Community Block Party on the West End

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

separators-picThe 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

late-saints2The 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

image-1Sangre 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

ben-voBenjamin 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

 

Boom Boom Friday 7/15

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!

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!

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

Here We Go Again

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh where “Here we go” is followed by “Steelers.”  The MNF game last night between the Steelers and San Diego Chargers was a lucky win for my team.  A friend of mine is fond of saying, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”  I think if you work hard enough towards a goal, luck just might find you.  I hope I’m right.

bjorn1I can tell you that Bjorn Jacobsen is working hard on his PA tour.  The NEPA leg included two Wilkes-Barre gigs and shows in Bloomsburg, Williamsport, State College, West Chester, Lancaster and East York: eight shows in ten days.  I was lucky to be his host, wheel man, sound man and big fan on five of those nights and I’m looking forward to a few more before Boy Wander heads back to NOLA.  His singing is stronger than ever and he still thrashes that acoustic guitar.  There was a brief sighting of Amanda and baby Adelei at DipCo and jeepers that baby is cute!  Bjorn is opening my big show this Friday 10/16 at Elks Lodge.  Come see how strong and lucky The Wayfarer has become!

Jamall AnthonyIf you want to see work that’s play, join us for Music Fridays in Lancaster at The BPOE Elks Lodge Ballroom this Friday. Bjorn opens with some jangly, rootsy tales of love and woe.  Soul singer Jamall Anthony from Coatesville is in the middle.  Maybe you saw one of his LAUNCH Music Conference shows or have heard him on 93.7 WSTW?  This guy can really sing and this could be an, “I saw him when…” moment for all of us!  Here’s a bit of what made me say YEAH two years ago at LAUNCH.

Shrimpboat is the 8-piece super-group that means PARTY in Lancaster.  They’ve played all the biggest events in town since forming: NYE, Celebrate Lancaster, FlyFest, The Long’s Park Summer Concert Series etc.  Their stated mission is to get hips shaking.  They do it and make it look easy.  Come get some easy!

As the stage doors at DipCo swing shut (one showcase left), a window is swinging open at Federal Taphouse.  I’ve been asked to book a series of performances there between now and Christmas.  First up will be Skribe on Friday October 23rd!  As I left the meeting confirming this experiment at Taphouse, thinking, “Ok, who do I get to play in two weeks?”  I received a call from Skribe.Skribe2  A venue had just cancelled a 10/23 gig on him and could I find something along his tour route?  I don’t know what to call that but luck.  If you’ve seen Skribe, you know how lucky we all are!  If you haven’t, your lucky day is 10/23 when you get to see him for free, eat artisan, wood-fired pizza and drink craft beer.

So I got lucky trying to do good for a local business and a touring musician friend.  It’s been a mantra at Gigspots and the folks I work with are doing well.  It’s also what motivates me to work harder.  I’m about to add ten new venues to Gigspots.com.  It will be a lot more work but I believe I’m serving the community.  I believe if you do good, luck finds you.  Doing good and doing well are not synonymous though.  Doing good is about rewards for others.  Doing well is about rewards for you.  The luckiest people find ways to accomplish both.

Gigspotting Off the Grid

I just spent a week in Denver, CO.  The elevation greeted me pleasantly and low humidity kept me cool.  The trip centered on friends so I caught no shows.  Amos Lee and David Gray played Red Rocks while I was there and Blues Traveler was headlining on the Fourth of July.  My wife and I (still the best date) passed many hours downtown in fabulous craft breweries and cantinas but never saw any live music. There were a few buskers and a Zac Brown concert at Coors Field.  LoDo, or lower downtown, kept its rhythm with piped-in hits of the moment or those you’ve known for decades.  People sing along and sway.  The city was beautiful and clean, fresh yet historic.  I don’t know how those people stay so fit with all the great food and beer at their fingertips.  I will say downtown Denver is quite foot and bike friendly as are the people.

Bullfrog3On July 9-11 I’ll be hosting a Gigspots Premiere Showcase at Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport.  I love this place with all my heart and I’m thrilled to have three nights in a row to share some music they have not heard.  Stolen Rhodes is touring nationally and Thursday 7/9 fit perfectly for their first visit to Billtown.  Lavacave makes their first appearance Friday 7/10 at Bullfrog although Robin Chambers has appeared there before with Bjorn Jacobsen and Nick DiSanto’s brother Leo has played there plenty: as a duo with Jeff Bryson and also as part of The Vinegar Creek Constituency.  On Saturday night, those wild boys Medusa’s Disco will play a rarely-seen acoustic show.  What a first impression!  My name for it is “acousticophonic:” an unplugged cacophony.

P6250084Bullfrog Brewery is the only place you’ll catch me the rest of this week.  Besides staging these shows, I’ll be hosting Loyalstock and living in a tent.  The only electronic signals I’ll be receiving will come from stars and fireflies.  I’ll be back in time to fly my Gigspots banner at Ladybug Music Festival in Wilmington, DE on Thursday July 16.  Friday July 17 is Sweet Leda at Reading Band Shell.  Sunday July 18 I’ll be at Long’s Park for Lake Street Dive.  All three of these events are FREE!  Till then, it’s me, the bugs, the creek, the music and a pile of some of the greatest people I know.  Pie for breakfast.  Late night campfires.  Tubing in between and Bullfrog Billtown Blonde on tap.  Seizure later!

 

It’s A (Road) Dog’s Life

LeoCygnusI’m so American.  When summer comes, I crave the road.  The only show I’m staging in Lancaster this summer is July 10 at 551 West featuring the dynamic Leo & Cygnus from Annapolis.  Maybe you caught them when I had them at DipCo in May?  If you missed them, don’t make that mistake twice.  The show is free but this band’s stock is rising and they’ll likely be playing huge festivals by this time next year. 551 West If you know 551 West, you know to go hungry.  Everybody I’ve taken there now eats there once a week.  551 West King Street in Lancaster PA. http://www.551west.com/.  Seriously.

I’m headed to Pittsburgh this weekend but not for The Rolling Stones or Dierks Bentley.  I’m taking my family to visit mom and remember my dad.  He was a great man; I’ll never be half the father he was.  In the wake of another senseless race crime, I realize again what a blessing it was to have a blind gentleman as a father and role model.  He never judged anyone by their appearance; he couldn’t see them.  Of all my miles to cover this summer, this trip to my hometown feels the most important.

OneKoast MD's Finest IX mapBetween Monday 6/22 and 6/29, I’ll visit venues in York, Harrisburg, State College, Millheim, Williamsport, Bloomsburg, Wilkes-Barre, Philly, Wilmington DE and western Maryland.  As I recruit bands for my fall showcases in Lancaster, I’ll be making arrangements for these venues to catch the bands on their way to/from my shows.  And I’ll love every mile and every stop.  Draw a circle around Lancaster and lines to these cities and you’ll see we are the hub in a big wheel of culture and fun.

Bullfrog5After a week in Denver, CO I’ll be staging my two biggest events of the summer: four days of hosting bands at Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport and some of my favorite revelers (and bands) at Loyalstock.  That’s when I trade my Subaru for an inner tube and my smart phone for fireflies.  If you can make it to Billtown July 9-12, find me at the Frog for Stolen Rhodes, Lavacave and Medusa’s Disco (acousticlamor)!  It may be the only four days this summer when I’ll be holding relatively still… in my moving and grooving way.

chameleon10thTwo things before I dash: Happy 30th Anniversary to Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA and to its founder Rich Ruoff!  In June of 1985 he opened the door on Christian St.  In February of 1988 I attended my first Blues Festival there and realized Lancaster was where I was going to put down roots.  I never imagined then that thirty years later, I’d be working for Rich and Lancaster Roots and Blues, A Festival of Music.

Congratulations to the completely amazing Angela Sheik, whose submission video for an NPR Tiny Desk Concert contest landed her an interview and feature on NPR Weekend Edition this Sunday 6/21! angela npr

Thank you Rich and thank you Lancaster for being a hub that rolls smooth after all the miles.

Springing and Swinging Into Year Five!

The Gigspots calendar starts in April and we just celebrated our fourth birthday.  Spring has been quite the rush!  I enjoyed LAUNCH Music Conference as usual.  The 20th anniversary tribute to Radiohead’s album The Bends at Tellus 360 was spectacular.  The tour I arranged for my pals Pete Bush and The Hoi Polloi put them in two of my latest favorite spots: Sprout Music Collective in West Chester and The Grape Room in Philly. LeoCygnus I wrapped up my season of showcases at Lancaster Dispensing Company and am already planning to return with another great season in September.  Thank you DipCo for your stage and hospitality!  Thank you Jessica Smucker and Leo & Cygnus for a great finale!

How am I wrapping up the hometown season before May fades into summer and I hit the road?  Of course I’m throwing a show!  Tonight May 15 I have the hottest lineup in town.  The show opens with a new project by some familiar favorites called Tractor Jerry and The Mud Bucket.  Mike McMonagle and Dom Billett will take things up a notch.  Corty1Then Corty Byron Band will remind us that Lancaster rocks!  Our last act is a bittersweet send-off to Second Hand Suits, who have announced an indefinite hiatus as a band while the fellas pursue some new directions.  If you love music, have any sense and $7, join us for the best show in town at The Elks Lodge, 219 N. Duke Street, Lancaster PA 17602.  Doors open at 7:00pm with music starting shortly after 8pm.

What’s left of me will be heading to the family retreat near Williamsport on Saturday morning and I’ll be off the grid for about a week.  Then it’s on the road: talent scouting, venue recruiting and festival fun will ensue!  The Gigspots Showcase is going on tour!  We’ll be hosting shows at select client venues all over PA, MD and DE.  It’s time for you loyal local bands to hit the road with me and go visit those bands who came to Lancaster to play!  Watch this space for tour announcements! Wave Disco Queen

Medusa’s Disco Forked Tongue Fables is The Truth!

The madcap dervishes of Medusa’s Disco released Forked Tongue Fables in January 2015.  It follows the fall 2014 release of their live ep Live at Max J. Variety Show which helped brand the young band with the weird name and frantic fans.  There’s no pussy-footing around here.  Forked Tongue Fables shows the band at top speed, top down and torching the underbrush as they pass.medusasdisco

The songs vary between trippy visions, wry observations and flip-offs to the status quo. Business or pleasure, seduction or stupidity: you hear these guys having some laughs in every song.  With the energy they bring, we should all be glad they have a sense of humor.  Otherwise, all the stupid stuff that bugs them on a daily basis could be the reason they lay waste to us all.  With their music: they are otherwise unarmed!

The opening song, “Medusa’s Disco,” presents temptations, seductions and sell-outs in a helter-skelter world where you can’t tell what’s real.  It’s a common theme on the album and songs like “Faceplant Attitude,” “Filling in the Blanks,” “Life Caused Cancer” and “Freezer Burnt” make it clear that bull-shitters need not apply.  They see life as weird enough without anyone needing to pose for it.

Other songs like “Nova,” “Cellophane Snake” and “Disease Was Written on the Sidewalk” take a snapshot of life and paint a psychedelic inside joke.  The nine-minute plus “Beautiful Creature” goes in many directions: some serious, some psychotic.  With only two of eleven songs clocking in at less than four minutes, it’s obvious that Medusa’s Disco has plenty to say and are ready to play.  What they’re really singing about is anybody’s guess.  They take satire and humor very seriously.

What does Medusa’s Disco sound like?  They are loud and heavy, as when Sabbath and Zeppelin were called “heavy metal.”  They can be fast and furious in the way of Green Day and Foo Fighters.  They play weird chords and scream like Nirvana and Soundgarden.  But none of these comparisons really capture the originality of their sound.  20150219_192547_resizedWynton and Hunter, the two guitars and two distinct voices out front, are unlike anything I’ve heard before.  If the Everly Brothers had been born in the 90’s, and raised on the bands listed above, and lived on coffee and Slim Jim’s, you might get two voices like theirs.  Tyler on bass and Alex on drums are the motor of this finely-tuned ride and when they step on it, hold on.

Get Forked Tongue Fables by Medusa’s Disco now.  Prime yourself for a show.  Then go leap around and laugh your head off with the band and their ever-growing fan base.  Unless you’re a “Dead Man:” then you’ll be watching them every night!  Get Forked Tongue Fables now at MedusasDisco.com!