One Week Out: Roots & Blues Baby!

The programs and wristbands arrived yesterday.  I put 1,000 in my car and began deliveries to our restaurant sponsors.  Lancaster Roots & Blues, like any army, travels on its stomach.  I wanted those chefs, waiters and bartenders to be among the first to see their ads in print.  I know that next weekend they’ll be working themselves silly to help everyone enjoy the experience. Part of my job is seeing that 300 musicians and 230 volunteers get fed. Of course, as I spread a stack of programs on the bar, I found myself being spokesperson and cheerleader for this momentous upcoming weekend. It’s the easiest part of my job!

If you read my last blog, you got a glimpse behind the show curtain and an idea of how many miles I cover in a typical, 18 hour festival day.  I encouraged you to make a plan and I showed you mine.  Mike Tyson’s motto was “Everybody’s got a plan till they get punched in the face.”  With all those musicians and volunteers plus between 7,000-10,000 fans coming to town, I’ll be bobbing and weaving and trying to block every punch life might throw at any and all of us.    We now know that weather won’t hurt us; it’s forecast to be in the 40’s and mostly sunny all weekend!

I think our Master Classes are some of the coolest events of the weekend.  They are included in your ticket price and are totally unique experiences.  How often can you sit with the artists as they discuss what they do and then demonstrate it?  Saturday also means Under 21 ticket day so I hope to start my laps at noon amidst young people getting a glimpse at the music life and how artists find their muses and methods.  We have some young rockers called Center Road playing at Chameleon that afternoon that I really want to check out too.

6pm will find me at Ware Center to introduce Kaleigh Baker.  I so rarely get to see her backed by her full band and folks, all she does is crush it.  If you love female vocalists with power and style, just camp out at Ware for Kaleigh, Ruthie Collins and Morgan James.

TheomysI’ll be at The Village at midnight to introduce The O’My’s from Chicago.  If you snooze on The Village lineup on Saturday, you will have missed some of the coolest acts of the weekend.  I’d call this our Contemporary Lineup stage if I was pressed to label it.  Mama Tried, Chrome Moses, RK$TDY and The O’My’s: I’d love to take that team on tour!

I could go on and on but I need to go, go, go!  I’ll be the guy with the big smile on his face and the rest of me kind of blurry.  See you next weekend and have a ball!

 

 

 

Fits & Starts for Roots & Blues

Are you having fits & starts over the schedule for Roots & Blues?  Do you know the phrase fits & starts?  In the case of deciding who to see, where and when during Lancaster Roots and Blues festival, the phrase could describe how you are wrestling with choices.  You decide who to see, you discover an option, you feel conflict and you flip.  It’s a good problem to have.  Don’t give yourself conniptions as my mother’s people would say.

Map-of-Festival-2016-LRB
I have to try and be everywhere at once.  It’s my job as Director of Operations.  Of course that’s impossible and I’ve learned to let it be.  I can’t introduce every band or even see every band.  I can’t stop what I’m doing and have a beer with every friend I run into.  So I build a framework for each night: start, middle and finish.  I try to mix business and pleasure into the decisions.  Then I let the chips fall.  All I have to worry about is getting everyone checked in, sound-checked, parked, fed, paid and pampered.

Friday 2/26.  By the time the VIP Reception opens at Lancaster Visitors Center at 5pm, I will have been on the job ten hours already.  So I’ll have a cup of Gerhart Coffee and a glass of Barossa Valley shiraz.  I’ll munch some delicacies by Chef Tim Carr.  I’ll hug and introduce my pal Kaleigh Baker before she performs solo acoustic.  Then I will dash to Convention Center to introduce Sweet Leda as they open the Main Stage at Freedom Hall B at 6pm.  I’ll get to boogie a few minutes there before I start the laps of this phase of operations: opening.

By 7:30pm most venues will have opened and the VIP event will be ended.  I’ll secure the Visitors Center and check in on the Food Truck Court on Market Street.  If I start a counter-clockwise lap from there, I’ll catch a bit of Sam Baker at Ware, Left Lane Cruiser at Tellus 360, The Ogham Stones at Elks Lodge, Banditos at Chameleon and Ten String Symphony at Trust PAC before introducing Kapali Long to open Dispensing Company’s stage.  Dude is coming from Hawaii to play our festival.  That’s my plan 7:30-9:30.

MaceoThat gives me 30 minutes to try and catch a few minutes of Marah at Tellus 360 and solve any festival problems before Maceo Parker hits the Main Stage at convention center at 10pm.  What could go wrong?  Of course I want to be there to see a legend and his 12-piece band show us what it’s all about.  That just doesn’t happen every day in Lancaster.   I hope to see 15-20 minutes before I begin the next phase of laps: finales.

Chameleon and Ware Center will be wrapping up between 11-11:30pm.  I hope to fit introducing Gabe Stillman and The Billtown Giants at Federal Taphouse into those laps.  They go on at 11pm and are some serious blues-rock pals who call Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport their home.  I know you never heard of them.  You heard it here first; be there!

Frog HollerAs I hit my 17th hour on the job Friday, I want nothing more than to introduce Frog Holler at Elks Lodge Ballroom and have my first beer of the night.  They will celebrate 20 years together in 2016 and for my money, they embody everything a roots and blues festival should be.  Last pause of the night will be at Federal Taphouse for Toronzo Cannon.  It will feel like being in Chicago and my feet will likely feel like I walked there!  Then it’s back to headquarters to review and prep for Saturday!

toronzo

Reboot Camp

I ended 2015 wanting a fresh start.  On a simple level that meant tasks like cleaning out the closets, reorganizing my office and sorting a few piles of “pitch, keep, or pay it forward.”  On a higher level, it meant choosing healthy over haggard.  Somewhere in between, I needed to repurpose my business to reflect five years of experience.  So I’ve thrown away a bunch of stuff, quit smoking cigarettes and begun the redesign of Gigspots.  January 2016 has been the hardest month of my life since boot camp in 1981.

You learn a lot about yourself in challenging times.  I was sure I would die those first few weeks of basic training at Fort Bliss, Texas, the most misnamed post in any man’s Army.  Fifteen weeks later I knew I could “fuck, fight and hold the light” on any continent.  Thirty five years later I laugh at the memories and love to tell the stories.  Our drill instructors loved to remind us that “You assholes volunteered for this!”  They all had been drafted and served combat duty in Vietnam.

A former student recently reminded me that I’d recommended a book to her, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  She said it changed her life; I knew it had mine.  The four agreements you make with yourself are:  1) Be impeccable with your word, 2) Don’t take anything personally, 3) Don’t make assumptions and 4) Always do your best.  After this reminder (thanks S.F.), I recalled that the book had popped up in some close friends’ lives recently.  I decided I had to re-read it.  I don’t believe in random.

The week before, I had uncovered Ruiz’s book cleaning out my office and I also found my copy of the book Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.  This personality assessment book meant much to me when I had decided to leave teaching and try to rediscover what mattered to me.  The idea behind the book is that our society wastes much time and energy trying to “fix” our weaknesses rather than recognizing and employing our strengths.   My top five themes are Empathy, Input, Intellection, Activator and Connectedness.

So the boxes of photos and books from my past remind me of tough times endured and joyous times realized.  They give me something to do instead of smoking which it now seems I spent most of my waking hours doing.  I’ve been taking time to rediscover elements of my character and reassessing how Gigspots.com should reflect them.  After all, I am the brand.  My life themes are the business themes.

So I empathize with your need to find entertainment among people you enjoy.  I do the homework to give you input on what’s out there.  I ask the big questions like, “Will this enrich some lives?” and I support the causes, not just the events.  Think global, act local.  Connectedness means “…fortifying the bonds between yourself, the people you know, or even those you will never meet.”  That’s what Gigspots is about.  I’m building campfires we can all gather around and celebrate what makes us human.