIFE.”

The group has won four Grammy Awards, three of which came for “Circle Volume Two,” which also won the Country Music Association (CMA) award for Album of the Year.

If you go

Who: River City Extension

When: 7 p.m. Feb. 11

Where: Vintage Theater & Café, 119 Penn Ave., Scranton

Tickets: $8

Call: 570-589-0271 or visit www.scrantonsvintagetheater.com

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