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.

Sulk or Burn?

I’ve been filling my rainy day with various Gigspotter tasks: uploading videos, contacting agents, reading the blogs and the latest Fly Magazine.  Were you at Tellus 360 for the tribute to the Radiohead album The Bends three weeks ago? bends tribute All twelve of the artists performed one of the album cuts and then a few originals.  Angela Sheik nailed it for me this morning.  Her performance of “Sulk” was singular and remarkable and I hope Radiohead hears it.  Hearing it today gave me the juice to care not a whit for the weather’s plans.  Seeing the joy and verve she threw into that performance reminded me why I started Gigspots and why it fascinates me every day.  Thank you bands and especially Dani Mari for orchestrating the night!  I’m not worthy!

Browsing 298 Recommended Pages and Notifications on Facebook lead me to a blog on The Key called “Philly Music 101: How to Book a Show at a Philly Venue.”  It was filled with sound advice and some notable quotes.  One of my favorites was by Christianna LaBuz of World Café Live.  Christianna La Buz: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice. It’s a pretty small industry and everyone knows each other, so don’t talk smack. Stick around for the bands playing after you. Be kind to your openers; you never know, you could be opening for them someday. Treat your sound engineers with respect – it’s a thankless job and they can easily make you sound like garbage. Tip your bartenders well – they talk to more people at the venue than anyone and it’s just the right thing to do.”

The Key blogger, Sarah Hughes, made some keen points around the quotes she got from LaBuz, Chris Ward from Johnny Brenda’s, Jesse Lundy for Point Entertainment, Yusuf Muhammad for Vintage Freshman and Sean Agnew from R5 (quoted below).  If your band wants to play Philly (or anywhere), I suggest you follow the link and read the whole blog.

So – you got your gig. What now? Performers might think that the only thing next is showing up at the right address on the right day without missing a band member, but there are some things that you can do in the meantime to show that you are adamant and grateful for the slot you got. Making a solid impression with show bookers can create an important relationship in the industry. A good place to start is with promoting the show on your end, and not just leaving it up to the venue. Promoters like it when a band is excited about their performance and getting people out to see them. Agnew talked about how this will start you off on a good note for venues:

You will quickly become every club’s favorite band if you hustle and get folks out for the show. You’ll definitely get invited back and then quickly rise to the top of the list for when we can add local bands to bigger shows.

Everybody wants to draw a crowd.  If this was middle school, all you’d have to do is yell, “Fight!”  We’re over that now.  But you need to fight to succeed in life and pursuing your art is a noble fight.  Radiohead does it.  Angela Sheik and Dani Mari do it.  The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were bar bands once.  Of course there’s a competitive element to landing a gig at the place and time that works for you.  But we’re all in this together.  One of the best things I heard that night at Tellus 360 (besides the bands pouring their hearts out in tribute) was all the musicians saying how great it was to be there together.

Sulk

By Radiohead

You bite through the big wall, the big wall bites back
You just sit there and sulk, sit there and bawl
You are so pretty when you’re on your knees
Disinfected, eager to please

Sometimes you sulk, sometimes you burn
God rest your soul
When the loving comes and we’ve already gone
Just like your dad, you’ll never change

Each time it comes it eats me alive
I try to behave but it eats me alive

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

Big Plan, Small Man

gigspots smApril is a big month in my life but last week made me feel very small.  I celebrate four years of Gigspots this month with both pride and trepidation.  Am I making a difference and can I sustain it?  Am I brightening lives, fostering culture and saving the economy one gig at a time?  Am I creating opportunities for young people, acting locally and thinking globally?

Meanwhile, Islamic terrorists were slaughtering Christian school children in Africa.  Diplomats were negotiating over who can or cannot have nuclear weapons.  My daughter was packing for a trip to Germany when that Germanwings pilot crashed his plane full of people on purpose.  My mother fell ill and wouldn’t be able to celebrate Easter with the whole family.

Meanwhile, America obsessed over The Voice contestants and their March Madness brackets.  As an American, a Christian, a son, a father and a businessman, it seemed the world was spinning faster than usual.  Could I stay grounded while not letting the gravity of it all crush me?  I wondered for the billionth time if one man’s thoughts, beliefs or actions really made any difference.

Then I remembered being a teacher.  I didn’t have all the answers then any more than I do now.  But I felt like if I asked the right questions, or provoked a few new thoughts, maybe the next generation could come up with an answer or two.  Those young people never let me down!

So I revisited my lessons this week.  What follows are two essays I used for years as examples of crisp, poignant writing and thought-provoking analysis framed within classic religious literature: the Bible and the Bhagavad-Gita.  You don’t have to be religious, political or an English teacher to enjoy them.

If you’re about to click off, let me preface the essays this way.  The first, “Fear and Faith,” was published September 12, 2001, while I was teaching freshman English and the World Trade Towers were still smoldering.  The second, “You’re In Here Too,” was published in The Sun magazine the day my father had open-heart surgery after surviving cancer and a stroke.   I felt pretty small on those days too.

Fear and Faith

By John Wimberly

Western Presbyterian Church

September 12, 2001

To some, the World Trade Towers were a symbol of an economic system that works.  To others, they were symbols of an economic system whose success is built on exploitation. Regardless of where one stands in the debate about the causes of wealth and poverty, Tuesday’s terrorism leaves us no choice but to admit that fear, hatred and violence increasingly define the relations between the rich and poor.

Those who don’t have wealth fear that their children’s lives will be worse than their own.  Anger grows as they watch their loved ones die of diseases that disappeared years ago in developed nations.  Leaders who foster hatred of the developed nations suddenly sound reasonable.

Those who have wealth grow increasingly fearful of the masses of poor people.  They become resentful that their wealth does not give them the freedom and safety they once assumed it would create.  Leaders who tell them that the poor are a threat to their well-being suddenly sound reasonable.

It is a recipe for madness. A blue print for mutual self-destruction.  Where does it end?  The world’s major religions all agree that it is the responsibility of those who have to help those who do not.  Jesus, for example, talked about financial stewardship more than any other single issue.  What we do or don’t do with our money is an issue of profound spiritual significance.  The strong are supposed to help the weak.

And isn’t the well-being of others an important aspect of good economic policy as well?  Impoverished people don’t buy products.  Uneducated people don’t constitute a good workforce.  Strong economies produce jobs that can enable the poor to build a better future for themselves and their families.  Long term economic self-interest requires attention to the needs of others.

If both economists and the world’s religions agree that self-interest and the interest of all are inseparably intertwined, what is the problem?  The problem is fear, fear that morphs into hostility…that morphs into a willingness to fly a plane into a skyscraper; or fear that turns into a vengeance-filled cruise missile flying through the night with hopes that it will hit an enemy.

The opposite of fear is faith.  Our daily lives are built on hundreds of large and small acts of faith.  We have faith that when we get on a plane, it will take us to the scheduled destination; that when we sit in an office, we are safe; that the sun will set tonight and rise tomorrow.

What is at stake today is whether we will live lives of fear of lives of faith.  We live in a national and personal moment of truth.

In Washington, this is John Wimberly for Marketplace on NPR.

Did you notice that Pastor John Wimberly was writing for Marketplace on NPR, a show about economics?  Did I mention that on September 11, 2001, it was Yearbook Picture Day in my school?  Smile for the camera and never mind that there are still 1,600 planes in flight in America right now or that you have family and friends in DC and Manhattan…

You’re In Here Too

Jim Ralston

The Sun July 2006

It’s morning but still dark out.  It’s also raining and cold.  I’m walking out of a twenty-four-hour fitness center, on my way to the all-night Waffle House, when a woman hails me from her car.  She has just run away from her husband, she says, and needs gas money to get to her mother’s.

Gas money now, is it?  Who doesn’t need gas money to get to their mother’s these days?  Probably drug money she’s really after.  I hate being panhandled.  But a softer voice inside me says, Hey, wake up.  Here’s a human being in distress.  This is an opportunity to be of help.  It’s not your concern what she does with the money.

                “He’s a bastard,” she tells me.

Peering into my wallet, I see that my smallest bill is a twenty.  Ouch.  I was thinking of a couple of dollars, five at the most.

“Here,” I say, handing her a twenty.  “This won’t get you very far these days.”

She thanks me profusely.  I can see that she is crying.  She waves and honks another thank-you as she drives off.

An hour later, my own gas tank topped off, I sit down to prepare my classes over a double espresso at the Daily Grind.  I’ve only just begun working when my laptop crashes and won’t restart.  Now I’m the one who feels like crying.

OK, I tell myself.  That’s the way today is going.  Close your eyes.  Take a couple of deep breaths.  Disappointments are there to remind us of the big picture: Everything that’s created also falls apart.  This machine is like my body, which will crash too one day.  Both machines are far from new.

Or big picture number two: For most of the world, a sudden fifteen-hundred-dollar setback would be heart-stopping.  I can pay for this.  I have a credit card.  By world standards I’m economically privileged.

Finally the coffee and sugar start to kick in.  Dawn is breaking.  The rain has stopped.  I try my computer one more time, to see if a miracle has happened.  It hasn’t.

In my world-literature class this morning, I am teaching the Bhagavad-Gita, a Hindu scripture written in the fourth century B.C., in which the god Krishna takes human form as the charioteer of the warrior Arjuna.  Krishna presses upon Arjuna that the attention we pay to particular outcomes in life, be they good or bad, should be minimal.  Fortune will change like the weather:  Now you have fallen ill.  Now your illness has been cured.  Now you have gone broke.  Now you have inherited a stash of money.  Now somebody has put a ding in your new chariot.  Now you have fallen in love.  Relinquish attachment to outcomes, Krishna advises; be equally indifferent to success and failure.  The real value of what happens “out there” in the ever-changing world (and, from Krishna’s perspective, “out there” includes your own body) lies in the opportunity to see anew from “in here” – from the perspective of the eternal soul.

In the afternoon I’m coming down pretty hard from my morning caffeine trip when I learn by phone that my book has been rejected by a university press that held the manuscript for longer than two years.  In a recent conversation, the press director told me he was optimistic.  I close my eyes and suffer this rejection for a few minutes.  Why me?

Then a little voice inside me says, Why don’t you ever ask, “Why me?” when something good happens?  Did you utter, “Why me?” when your daughter was born healthy?

After my three-hour night class, I circle the residential streets looking for an inconspicuous place to park my van and sleep in it.  It’s been a long day.  I don’t feel like driving an hour and twenty minutes home just to drive back again in the morning.  A spot beside a church is always promising.  Even better if the church is a little run-down and offbeat, like the Free Methodist, or God’s Love, or the Unitarian Universalist.  Karate clubs and yoga centers are also good – if they’re in a part of town where an aging Dodge conversion van doesn’t appear out of place.

Tonight, though, like last night, I end up in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  It’s open 24/7, and there’s a restroom.  Plus I can buy a bedtime snack.  I steel myself before I go inside.  Watching people mull over their purchases in a Wal-Mart late at night can put me in a mild depression.  You’re shopping here, too, the little voice whispers as I stand in line to purchase a sack of peanuts so I won’t wake up hungry at 1 A.M.

Back in my van, satisfied that I’m unobserved, I pull down my bed in the back and slide into my sleeping bag.  The traffic along Interstate 81 is a dull roar, but a steady one, so it won’t disturb my sleep.  The traffic never stops.  It goes all night.  I try to think of it as a distant wind.

I’ve aligned my bedside window to a parking-lot light to illuminate the pages of my book.  Outside, some kids are skateboarding.  A couple walks by pushing carts full of groceries.    I hear them talking two feet away, on the other side of my tinted window, as if they were alone: about how long the day has been; about how tired they’ve been feeling lately.  The window at the foot of my bed perfectly frames the big red letters of the Wal-Mart sign: AL-MART.  The W has burned out.  I notice the R and T are starting to flicker.

After half a page, I’m falling asleep.  Wisdom doesn’t come easily, Krishna teaches Arjuna.  It takes practice to develop a mind quiet enough to hear life’s deeper truths.  It takes discipline.  It takes lifetimes.

So…I’m practicing.  I can’t control what thoughts pop into my head.  I can think and organize beliefs.  I can choose to act based on fear, or faith, or greed, or kindness or hundreds of other motivations.  I can do my best and hope I leave the world a bit richer than when I found it.  Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith.  Cue the music!  Pack a bag!  We’re not small; it’s just a big world out there…and in here.

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!

 

Spring With Me

Did “spring ahead” mess you up?  You’re not alone if losing an hour to daylight savings time wrecked you.  And then it snowed on the first day of spring.  Did you cry foul?  I know it’s been a long, cold winter.  Just listen to all those birds outside your window.  Shake it off.  Spring is here.  I’m planting some seeds right now that will bring a fine harvest for bands and fans of live music.

I have a few more showcases scheduled in Lancaster for April and May.  Then the map zooms out.  The Gigspots Spotlight Showcase is going on the road!  I’ll be taking central PA bands out to visit all those fine bands I brought to town over the last two years.  You’ll get a chance to play at some new venues for some new audiences.  They’ll be ready and waiting; they’ve heard all about you since they sent their hometown heroes to Lancaster to open for you.  You will be music ambassadors for central PA.

OneKoast MD's Finest IX mapWhere are we going? “From Pittsburgh to Philly, from the Poconos to the Potomac” isn’t just one of Gigspots’ slogans.  I have built a loop of client venues where you can play nearly every night of the week.  We can crash with all those bands that spent the night on my couches.  Or maybe like me you have friends all across the state who say, “Why don’t you ever visit?”  I’ll bet you know somebody along I-80 or I-70.

That’s just how it worked out with Working Breed when they drove from Pittsburgh to play shows for me in Manayunk and Lancaster.  They had friends and family in West Chester who attended both shows and gave them lodging.  Venues like it when you bring 10-12 people to a show on your first visit.  Working Breed played two shows and got three future gigs out of it.

DSCF0251I’m going off the grid March 23-28 for a retreat in the mountains.  When I get back, tour planning begins in earnest.  If your band has a profile on Gigspots.com, take this week to update it with your latest pics, videos, links and shows.  I’ll be cleaning house of bands that don’t do their homework and picking the bands that look road-worthy.  Don’t forget that you can ALWAYS post your info, events and fun stuff on my Gigspots Facebook page.  It’s your bulletin board too and it keeps you on the radar of me and my audience.  Ask the bands I’ve taken on tour if that’s worth it.

Sweet Leda’s New Album: Let It In and Turn it Up!

Sweet Leda’s latest album Let It In deserves tons of attention and hundreds of accolades.  The fat, lush sounds of the direct-to-tape recording process captured the layers of power and intensity behind these songs.  If you’ve seen Sweet Leda live, you’ll feel the heat off this record.  If you’re curious what all the buzz and awards are about, it’s time to Let It In and turn it up!  You’ll find chances later to have a quiet moment with the record.  Your first play should be loud as hell.  Wherever you do that, do it to it.SL4

Julie Cymek wrote these songs and sings them with command.  She belts in the same weight class as Dana Fuchs, Grace Potter, Sister Sparrow and Joan Osborne.  Jaime Horrigan on bass can thump it or go all melodious on you.  He’s a double-threat on beatbox too.  Omar El Dieahy is my favorite guitarist I know.  He plays these crazy prototype guitars and while he invents new tones and textures, he never loses the song or lets it get impersonal.  Don Boyette on drums is The Pocket.  Dude is all sweet spot and grace, a drummer’s drummer. SL6 Joining Sweet Leda on two album tracks, as he often does live, is tenor sax giant Ron Holloway.  How lucky for us all!  You can Google him now or after you hear him, but you will.

Here’s the ten-song playlist and a thing or two about that thing they do: sweet, sexy, funky rock with soul.

  1. “Resolutions:” one of the band’s resolutions for the record must be to let Omar turn it up! You’ll figure out right away that this band means what it says.
  2. “Go Get Your Money:” Omar and Ron Holloway earn it one this one. They go and they get it!
  3. “Fake It:” no posers need apply! If you can’t be real with the open-hearted people in Sweet Leda, you can’t be real.  Whoever you are, I don’t want to know you either.
  4. “Make It Happen:” get off your ass! What’s stopping you?
  5. “She’s Not Coming Home:” I think you blew it mister. This is a song for a woman wronged.
  6. “Baby:” one hot, slow-burning torch of a song about making love. Julie didn’t write it for you but you’ll believe she did.  Deep down believe.
  7. “Bad Boy:” one hot rock song for the bad girls in the house! Bad hasn’t sounded so good since Donna Summer.
  8. “Let It In:” five senses and a whole world right in front of you. Seize something and hang on!
  9. “Something:” by George Harrison…a big romantic version. It’s a love song to a love song.  Omar!
  10. “You Can’t Hold Me Down:” I always hold my head high. I keep moving on.

SL1Those last words are Julie’s and could well describe the album.  Sweet Leda has plenty of reason to hold their heads high with the release of Let It In and the record should definitely keep their careers moving on and up.  But they could serve us all well as a motto for life.  There is great beauty in life and we need to let it in.  When it sparks our curiosity, we need to act on it.  And when people bring the ugly, we need to let it go.  Crank up your copy of Let It In and proceed loud and proud!  Buy it now at SweetLeda.com!

All photographs and digital-oil images here are the work and property of Dan Gillespie and DGital.  Used with permission.  See other spectacular albums at https://www.facebook.com/dgital.me/timeline or for consultation email dgital.me@icloud.com

132 Wishes and Thanks

132 Wishes and Thanks

What a lucky guy I am!  Even in the coldest week on record, I’m surrounded by warmth.  I have a wife and daughter who love me.  I spent all week receiving thanks and best wishes on my birthday.  I just finished directing operations for the best music festival Lancaster has ever seen and I’m headed for a humdinger tonight: Frozen Harbor Music Festival in Baltimore.  Thank you, family and friends and strangers, who made my life so beautiful this week.  I’ll do my best to live up to it!

I spent my week cleaning out closets, organizing my office, painting the kitchen and creating a giant collage.  They could all serve as analogies for my state of being.  It’s a great time for me to sort what’s important, rake away the debris and sow a fresh plan for spring.  I can reflect on an object and say Trash, Totem or Time Capsule.20150219_123001_resized  The heart of our home deserved rejuvenation and a fresh coat.  A new light at the center is next.  The collage is where I transform tokens from events into totems.  They give me power.  I do lead a charmed life after all.

Being an event producer makes it difficult to quantify time besides the start, run and end of an event.  I’m constantly planning, projecting, revising, and anticipating so that when the moment comes, I can fully be in it.  It’s like falling in love.  Thinking about it makes you miserable.  When you’re in it, little else seems to matter.  Time shrinks to with them or without them.  Space becomes where you share and where you’re apart.  Prior to Lancaster Roots and Blues, everyone was asking Rich and I who to see or who were our favorites.  He said it best when he said, “It’s like being asked which of your children is your favorite.  You love them all in unique ways and as a whole.”  My life makes me measure time the way lovers and parents do; there is no start or stop.

So I like tasks.  When my head is swimming with a jillion details leading up to 9pm on a certain Friday, I like tasks with defined parameters.  Paint this room.  Shovel this driveway.  You will see immediate results and feel a sense of satisfaction.  When I was a teacher and a school year was beginning or ending, I was grateful to have a lawn to mow.  The jillion details surrounding, “Have I prepared?  Am I reaching them?  Have I done my job?” could be neatly trimmed and drowned out by an hour’s roar of the mower.

20150219_192547_resizedSo some boxes went to the curb this week.  I can see my desk again.  The collage is 4’x10’ and hanging in the music room.  That’s 40 square feet of totems plus your well-wishes to cocoon me from the world.  My kitchen is cozy.  I love you too.

Lancaster Roots and Blues: Year Two in Review

My feet have stopped throbbing and my phone has stopped ringing.  The post-partum depression has subsided and my showcase at DipCo tonight will resolve the rest.  Yep, I’m back to being Sammy Gigspots just seven days after wrapping up a colossal Lancaster Roots and Blues festival.  Come set a spell at Lancaster Dispensing Company tonight 2/14 for Danny Whitecotton solo and The Plate Scrapers, a jammin’ bunch of bluegrass fellas from Cumberland, MD.plate scrapers

I’ll begin my review with thank-you’s.  Thank you Rich Ruoff: for giving me the opportunity to serve as your Director of Operations for this fantastic event.  Thank you to the bands and venues for working so hard to make sure everyone was having a blast and finding that buzz.  Thank you to the volunteers who made this festival run smoothly and our guests feel welcome.  Every stop I made, I walked into a venue packed with happy people.  Feel proud of yourselves.  You earned it.

The public response to LRB 2015 has been overwhelmingly positive.  We made the newspapers eight days in a row.  Our social media accounts continue to explode.  The photos and videos are pouring in and our post-event survey again shows that over 90% of attendees plan absolutely to return for 2016.  Two things people say we improved on from year one: our Shuttle Bus service and our availability of credit card readers.  Many people enjoyed riding the shuttle and being able to purchase tickets/merch with their plastic.

Those credit card readers were both a blessing and a curse.  It made life easier for our customers but it left us low on the ready cash you need to pay traveling bands living payday to payday.  Something that disappointed me personally was the lack of foot-traffic at our Food Truck Court.  Our survey results from 2014 included many requests for food trucks and I worked hard to line up some quality food smack dab in the middle of the festival.  We even made it a shuttle bus stop but people passed it by.

Our three new venues were fantastic additions.  Everyone had high praise for Lancaster Dispensing Company, Trust Performing Arts Center and The Elks Lodge.   They have all asked to be part of the festival again next year and they all earned our respect.  They all have my vote!

What about the music?  Well, I didn’t get to see much.  I started my Friday at The Trust so I could introduce the first act of the night, Grand Ole’ Ditch.  I love their sound and my goodness that’s a beautiful room!  I introduced Sweet Leda at The Elks at 9:10 and stuck around for two songs.  They are great friends and one of my favorite bands on the planet.  It thrilled me to see The Elks filled with happy people like I remember it always being for Music Fridays.  I introduced The Freeway Revival at 10:30 at Federal Taphouse.  I love their blend of country, blues and rock.  And wow does that place get fun as the night gets late!  I closed my night by introducing Second Hand Suits at DipCo at midnight.  Only my badge got me inside; the place was at capacity most of both nights.  I had my only beer of the night there as I caught up to the pack of twelve family members I had roaming the festival.  The music, the crowd, the moment and that beer were glorious.  Then I went back to work till about 2:30.

I saw even less music Saturday night.  I saw Dana Fuchs melt a Chameleon Club filled to capacity: one song from stage right.  I saw Iris DeMent for one song: from beside the sound board.  I did get to drive her to and from the Marriott and Ware Center and we chatted a bit.  She’s a lovely, regular person and had several questions about Lancaster, our festival and my Subaru.  She has a daughter approaching driving age.  I got to witness some of the late-night bluegrass jam at Tellus 360 and have a beer with my daughter who was hanging tough for a second night.  She said she was proud of me and that was enough music to my ears.

Then it was time to clear Freedom Hall of cars, sound, lights, everything for the gymnastics competition loading in at 8am Sunday morning.  I caught a couple hours of sleep then drove home the first carload of stuff.  I went back to finish loading out the backstage office and by 11am I was headed home with the last of it.

I visited with my out-of-town guests a bit and got some immediate feedback, mostly positive.  Friends tell you the whole truth and I love them for it.  They couldn’t stop smiling, laughing and bringing up moments from the weekend.  We had only seen each other in passing.  They all declared it a success and an improvement on year one.  That was all I needed to hear.  I hit the showers and caught about 16 hours sleep.  Monday was pretty lazy too.

By Tuesday I was back on the job.  Yes, there will be a Lancaster Roots and Blues 2016 and yes we will continue to improve.  Thank you all for your encouragement and support.  You are why Lancaster comes first in our name.