Avoca resident Richie Kossuth doesn’t care for the term “tribute band,” although the drummer acknowledges it’s often the only way to describe what he and the other members of Twelve Twenty-Four do every holiday season. Now, in its 14th season of performing Trans-Siberian Orchestra music, the Wyoming Valley-based group is putting on a more elaborate show and playing to more people than ever before.
With upcoming shows in Dallas and Hazleton, as well as outside Northeastern Pennsylvania, members of Twelve Twenty-Four are poised to carry on the tradition of TSO’s hard rock holiday canon while also performing original Christmas music for fans in their home region and beyond.
“When we go out, we do as big of a show, for a small band, as TSO,” Kossuth said. “People who have seen TSO know they have lots of lighting, lasers, snow machines. In fact, we had snow before they did, believe it or not.”
Kossuth is a founding member of the band, along with guitarist, keyboard player and singer Jason “J-Bird” Santos, of Kingston, and guitarist Lenny Kucinski, of Hazleton. Kossuth said he watched the band grow from a five-piece with a few gigs to a 14-piece orchestra with a seven-person production crew that plays across a considerable area and to sizable houses.
“When we started out, it was very tough getting jobs,” Kossuth said. “With a Christmas show, you’re set to Thanksgiving week to New Year’s, and so is TSO. Every job we tried to get in the beginning, they’d be playing Wilkes-Barre. Our first year, we ended up with five or six jobs. Now we’re up to 15 or 20.”
Kossuth said the band never intended to have a long-term plan, but once fans began to offer positive feedback, members of the band tried to outdo themselves, adding new members and production elements from season to season. The show has grown and the band is satisfied with the theaters and halls it has booked.
“Our average crowd, because of the places we play, is 300 to 800 people, and we’re happy about that,” Kossuth said. “What people like about it is every place we play is an intimate venue.”
Twelve Twenty-Four has not filled arenas like TSO, but early in its tenure, members of the band received acknowledgement from the founder of TSO.
“We sent a video to TSO’s people, and Paul O’Neil actually called us,” Kossuth said of TSO’s founder. “They gave us 12 front row seats to see their show.”
Santos, whose role has evolved in Twelve Twenty-Four, said there are several reasons the group does the tour each holiday season.
“The fact that we play the TSO stuff is really challenging and it’s got that progressive rock feel,” Santos said. “Also, just like the crowds we’ve had these past couple weekends, the energy of the audience … there’s an overwhelming response. The way people come back every year … it’s emotionally charging.”
Santos, the primary composer for the band’s original efforts, said fans associate Twelve Twenty-Four with the holidays and a hopeful sentiment.
“It’s uplifting when people are talking and they say it starts their Christmas off or they’re having a bad day and needed some spiritual uplifting,” Santos said.
Both Kossuth and Santos enjoy the meet and greet the band does after every show.
“If you know you can make that one person smile, it’s worth it,” Kossuth said. “People are just so ecstatic to talk to you. We have this lady in her 90s that comes and sees our show every year.”
Kim Adamiak, of Taylor, has been going to Twelve Twenty-Four shows for 11 years and saw seven shows one year.
“It just gets you into the Christmas spirit,” Adamiak said. “I love sitting in the audience and watching each and every one of them just love what they’re doing. They get so into their music that it’s amazing to watch them.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter@TLArts