Audible Nostalgia by Scott Davis

This is intern Scott’s final blog for the semester.  His enthusiasm for RX Bandits has made me a fan of the band and his writing has made me a fan of Scott.   Sam C.

Audible Nostalgia

                Earlier this week, I received an announcement of significant value to me. RX Bandits, who had announced they’d be on hiatus in 2011, decided to make a quick comeback for a reunion tour. This summer marks the tenth anniversary of their third LP The Resignation, the album that marked their change in style and genre, from ska-punk to progressive rock – a change that came for the better. The band announced on Monday that they’d be going on a nation-wide tour, playing The Resignation front to back.

RX Bandits were the first band I loved with a real, mature passion. Sure, there had been bands before them that I liked – the infectious pop-rock of Weezer, the boy band stage (*ducks*), Jimmy Buffett (?) – but the music didn’t connect to me on an emotional level, a real level the way RX Bandits did. And there was just so much to like about them.

As mentioned, they began their career in Southern California, hopping on the ska-punk bandwagon pioneered by groups like No Doubt, Mighty Might Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, etc., and frankly, those other bands did it better than RXB. However, over time, the Bandits began playing more serious music: lyrics about politics, love, and the state of humanity; their riffs and time signatures became more complex, their songs expanding to five, six, seven minute lengths. Gone were the sunny horns and typically silly ska gags, welcomed were these progressive rock additions, still with hints of their ska, reggae, punk roots. Their later sounds – which enveloped three total albums before they announced their (now brief) hiatus – were often described as “indescribable” by many critics and fans alike.

Their musical evolution grew on me, and soon I was hooked on this new breed of rock monster. Perhaps what put really did it, though, was how they made their music. The four core members of the band are exceptionally talented musicians. Front-man Matt Embree sings with a snarl in his voice, all while playing painstakingly complex riffs and chord progressions; guitarist Steve Choi helms equally difficult duties on his axe, and occasionally switches to the keys mid-song; drummer Chris Tsagakis plays a unique bombastic, frolicking style of drums unlike many others; bassist Joe Troy backs it all up with subtly great bass lines. And even better, they recorded their music live. Not in concert, mind you, but live in studio – no over-dubs, very little mastering or touching up. As Embree put it himself, “We try not to do any over-dubs at all. There are mistakes on [the album], and we just kept them, because that’s human, you know?”

Check this video from 2009 for their album Mandala when everything changed!

With all of this in mind, RX Bandits soared to the top of my favorite bands list, and still hold their position. So, as one could imagine, it was exciting for me to hear they would be touring one more time. I bought tickets to see them at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia the day of the announcement. For the next two months of waiting for the July concert, I’ll be re-listening to all of the band’s old songs, reliving their greatness and the memories of growing up that I associate with their tunes.

And that’s more-or-less the two broader conclusions I’ve come to during my time at Gigspots: the overall power of music and the infinite depth. Interning for a music website has shown just how deep the music community runs. In proportion to the whole world, the music community Gigspots associates itself with is rather thin, so it’s incredible to think about billions of people connected by music. Music has the power to unite strangers and form communities, to make memories, to make people feel emotions. RX Bandits’ reunion only further ignited and reminded me of these feelings that had already been re-sprouting during my internship with Gigspots.

For every auto-tuned, mass-produced hit churned out to the public and devoured unconditionally, there lies, somewhere in the shadows, undoubtedly enjoyed by many, a great band. There’s an endless supply of great music out there; it simply needs to be found. Gigspots has taught me that. And even for a second, let’s give credit to the aforementioned fans of the mass-produced radio hits – they still achieve that same effect. Those songs become loved by fans, and it becomes an experience to listen to those songs, to be part of that community.

The fact that strangers, who may have never met before, can interact and consider themselves part of a group or larger community because they enjoy sounds made by a group of musicians they’ve likely never met, either… that’s astonishing. That the announcement of a reunion tour could make me feel so excited and nostalgic…. Because truly loving a band and their music is more than simply enjoying some sounds – it’s belonging to a community, it’s experiencing an effect rarely achieved by other things. It’s an experience.

LAUNCH 5 Worked for Me!

LAUNCH Music Conference in Lancaster, PA April 25-27 brought to town a lot of great music and interesting info about the state of the music industry.   Just closing DipCo three nights in a row would have been pleasure enough on any other weekend.  But I did a lot more.  I’m sorry I’m not a better still photographer but I shot over twenty videos that should satisfy your appetites for fresh live music.

I skipped the registration hoopla, free Heineken and opening performances Thursday night at the convention center.  I chose instead to meet and greet my pals in Sweet Leda as they arrived for the conference and to make sure they were settled.  Julie, Jaime and Don have adopted Lancaster as their favorite central PA city and planned to make a weekend of it.  Omar and his wife couldn’t come until Friday but they all intended to make the most of the visit and branch out from their usual stops at Central Market, Tellus 360 and Yorgo’s.  They also were psyched to be playing a new venue for them: Marion Court Room.  They hoped for as much success as they have felt at their past shows at DipCo and Chameleon.  Jaime had scheduled a bunch of conferences and workshops to attend as well.

It was refreshing for Sweet Leda to just chill at DipCo and chat with the regulars who hang there and have become fans.  Of course, as the opening shows around town finished up, everyone converged on DipCo for a last round or three.  By midnight the place was packed and rollicking with bands and industry insiders.  I was impressed with Holly Spears’ set and felt elated to see Canyon back in town.  2013-04-25 22.26.50  This young lady really writes some poignant songs and expresses them beautifully with her voice and guitar.  Canyon also wins my fashion award for the weekend.  Damn that girl looked pretty and stylish all weekend through three different showcases and a visit to LAUNCH Lounge at The Candy Factory.  I hope she is featured in one of the podcasts that Jason Mundock of Wood Stove House produced there over the weekend.   Anyway, they were locking the doors on DipCo when I headed home.

Both Friday and Saturday mornings I co-hosted at The Candy Factory.  We had light traffic both mornings so everyone got their fill of coffee and pastries.  Some pretty amazing jams sprung up among the musicians dropping in, usually lead by Jason Mundock and Aaron Gagne on percussion.  Randy B, Mickel, Canyon, Mark DeRose and a particularly gifted violinist (can’t recall the gent’s name) were among those who tested the acoustics and breathed some life into the mornings.  Everyone’s nights were quite late. 2013-04-26 13.47.07 2013-04-26 14.53.59

My Friday night involved a lot more miles.  It also involved many more tough choices about where to be.  It pained me to forego Dana Alexandra and Holly Williams at The Ware Center and I can only hope I’ll get another chance to hear one or both in such a grand space again.  Maybe Dana will debut her next album there or back at the Strand-Capitol in York.  Maybe Holly will come back.  Maybe the new grand space at Tellus 360 will be open by then!

My wife joined me for the most of Friday night.  We are both huge fans of Lovebettie and Sweet Leda so our evening had to include their shows.  Lovebettie played the Heineken stage: the big boy, a whole section of the convention center.   This was their second show since debuting their new ep Rise and they played with a lot of heart.  It’s a great record and will likely take them back to stadiums again this summer to round out some major US tours.  Last year they played SXSW, Summerfest, Van’s Warped and some major NHL events.  Next month they open for Rusted Root in Dewey Beach.

This room could hold 2,000 people.  When Lovebettie played at 7:30, there were maybe 200 people there.  I heard the crowd swelled to around 500 for Foxy Shazam’s headlining set.  With twenty million people living within a three hour drive of Lancaster, I can’t understand why Friday night’s lineup at the convention center didn’t draw at least 1,000.  I know there was great music being made at six other venues in town but they weren’t exactly thronged either.

After Lovebettie and a bit of Jesse Baker Band, we headed to Penn Square Grill to rendezvous with pals and catch a drink.  And there was Mike McMonagle (Mickel): a paying gig during Launch in a bar full of musicians and music fans!  I swear he played one of the best sets I’ve seen by him and that’s with dozens to compare with it.  The lad was on fire!

To Marion Courtroom next, we reconnected with Sweet Leda and company prior to their 9:30 set.  BAM!  Next thing we know, a band called Ill Funk Ensemble lights the place up with some serious blend of hip-hop, funk and rock!  The whole place animated.  Sitters stood.  Standers swayed.  When their third song was a mash-up of “Yo Diggity,” twenty people sprung to the dance floor.  Juls from Sweet Leda lead the charge and I’d have to say, the set by Ill Funk pushed Sweet Leda to new heights in their following set.  It certainly drove the crowd nuts and got everyone pumped.  You give Sweet Leda a canvas like that to work with and they will paint you a lush, funky landscape.  They laid down some broad, colorful strokes!

I sent the wife home and spent the rest of the night schmoozing at Marion Court Room and DipCo which again became the place to be to close out the night.  I was glad to have caught Jeff Reed’s set and to see the place packed with musicians and industry heavies again.  I was there until closing, gathered my guests and headed for home via Neptune Diner.

Saturday night was just as tough to schedule but I had made commitments to artists over Thursday-Friday to attend their shows.  I caught Lijie (sassy Strat slinger) and Matt Wheeler (joined by Canyon and Taylor Brandt!) at Spring House Tap Room.  I caught Mark DeRose and The Dreadnought Brigade at Penn Square (rock stars!).  I headed for the closing rounds at DipCo and holy cow, the place was jamming!  I saw four performances back-to-back that equaled anything I had seen all weekend!

Gretchen Pleuss from Ohio had a confident, natural vibe to her acoustic set and shared some fine songs.  Angela Sheik, looper extraordinaire, was a one-woman choir/ symphony/rock band/enchantress.  Until you’ve seen Angela, you don’t know how crazy good one of her shows can be.  Following her like they owned the place were Lauren Mann and The Fairly Odd Folk.  I had missed their set at Chameleon the night before but had heard good things.  When an extra twenty people showed up for their DipCo set, having seen them the night before, I knew I had heard right.  So right!  It was hard to believe they all fit on that little stage and easy to believe they were the real deal.  The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men and Edward Sharp and The Magnetic Zeros will be feeling this band’s presence soon, maybe as they roll past them.  Lucky Lancaster gets a return visit from Lauren and company June 1st at The Candy Factory!

The last set of the night featured Emily Long.  I felt pretty stupid to not be familiar with her music, she being from the Lancaster area and all.  With just a percussionist by her side and her acoustic guitar, she played that room like the whole weekend was just her supporting acts.  Count on seeing me at many more Emily Long performances to come.

I thought it was great that a great local closed the best local festival at the best local industry bar.  Don’t just take my word for it!  Visit my YouTube channel to see videos from LAUNCH 2013 and keep tabs on these and other great bands at Gigspots.com.

Almost Famous and Intern Scott

Almost Famous is one of my all-time favorite movies.  If I ‘d had any balls at all (and maybe a teacher who encouraged me), I might have become like the lead character in that film…or Cameron Crowe.  Anyway, intern Scott recently had a brush with being nice versus being an honest professional music reviewer.  He knows I am an  Angela Sheik fan and worried that if he wrote anything besides glowing praise for her recent album, that I (or she) might be upset.  I think he wrote a suitable and quite substantial review for his first try.  I guarantee that Angela performed a magnificent set of live music at Lancaster Dispensing Company 4/27 for LAUNCH Music Conference.  I encourage you to read Scott’ review, download Angela’s latest album One By One, and see her in concert immediately.  I’m working already to bring her back to town!  Here we go!

Scott Davis                                                                                                                                                                        3/28/13

Angela Sheik One By One Review

                Chilling and warm; haunting and inviting; digital and natural. Such are the contrasting words that come to mind when listening to Angela Sheik’s newest album, One By One. The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, musician, looper-extraordinaire’s new album finely tiptoes the line between warm and inviting songs and cold, haunting melodies often about relationships good and bad. Ms. Sheik has garnered a storm of positive press around her unique folky-pop, electro-acoustic sound with her use of digital looping pedals to craft a blend of piano, string instruments, flutes, and percussion. Combined with her raw, powerful voice, there isn’t anyone making quite the musical blend like Ms. Sheik’s.

As mentioned, One By One is an album of contrasts. Lyrically, Sheik focuses much of her energy to sing about relationships. Musically, however, Sheik often combines love songs with chilling melodies and slower tempos to create some dramatic ballads. There are songs like “Love U Right,” “Glad You’re Here,” and a cover of “Falling (Can’t Help Falling in Love),” all of which are positive long songs, lyrically. In these cases, Sheik is direct with her approach, yet still able to write poetic lines like, “You and me, love, we’ve seen the world/ We cross the ocean like we’re crossing a street/ We’ve walked the skyline so many times/ That the blue has stained the soles of our feet,” in “Love U Right.” Sheik’s approach is surprising as she takes these pure love songs and turns them into cold, chilling ballads, often with heavy keys, soaring vocals, and crashing percussion as seen in the aforementioned “Love U Right” and “Falling (Can’t Help Falling in Love).” Sheik occasionally chooses to deviate from this pattern like on the charming “Pledge of Allegiance,” one of the album’s most intimate songs, with its plucking acoustic guitars, twinkling keys, and heartfelt lyrics.

The musical and lyrical contrast is also evident in some of the most energetic songs on the album. Whereas one would expect somber-sounding ballads to go with songs about broken relationships or disappointing years, Sheik flips the idea on the head and turns some of the more lyrically negative songs into upbeat, louder tunes. “My Turn” is a song about giving loved ones a taste of their own medicine – “Now it’s my turn to leave you standing there/ My turn to say that I don’t care” – and features a more up-tempo beat with a pop melody. “This Year” finds Sheik at her heaviest with bluesy, distorted guitars, and a snarl in her voice as she sings about turning her life around from a less-than-ideal prior year.

However, where Sheik occasionally runs into trouble is inconsistency with her overall sound. As mentioned, Sheik has a powerful, deep, raw voice that seems to work best with energetic, natural music accompanying it. “Rumblin’,” for example, perhaps the finest song on the album, finds Sheik singing with a deep growl, with a rhythmic acoustic chord progression giving the song a Western feel.  Her own background vocals repeat on a loop to create a mini-Sheik choir, and a couple of flute solos really get the song moving. Other songs with more natural textures, like the aforementioned “This Year” and “Pledge of Allegiance” work best precisely because of how the instruments blend with Sheik’s natural voice. On some songs, the keyboard tinkering and digital percussion clash with the raw power of her voice, forming sounds that don’t quite blend. Furthermore, that same raw power doesn’t always translate as well to some of the slower, more dramatic ballads, where her voice and energy can be restrained. Compared to Sheik’s live act, where she’s won awards for her skills on a looping pedal, the album at times fails to capture the raw, one-woman-band talent Sheik possesses. At times, in a recorded rather than live setting, the album contrasts in a negative way in the collision of digital elements and Sheik’s own natural talent.

Fortunately, this is only Ms. Sheik’s second LP, which means that it’s still early in the game. A musician with as much obvious talent as Sheik can surely figure out where her niche is and how to better define her overall musical approach. If the main gripe of One By One is that Sheik’s musical reach is a bit too far spread, trying to juggle too many elements, then she need only to look at songs where she’s at her best – preferably in a more natural, musical state, as mentioned in songs like “Rumblin’” and “Pledge of Allegiance” – and expand upon them. Defining a musical sound isn’t easy, but considering the steps Angela Sheik has already taken in creating her own unique blend of folk-pop, the future appears bright.

LAUNCH Rocks its Fifth Weekend

I’m sure there were plenty of doubters and haters when Jeremy Weiss and Rick Gadd decided to initiate LAUNCH Music Conference and Festival five years ago.  Today kicks off the fifth annual.  So much for doubters and haters.  I plunked down $60 for a VIP pass so I can access all areas, every show and every conference.  Can I do it all? No.  Am I gonna try?  Yes.  It’s one hell of a bargain for that much creativity.

I love how alive downtown feels during LAUNCH.  I love the streets being filled with interesting, exhilarating, curious people.  I love showing off the town to visitors, especially first-timers.  They think Lancaster is barns and dirt roads.  I take them for crepes and craft beer and it settles them right out.

LAUNCH is easier to navigate than ever.  You can download a free app to make a schedule and connect with friends.  There are print guides in dozens of merchants around town.  Plus, besides the LAUNCH and Gigspots websites, you can access info via MOOSE and FigLancaster.com.  If you can find the town square (follow the music) and the two tallest buildings in town, you will have found the epicenter of LAUNCH at Lancaster County Convention Center.

If you would like personal navigation advice, a place to have a snack and recharge your devices and self, wander up to the 300 block of N. Queen St and visit The Candy Factory.  Those fine folks, Jason Mundock of Wood Stove House and I will be co-hosting a Launch Lounge for musicians and the like.  We’d love to welcome you to town, pour you a cup of coffee and invite you to help us create a sound and visual collage of this year’s LAUNCH weekend.  Follow The Candy Factory or GigspotsSam on Twitter for special updates.  Seizure later!

When Getting Shanked is Good

When Getting Shanked is Good

It’s Tuesday.  Ever since I visited Shank’s Tavern in Marietta, PA for their Acoustic Open Mic night three weeks ago, I can’t get the night off my mind.  It was as if someone waved a magic wand and said, “Presto!  The perfect night of food, drinks and music awaits you.”  I know tastes vary and beauty is subjective but folks, you need to check out Shank’s for yourselves.  I’m now calling it my favorite place in Marietta.

For starters, there is plenty of free parking right outside the door.  The historic architecture is complemented by cozy décor.  It’s a grand building but only the horseshoe bar area and a small dining room were in use that night.  There was a great dinner rush but the kitchen, bartenders and wait staff kept everyone happy and made it look easy.  If you just want to drink, they offer dozens of tequilas, nearly one hundred craft beers and most anything else you could name.  Everyone there was eating and nobody had to twist my arm.  Tuesday means Asian specialties and the pho and spring rolls were perfection.  The regular menu is unique and a different special is offered every night.

The music made the night.  Guest host for the night Leo DiSanto opened with his partner Jeff Bryson; they regularly front The Vinegar Creek Constituency.  Leo’s brother Nick joined them then played a few songs of his own on his one-man-band percussion rig.  From there, the night became a veritable who’s who of musicians from the surrounding area.  Corty Byron has returned to the area from a stint in CA.  He joined forces with a percussionist and guitarist Chad Kinsey to perform The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” and several originals.  They set the bar high for musicianship and energy and set the tone for the night.  Friends collaborated who rarely get to jam together and the audience cheered everyone heartily.

Matt Johnson (The Slackwater News) and Jeanette Stillman played tasty acoustic versions of several Slackwater tunes.  Jordan Rast and Tuck Ryan (Second Hand Suits) stepped up to serenade the crowd with a few of their band’s tunes and a stellar version of an old Sam Cooke tune.  These young men really know how to play to a crowd and everyone loved it.  Several local session men (not to be named) showed off their wares playing unique, flavorful versions of some rock and folk standards.  While the songs might have been old, their presentations proved that these guys still love to play and haven’t lost an inch of skill or creativity.  The night took on the flavor of a family reunion; that is, if everyone in your family is a stringed-instrument virtuoso.

At least two artists showed up that night that nobody recognized but everyone welcomed.  Samantha Danielson hails from the Harrisburg area.  She has a great voice and can play the hell out of an acoustic guitar.  She bailed shortly after her set before many folks got a chance to thank her and welcome her.  Samantha, come back!  Check in!  You rock!  Rockin’ Rob played some gritty, funny, “Told ya so” songs that got everybody hopping.  We all hope he comes back as well.

Then Bjorn arrived.  Bjorn Jacobsen fronts The Wayfarer Experiment, a Mount Joy based band that calls their style “dark folk gypsy blues.”  You would think Norm had just walked into “Cheers” to hear the reception he got.  Part of it was the fact that his whereabouts had been “parts unknown” for a few weeks.  Another factor is the band’s growing reputation for showing up with a varied lineup and shredding strings and blowing minds.  On this night, Bjorn sang, Nate Arndt played guitar and Alyssa Martin played violin.  While I missed Matt King on percussion, there was plenty of foot-stomping and table-tapping while they played.  Their three-song set felt like the headliner act in a night filled with headliners.   See them asap before Bjorn disappears again.  He plays everything with strings too.

The final highlight of the night was an act called “The Duke and The Duchess.”  The name refers to two ancient instruments these friends play and it was their first public performance.  The crowd went nuts with applause and approval as these friends concluded their arrangement of “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You.”  It was the perfect end to a perfect night.  Well, the night wasn’t quite over.  Almost everyone still there had performed so the whole bar took on an after-party glow.  It will be hard to find an open mic that combines the food, beverages and musicianship in such high quality.

But I’ll keep trying.  Please respond here or hit my Gigspots Facebook page to let me know if you have an open mic you think I should check out.  You can see many videos of this night (and over 500 more) on my YouTube Channel:  http://www.youtube.com/user/Gigspots1

Sam I Am…Johnny I Was

Something pretty funny has been happening to me in the last few weeks.  People in Lancaster, Baltimore, York and other points east have called me John.  Honestly, I thought they just forgot my name.  Then it dawned on me that I had said, “I love it when people call me John” in a recent blog where I thanked people for all the 50th birthday greetings.  That freaked me out almost as much.  People are actually reading my blog?

John, Johnny, Little John: those are my childhood names.  My dad’s name was Samuel, as was his father’s, and all of us lived together for a while.  My full name is Samuel John; I was named for both my grandfathers.  For my mom to yell, “Sam” when she wanted me would have made for an awful lot of jumping up and down for my dad and pap.  She yelled for me a lot.  Sometimes she even blew a cab whistle because those were the days when kids could run around wherever and weren’t just parked on the couch.  So John it was.  Friends, family, teachers and coaches knew me as Johnny Campbell.  They still do.

In the year book room c. 1981

During my high school party years, some friends decided John was not a fitting name: too bland.  They liked much better the way Sam, Sammy, Sam Man, Smiling Sam, Slammin’ Sam, Sammy Cammy, Slammy Clambowl and dozens of other monikers rolled off the tongue.  A girl who actually paid attention to me called me Samuel Jonathan.  No way was I complaining about that!  When I graduated and enlisted in the Army, I officially became Campbell, Samuel J.  I won’t tell you what the drill sergeants called me.

Fast forward ten years to when another girl paid attention to me; I married her.  She has only known me as Sam but has learned to understand when everyone west of Carlisle calls me John.  Actually, she learned this lesson the hard way.

She was studying for the CPA exam in Harrisburg.  We drove up together and I dropped her off then went to visit an old friend and her fiancé.  I gave her the number where to reach me and said to just call when classes were over.  Now, this dear friend (since kindergarden) introduced me to her fiancé as John Campbell.  We were hanging out, having fun, playing records and the phone rings.  Fiancé answers it, says, “Nobody here by that name,” and hangs up.   It took me a few minutes but it occurred to me; “Did that caller ask for Sam by any chance?”

“Yeah, how did you know that?”

“Shit, I have to leave!”  My newly minted bride had just used her last quarter to call for me and got hung up on!  She was now standing on a corner in Harrisburg with no cash, no car, and no idea if the number I gave her was wrong or what.  We laughed about it later.  She was pretty glad to see me roll up but whoa, Nelly she was hot to know what happened.

So that’s my name game.  If you know me as Sam, you can call me Sam.  If you knew me as John, feel free to still call me that.  It’s like a little youth elixir for me.  If you have some other names for me, that’s cool too.  I have 4,000 former students who call me Mr. Campbell, Mister, Campbell, Soup and I’m flattered to be remembered by them at all.  For you, for them, for everyone: just keep calling!

Not Bum-Rush: Busker-Rush!

Busker-Rush: Coming to an Open Mic Near You!

Since promoting live, local music and the venues that support it is our mission, it only made sense to seek out the area’s open mic nights.  Seasoned musicians know an open mic offers a stage where new songs can be test-driven.  Young musicians see them as an opportunity to meet their peers, make some connections and try out different lineups and arrangements.  Music fans know that these smaller, less formal shows can deliver spontaneous, unique jams between the players.  It’s a win-win-win: unless they go away.  That’s why Gigspots is seeking out open mic nights across the region and promoting the venues who host them.  They deserve to make a profit on a night that pays forward so much to the music community.

The Cove in York was a great choice to start this team-effort and Wednesday March 13 it went down.  The food and drink specials were “musician budget” priced.  Mike Males of MyRuralRadio.com hosted the evening and many MRR artists came out to play.  The Cove was debuting a new sound system that sounded great.  There were plenty of mics, cables, amps and monitors to give a full, clear sound.  Local notable Kelly John McClain sat in on drums with many acts.

The night ran smoothly with twelve acts getting fifteen minutes each from 8pm-12am.  Well, it ran a bitlater; the all-jam featuring American Hollar at the end could have gone for hours.  The lineup: Wayne Beck, Ian Dellinger and Amy Mummert, Adam Blessing, Dani Hoy, Mark Jacob, The Lone Wolf Project, Jasper the Tourist, Jessica Boyer, Sal Biondollo, Clint Hibshman, Tom Kerns and then the American Hollar finale.

Stringed wizard Jeff Hostetter will be sorely missed!

It’s hard to believe that Jeff Hostetter, the much-loved, wildly-respected luthier and resonator player was making his next-to- last appearance at The Cove with the band he helped to found.  He will be sorely missed and irreplaceable in the band and our musical community.

Plenty of musical magic moments arose.  Jessica Boyer was appearing at The Cove for the first time and wowed the place!  Dani Hoy debuted two new songs!  Sal and Tom showed they still have the chops to play any room.  The Lone Wolf Project (aka Phil Freeman) stopped in for a howl after an earlier gig!  Musicians were jumping in and out of lineups and jamming together, some for the first time, and connections were being made.  One trio that formed may actually become a band!

Tonight (3/26) in Marietta, Leo DiSanto hosts the Tuesday Acoustic Open Mic Night at Shank’s Tavern.  You may know him best as the lead troubador from The Vinegar Creek Constituency.  Leo’s talent and engaging spirit always makes for a good night and boy, can he bring out the players.  It’s a Tuesday so the kitchen features Asian foods besides their always-scrumptious regular menu.  The beer selection rotates between amazing and “Really?!  You have That!?”

Come out to play tonight!  Eat, drink, be merry and support a beautiful tavern that consistently supports the local music scene.  You may have so much fun, you’ll return Thursday for their “15 Minutes of Fame Electric Open Mic!”

Don’t Stop the Press! The Slackwater News, Pegi Young and Second Hand Suits

The synergy of the Lancaster music scene will be displayed again Friday March 22.  It’s hard to believe a show this vibrant and unique costs just $5.  Everyone is this area knows The Slackwater News brings a dynamic energy and work ethic to the stage.  You never know what musical surprises or heights they might deliver.  They’re also known for performing timely and unique cover versions of songs appropriate to the night (Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” and Oingo Boingo’s “Weird Science” at the Halloween CD release party).

Pegi Young and The Survivors play Chameleon Club Lancaster 3/22

Could this Friday include a rendition of a Neil Young classic?  I’m pulling for “Powderfinger” as Neil’s wife, bandmate and fellow philanthropist Pegi Young brings her band The Survivors to Chameleon Club Lancaster, PA this Friday 3/22 in support of The Slackwater News.  FYI, Pegi and The Survivors will be playing Late Night with David Letterman March 26th.  Local rising band Second Hand Suits fills out the Chameleon bill.  Below are the official press releases which include links and free streaming audio of Pegi’s new album.  It’s great!  See you Friday!

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Slackwater News
info@slackwaternews.com
www.slackwaternews.com

15 March 2013

PEGI YOUNG JOINS THE SLACKWATER NEWS FOR UPCOMING SHOW AT THE CHAMELEON CLUB

March 2013, Lancaster, PA: Pegi Young, bandmate and wife of Neil Young for over three decades, will bring her critically acclaimed band to the Chameleon Club in support of The Slackwater News on March 22, 2013.

The Chameleon Club has announced the addition of Pegi Young to The Slackwater News show on March 22.  “Pegi’s music is really powerful, and she tours with a great band that often includes legendary musicians like Spooner Oldham.  Plus we have a lot of respect for the work she and Neil have done with the Bridge School and Farm Aid.  We are really looking forward to the show and hope that by keeping the ticket price low we can draw a lot of fans of both bands,” remarked Daniel Ramirez, keyboardist for The Slackwater News.  Doors open at 8:00 pm and ticket price is $5. This show is for ages 21 and up.

Show Details
The Slackwater News, Pegi Young and the Survivors, and Second Hand Suits
Friday March 22, 2013 | 8pm | 21+ | $5
Chameleon Club – 223 N. Water St. Lancaster, PA 17603

About The Slackwater News:
With their second EP “Graveyard Mates” the Slackwater News lets fly another batch of restless songs that walk that thin line between indie-rock and freak-folk – memorable for their melodies, sweet in their harmonies, and cleverly arresting in their lyrics.

The group—Matt Blank (drums), JJ Gammache (bass, vocals), Matt Johnson (guitar), Daniel Ramirez (organ/piano/keyboards), and Dan Zdilla (vocals, guitar)—proudly hails from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where a healthy modern arts and music community thrive alongside badly lit retail outlets, tourist buffets, and horse-drawn agriculture.

Their debut disc, “All You Creatures” earned significant regional notice as well as airplay on WXPN and other radio outlets in 2010. It drew comparisons to the likes of Dr. Dog, The Band, The Black Keys, Spoon, The Beatles and Grateful Dead.

This time around the group presents six songs about things like international phone calls, sharing a house with polite ghosts, the oddly comforting certainty of entropy, and the equally comforting notion of spending that eternity in the ground with someone you love. “Graveyard Mates” is available for physical and digital sale at www.slackwaternews.com and all major retail outlets.

Watch the “Ghosts” Music Video
Visit the Slackwater News’ Official Website
Stream Slackwater News Music at Reverbnation
Buy Slackwater News Music at iTunes

 

Pegi Young & The Survivors, will be coming to Lancaster on Friday, March 22nd to play at The Chameleon. Young is supporting her third album, Bracing For Impact (Vapor Records), once again accompanied by her acclaimed recording and touring band, The Survivors: legendary keyboard player Spooner Oldham, bassist Rick Rosas, guitarist Kelvin Holly, and drummer Phil Jones. The group is scheduled to perform on David Letterman on March 26th and will then hit the road for a string of dates supporting Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam.

 

Bracing For Impact follows up 2010’s Foul Deeds, which Pegi co-produced with veteran multi-instrumentalist Ben Keith.  Her debut album, 2007’s self-titled Pegi Young, was described by Allmusic.com as “an intimate, hopeful and melancholy look at life and love from a songwriter who has been there.”

 

To stream Bracing For Impactplease click here.

 

Pegi Young first became known via her longtime role as backup singer—onstage and on record—for her husband Neil Young.  Pegi and Neil, whose son Ben was born with cerebral palsy, founded the non-profit Bridge School in 1986, serving children with severe speech and physical impairments.  The Youngs are also the driving force behind the annual all-star Bridge School Benefit concerts.

March’s Lions and Lambs: Week One

If variety is the spice of life, I’m living on hot tamales.  I’m enjoying a great month of shows!  If I had to sum them up in one word, it would be “Brave.”  I’ve witnessed CD releases, bands playing new venues, bands debuting new members or saying goodbye to founders, and a venue celebrating a one-year anniversary.  Perhaps best, I’ve seen veterans and first-timers sharing music at open mic nights.  These brave nights trigger your fight-or-flight reflex.  It’s easy to find those ecstatic moments where artist and audience connect.  Here’s a rundown of my first week of March.

Joy Ike at Lancaster YWCA

Joy Ike at Lancaster YWCA

3/3: Joy Ike brought her new CD and supporting act Kim Edwards to Lancaster’s YWCA.  Joy radiates warmth and emotion.  Her physical beauty strikes you first.  Her honest, genuine lyrics bare her soul and speak her mind.  She and her combo played most of the new album with confidence and satisfaction.  “Everything You Have” reminds us all how tenuous life is.  See Joy live and you’ll be glad she’s in your life.

Kim Edwards was a delight.  Her piano is deliberate yet delicate.

KimEdwards: delicate and deliberate

Her song “No Other” is destined to become a wedding song for thousands.  “Wanderlust” betrays that it might be a while before Miss Edwards settles down.  I bought CD’s from both ladies and have kept them in top rotation since.  New material, new venue, new tour partners and open emotions added up to a brave night.

3/4:  I caught a tasty little show at Chestnut Hill Cafe, one of Lancaster’s tastiest spots.  A young lady named Canyon was passing through town and hoped to find a gig.  She had really impressed crowds at Tellus 360 at last year’s LAUNCH Music Conference.  On this night, she and local band The Pig Merchants played a surprise Monday show.  It turned into a two-band birthday celebration for Bob Glick and  the lucky dozens who dropped by.

3/8:  I sent my friends Toy Soldiers to play for my friends at The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport.  It tore at me not to be there with them.  I know the magic of that place and could vividly imagine the spark that could ignite between it and this fine band.  Also absent that night: Bullfrog owner Steve who was delivering the first bottled batch of his beers to Philadelphia.  My reports say band, venue and beers all had stellar receptions.

I spent Friday night in Wrightsville celebrating the one year anniversary of The Burning Bridge Tavern.  You must do an awful lot of things right to make a year in the restaurant business.  The capacity crowd all weekend proved that BBT is doing a lot of things right.  Just as on opening weekend, Vinegar Creek Constituency played their rousing style of homespun, folksy blues.

The Vinegar Creek Constituency

They call themselves, “Lancaster, PA’s swashbuckling, pseudo-legendary pioneers of Amerikindasorta string band music.”  See them and you’ll get it.  They get some heels kicked up and heads banging at the same time.  It was a great night to celebrate taking a leap!

3/9:  I had to see The Wayfarer Experiment’s first appearance at First Capital Dispensing Company in York.  The band is always full of surprises and the place is like a cabin outpost in a beer wilderness.  The original building was constructed in 1790 and you feel the age.  When the place filled with forty or so people chugging craft beers and rollicking with the Wayfarers, it was like the wild west

Ronn Benway jumps into The Wayfarer Experiment

Ronn Benway came charging through the door with his washboard rig, jumped in with the band and everything just broke loose.   Nate played guitar, that crazy little glockenspiel again and on other songs played electric bass.  Bjorn at times broke out an electric guitar and a bullhorn.  Then it would be banjo, mando and even harmonica.  Matt actually played drums when not smacking his cajon.  He had a very clever touch!  These guys put themselves out at the frontier every show and really owned it that Saturday night.

City Week, Country Week

I just finished two very exciting but very different weeks.  The week of Feb 11-17 carried me to big cities for wild times and a wide variety of music.  The week of Feb 18-24 brought me back to the country for more rootsy, traditional sounds.  I continue to be amazed at the scope of musical adventures I can find within 100 miles of Lancaster.

State College isn’t really a big city but it’s a big deal in PA.  The Kalob Griffin Band has been a big deal there since 2010 so I visited their birthplace, Café 210 West, to get a feel for their roots.  It’s a great venue with cheap, delicious food and beer.  Every college town should have a place like this.  The band was rousing, their fans carousing and the ladies just wouldn’t leave this band alone.

Lancaster isn’t a big city but it has everything a big one does; it’s “A City Authentic.”  I got to see KGB in the place I met them: The Lancaster Dispensing Company, aka DipCo.  The band sounded great but I called it a night early to save energy for Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday night carried me to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, namely Rams Head Live for Pirate Rob’s Birthday Bash Sixteen bands performed for over 800 people and as a sponsor, I had all-access passes.  This is not something I would recommend for the faint of heart.  These people party like they’re on the Mayan calendar.  You can still download a 19-song sampler from the Birthday Bash artists on my Gigspots.com homepage.  If you think you can hang in any rock show situation, mark your calendar for next year.

Sunday night meant Philly for The TriStateIndie.com Music Awards at World Café Live.  I’ve never been to the Grammy’s but I doubt they are more efficient or fun than TSI’s show.  Ron Gallo as emcee and Dirk Quinn Band as house band made the beautiful World Café Live feel like a giant house party.

I documented much more about this weekend in my last blog where I also discussed turning fifty.

Country weekends still kick off on Thursdays.  I slipped up to Elizabethtown’s Lynden Gallery for an intimate, acoustic round.  Sarah Blacker, Jessica Smucker and Eric White traded songs accompanied by Eran Shaysh on percussion.  The quiet while they performed enrobed their songs.  The direct connection between artists and audience crackled.  The show closed with a transcendent rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” that left me breathless.  I will never forget it.

I left that show and drove six miles closer to home before stopping at The Watering Trough.  The Wayfarer Experiment had a late show I just couldn’t pass up.  This trio is knocking me out: raw talent and wild abandon in every show.  It was a pretty late Thursday night even by my standards!

There were too many shows to choose from Friday night but the one I regret missing the most was Mike McMonagle and The Vulcans playing Lancaster’s newest interesting venue, “Live From the Cellar.”  Keep your eye on their page to be sure you don’t miss something extraordinary and intimate.

Saturday night was another double-header.  I began with a scrumptious dinner with my wife at Black Gryphon in Elizabethtown.  Serenading our dessert/beer course were the dynamic duo of Leo DiSanto and Jeff Bryson from Vinegar Creek Constituency.  Part one of the evening was delicious and satisfying to all senses.

Part two of Saturday night took me to The Depot in York, PA for some rowdy country and rockabilly!  My pals American Hollar opened the night and showed off plenty of new material.   The sooner you catch up to this band, the better.  Mike Males has a new electric guitar that’s pumping up the sound and word has it that Jeff Hostetter (resonator) is considering a move to Florida.  You can catch them March 28 at World Café Live at The Queen in Wilmington, DE as part of a great lineup as Central PA invades DE.

Carrie and the Dirty Pillows played an energetic set to transition from straight-up country to a rockabilly sound.  Then came DiDi Deluxe and The Dirty Devils, Fly Magazine (Harrisburg)’s cover band for March.  I must say, this band knows their stuff!  You have no chance of sitting still when they crank up their rockabilly.  They are an eye-popping, ear-splitting, foot-moving machine.

It’s hard to find time to write when you’re always going to shows but I’m trying!  Keep the invitations coming and I’ll do my best to catch your shows next!