Thanks and Shouts for LRB 2016

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!

I Could’ve Been a Dude

It’s a funny story.  On April Fool’s Day in 1989, I met my wife at The Chameleon Club on Water Street in downtown Lancaster.  I had moved to Lancaster in January ’88 and first found the Chameleon when it was in Tom Paine’s back room on Christian St.  The Daves were playing that February night and I knew I’d found the place where Lancaster came alive.  I soon found myself there every Friday and Saturday night.  I never bothered to look who was playing.  I knew I was going to have a great time and man, did I see some phenomenal bands!  Little did I know how that club and owner Rich Ruoff would impact my life.

I married Tina in October of 1990.  We bought a house in town within walking distance of Chameleon: just off Plum Street behind Fulton Bar.  I was working as a painter for a large contractor here in town and she postulated that I might have more to offer the world than a fresh coat of paint.  When I got laid off that winter, I began taking night classes at HACC.  When I saw that I could handle college with straight A’s, we decided that I should get part-time jobs and go to school full-time.    I had decided to become a high school English teacher: to enrich my community and help young people find their dreams.

My painting buddies all thought I was crazy.  Why should I give up guaranteed pay for a degree that may never pay off? One guy in particular who managed a local paint store suggested I check out this new outfit, Two Dudes Painting.  They were young, skilled painters with a great attitude and a realistic business model, he said.  I was making great money and he felt sure I could get in right with these guys quickly, maybe even invest to become an owner/manager besides just painting.  “This valley will see massive development in the next decade,” he said.  “Don’t just paint.  Own.  Make your mark and make real money.  Besides, teenagers are mostly assholes.  Do you want to spend your days with them?”

By August 1991 I had made my decision and enrolled full-time at HACC.  I continued to paint and also lined up other part-time jobs.  We also found out we were expecting a baby.  So in the first ten months of our marriage, we had doubled our debt and cut our income nearly in half.  I had seven jobs.

Cut to May 1995.  I’ve graduated magna cum laude from Millersville and our daughter is three years old.  We might not have made it financially if it wasn’t for the GI Bill and lots of painting in the summers.  Tina had been climbing the corporate ladder and her work was becoming more rewarding but more demanding.  We were so glad I could paint all summer while I looked for a classroom to call home.  By fall I could have a regular work schedule and a job with benefits.  I could work my mind more and my body less.

That summer of ’95 also meant more regular returns to our favorite haunt Chameleon.  I had helped celebrate ten years at the Blues Festival that February.  When guests came to visit from out of town, there were three things on our must-do list: breakfast at Central Market, lunch at DipCo and a night at Chameleon.  Our “big city” friends would just laugh and laugh at how friendly, cheap and fun Lancaster is.

Cut to 2002.  I had only been a full-time teacher for four years after three years of substituting.  Rich Ruoff announces that he’s selling The Chameleon Club.  My first thought: if I had been making contractor money for ten years, I might have been in a position to buy it.  It would have taken me about an hour to come up with investment/management partners.  My second thought: where am I going to go to see great live music?

Cut to 2011.  I still love teaching but have grown a strong distaste for Administrators, bully teachers and the public school industry in general.  I decide to create Gigspots and leave the classroom.  I seek help and guidance from Rich Ruoff, who has “retired” from music and is staging huge bicycle races.

Cut to the spring of 2013.  Rich tells me he is getting back in the music business, “…and it’s all your fault hahaha!”   He lays out the scheme for Lancaster Roots and Blues Festival and asks if I’d be willing to help.   Four meetings later, he asks me to be Director of Operations.

Loretta told me once, “Ya know, nobody ever filled out a job application at Chameleon.  If you showed up and asked for work, they would tell you to ‘come back tonight and wear a cool t-shirt’.  If you showed up, worked hard and didn’t fuck up too much, you got to stick around.”  So that’s my plan.  I will wear cool t-shirts and work tirelessly to make this festival everything Rich dreams it can be.  I’m ready to see Lancaster firmly back in place as the crossroads for music in the mid-Atlantic.

Lancaster Roots and Blues Festival will be the biggest event our fair city has ever seen.  It will also be my biggest opportunity to pay back this wonderful city for giving me family, friends and a million things to be grateful for in my life.  And I might never have stuck around in 1988 if it wasn’t for Chameleon Club.

Tour Life: Woe or Whoa!

“Ain’t in it for my health…”  Levon Helm

BnB FallSince I’m becoming an agent, I decided to send myself on the road with a few bands.  I wanted to see how they earn their money.  I wanted to discover first-hand the joys of traveling with a rock band.   I wanted to see what hardships they might face.  I didn’t have the time, money or guts to try something like The Autumn Anxiety Tour: PASADENA and Bumpin Uglies going coast to coast.  Instead, I did some long weekends with The Wayfarer Experiment and Bond & Bentley and an extended run with Lovebettie and Triphazard on their Unsocial Network Tour.  Want the abridged version? Bands don’t make enough money.

Being in a band is expensive.  You invest in gear and pay to maintain it.  You have to pay for gas to get to and from the gig.  You can’t always count on the venue providing food and drinks as part of your compensation.  Before you can sell merchandise, you have to pay to produce it.  And from what I’m seeing out there, bands get $150-300 to play a show until they really start to draw a crowd.

The hours are lousy.  Accounting for driving and loading in/out, you might leave home at 5pm and get home at 5am.  Have you ever tried to find gas, food or lodging after 2am?  You might have luck in a city but be prepared to pay more.  Time management skills only go so far when so few factors are within your control.  You start and finish when the venue says so.

Shrimpboat band“Touring is for the young.  You can only sleep on floors for so long.  And you must have complete immersion to do it right.  You can’t have baggage or responsibilities calling from home.”  So says Loretta, who fronted and toured with several bands including Burning Bus, The Dive Bar Pretties and currently Shrimpboat.  “It’s a great life.  It’s a hard life.  You must be completely into it to survive.”

Are all tour stories filled with hard luck and few rewards?  Of course not.  Imagine the best concert you’ve ever seen.  Now imagine what it must have felt like for the band to make that connection with their audience.  Now realize it can be you: if you make good music and find the right crowd at the right time.  Ray Wroten, who fronts Bond & Bentley, has been touring 200+ nights a year for six years.  He loves what he does and has plenty of stories good and bad.2013-02-09 23.39.51

“Man, our tour last spring is a great example.  We had a send-off gig at home: great night.  The next two nights, bam, great bars, great audiences.  People into it, dancing, never seen or heard of us before.  Made a lot of connections, sold a pile of cd’s.  It’s crazy; we’re from Baltimore but we now have a huge fan base in Buffalo, NY.  Night four we play a place in Indy that we’d done well at before.  We had a couple friends there from a previous show.  And that’s who we played to.  Two people.  So you play what they want to hear and mostly treat it as a rehearsal.  But if you’re being paid as a percentage of the gross, you’re in financial trouble already and you’re four states from home.  The next night we played to a packed house, but we might as well have been a fucking juke box.  People sitting five feet away couldn’t give two shits about what we were doing.  We made $600 and felt lousy.  You just gotta shake it off, roll to the next show and pour your heart out again.  You never know when you’ll find that Buffalo.”

The Wayfarer Experiment

The Wayfarer Experiment

So, you want to rock and roll?  Good!  Work hard at your music.  Make it an art and a craft.  Believe in yourself and the power of music to make the world a better place.  We need you.  Not everyone can do what you do.

Let me offer a few pointers and answer some frequently asked questions.

1.  Pack a cooler and a set of “emergency” clothes.  If you get hungry, thirsty or sprayed with who knows what, you’re set.  Living on drive-thru and diner food will take its toll and costs double the price of groceries.  Make sure there’s water in that cooler.

2.  Learn how to read a map.  Don’t let those commercials fool you.  You DO NOT have cell service everywhere and if you think GPS always works, you are too dumb to tour.

3.  Promote your own shows!  Every place you play likely has a Facebook, Twitter, etc.  When you have the dates set, start sending them photos, videos and links to stuff you want them to see/know/share.  Make it easy for their audience to get to know you.  It’s your job.  The venue’s job is selling food and drinks.  Allow me to suggest a Gigspots profile and let us help you with promotion.

Uglies2Can I make money by touring?  Yes, but not as much as you think.  Merch is where most bands make a small profit.  The audience already has pictures and video on their smartphones.  Can you make them want a piece of you to take home?  It’s not the shirt, music or poster they want.  They want an artifact.  Don’t say, “We have cd’s for sale.”  Say, “Come meet us after the show by the merch table.”

Can I get laid by touring?  Maybe, but usually only if you can get laid back home.  You can get STD’s, arrested, beaten up and/or stalked very easily by the types of people who are still in bars at closing time.   You can also really piss off your band mates who are hungry, tired and ready to leave.  Better to focus on your job out there.

Why tour if it’s so hard with no guarantees?  News flash: life is hard and there are no guarantees.  But if music is your life, and you make it because you have to, then express yourself.  If you’re tired of playing the garage and you’ve tested the waters at open mics, band competitions, etc, then bring it to us.  If your music is genuine, your talent obvious and your heart open, you’ve got a shot.  Taking music or any art public is to write an open love-letter proposal to the world.  Touring is a blind date.  If you can handle love and love lost, you can handle it.

Transition Transmission

To open September’s Fly Magazine, editor Jessica Smucker reminded us that Fall is a time of transitions.  Indeed summer is over.  I gave mine a proper send-off this weekend at Dewey Beach Music Conference.

John & Brittany rocked it hard at Dewey Beach Music Conference

John & Brittany rocked it hard at Dewey Beach Music Conference

I am burnt inside and out.  My daughter joined me for part of it and said there’s a new buzz phrase at her college; “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.”  I’m interpreting that as a license to shoot my mouth off a bit.  I’ve spent just over two years introducing myself and Gigspots to people.  Let’s see whose attention I’ve won, whose cage I can rattle and how I impact my audience.  I have some exciting transitions of my own to share.

KGB on the Gigspots Lawn Stage at Jam at the Dam

KGB on the Gigspots Lawn Stage at Jam at the Dam

I spent a lot of time and money sponsoring stages at shows and festivals this summer.  I met, interviewed and filmed a ton of great bands.  I gave away piles of free advertising, beer, t-shirts and videos.  I had a ball.  I’m exhausted yet energized to take the next step.  Many bands have begun asking me to find gigs for them.  I am taking the leap to begin acting as an agent.  I’ve recently filled tour dates for Lovebettie, Triphazard, PASADENA, Bond and Bentley, The Great SOCIO, The Wayfarer Experiment and Harlot.  I’m establishing a small circuit tour with several of my client venues where I can offer 2-3 night runs to a band.  I also will begin a series of “Gigspots Spotlight” shows where 2-3 acts present a showcase.  My favorite part of this announcement is that I’ll be booking the music at Lancaster Dispensing Company for the second Saturday of every month starting in January 2014!   Some of you may remember my shows at Chameleon, Bube’s and Boondocks.  These will typically be more intimate but man, do I have a funk/hip-hop show and a prog rock show to pop at the right place!  So, who wants to work with me?  I am actively recruiting bands and venues.

Lovebettie coming at you from The Rattler in Pittston PA!

Lovebettie coming at you from The Rattler in Pittston PA!

The newest venue I’m working with is called The Rattler in Pittston, PA (between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton).  How cool is it?  It’s late 70’s CBGB/late 80’s Chameleon Club cool.  Everyone is welcome and anything goes.  It’s at the crossroads of Route 11, Route 309 and I-476 so it’s easy to find and visit.  You NEPA pals and Pocono ski bums need to get in there.  Tell ‘em Gigspots sent you.

I will no longer be doing business with The River Street Jazz Café in Plains.  Thank you to Tom Moran for all the great music, food and people you shared with me.  It’s a shame our philosophies have become disparate.  Best wishes.

This Fall means some special transitions in the Lancaster music scene.  DipCo is back in the swing after their summer hiatus with music Fridays and Saturdays.  The Fridge has begun hosting music some Mondays: 40-50 tickets for one hot act.  So far I’ve seen JP Harris and Toy Soldiers: sweet investment and of course great pizza and beer.  After nearly a three-year wait, Federal Taphouse opened with gourmet pizza, 100 draft beers and the promise of live music.  In three weeks they pissed off some of the most patient, professional music industry people I’ve ever known.  I have no idea what the music status is right now.  We’ll see if they can fix things.  I wish them well and am here to help.

Tellus 360’s renovations have progressed enough to begin hosting the Table Top Sessions again.  The first was 9/7/13 with Brethren and The Big Dirty and it was a hoot!  I wrote about it in my blog for FigLancaster.com.  They host Rootenanny this year 9/27 with Vinegar Creek Constituency, Mark DeRose & The Dreadnought Brigade and Vulcans.  It’s the perfect blend of music and community building as the show benefits Live Green and Carsie Blanton and Joe PlowmanBring On Play.  Another do-not-miss show is the return of Carsie Blanton 10/3.  All this place needs now is its liquor license approval.  Anyone who’s walked through its doors already considers it a home away from home.  Calling Mr. Sturla, calling Mr. Gray.  Call PLCB and tell them to step on it!  It’s not a bar!  It’s a community hub and Prohibition ended eighty years ago.

Did you know downtown Lancaster now has a legit open mic night every week?  It happens at 551 West at 551 W. King (former Kegel’s location) on Tuesday nights.  More players are coming every week and it’s a varied, talented bunch so far.  Lots of folks from the Blues Society of Central PA seem to have found the place.  If you like great food and beer, visit immediately.  They have 24 taps and whatever you eat will be your new favorite food.  How fresh, local and delicious is it?  They do not own a freezer.  Just mentioning it makes me hungry.  I need to wrap this up.  I need a French burger with extra au jus.

Some pledges and considerations on pending transitions:

I will eat breakfast.  I will not call six cups of coffee breakfast.  3am post-show breakfasts count.

I will not drink any more.  I might even try to drink a little less.

I will not monetize my YouTube channel.  Your performances are your property, not mine.  And who needs more commercials anyway?

I will not pay Facebook to promote my page.  That’s why I have friends, admins and interns.  When’s the last time you checked your settings on Facebook.com/Gigspots?  If my content isn’t holding your interest, I doubt that paying Facebook will change that.

I will blog more often and include more pictures.  I encourage you to post more pictures and links on my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.  I’d love for someone to help me become a better photographer.

I will travel less…NOT.  I love my wife, dog and home but very few bands perform at my house.  I get 40 event invitations and nearly 300 notifications daily.  I can only offer so much help to my music/restaurant/travel industry pals by putting boots on the ground.  My boots.

Where to? Did you make my short list for the month?

Where to? Did you make my short list for the month?

So lace up your boots, sneakers, whatever and follow me.  We’re saving the economy one gig at a time and giving the hardworking musicians, bartenders, baristas and chefs the attention they so richly deserve.

Young Lions

This blog was originally published 8/22/13 as last summer ended.  I promised to re-publish twelve of my favorite blogs in the first twelve nights of April to celebrate Gigspots’ anniversary.  Then The Districts and Toy Soldiers played The Chameleon Club Thursday 4/3 and blogging duties were shunned.  I’d have to say the “young lions” I named have done pretty well.

The Districts just finished a second national tour and released an ep with Fat Possum records.  They logged numerous appearances in RollingStone.com and will be touring the US and UK all summer.

Bumpin Uglies has toured the US twice, played scores of festivals, played a Rombello cruise and opened for some serious national acts.  This May they play The Fifth Annual California Roots Music and Arts Festival.  Maximum respect due, mon!

SEEDS finished their first studio album, Questioned By a Ghost, to many positive reviews including my own.  This band really rocks!  Then they sold out of it and all their t-shirts and other swag.  In short, people can’t get enough of this band and they now headline shows all over the region.

The Wayfarer Experiment continues to go through changes.  I saw a five-piece version open for Cabinet this fall.  I’ve seen Bjorn Jacobsen match licks and growls with some mighty players at open mics and jams across the state.  I’ve seen Bjorn and Robin Chambers draw a crowd away from other stages at festivals.  Bjorn, Robin, Nathan Arndt and Matthew King played a killer set at Lancaster Roots and Blues and then percussionist Matt quit the band.  Word around the campfire is that Bjorn and Robin just spent four days squirreled away with an unnamed producer and recorded the band’s fourth album.  Bjorn says it’s his masterpiece so I’m a bit freaked because the first three are damn fine works…………………………………….

I see a ton of bands and this summer has been filled with great music!  I haven’t forsaken my favorite bands of 2012: Kalob Griffin Band, Pasadena, Lovebettie, Sweet Leda, Toy Soldiers, The Slackwater News and Cabinet.  But you must be tired of hearing me praise them in every blog and all those bands have begun reaching national audiences.  August’s sign is Leo so let me spout about some of the young lions roaring on the scene right now.

The Wayfarer Experiment

The Wayfarer Experiment

I’m totally high on The Wayfarer Experiment.  This band has featured different players almost every time I’ve seen them (hence “experiment”) but the current lineup is a bonfire.  Matthew King on percussion and Nathan Arndt on guitar and xylophone have been playing together since middle school.  They are tight as tequila.  Robin Chambers on violin is some kind of gypsy/faerie madwoman and ohhh, look out for her sultry side.  Then there’s Bjorn Jacobsen.  He plays guitar, banjo, mandolin and harmonica.  He sings like a mix of Jim Morrison and Tom Waits.  They call their music “dark folk and gypsy blues” and you will get it.   I have all three of their albums and a ton of videos here.  They don’t have a website, Twitter, Instagram or any of those fancy promotional tools.  They just enchant you and haunt you.

Uglies2Bumpin Uglies plays “white-boy reggae” and hails from Annapolis, MD.  They play lots of songs about girls, weed and trying to make it as musicians as you might expect.  What you might not be ready for is how well they play, how sincere and clever the songs are, and how groovy their grooves are.  They will likely remind you of Sublime in the best ways.  Front-man, guitarist and principal writer Brandon Hardesty is a focused, talented guy and I predict big things for this crew.  I like EVERY song on their latest cd Ninjah: Reggae Assassins and they are touring nationally to support it.

SEEDS played one of the last shows at Tellus360 before renovations began.

SEEDS played one of the last shows at Tellus360 before renovations began.

SEEDS is a brand new band with their first album almost completed.  Their website just went live.  They are a rock band, no doubt, but their sound is definitely influenced by Wynton Huddle’s sitar training.  He’s a nut, too, so their songs are funny, tragic, scary, weird, sexy, you name it.  I’ve been a Wynton fan since he played high school talent shows and have followed him across several bands.  This lineup (with Hunter Root sharing guitar duties, Alex Aument smashing drums and Tyler Smith thumping bass) looks like a keeper.  Their tag line: “We’ll grow on you.”

The Districts crushed it to open the Marina Stage at XPoNential Music Fest 2013

The Districts crushed it to open the Marina Stage at XPoNential Music Fest 2013

Do I need to mention The Districts?  Hell yes, even if your room is wallpapered with their posters.  You rarely see a band find so much success so fast, especially when they just graduated high school in June! Their first two albums really rock in a real rock sort of way.   Think early Aerosmith or Black Crowes for the vibe if you’re my age; think Spoon or Cold War Kids if you’re under 30.  If you haven’t caught up with this band yet, crawl from under your rock and go see them.  It will be easy to find them.  They just opened the Marina Stage at XPoNential Music Festival (thanks WXPN!) then departed on a national tour.  They will be based in Philly next month as they all head off to Temple University.  We’ll see if textbooks or touring win out.

There is no reason you can’t find bands to love on your own.  I barely scratched the surface of all the fine young/new acts in central PA.  Tell me who you love and who needs to be on my short list to see!

Festivals a Go-Go!

Holy cow have I been rambling and rocking!  The last thirty days or so have brought me many miles, many smiles and many musical memories!  Since hosting my Loyalstock festival the last week of June, I have sponsored and attended some great events.  Festival season is a go-go!  Do you shy away from festivals because of the lack of electricity, cell reception, showers and flush toilets?  There are plenty of day-long events and I’ve sponsored two in July.  Pick one out and make a day of it!

I camped out for Jam at the Dam but that’s because it was a DNL event and that means party hearty.  I sponsored a whole stage there and gave out free Bullfrog Brewery beer for Likes and Follows. FYI, sponsoring a stage means you get use of an outlet.  That allowed me to brew a 30-cup urn of coffee Sunday morning and I needed it.  Many thanks to my co-sponsors Wood Stove House, Lancaster Roots and Blues Fest, Tellus 360 and The Rattler.  Without Jason Mundock of WSH and his talented pal Mark DeRose I might never have gotten my banner strung above the stage.  The Rattler brought Camp Rattler in full force and proudly staged Harlot on my Gigspots Lawn Stage.  You all really must check out The Rattler in Pittston.  It’s what a music-industry bar should be!  Pound for pound, I think my stage had the greatest lineup! Bravo and many thanks to: East Coast Turnaround, The Boiled Owls, Kathy and Dan Duo, Searching for Oneida, Harlot, Zach Bellas, Pressing Strings, Aaron Flinn, Karissa Laren, Kalob Griffin Band, Memphis Hat, Sunset Villains, Wise Eyes, The Great Socio and Sticky Longfingers & The Rusted Butter.  I have videos from many of them on my YouTube channel in a playlist called Jam at the Dam 2013.  Thanks again Pirate Rob!

I sponsored a stage for Ladybug Festival in Wilmington, DE while I was on vacation in OCMD.  Yeah, that means I didn’t even get to attend.  But my vacation was sweet and I love what Gable Music Ventures and World Café Live at the Queen keep cooking up down there!  How could I resist supporting a day celebrating woman-fronted bands in nine music-loving venues?  Their next event down there is the Rockabilly Rumble on Sunday August 11th from 12:00-10pm and it’s gonna be a humdinger!

The Districts

The Districts rocked the Marina Stage Friday night!

The Stray Birds

The Stray Birds enchanted the Marina Stage audience to start Saturday

 

WXPN hosts the best festival on the planet in my opinion.  I just spent three glorious days there soaking in the music and positive vibes. Our central PA bands (and FigLancaster.com alums) turned in memorable performances: The Districts and The Stray Birds.  I’ll devote a whole blog/show review to XPoNential Music Festival asap.  The event sold out for the first time ever and I’m thrilled for us all.  This station constantly pours money and music into the community and is a genuine bastion of culture and love.  If you’re not a supporting member of WXPN, I just don’t understand how you can call yourself a music-lover.

What’s next? Jeepers, I’m getting pulled towards two corners of the state this weekend!  How can I resist Musikfest in Bethlehem?  It’s ten days long and many events/shows are FREE!  How can I resist Flood City Music Fest in Johnstown?  It might feature the widest array of acts at any festival this summer and Robert Randolph is one of the headliners.  There are Gigspots artists playing both events including Sweet Leda, Lovebettie and Kalob Griffin Band.  Both are easy day-trips, both are in practically-new venues and both feature a fabulous array of local, regional and national acts.  For you Deadheads out there, the 8th Annual Bear’s Picnic starts today and runs Aug 1-5 at the Lycoming Co Fairgrounds.  Just in case it slipped your short-term memory…

Hot August Blues Festival is August 17th and might be the best one-off festival.  Grace Potter and The Nocturnals headline and wow, what a great lineup!  Kids 12 and under get FREE admission and this festival runs as smoothly as a Swiss watch.

My boys at DNL Entertainment have a great excuse for you to spend an extra day in OCMD on August 18th: Blockstock 5 at The Party Block!  You will want to take Monday the 19th off for sure.  At least a dozen bands will be ripping it up from 7pm to who knows?  If that’s your beach week, lucky you!  If you have a vacation day to spare, you can thank me when you get back!

Turn It Off

Turn it off.  It seems like a simple enough directive.  Have I been able to turn it off while on vacation?  Barely.  My Facebook, Twitter, band and venue clients call to me like sirens.  I might be spending my days crashing waves and eating slices but my mind can’t escape the music.

De Lazy Lizard bayside bar: 2nd Street OCMD

De Lazy Lizard bayside bar: 2nd Street OCMD

I love my family and friends and am grateful for this week to spend with them in leisure.  But I can’t stop Gigspotting.

I left town with some hot loose ends that are haunting me.  I coordinated a performance by Silencio at Zoetropolis Art House on 7/13 and didn’t get to see the show; we left town that morning.  My friend Bjorn Jacobsen of The Wayfarer Experiment hosted the open mic at Shank’s Tavern in Marietta on Tuesday.  I hated to miss that!  Matt Wheeler played WCL at the Queen Wednesday night after my urging him to connect with Gable Music Ventures’ Singer-Songwriter series.  Missed it.  Today, Thursday 7/18/13, is The Ladybug Music Festival in the streets of Wilmington, DE.  My banner will be flying over the Xtreme Pizza stage.  Awesome women musicians will be in the spotlight from 5-11pm and the streets will be filled with vendors and music lovers.  I will only be there in spirit.

So what am I spotting in OCMD?  Boy, am I seeing a lot of great cover bands!  Our vacation home for the week is triangulated between two great bars: Caribbean Pool Bar on the boardwalk and De Lazy Lizard on the bay.  Both have live music every night and great drink specials.  At the Lizard, I saw Brandon Hardesty of Bumpin Uglies playing solo acoustic.  Have you picked up a copy of their latest, Ninjah: Reggae Assassins?  It’s phenomenal fun!  It was great to be there just relaxing with friends and not working behind my camera.  Tonight we might slip up to 45th Street Taphouse to catch a set by Bond and Bentley.  But first, it will be a seafood feast and some go-cart racing.S1140026

So I’m turning it off for now.  I’ll be back in central PA to stir the pot Saturday night and Sunday brings Dawes back to Long’s Park Summer Concert Series.  I hope to visit my new outrageous pals at The Rattler in Pittston mid-week.  Then it’s Toy Soldiers at Chameleon Thursday and three glorious days of the XPoNential Music Festival in Camden.  Count on me catching some central PA bands on those wonderful stages, namely The Districts and The Stray Birds.  Saturday night I get to see The Lumineers with my daughter.  The festival culminates Sunday night with Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket and other great acts on the AmericanaRama Tour.  It can’t be much bigger or better than that!

Gigspots Interview: Kirk Salopek of Silencio

SILENCIO- A Tribute to the Works of David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti

PhilaMOCA (532 N. 12th Street Philadelphia, PA) 7pm 7/12

Zoetropolis Art House (315 W. James Street Lancaster, PA) 11pm 7/13

 

7/12 PhilaMOCA &/13 Zoetropolis

7/12 PhilaMOCA
&/13 Zoetropolis

Twin PeaksMulholland Drive? Blue Velvet?  Maybe even Eraserhead?  How big of a David Lynch fan are you?  If your answer is BIG, this mini-tour by the band Silencio is a must-see for you.  It was Twin Peaks that set Kirk Salopek on a course through the weird and wondrous ways of filmmaker and composer David Lynch that eventually lead to Silencio.

“Man, those Julee Cruise songs from the Twin Peaks soundtrack, I just played that cassette to pieces.  It’s definitely how I came to love that twangy, tremolo-filled kind of 50’s sound.”  Kirk Salopek of Pittsburgh is a self-taught musician on a mission.  He and drummer David Jamison performed in a band The Mandrake Project from 2002-2011.  Their sound was progressive, mixing jazz, prog-rock and much experimentation; check their release A Miraculous Container.  Mid-2011 Kirk visited his local guitar store and saw this Epiphone SG copy “…that looked like it had been dipped in pond water.  Nasty.  My buddy who owns the store said he’d sell it for $40.  I took it home, cleaned it up and holy cow, you’d have to play it to believe it.”  That guitar and Kirk and David’s restlessness for a new musical challenge was the birth of Silencio.Silencio-lpr

“We both loved that retro sound, kind of sci-fi movie, 60’s cop shows, you know.  We started composing some stuff and realized we needed a bass player.  That’s where Matt Booth came in.  David was simultaneously working on a side project and had brought in his friend Dessa (Poljak) to sing a bit.  Well, her looks and her sound were perfect for our project.  The next thing you know, we enlisted Lee Hintenlang on sax and Dan Barrett on keys.  They play with Matt in City Dwelling Nature Seekers.  So in the space of about a month, we had a band and our first show.  It was at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan and it sold out!  We knew we were onto something!”

The David Lynch fan base is a large and voracious body all over the globe.  Lynch hasn’t released a film in a while but has released two music albums since 2010.  All sorts of anniversaries and celebrations are planned for some of his major works in the next year or two and audiences are clamoring for Silencio to be there.  Friday July 12, the band plays the “Eraserhood Forever” celebration at PhilaMOCA to help celebrate that weird neighborhood in Philly where Lynch lived while studying art in Philadelphia.  Eraserhead was his first full-length film in 1977.  Before returning to Pittsburgh (and the studio!), Silencio will also perform at Zoetropolis Art House in Lancaster, PA Saturday July 13 at 11pm.

Is Lynch aware of Silencio?  “Oh yeah, he knows about us,” says Kirk.  “He was interviewed in Rolling Stone mid-2012 and was asked if he had heard about us.  At the time, he replied no but we have heard through channels since that we have his blessing.  Plus, we were mentioned in RS, you know, so that was cool!   Even better has been getting associated with The David Lynch Foundation.  They espouse the use of transcendental meditation and consciousness-based education as therapy for people like soldiers returning with PTSD, victims of abuse and other people whose emotional and psychological scars are deep.  It’s a fascinating organization and you wouldn’t believe how many big stars are involved.  It’s cool to know that you’re making the music you want to make and that people find it not just enjoyable but actually helpful.”

Music fans who love David Lynch films: it makes perfect sense if you know Lynch’s work at all.  But anyone who appreciates great musicianship, ambience and escape should invest a few hours in Silencio.

7/12 PhilaMOCA &/13 Zoetropolis

7/12 PhilaMOCA
&/13 Zoetropolis

Time to Jam at the Dam!

On and off the grid.  That’s been my June and July so far!  I have plenty of stories to tell from Make Music Philly, World Café Live at the Queen, Loyalstock and more.  I hope to find time to write them.  But today, right now, is about Jam at the Dam, suckas!  If you don’t have tickets yet, you better jump.  This event is tomorrow 7/13 and is the last time for this gorgeous 50-acre campground party.  There will be a new location next year.  This year, I want to welcome you at The Gigspots Lawn Stage!

Jam at the Dam is a DNL Entertainment event.  That means Pirate Rob is at the helm!  I’ve written numerous times about Rob and his fantastic bands and events: Birthday Bash at Rams Head, Blockstock in OCMD and last year’s Jam.  This dude knows how to throw a party that’s part concert, part family reunion, and all fun!  I had so much fun last year I had to sponsor a whole stage this year.  And wait til you see this lineup on my and the other stages!Jam lineup

Do you jam?  This year, you can actually take part by heading for the Xtra Alltra Jam Stage.  Do you camp?  Come early for the best spots but hey, there’s fifty acres!  Come prepared to rough it, but count on some amazing food vendors as well!Jam map

So enough writing!  I’ve been advertising this for two months because I know you’ll dig it.  Join us! Many thanks to my stage co-sponsors: Tellus360, The Lancaster Roots and Blues Festival, and Wood Stove House Productions.  Stop by the stage to say hello, grab a beer and enjoy some great tunes!  Jason Mundock from Wood Stove House will be doing podcasts on-site for those who want to make a lasting record of the day and reach some other markets.  PEACE!

Spring Review and Woo!

Spring has flown by but not without dropping a pile of great shows in my lap!  I talked about the wonderful LAUNCH weekend in a recent blog.  I have seen plenty of other shows that I wanted to put on your radar.  Three of my favorites are back in town this Saturday!

Lauren Mann and The Fairly Odd Folk will play with Canyon and The Pig Merchants this Saturday 6/1 at The Candy Factory in Lancaster.  The show starts at 7pm so don’t plan on rolling in around 10.  You will have missed a phenomenal night!  Here’s Lauren and company tearing up DipCo to close LAUNCH!

They didn’t play LAUNCH but The Wayfarer Experiment is leading the charge as my pick for 2013 central PA band of the year.  I have 6-7 Wayfarer shows under my belt already and am psyched to see them at DipCo Friday 5/31! They just released a new album and it continues their dark folk/gypsy blues saga.  Friday is Bjorn’s birthday so you know this show will be memorable!  This compelling three-piece might be 4-6 members on any given night so show up and witness the experiment unfolding.

Also this Friday 5/31 is an incredible show at Chameleon with massive local talents The Districts and The Seeds plus Philly faves Juston Stens and The Get Real Gang and Cheers Elephant.  I have seen all four of these bands and they rock!  You can see videos of most on my YouTube channel.  The Stonewall Vessels also appear and I’m anxious to check them out.

Here’s a special shout-out to The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company for hosting great shows and serving great food and beer!  Notable shows I have seen there this spring include Dirk Quinn Band, Andy Mowatt Trio and Start Making Sense: a Talking Heads tribute.

The Wayfarer Experiment

The Wayfarer Experiment

Dirk Quinn Band at Abbey Bar

Dirk Quinn Band at Abbey Bar

I loved DQB as house band for the Tri State Indie Music Awards this year and it was fantastic to see them playing whole sets of songs vs. just between awards.  Andy Mowatt is a jazz-rock flamethrower on guitar; see his trio immediately!  As for Start Making Sense: holy cow!  If you never got the chance to see Talking Heads or just want to relive that experience, here is your ticket.  I will be rolling to The Abbey Thursday 5/30 to see The Wood Brothers if anyone loves folk and wants to join me!  I just keep saying it; my season pass to Abbey Bar/Greenbelt Event shows is the best investment I make every year.  And yes, six months later, I’m still mourning the passing of Mike Van Jura.  Kudos to Sarah, Alec and Ben for keeping Greenbelt vibrant!

Last week’s show at Chameleon with The Slackwater News and Marco Benevento was pure pleasure-dome stuff!  Most locals know Slackwater and they draw a big, fun crowd for a lot of reasons.  Marco creates these sonic soundscapes that just transport your ass to another plane.  If you missed the show, I have videos up but they are just a tease of the experience.  See Marco.  Period.  He plays Abbey Bar 2-3 times a year.  And cheer on The Slackwater News as they expand their play-zone to New Hope (Triumph Brewing) and State College (The Shell).

May moved the Music Friday series outdoors and Toy Soldiers was the perfect kickoff act!  Stay tuned to MOOSE for complete events schedules.  Keys For the City has again filled our town with beautiful, original pianos/works of art; thank you sponsors and players!  Long’s Park will kickoff its summer concert series and yes, Dawes is coming back!  We are truly blessed to have so many live music opportunities here in Lancaster!

Three notable album releases (besides the new Wayfarer Ex) are Lovebettie, Bumpin’ Uglies and The Great Socio.  My love of Lovebettie is no secret. Bumpin Uglies are a reggae-rock band from MD who now tour nationally and are currently #5 and climbing on the iTunes reggae chart.  See them and you’ll know why I love them too.  The Great Socio is a nearly indescribable prog-rock band with no guitar player.  When I first heard their last cd, I thought the band must have at least 6-7 members.  Nope.  It’s four dudes who are all-in on every song and all about getting you off!  I will be rolling to see The Great Socio and PASADENA at WCL The Queen in Wilmington 6/6 and I’m looking for company.  Call me and call shotgun!  And if you really want a taste of the Gigspotter life, get your tickets soon for Jam at the Dam July 6th!  I’ll be hosting The Gigspots Lawn Stage smack in the middle of 50 acres of beauty and 800 very happy campers!