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Skribe fans know his minimalist approach. He makes huge music and art with so few raw materials. He kicks at a ratty old hi-hat cymbal and bass drum fashioned out of a battered suitcase while he yanks tunes out of yard sale guitars or a canjozookie, an 8-stringed creature made from an old oil can. He plays a kazoo. It might look like an accident but it sounds like the sorcerer’s apprentice has enchanted a music store. His sound and his vibe enchanted enough people to crowdfund his entire 2014 album, Less is More. How one guy makes that much music is magic indeed!
In December of 2016, Skribe released Postcards, a collection of eight songs with him backed by a full band. It’s exactly the album many of his fans already heard in their heads. Anyone who has caught him live has seen plenty of high-test musicians lined up to jam with him and been treated to some obscenely good collaborations. On Postcards, Skribe takes a road trip with all his musical buddies riding shotgun. And from the first notes, you’re along for the ride. This is a fun album! And if you’re not careful, you might learn something too.
“Wide Awake,” the first track, is about insomnia. You, fellow traveler, follow his imagination “…through the ceiling into outer space” and back again to the central questions of life. How does he answer them? He seeks “…the unturned stones still on the old frontier.” The music buzzes and reverberates and sounds like infinity. Six instruments include electric guitar, vibraphone and electric carillon. After a few listens, you may actually dream about scenes from this song. It won’t disturb your sleep but it might make you hum in the daylight. It’s the new sound of ancient wisdom and wondering.
The deep thoughts continue on track two. Yet “Common Ground” reminds us how simple life can be in the moment. Horns and drums give the tune an international, festival kind of vibe. He says, “…the settled heads of perfect pours rise with high demand so fill your soul or thirst for more but tonight won’t come again.”
“Home Sweet Home” would make a great rap. Or it could have been a hit for Hank Williams. Skribe grins that he’s gonna “…grow on you like a wicked weed.” It’s a rambler’s tale of chasing a muse.
“Mayonnaise & Honey” is a rock song about passion. You’ll get it. It rocks.
The savory instrumental “Canned Ham Blues” is actually played on a hamjo. Yep. It’s a stringed instrument made from the can from a canned ham. It’s all Skribe.
The song “M.I.Y” had its actual debut in a video Skribe submitted to the 2016 NPR Tiny Desk Concert series. You can make it yourself. It’s all about perspective. In the video you actually see a tiny desk and the canjozookie.
The last original song on the record is “Partners in Crime.” It could be a paean to his muse, his guitar, his band or his audience. Whatever the meaning, he means it. It’s obvious that Skribe, aka Aaron Yealdhall, is at home wherever he finds himself. He’s enjoying looking for himself and for us. At shows since the record’s release, he’s introduced himself saying “My name’s Aaron and I play in this band called Skribe.”
So fans can now have something in their hands that they’ve heard in their heads and hearts for a while. Yes Aaron is Skribe but Skribe is also an idea, an entity. It’s very Zen for garage folk. It’s also rock, country and the blues with this big-ol’ band and high production values. It’s the jackalope in the landscape, the wings on the vacuum tube, and the helmet on the dog. On these Postcards, Skribe delivers some wonders of the world you will want to write home about and visit over and over.
The final song on the album is “Strangers” by Dave Davies of The Kinks, from their 1970 album Lola. It says “Strangers on this road we are on, we are not two we are one.” It’s a perfect fit with the journey metaphors of this album and brings us all home together.
Hello 2017. I feel like you will be a momentous year for this Earth. I vow to share all the love I have and music I can gather. 2016 took too many of my musical heroes. But the music is still here and so are all the people it inspired. I dedicate my work in 2017 to heroes passed, to being present and to building a future filled with inspiration.
I created a playlist of some of my most memorable shows in 2016. I kept it to twelve songs by twelve bands but obviously I saw many more great shows and bands. All of these bands worked their asses off to make the world a happier place and I thank them for it! I reveled in new releases by Ton-Taun, a new musical pairing with Bjorn Jacobsen and Francois Byers and several new acts that really trip my trigger. Yam Yam is a funk-rock band from Harrisburg that you can’t help but dig. Bethlehem and Sad Patrick are so honest and human; they reach me on a biological level. OVVLS is an experimental psychedelic duo from Liverpool UK who blessed me with the opportunity to be their tour manager for 12 days. I can’t look at that playlist and not feel optimistic about the future of music and the spirit of humanity!
Speaking of music, spirit and optimism: I’m hosting Music Friday concerts at 551 West in Lancaster every month in 2017! To start the year right, Shawan and The Wonton will bring smooth soul, a touch of folk and a trunk of funk to town. I feel like life is sending a healing angel on a day many may feel anxious or upset. Come have some great food and drinks with us. The show is free and it may free you too. Shawan should give you a bump for a week!
By Friday January 27th, I predict you’ll be ready for some heavyweight blues. We have a three-round pounder for you at Tellus360! I named it Three Points of the Compass Blues because these three acts bring a world of blues styles and hail from three different cities. Our center point and headlining is Benjamin Vo Blues Band from little ol’ Lititz. His skills are ridiculous and he pours his heart into every note of vocals and guitar. Nobody’s music made a bigger impact on me in 2016 than Ben’s. Boom.
Hailing from the northern port of Williamsport is Gabe Stillman and The Billtown Giants. I know these cats from Bullfrog Brewery. Gabe is young on the outside and ancient on the inside. He’s actually taking his band south: to The International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN. He’s actually the reason I created this show with Tellus360. I hosted Gabe at 551 West in November. Here’s one where Ben sat in!
Our southerner, from The Land of Pleasant Living, is Skribe. You all know I love Annapolis and its bottomless well of talent. Skribe is the guy standing there, grinning, cranking the handle and filling your cup. It won’t take but a few sips of what he’s pouring before you’re loopy for his style. If you caught him when I used to bring him to Dispensing Company, on the main stage at FloydFest, or at any of his 200+ shows a year, I know I’ll see you at Tellus360 on the 27th. This is a $10 show for just $5 folks!
Nothing like a bargain to start the year right! Catch some feels with Shawan and The Wonton for free on Friday 20th. Catch hold of the blues and shake that bugger with Three Points of the Compass Blues on Friday 27th for just $5. I guarantee that will keep you boppin’ and rockin’ till Groundhog Day at least!
Medusa’s Disco Goes Acoustic: No No No Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah!
Maybe you’re old enough or maybe you saw it on YouTube. Once upon a time MTV played music videos and even hosted a performance series called “Unplugged.” When grunge rockers Nirvana made their “Unplugged” appearance, lots of people were skeptical…for about half a song. Somehow the raw, painful beauty of their songs still bored into your heart even though they weren’t blasting your ears.
Such is the trick pulled here by Medusa’s Disco on Fruit From a Timeless Planet, their 2016 acoustic release. The songs still feel like voices in your head. They muse on disregard and despair. The boys still ask big questions about the state of the world, time and space. The screams and roars have become wails and whispers, calling you to consciousness like some lost band of monks chanting and tripping on Ibogaine. They pick a line, repeat it, harmonize it and build it up until you’re breathing it as much as hearing it. “Around here…it’s all so simple…it’s not so simple…no, no, no yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah!” from “Ask the Bird” will have you winking and flying off in one verse.
The intricate rhythms and melodies lend this acoustic set a progressive sensibility. They don’t have the organs and synthesizers of 70’s era ELP or Yes but they do have ecstatic sitar and violin. Does anything sound more psychedelic and other-worldly than a sitar? For a young player, Wynton Huddle has a sensual hug on that thing. And Robin Chambers on violin has long been recognized as a portal to another world. She’s a special addition to the acoustic edition of MD. Bees, butterflies and buzzards live in her bow. Alex Aument on percussion shows a deft touch that belies his years of Muppet-Animal-like explosive nature on drums. Ty Smith seems freed by going acoustic and styling more on his bass.
The human voice, of course, is the ultimate acoustic instrument. Hunter Root and Wynton wield their voices like Jedi’s. You hear and feel every swing of their vocal pipes. Wails and whispers, screams and roars, mind tricks: they capture your senses and your imagination. They are vocal pyres that throw a lot of heat.
There’s a complexity and depth to the music beyond the expectations of “…X rock band makes an acoustic album.” And even with all the bemoaning of lies, liars and promises not kept, they still see promise in the world and reasons to pursue curiosity and enlightenment. “Don’t wait ‘til you die…to become Divine.” That is some nourishing Fruit From a Timeless Planet.
I love politics. Not the politics as seen on TV, which is just the propaganda and the hype. I love the idea that we can elect people to represent us and work to make our society better for all. I have seen government protect people from pollution, monopolies and disease. I have seen it fund infrastructure and public safety projects. I understand why a majority of people today are upset with government corruption, unbalanced budgets and laws that are not fair to everyone. In a weird way, it even makes sense that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders got the most press during the primary season. They both attacked the way Washington does business and Americans want real change. I know I do.
Trump mostly talked about himself and who he hates. Bernie talked about leading a revolution. I prefer revolution to hate. But this isn’t about who I prefer for president (none of the above). It’s about taking government out of the pocket of big money interests and holding politicians accountable for their promises. By enacting term limits on all political offices, we can end the era of career politicians.
The founding fathers never foresaw that people would serve in Congress and then spend the rest of their lives seeking reelection. America was founded by people who were suspicious and mistrustful of a wealthy ruling class. It was our revolution: “…of the people, by the people, for the people.” Ratifying the Constitution took twelve years because the representatives fought for controls that would protect their individual states from an over-reaching federal government. They also fought to ensure the separation of church and state and the even distribution of powers among the President, the Supreme Court and Congress. Then they went home and got back to their own business. They were respected in their communities because they had sacrificed their own interests and put the welfare of the country first.
A President can only serve two terms of four years. When George Washington retired after two terms, he set that standard. Yes FDR was elected to a fourth term in 1944 but that was largely because the Allies had begun to turn the tide in the war against Nazi Germany. FDR was wildly popular among average citizens recovering from the Great Depression and eager to win a war against dictators in Germany, Italy and Japan. Big business hated FDR’s New Deal programs and decried the creation of a “welfare state.” No President since then has sought a third term.
Presidents nominate candidates for the Supreme Court and Congress holds hearings to approve them. Justices hold office for life so their honesty, impartiality and intelligence must be beyond reproach. Many argue that nominating Supreme Court justices may be a President’s greatest power but no nominee goes to the bench without approval by Congress. Informed and engaged citizens would voice their opinions to their congressmen and senators and help ensure confirmation of justices who would protect their rights. But Congress seems to represent their political parties more so than they represent their constituents. And too many of our citizens are woefully uninformed and not engaged.
Big business and their lobbyists are to blame. The money they pour into reelection campaigns and sponsorship of bills has created a wealthy ruling class: Congress. The time for a new revolution has arrived. Big money isn’t going to go away. But if we make the career politicians go away, perhaps Congress can once again be the voice of citizens beyond investors and shareholders.
Trump and Sanders both got it right. People are ready for change. Matt Taibi of Rolling Stone summed it brilliantly in his article “Appetite for Destruction” (RS1267, 8/11/16).
“Trump was always just smart enough to see that the same money backs the Jeb Bushes and Hillary Clintons of the world. But he never had the vision or the empathy to understand, beyond the level of a punchline, the frustrations linking disenfranchised voters on both the left and right.
Presented with a rare opportunity to explain how the two parties stoke divisions on social issues to keep working people from realizing their shared economic dilemmas, Trump backed down. Even if he didn’t believe it, he could have turned such truths into effective campaign rhetoric. But such great themes are beyond hid pampered, D-minus mind. Instead, he tried to poach Sanders voters simply by chanting Bernie’s name like a magic word.”
Money and those who sling it that have the ears of Congress and the President. They don’t care if we’re angry as long as we keep lining up at the same feeding troughs.
Trump will go back to reality TV soon and Bernie will return to the Senate; that’s exactly what America needs right now. Senator Sanders can lead the revolution by introducing term-limits legislation. Citizens can lobby their representatives to vote for it or promise to vote them out of office. In eight to twelve years, America could have representatives who go to Washington to fight for the issues that concern them, not to cuddle up to big money and spend their days opposing the other political party and seeking reelection.
Members of Congress are supposed to represent their constituents and the issues that concern them. Security, health care, education, immigration, infrastructure and the economy: these are the concerns of the people. In our capitalist nation, they are also big businesses. Do we need better bombs or better schools? Should medicines only be available to those who can afford them? Will the internet mean we don’t needs roads or cities anymore? Is the tax code fair? Can these issues be debated fairly by a Congress who listens to business more than the voters at home? Everyone says no.
Our representatives should be the experts in these fields who are willing to suspend their careers for six to eight years and go to Washington. Their goals shouldn’t be becoming politicians. Their goals should be issue specific to their states and good for America as a whole. A safe, healthy, prosperous America is good for the world.
The President is our chief diplomat and public symbol of our values and resolve. They come and go with election cycles. The Supreme Court justices write and uphold our laws. But as long as there are lawyers, those justices will have to justify every decision and prepare to be challenged. It’s Congress that needs accountability. No more career politicians: it’s been my rallying cry for quite a while.
If you’re still reading, have a few laughs as a reward. George Carlin knew us best. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYIC0eZYEtI
You all know what a fan I am of 551 West on King Street. I eat there at least once a week and have started staging a show monthly on Music Fridays. This Saturday 9/10 they and a ton of neighborhood businesses are hosting a block party on Pine Street between King and Orange. Food, fun, beverages and music in the streets: that has Gigspots written all over it.
I volunteered to organize and emcee a battle of the bands between noon and 4pm. I must say the talent level is sky high and we’re staging a real mix of styles. We’re also featuring a band that Gigspots was first to introduce in Lancaster (The Late Saints) and introducing a band playing Lancaster for the first time (Sangre Luna). AND IT’S FREE, folks! Just show up and rock out. Over 50 vendors and all your West End neighbors will be there.
Battle of the Bands Contestants
The Separators – The Separators are an alternative rock band with a progressive, post-punk sound. Colin Deery – Vocals/Bass. Matthew Abel – Drums. Alex Abel – Guitar. Ben Zanowski – Guitar. Their newest release “Go Here Go There” is a three song EP that showcases their songwriting and musicianship. https://theseparators.bandcamp.com/releases 12:15pm
The Late Saints – Led by Italian-born vocalist, guitarist and kazoo virtuoso Jacopo de Nicola, and propelled by the energetic rhythmic section of bassist Mike Huff and drummer Micah Hebbel, The Late Saints bring on stage their genre-bending Italian Gypsy Rock. Treading a path between the lyrical nuances of the Italian Cantautori and the frenetic rhythms a la Manu Chao and Gogol Bordello, this Philly-based trio traverses comfortably between Balkan influenced two-steps, Latin American Tropicalia, poignant protest songs and “Italianized” pop covers. Often featuring guest musicians from the wider Philadelphia area, The Late Saints like to turn their live performances into contagious music melees. The kazoo-driven brass section defines their unique sound. http://www.thelatesaints.com/ 1:15pm
Sangre Luna – Sangre Luna is a 4-piece band with blues in their soul and rock-n-roll in their hearts. Their philosophy is that music should move you in every sense of the word. They strive to sing, shout, and strum that truth in every performance. Wrapping the musings of a male/female songwriting duo around the thunderous grooves of their rhythm section, Sangre Luna seeks nothing less than the hearts & minds of every listener and to make you stomp and shake. http://sangreluna.com/ 2:15pm
Benjamin Vo Blues Band – Benjamin Vo is a young man with paid dues and plenty of blues. Born in Atlanta, GA, he moved frequently with his family. Now living in Lititz, Ben brings down the house at blues and rock clubs throughout the mid-Atlantic with an array of stellar musicians forming his band. Fans of BB King, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Skip James, Robert Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughn are left shaking their heads in amazement at his powerful voice, compelling songs and sheer brilliance on guitar. http://www.benjaminvo.bandcamp.com/ 3:15pm
I haven’t blogged much lately because I’ve been blue. I’m sharing today that I am no longer contracted to Lancaster Roots and Blues, A Festival of Music, as the director of operations. Mr. Rich Ruoff fired me on June 20. I questioned his judgement one time too many I guess. If you want another version of the story, you will have to ask him about it. If you would like to comment, please do so here! If you have comments or questions about LRB, please direct them to Mr. Ruoff.
I’m very proud of the work and investment I made in the festival over its first three years. I hope you all enjoyed yourselves and I hope it thrives for many years to come. Thank you Lancaster for being a great city for the event. Thank you to the venues and the artists for your outstanding connection to the attendees. Thank you to the restaurants who helped me feed the artists and volunteers. Thank you volunteers and staff!
Gigspots will continue to book bands, produce events and tours, and bring you the latest in music news, videos, show and music reviews. Watch for a revised version of the website to debut in August and catch us at shows and festivals around the mid-Atlantic!
Some Fridays are just funner than others! This Friday 7/15 Gigspots is hosting shows at two Lancaster venues: Tellus 360 and 551 West. Why not drop a rock bomb smack in the middle of July! Help us welcome back to town Working Breed, Leo & Cygnus and Benjamin Vo Blues Band!
The 551 West show is the first of a new Gigspots Showcase series to be held monthly on Music Fridays. That’s the third Friday of each month for people unfamiliar with our wonderful city of Lancaster, PA! 551 West is our favorite city bar & grill with outrageously delicious food and drinks and two dozen taps. Benjamin Vo Blues Band is the perfect act to add tasty blues licks to the mix. If you haven’t caught these guys yet, come see one of the most dynamic and stylish blues guitarists this side of Stevie Ray Vaughn!
We have a special love for both Working Breed and Leo & Cygnus! We often travel to their respective towns of Pittsburgh and Annapolis to catch them and are crazy proud to be bringing them back to Lancaster! And where but Tellus 360 could play host to such fresh, genre-bending bands? If you like your music artsy, diverse and “Holy Cow did you hear that?” these bands are a must-see!
LAUNCH Music Conference returns to Lancaster for their eighth blast-off Thursday thru Saturday night April 21-23. Day-time events include over 40 panels and seminars conducted by music industry professionals. Music starts at 6pm all three nights and includes performances by over 200 acts in many styles. Fourteen downtown venues will be rocking all weekend!
LAUNCH is a good opportunity for musicians to learn, play and network. It’s very much a gathering of the tribes and regular attendees (like me) treat it like a family reunion of sorts. The music business can be a lonely road with few directional signs or welcome centers. This annual weekend gives the musicians a chance to play for big crowds of their friends and to see those bands they rarely can catch due to their own performance schedules. Plus they never know who might see them perform and offer new opportunities.
You can’t see everybody; it’s the dilemma of festivals with multiple stages. But here are some acts I can vouch for as fun, talented, provocative models of what the weekend is all about. As a disclaimer, I should mention that none of my picks are metal/hardcore/thrash styles. I just don’t appreciate the genre enough to make informed choices. If you like it, this weekend is custom-made for you because we get too few chances to hear bands like that in Lancaster and LAUNCH founder Jeremy Weiss is an absolute authority on metal. My one heavy pick: From Under the Willow 7:30pm Saturday at Chameleon Club.
- Noelle Picara 6pm in the lobby of LCCC piano chanteuse from another world
- Dre Powe with Jamall Anthony 7:15pm LCCC Freedom Hall rap, R&B and soul
- The Quixote Project 8:45pm at Chameleon Club neo-Roots and Americana
- Meg and The Right Sound 9:15pm at The Candy Factory hometown Americana
- Lovebettie 11:15 at Federal Taphouse pop rock with swagger
- Colin McGetrick 12am at Federal Taphouse singer-songwriter-guitarist of WaveRadio
- Danielle & Jennifer 6pm LCCC lobby pop rock sister act: adorable yet deep
- Caroline Byrne 6pm Marion Court singer with American Idol on her resume
- The Late Saints 8pm at Tellus 360 Italian folk rock and be ready to dance
- Fink’s Constant 8:30pm at Tellus 360 Ska rock and reggae that will move you
- The Stonewall Vessels 10pm at Tellus 360 hometown rock go boom
- This Way to the Egress 11pm at Tellus 360 polka punk band accordion mayhem
- Sweet Leda 11:15 at Federal Taphouse rockin’ soul from 3-time Roots & Blues dynamos
- Angela Michelle Walker 11:45 at Tellus 360 heart-throb, hometown performer
- WaveRadio 12:15 at Tellus 360 distinctive rock sounds
I gave myself three weeks before writing about Lancaster Roots and Blues. Just as I work behind the curtain for the festival, I heal and reflect in private. Someday I’ll tell my stories. For now I’m enjoying hearing your experiences and seeing your pictures and videos. In particular, I’d like to thank Dan Gillespie of DGital for sharing hundreds of brilliant action shots that really bring the festival to life again. You have a peerless eye and a generous heart brother!
I need to thank my stage managers for keeping the artists happy and organized. You did a remarkable job this year under some challenging circumstances. I need to thank my lead volunteers and their staffs. You helped our attendees feel welcome, find their way and enjoy their experience. You are great hosts and help create the vibe that keeps people smiling all over town.
I saw less music this year than either of the previous years. It made me really sad. But I brought more bands to the festival than before and by all accounts they played their asses off! Thank you: Kaleigh Baker, Sweet Leda, Deb Guy, Sam Baker, Stolen Rhodes, Tractor Jerry and The Mudbucket, Gabe Stillman and the Billtown Giants, Frog Holler, Swampcandy, The O’My’s, Sympathy & the Lion and Shawan and The Wonton. You are stars to me and I appreciate how hard you worked to make our fans get off!
One of my priorities during the festival is getting all the bands and volunteers fed. I couldn’t do that without the support of Lancaster’s great restaurant community and their staffs. Particular thanks must be extended to Carr’s, Commonwealth on Queen, Bistro Barberet & Bakery and Characters Pub who created and served the remarkable food for our VIP receptions. You made people feel special even as their numbers swelled beyond projections. The following restaurants helped me feed 300 musicians and 230 volunteers while serving capacity crowds of their own: Fat Pigs, The Pressroom, La Piazza, 551 West, Penn Square Grille, Dispensing Company, Annie Bailey’s, Federal Taphouse, Tellus 360 and Isaac’s Pickle Bar and Deli. Lancaster is blessed to have you all!
She won’t like it, but I must single out Carrie Binkley our Production Manager. If Rich is the brain and I’m the hands and feet of this festival, she is nothing less than the skeleton. She provides the framework and connectivity that enable us to move with purpose and stability.
I hope everyone enjoyed the festival and will continue to support its growth! I’m not sure how many small cities could host, sustain and grow a festival this big this quickly but Lancaster, you make it look easy. You are a city authentic with charm, character and vivacity few towns your size could even imagine. Obviously we are blessed with a lot of great music venues, restaurants and shops but they are just buildings without the remarkable people who run them. Thank you people of Lancaster!