It’s Working!

I mentioned in my last post about all the talented, wonderful, generous people I’ve met since starting Gigspots.  Thursday night it paid off yet again!  Local musician and all-around great guy Mike McMonagle posted on his Facebook page about a gig he was playing in Glen Rock, PA.  He was opening for a young lady I’d never heard of, Rebekah Jean.  He included a link to her Facebook and dropped some major hints that her special guest was going to be VERY special: possibly Jessica Lee Mayfield or her brother David Mayfield.  Those two I knew from music and interviews on XPN.

I knew to trust Mike’s musical tastes.  I was pretty bummed to only arrive in time for his last song but it was a favorite: “Goodbye Virgina.”  The Glen Rock Mill Inn wasn’t that tough to find and I must say, I can’t wait to return.  The Mill Inn is a beautifully restored building, the drink prices were right, the staff was very accommodating and the food looked great.  I foresee many afternoons/evenings enjoying all of the above on their terraced garden patios.

WOW!  The guest turned out to be David Mayfield and he and Rebekah Jean sounded great together!  Mike introduced us and they were really nice.  They gave me permission to video the show and I got some great stuff!  Her solid yet ethereal voice made ghosts and memories race through my mind.  Her lyrics kept me in the moment.  David’s harmonies perfected the mood and boy, can he play guitar!  His vintage Telecaster would impress my guitar-geek friends but his style would impress anyone.

They were playing in what’s called The Hearth Room: very quaint, cozy and intimate.  The sound was clear and filled the room without deafening anyone or rattling items off the enormous mantle.  The connection between artists and audience resonated.  It was absolute magic!

I love it when things work out!  I had a lot of reservations about getting involved with all this social media stuff when I started my website.  Is it voyeurism? Stalking?  Are most people on Facebook et al just posting lewd comments/pictures, idle gossip and hyperbole?  We all know there is plenty of content like that out there and “viral” certainly has several meanings.  I love the connections I have made but trust me, I still have concerns about confusing social networking with socializing.

I guess social media is much like life.  Choose your friends carefully and make good choices.  I hope Gigspots serves your needs when you’re looking for quality entertainment and I hope you will share with me the shows and moments I just should not miss.  Thanks again, Mike!

LAUNCH Fever!

LAUNCH Fever!

I’m getting really psyched for LAUNCH Music Conference April 26-29!!  It coincides with the anniversary of my website and really shows the potential Lancaster has as an entertainment destination.  Last year, I had fliers in the swag bags.  A lot of good it did me; my website wasn’t much to see at its birth.  This year, I have a vendor table and the time to attend some of the conferences.  I also have all-access passes for every show in every venue, all weekend.  I’ll be the happiest zombie you’ve ever seen by Sunday!

Who did I hear for the first time at last year’s conference?  Amanda WellsDana AlexandraPete Bush and the Hoi Polloi.  Maybe those names mean nothing to you.  They were nothing to me then but I have grown very fond of these folks and seen many strong shows by each of them in the past year.  I’m really thrilled that Pete is coming back from Pittsburgh this year.  Be sure to be at Spring House Tap Room on Friday April 27 by 8pm.  Lancaster’s own Amanda Wells and Mike McMonagle each have a set and the Hoi Polloi plays right on their heels.  You can hear all three and still have time to see The Felice Brothers!  I promise!  That’s what I’m doing!

Here’s how just those three examples played out for me.  By hearing and meeting Amanda and Dana, I discovered a whole network of local women singer/songwriters and their regular showcases at places like Dispensing Company, Shenk’s and Symposium.  Social networking with them kept me up to date on shows by local powers Jessica Smucker, Loretta Bilieux, and Trixie Greiner.  They guided me to shows by newcomers like Macy K and regional touring acts like Heather Maloney and Sarah Blacker.  I had a great year with the ladies!  (I always wanted to say that!)

Dana introduced me to her drummer, Tony Kirchner.  He also drums for Slimfit (rock stars!) and promotes shows, in particular the Singer/Songwriter Series at Lancaster Dispensing Company.  It was Tony who told me I had to get to know Fryth at DipCo and the owners of Tri State Indie, Rich and Steph.  Getting to know those folks was invaluable to me as I built my business.  I learned a lot from all of them and am now proud to call them friends.  I contribute regularly to TSI now and presented at their first annual awards show.  Fryth is just flat-out my hero.  By the way, we never would have had Plugged In on the Farm last summer without the efforts of Tony and Fryth.

In talking to Pete and showing him around (he’s from Pittsburgh like me), I heard about the ALTAR BAR, Thunderbird Café and several other great venues back there.  On my first trip to ALTAR, I heard Lovebettie.  POW!!  That club is absolute dynamite and nobody lit my fuse this year like Lovebettie.  I staged my first show this year just to give them a place near here to play.  Go to Chameleon on the Saturday of LAUNCH and see Lovebettie on the main stage at 9pm.  You will Lovebettie too!

But don’t just listen to me!  Go to the LAUNCH website and download the schedule of conferences and performers.  They even have a scheduler app for it this year.  Get yourself a weekend pass and get your own year’s-worth of fun and entertainment out of it!

Super-Mega Music Wizard

This blog originally ran April 4, 2012.  I still haven’t won the lottery but I’d still do the same things with the money.

Super-Mega Music Wizard

Ok, I didn’t win $300 million on Saturday.  I had big plans for that money.  Of course, the odds of winning were about the same as becoming an all-powerful wizard.  So while I keep rubbing that lamp, here’s what I would have done with the money.

I would buy one of the unused warehouses or factories in Lancaster and turn it into a grand music venue: maybe 800-1,200 seats.  The demand exists and major touring artists pass us by every day.  Why should Lancaster be the only town around here without one?

I also would buy The Chameleon Club and Lancaster Dispensing Company.  I love them and wish they were mine.  I don’t envision a lot of changes.  Although, I would install a state-of-the-art sound system in DipCo and I would offer Rich Ruoff a fortune to oversee the music in both.   Of course, the restaurant and nightclub businesses are money pits with no guarantee of return.  If that weren’t true, I would have bought The Blue Star years ago.

I also would convince Clipper Stadium to start staging concerts again in the summer.  Outdoor concerts are special and money talks.  I saw Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson at The Clip!  Do you remember the crowd for Bryan Adams?  I could even afford to buy a weekend getaway for all the neighbors who complain about the noise.

I would provide shuttle busses to/from Long’s Park for the Summer Sunday Concerts.  We could do pick-ups at every Weis grocery in the county and at the downtown bus terminal.  I love the shows but parking is a drag.

Speaking of buses, we need public transportation to/from the city after 6pm.  Even one bus on each major “pike” leaving Lancaster at 10pm could be a boon to downtown businesses, especially on First Fridays and Music Fridays.  It would ease traffic congestion and appeal to non-drivers and imbibers.  How many more meals could be served and artworks sold?  How many more people could enjoy the conviviality of these awesome evenings and see that downtown is not so scary?  I could subsidize those buses.  Maybe public transportation could get a bounce from it.  After living in Europe for 19 months, I realized what a shame it is that America turned its back on buses and trains.

I would create scholarships directly linked to community building and the arts.  We need our colleges to play a larger role in the shape and flavor of events in Lancaster.  F&M, Millersville, PCAD, Stevens, HACC and YTI all bring energized, curious young people downtown.  Let’s give them a greater voice and see what kind of richness they envision for our fair town.

I would throw a ton of money at charities.  My favorites in town are Music For Everyone, Water Street Rescue Mission, and Milagro House.  They say that once you get wealth, people come out of the woodwork with open palms.  I’m just dreaming here, but maybe you’ll dream with me.  What would you have me do with the money?  What would you do with it? Maybe if we team up, we can create community wealth and magic without becoming millionaires or wizards.

Out Like a Lion, Gigspots-Style

Out Like a Lion, Gigspots-Style

Curious how my last weekend of March turned out?  Hexbelt grooved the Lancaster Dispensing Company Friday night.  They command that room like few other local acts.  It might be torrid musicianship.  It might be a devoted following.  Surely one led to the other. People dance joyously at their shows. Plus, Danny can climb to the ceiling.

I did make it to Wrightsville to witness the official grand opening of Burning Bridge Tavern.  It bills itself as a friendly sports bar.  It appears to be much more than that.  The place was packed with people eating burgers and wings and large TV’s hung in every sightline.  A duo played covers and Vinegar Creek Constituency was performing later.  It’s big, clean and comfortable: part rustic, part urban.  The joint was hopping and 200 people looked happy.  With the Burning Bridge joining John Wright’s down the street, it appears the scene in Wrightsville is building a bridge to get bands and fans from Lancaster crossing “the moat” more regularly.

I made it from Wrightsville to north Philly in 95 minutes.  Kate and I had dinner at Max Brenner’s on 15th and Walnut.  Part chocolate shop, part coffee bar, part bistro: it simmered and swirled us.  An avocado BLT and fish tacos, both yummy and relatively healthy, were obliterated by a most decadent dessert.  The Euphoria sundae featured chocolate and peanut butter ice creams, peanut butter, fudge, nuts, crunchy praline kind of things and was accompanied by ramekins of warm chocolate and peanut butter fondues. Every bite was different and transporting, like watching clouds loft by and then being them.

MilkBoy Philly knocked me out.  The ground floor looks like a cool dairy bar but is every bit of a real bar. Unique cocktails, 30+ draught and canned beer selection and cheap featured shots beckoned.  The menu almost made me wish I had skipped dessert but Euphoria was still upon me.  My next visit will pivot around Mac ‘n Cheese Chili Rellenos and a Hand-Carved Brisket Au Jus sandwich with fries, I guarantee.

Upstairs is the music venue: a 6,000 watts of Clair Brothers sound-system kind of venue.  It holds 200 and was maxed Saturday night.  Local killing bands The Peace Creeps and TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb played the 9:30 and 11pm slots.  I drove in to see the headliner, Kalob Griffin Band, but these two bands alone would have been worth the $10 cover.  The frontman and guitarist for Peace Creeps also played a theremin like a wiry, wily wizard: trippy rock and blues.  TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb lived up to their name: big, powerful and laying waste to the place.  Their sound is a bit old-timey and a bit sinister: like George Thorogood’s hillbilly uncle.

Kalob Griffin showed up shaved; I didn’t recognize him until he smiled!  He’s actually a pretty handsome dude.  It made me wonder if he would play “Beards.” His Band was primed and 200 people were chanting, “KGB! KGB!” when they took the stage at midnight.  Even the employees were excited; they all remarked on the size and enthusiasm of the crowd.

KGB opened with a new song, “American Dream,” and people were going nuts.  The band actually debuted a bunch of new songs but also nailed favorites like “Flood of 1889” and “Whiskey My Love.”  They DID play “Beards” but not before Kalob told a funny story about not being able to play it anymore.

Also, the band was giving away a 2-song demo from the cd to be released June 1st at World Café Live in Philly.  Get your tickets now.  If KGB can draw 200 people at a club they’ve never played before, you know a cd release at WCL will sell out.