Have You Seen Sam?

Where in the world is Sam?  Well, I’ve been hither and yon directing the operations of Lancaster Roots and Blues 2015 to prepare for the biggest party ever thrown in our fair city!  I’m digging the hugs and pats on the back; keep ‘em coming!  Coffee is nice too.  I have been doing plenty of writing but mostly it’s content for the LRB website.  Have you visited today?  Do you have tickets?  Are you volunteering?  Let me hear you Lancaster!

Much of my other writing has been farmed out to our media partners.  Check out these fun, informative blogs I wrote for FigLancaster.com.  This link will take you to my piece on the festival venues.  This link will take you to my blog on the stuff people are shouting at me as I run through the streets.  And this link will take you to the blog our office manager Carrie Binkley is writing: a sort of behind the scenes/under the gun peek at how we lash this thing together. Master Class page-2  Her latest is about the stunning array of Master Classes we are offering this year.  And don’t miss her piece on our Food Truck Court!

I will be even tougher to keep up with the weekend of the festival but know this.  I couldn’t be more proud or pleased to be working with Rich Ruoff and our team to bring Lancaster Roots and Blues back to town Feb 6-7.  We have responded to your requests to offer a Food Truck Court in Lancaster Square and wow, wait till you see who’s coming to dinner.  We also have added tons of great stuff to do during the day Saturday, with Master Classes at The Ware Center starting at 12:30pm, music starting at the Convention Center at 2pm and at Tellus 360 at 2:30.Ditch2

I can tell you that I’ll be at Trust Performing Arts Center Friday 2/6 at 5:45 to introduce Grand Ole’ Ditch and kick off the night in style!  If you haven’t heard these bluegrass phenoms from Cumberland, MD or visited The Trust before, I highly recommend you meet me there.  Can you say humdinger?!

Snorkels and Grappling Hooks

I’ve come up for air to fire a flare.  My November really rocked and I hope yours did too.  The grand finale happened 11/29 for WILMO Rock Circus at World Café Live at The Queen.  If you were one of the hundreds of people under the big top, I know I just made you grin (and maybe blush).  If you missed it, don’t let that happen again!  Twenty four bands for $20 doesn’t happen every day.  My friends at Gable Music Ventures know how to spot talent and produce an event.  Videos are uploading to my YouTube channel.

Jordan2Mid-month I took Pressing Strings on a tour of some of my northern PA clients and finished the loop at DipCo.  Again, thanks if you were there and I know you’re grinning.  I had been trying to woo this band north from Annapolis for over a year.  Jordan and Nick played three inspired shows and have promised to return.  The fine folks at Turkey Hill Brewing Company and Bullfrog Brewery sure were glad it happened!  For my showcase at Lancaster Dispensing Company, local amazeballs Little Dinos opened the show: Loretta, Scott Bookman, Matt Underhill and Kelly Buchanan.  Cool and classy just like Dino!  Click here to see videos.  Even better: come to McCleary’s Pub in Marietta 12/26 for a set by Jordan Sokel.

Kaleigh4Also playing 12/26 at McCleary’s will be Kaleigh Baker.  If you caught the tour I ran with Kaleigh and Skribe (plus special guest Bjorn Jacobsen), you know this lady can sing the blues with the best of them!  Maybe you have been watching her 30 Artists in 30 Days special on YouTube.  Either way, you should gather those you love and come out for a set or two.  Kaleigh and Jordan don’t play central PA too often and I’m very proud to be hosting them again.

The snorkels and grappling hooks of my title represent my consciousness the rest of the month.  Below the surface, I’ve been working like Cousteau to create another amazing experience for you at Lancaster Roots and Blues.  We targeted December for major announcements and a media blitz.  It’s a season of giving and we are giving you a ton of reasons to get tickets.  Click here to see my blog about the venues published in Fig Lancaster.  Then visit the ticketing link to see the specials we are running.  We have added an under-21 ticket which is good for The Ware Center and The Trust Performing Arts Center.

What will January bring?  I’m hoping for peace on Earth.  I’m counting on busy days and nights.  There are a million details to staging a festival this big and Rich and I and our new office manager Carrie Binkley will be working tirelessly to make your experience the best.  If you hope to catch me in a still moment, try McCleary’s 12/26, The General Sutter Inn 1/9 or DipCo 1/10.  I’m hosting three more local shows before Lancaster Roots and Blues including two acts you have never seen here before and shouldn’t miss.  Join me at DipCo 1/10 for David Pulizzi and the band Terra Voz!

Save the World Songs

I saw Sir Bob Geldof on the news this morning.  For the thirtieth anniversary of the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas (Feed the World),” an all-star group of musicians has re-recorded and updated the song.  For those who missed 1984, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure were big rock stars who gathered artists from the biggest acts in England and Ireland to sing a song and sell the recordings to fight famine in Ethiopia.  They called this super-group Band Aid.NPG x87846,Band Aid,by Brian Aris  They sold over a million copies in the first week and watched the song become the #1 UK Single of all time (until 1997).  Millions of dollars were raised and by 1985 they had organized Live Aid, an internationally-broadcast dual-venue concert (London and Philadelphia) that earned over $280 million.  The finale at Wembley was the Band Aid song and at JFK in Philly it was “We Are the World” by the USA for Africa all-star chorus.  These songs and organizations are still raising money to fight poverty and famine.  Proceeds from sales of the 2014 song are slated to fight the causes and spread of Ebola.  I’ll buy that!

I love when musicians use their talents and influence to effect positive changes in the world like fighting famine and disease.  Sure, there are plenty of critics who say Band Aid, Live Aid, Farm Aid and other events like them are scams at worst and big skimmers at best.  I just like it.  Music is the international language and I feel it’s a useful, logical forum to bring people out of misery.  Wikipedia lists 79 events under “benefit concerts” so I guess I’m not the only one.

I was only eight years old when George Harrison and Ravi Shankar staged the Concert for Bangladesh on August 1, 1971 at Madison Square Garden.  It certainly was the first event of its kind where rock stars united for an international cause.  I had no idea where Bangladesh was but I sure as hell knew who the Beatles were and I was thrilled that one of them was back in action.  I thought, “If George says it’s a good cause, it must be so.”  Of course I didn’t go to the show and it wasn’t on TV.  There was no such thing as the internet and only NASA had computers.  But even then I understood disasters both natural and man-made.  I knew that cyclones and war were bad for kids.  Four years later I bought the concert album and by 1978 the concert film was in heavy rotation at the midnight movies downtown.

That summer of 1971 I also learned the song “Get Together” by The Youngbloods.  I had heard it on the radio a few times before but it was at Vacation Bible School that I really learned it.  A couple of the “teen counselors” who helped with arts and crafts also played guitars and taught us some cool folksy gospel songs.  On the last day of VBS, we sang some songs with them for the gathered parents.  Then they did a few songs on their own.  When they played “Get Together” to wrap up the afternoon, suddenly all us kids started singing along.  The parents thought it was adorable and these guys were obviously moved but they were also quick to say that they hadn’t taught us the song or made us sing it.  That puzzled me for a few years; why apologize for such a beautiful accident?  At eight, I didn’t know that people protesting the war in Vietnam had adopted it as an anthem or that some parents might not approve.

And I didn’t know until today that the song had been used in TV and radio ads in 1970 by a group called The National Council of Christians and Jews.  Or that  just after the 9/11 terrorist attack, Clear Channel Communications put “Get Together” on a list of songs it called “lyrically questionable” and suggested to their 1,200 radio stations that they “…might not want to play…” them.  I may never understand that.

Album Review: A Ton of Bounce in Grand Ole’ Ditch’s Big Red Ball

This bluegrass band Grand Ole’ Ditch from Cumberland, MD is a serious contender for my band of the year 2014.  They have just released a full-length album and it’s a humdinger!  Here’s my review.

A Ton of Bounce in Grand Ole’ Ditch’s Big Red Ball

I only have two problems with Big Red Ball, the imminent release by the Cumberland, MD band Grand Ole’ Ditch.  It makes me drive 80mph and it’s an hour too short.  Song after song, the energy these fellas pour into the music just drives my heel.  And I don’t want the ride to end.  I want to ramble till the roads turn to dirt, the car turns to campfire and the water turns to wine.Ditch2

The Cumberland Gap is really the trail-head to Appalachia proper.  This young band reincarnates that atmosphere with sounds steeped in centuries of coal dust, thin topsoil and rarified air.  They are a traditional string band and these boys are serious pickers.  Guitar, dobro, mandolin, fiddle and upright bass: they dig deep coal, plow rocky hillsides and soar the steep peaks and valleys in beautiful, challenging territory.

Yet while the tools and traditions are old, the territory Grand Ole’ Ditch traverses leads you across some rare twists and turns.  They might start out around “Shady Grove” but they swing by Yonder Mountain.  It’s not just high-speed picking with the Ditch or getting from point A to B.  The arrangements, key changes and harmonies are thoughtful nods to the past with modern grins from the restless.  “Cap, Coats & Cables” is a great example.  The breakdowns come, then break down again and you’ve crossed two bridges and a chorus before you realize that you’re home again.  The lyric is that rugged winter landscape we all know but these fellas are grabbing their caps, coats and cables to go tame it.  Whether they’re towing cables, jumper cables or guitar cables isn’t the point.  They’re ready.  “Hindrance” is just as complicated yet as direct as a brick wall; “…I don’t know and I don’t care about useless, mindless things.  If I don’t get out of here I will surely truly go insane.”  This is modern bluegrass ala Yonder, Stringdusters and Trampled By Turtles.

The landscapes in Big Red Ball are populated with drunks, lost loves, dark characters and “Man’s Best Friend,” the song destined to be the favorite of many dog lovers.  The lyrics paint simple, accessible portraits with clever word choices and phrasings.  If the songs were paintings, they would be by Rockwell and Remington.  You will know the people, places and things portrayed.  You just might recognize new details or remember more than you care to.

Vivid, clever lyrics meet sincere, energetic playing and four-part harmonies in Grand Ole’ Ditch.  I’m not the only person who’s recognized it.  I first saw them opening for Cabinet at Dante’s Bar in Frostburg, MD.  The next I heard of them, they were invited to play Telluride, Charm City and other defining bluegrass festivals.  They will release Big Red Ball on a night they share the bill with The Steep Canyon Rangers and Bobby Hicks: October 25 at The Palace Theater in Frostburg, MD.  It’s the evening concert after the Mid-Atlantic Fiddle, Banjo and Mandolin Competition.  I figure even at 80mph I’ll be able to listen to my copy four times on the drive there.  You can download yours at itunes, Bandcamp or http://www.grandoleditch.com/.

Life, Death and Hyperbole

Life, Death and Hyperbole

I have faced plenty of deaths and tragedies in my life.  When death came to school, I always used to tell my students, “Death is a big part of life.  Save it for last.  Do everything else first.”  I taught the tragedies of Shakespeare and they always boiled down to a great person’s life ending because of a fatal flaw in character.  Pride, greed, avarice, jealousy: these emotions rob you of life and blind your vision of what makes life worth living.  I have lost four great people in my life in the last forty days.  They weren’t Macbeth or Othello or Lear but they were great to me: fine, humble, honest, loving people.  I will miss them and honor them by following their examples and owning my life.  “To be or not to be” is not the only question.  Better to start with the 5w’s: who, what, where, when and why.  Be in the present.

Triphazard living in the moment!

Triphazard living in the moment!

I’m feeling fully alive and activated right now, if a bit over-stimulated!  I built more great connections and memories in September and loved my opportunity to tour manage for Triphazard.  I’m booking tours on the Gigspots circuit and my showcases at DipCo.  I’m writing bios and album reviews for regional bands.  I’m sponsoring a rock festival in Wilmington and a simulcast charity concert from Charlotte.  I’m hired again to be Director of Operations for Lancaster Roots and Blues and it’s a thrill a minute.  I want to stand on Tellus’ roof and scream about all the great music and good times coming to Lancaster and the mid-Atlantic region.

But should you believe the hype? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Just because I say something’s great doesn’t make it so for everyone.  So let me try to quantify and qualify “great” with regard to music, performance and life.  When I say, “It’s a beauty,” what do I mean?

To me, the beauty value of a song or performance is in direct relation to how alive it makes me feel.  Physical manifestations may include toe-tapping and range through swaying to dancing.  I may hum.  I may sing along.  Regarding thought: does this performance make me curious and/or capture my attention?  Is it unique, familiar or a marriage of the two?  Can I identify with the story or idea being presented?  Life is measured in motion.  Can you put my body and my mind in motion?

Move my mind and body and you release my soul.  That’s where imagination and emotion live.  Your performance sparks my memories and/or desires.  My pains, my dreams, my secrets and my joys are animated by your melody or lyrics.  You become the soundtrack for the banquet in my head where your angels and demons meet mine.  Or you’re a nice distraction in the grocery store.  La-di-da, I need cereal.

Motion, thought, imagination: those are my criteria.  To what degree does a performance make me move, think and feel?  Genuine music moves you; it’s as biological as a heartbeat.  People are naturally curious too but humans mostly want to hear about themselves and familiar experiences.  Food, comfort, company: that’s what we like.  And not having those things makes us cry out from birth.  A great song reawakens those moments in life, beautiful or brutal, when you were totally in the present. Whether it was that perfect first kiss, watching that person walk away or just your imagination, great music takes you there.  And live music is better.  And America’s music takes me there: folk, jazz and the blues.  If you start there, I’ll likely follow a while.Queen2

So stand back while I crank up the hype machine!  The pride I take in facilitating these performances is based in humility, honesty and love for life.  Come celebrate humanity before the dust is all settled!

100 More Tickets or The Ten Percent Rule

I’m in a weird flux position as I blog today.  No, it’s not a yoga thing. Triphazard Group Pic (1) I just finished a ten-day tour with the Liverpool, UK band Triphazard as their tour manager, roadie, chef and driver.  I’m about to reprise my role as Director of Operations for Lancaster Roots and Blues in pedal-to-the-metal mode.  I’m between tides.  These intense labors of love both thrill and exhaust me.  I couldn’t feel luckier than to have had these experiences.  Like all passionate loves, they make you feel lucky, invincible and vulnerable at the same time.  You discover you’re defenseless against whom or what empowers you.

I wrote a blog in October 2013 titled “Tour Life: Woe or WHOA!” and I reread it before beginning today’s piece.  I’m happy to say it stood up to the road test with Triphazard last week.  I’m unsure if they had read it but I must state that this trio earned all my respect for work ethic, energy, professionalism and fun-factor.  They played five powerful shows and obviously poured their hearts into every beat.  They were pure joy to work with, live with and watch perform for ten straight days.  They became the benchmark for all future bands taking a lap on the Gigspots circuit.  BANDS: please see blog above.

My only regret of the tour is not putting more money in their hands.  Two of our shows were “door shows;” the bands earn a percentage of ticket sales.  Two of our shows were “guarantees;” the bands get paid a pre-negotiated fee whether the audience is 200 or 20.  Ironically, our biggest guarantee show had the smallest audience and our “hot ticket” shows had lukewarm sales at best.  My goal for Triphazard and the other bands who joined us on the tour was to put at least $200 in their pockets after each show.  For the two ticketed shows, a three-way split of ticket sales equaled $80 per band.  That sucks.  These were great shows in great rooms; ask anyone who was there.  Each band sold some merch and got offers of future gigs, radio play and other potential support after their sets.  But they walked out those nights with gas money and a snack at Sheetz covered.

I first heard the phrase “100 more tickets” and learned about the 10% rule at a festival this summer.  The promoter told me his goal for ticket sales was 2,000 over two days.  Tickets were $60 for a two-day pass, of which he lost $10 to taxes and fees.  He had to sell 900 tickets just to cover grounds rental and sound/stage production.  Another 150 would have to sell to cover promotion/advertising costs and 150 more to pay for porta-potties and an EMT crew on stand-by (required by law).  That means 1,200 tickets at $50 would have just covered his $60,000 expenditure.  Did you notice I have yet to mention any compensation for the bands here?  Most played it to be there, to be seen, to network and to celebrate the season, the place and the amazing musical family they’ve become.  But all expect “…fair compensation from any profits earned.”  I promise that every band played their asses off and a great time was had by all.

Ticket sales this year were around 1,100.  Even with sponsorship money and a percentage of the food vendors’ take that meant our heroic promoter and over 70 bands earned nothing.  As we were starting the immense clean-up efforts Sunday morning and I asked about the turnout numbers, he said, “100 more tickets.  If we’d have sold 100 more tickets, everybody could have had a little something and I’d have covered costs.  If it was 200 more, or 10% of my target, everybody would have got a fair amount and I’d have seed money for next year.” All I could think was that if every band had sold two more tickets, 140 more, everyone would have gotten paid and next year would start on secure footing.  And it was all brought home to me that 90% of ticket sales at concerts and festivals go to cover costs.  If that promoter had guaranteed even $100 to those 70 bands, that plus only the costs I named above would have been $67,000 against his gross of $55,000.   I guarantee he had tons of other expenses and I have yet to mention any compensation for his time.  He spends over four months organizing this event.  It’s not a hobby.  This guy works like a machine about 350 days a year and it’s clear his bands love him.

What if my tour had sold 100 more tickets: say fifty each for the “door shows?”  That’s an extra $350 Friday and $500 Saturday to be split which meant the payouts those nights would have been $196 and $246 respectively per band.  Not $80.  These were venues that hold 200-300 people quite comfortably.

I apologize if all this talk of numbers and money bored you.  But I just watched a band I truly love work their asses off for ten days at great costs to themselves and barely cover living expenses.  And when people ask me about Gigspots, their second question is always, “So, how do you make money doing that?”  Here’s the short answer: from you.  You have to buy a ticket to a show or a t-shirt.  You have to buy advertising, management, agent or writing services from me or become a sponsor of my events.  I’m in the entertainment business.

Your short answer: “Everybody wants my money.  Why should you get it?”  Fair enough.  Not everyone finds music, art, cuisine and travel entertaining or worth more than the lowest common denominator.  There are a lot of comfy couches and big screen televisions and frozen pizzas out there and I enjoy them occasionally myself.  It’s the great irony of Gigspots; I use social media to tell you to turn it off and go see a show.  Those 900 videos on my YouTube channel aren’t a substitute for a show.  They’re meant to show you what you’re missing or to help you recapture that night at the show.

Queen4If William Shakespeare couldn’t sell tickets, you might never have heard of him.  He might have starved to death or gone off to work in the mills.  People still read the plays but not nearly the numbers of people who still buy tickets 400 years later to witness and feel the timelessness of live performance.  I’m no Shakespeare.  But you never know; the band I’m encouraging you to see might be the next Beatles.

For instance, my monthly showcases at DipCo don’t cover costs until I sell 80 tickets.  There are 100+ seats.  If you’ve been there on a night where the band and seating are tight, you know what a joyous, transcendent night it can become.  Ten percent of breaking even is eight tickets.  I have an amazing season planned and you’re invited. Appearing October 11: Lovers League with a guest set by Bjorn Jacobsen!

The Getting Down to Dewey Tour for Triphazard

Last September I went on tour with my pals Lovebettie and a band they had connected with from Liverpool, England named Triphazard.  The ultimate destination was Dewey Beach Music Conference.  One of the organizers had produced Triphazard’s latest ep and had arranged for the two bands touring together.  I was just lucky enough to get invited along for the ride!  You KNOW I Lovebettie!  Triphazard is a fantastic punk/pop trio with looks, sounds and energy galore.  They can move you!Vidzta Live

When Triphazard got invited to play DBMC 2014, they asked me to be tour manager for the week preceding it.  “Hell yes!” I said.  So today I announce the Getting Down to Dewey Tour!  Our kickoff show will be Friday 9/12 at Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company, 50 N. Cameron Street in Harrisburg.  Joining Triphazard that night will be The Great SOCIO and Medusa’s Discomedusasdisco If you like your rock crunchy with some thought involved and great food and beer on the side, this show is for you!  Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 day of the show.

Triphazard, The Great SOCIO and Medusa’s Disco also play World Café Live at The Queen in Wilmington, DE Saturday 9/13.  We are adding a very special guest to the bill but cannot announce it until after 8/22.  I can say that the Queen is only 30 minutes by train or car from Philly and 50 miles from Lancaster. Queen4 If you haven’t seen a show in their grand room downstairs, you are missing one of the greatest venues ever.  There is plenty of street parking plus a garage right outside.  If I get enough feedback on this show, I will arrange for a charter bus to run from Lancaster down and back.  Hit me at sam@gigspots.com or on Twitter @GigspotsSam.

After a day of sightseeing in Philly, I am taking Triphazard north to play gigs in Williamsport and State College with Lovebettie.  Both bands are known and loved at The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport where they played together last year.  In short: it’s a helluva party and you’re invited Monday 9/15!  Our State College show Wednesday 9/17 is at the venerable Café 210 West (210 W. College Ave).  I love the layers of this place!  On the sidewalk you have the nicest patio in town.  The food and drink specials are very inexpensive and spot on.  Pass through the huge bar and dining room and you find a serious music venue at the back!Lovebettie L1  I can’t wait to unleash Lovebettie and Triphazard on those Nittany Lions and we’ll see who’s ready to roar!

Then it’s down to Dewey Beach Music Conference!  This annual event offers the perfect last blast of summer.  Nearly 100 bands perform in multiple venues, all within a few blocks and all FREE.  The ocean is still warm yet the beaches are mostly empty.  If you are a touring band (or hope to be soon), this is a great showcase for your talent.  Industry seminars run all day Friday and Saturday and you can pick up a wealth of knowledge and advice from people with the inside edge.  Come join me, Triphazard, Lovebettie, The Great SOCIO and scores of other bands to rock all night and chill all day!Van Promo Edit3

Bjorn Free

bjorn1About 16 months ago, I met Bjorn Jacobsen and music changed for me.  I had never seen anyone sing and play folk music with such abandon.  As I got to know him, the crazy sad songs made a lot of sense.  He was living in his car, had been abandoned by everyone he’d ever loved and had survived a deadly fall off Chiques Rock.  The mersa infection he developed in the hospital prompted the staff there to suggest they amputate his hands to save his life.  His response: “I’m a guitar player.  I’d rather die.”  I guess they took him seriously.  He still has his hands and can play the shit out of guitar, banjo and mandolin.  This dude is heart, scar tissue and gristle with a crooked grin.

Bjorn has decided to move to NOLA in early September.  I’m thrilled for him and sad at the same time.  So we are throwing shows at him left and right.  Thursday August 7 is our first Gigspots Presents event at World Café Live at The Queen in Wilmington, DE and Bjorn’s Wayfarer Experiment is the headliner. jake and kate3 Ever-ready, ever-steady Jake Lewis opens this special duo show.  Jake plays with Katie Seifarth, his Clergy drummer/vocalist.  Bjorn is bringing Robin Chambers on violin and you know the heat she brings.

Friday August 8th, The Wayfarer Experiment plays their last Chameleon Club show.  Rock beasts Medusa’s Disco (formerly SEEDS) is also on the bill and will have copies of their just-released live cd.  Bjorn just got his electric Ibanez hollow body out of the shop so who knows what kind of show this might become!  We only guarantee that no holds are barred!  Bjorn’s other adieu shows include Gettysburg Rocks 8/9, Sofrito Gastro Pub (Reading) 8/15, Central PA River Fest (Wrightsville) 8/23 and Bistro 19 (York) 8/29.

plate scrapersThe Gigspots Showcase returns to Lancaster Dispensing Company Friday August 15 for a special Music Friday edition.  From the mountains of Ephrata, Clinton Hibshman (Burning McGuiness) will jangle your jingle and make you say, “Holy Cats, why haven’t we seen this guy before?!”  The night also features The Plate Scrapers, a dynamic string band from the south west: Hagerstown.  You will love this bluegrass band that bridges that Cumberland Gap.  Stay tuned for the Showcase schedule for September through May!

Of course Music Fridays in Lancaster are always special!  You know we’ll be at Binn’s Park at 6pm sharp to see Jake Lewis and The Clergy (full band)!  They have been working on a new album most of the spring and summer and we can’t wait to hear it!  The only hints I’ve received about the new work are that, “It’s what you love about Jake and the Clergy, just bigger and bolder.”  I’m intrigued.  There’s only one more outdoor Music Friday after this: September 19 with Silver City Rodeo.  Come feel the beauty of outdoor music in our wonderful, walkable city.  These shows are free and so are you.

High-Flying July

My high-flying July is about to really soar.  Today I’m embarking on two days of hosting and road managing Carsie Blanton and her jazz trio.  Friday and Saturday, I’ll be hosting thousands of people and dozens of hot bands on the Gigspots Stage at Jam at the Dam.  Catch me if you can, suckas!  You won’t be disappointed with the settings or sounds, I guarantee!Carsie-Blanton-truck-758x392

I’ve been smitten with Carsie and her music for two years now and written about her in previous blogs. 2014 is proving to be a huge year for her.  She raised $60,000 in a Kickstarter campaign to make the jazz album of her dreams and is touring the nation with it right now.  I’m thrilled to be bringing her to my clients The Bullfrog Brewery 7/9 and Turkey Hill Brewing Company 7/10.Jam2014

Jam at the Dam is a Pirate Rob, OneKoast Entertainment event unlike anything I’ve seen.  The campground is rustic and beautiful.  The crowds are like a family reunion…if your family really parties.  The bands blow me away every year.  Here’s what I said about last year’s Jam: http://blog.gigspots.com/2013/07/05/time-to-jam-at-the-dam/ .  I’m sure to have plenty of stories to tell after this one.  I’ll do my best to remember some.  Luckily, Intern Jimmy is tagging along to help record the scene and keep me upright.  If you need me this weekend, come to Weatherly, PA.  Find any excuse you can.  This year is two days on four stages.  Epic.

July 17 I’ll be in Wilmington, DE for The Ladybug Festival.  It’s an all-day, street fair/concert featuring bands which feature ladies.  My pals at Gable Music Ventures host it and I’m proud to be an annual sponsor.  They have peerless eyes and ears for talent and Wilmington is really cool.  Join us!

July ends with The XPoNential Music Festival hosted by WXPN July 25-27.  It’s my favorite concert every year.  You can get daily or three-day passes that can include lawn seats for the big shows at SBC next door.  Sunday night 7/27 that show is Beck, Band of Horses and The Districts.  How can you pass that up?

I’ll do my best to get something posted about all these shows…but be patient.  I’ll need a little recovery after this July and August is looking even hotter!

Music Imports and Exports

I really enjoyed my run of showcases at Lancaster Dispensing Company from January to May and I hope you did as well!  The audiences were very appreciative and I’d like to thank my bands for playing their hearts out!  January: The Naïve Americans and The VCC Duo (aka Jeff Bryson and Leo DiSanto) gave us some fine folk and bluegrass.  February: The Lonelies Tour and Second Hand Suits shared some stylish performances.  March: Lovers League (aka TJ McGlinchey, Christopher Davis-Shannon and Dani Mari) and very special guests The KGB Trio (Kalob Griffin, Robert Dwyer and Eric Lawry) reminded us that the song rules and they live to serve it.  April: Jason Ager and C.O.P.O. and Angelo Melasecca are two great showmen who really know their guitars!

Me with Angela Michele Walker

Me with Angela Michele Walker

May: Ali Wadsworth and Satellite Hearts rocked and Angela Michele Walker Trio rolled.  It was important to me to have a night featuring women vocalists and these ladies definitely shone!

The tagline for the showcases was “Two Regional Gems and a Local Treasure.”  I wanted to introduce bands to Lancaster who I had seen in my travels and pair them with a local act with whom I thought they might connect on some level.  I also wanted the “import” bands to see what a great city and scene we have.  Several of the bands are already finding ways to share gigs and their audiences.  And I’ve had offers to take a version of The Gigspots Showcase on tour.

I “export” bands from Lancaster as well.  My client venues in State College, Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg usually feature someone I sent them at least once a month.  I am about to begin serving other I-80 venues as well as possibilities along I-70 in MD and WV.  I believe I will be hosting showcases at both World Café Venues (Philly and Wilmington) by the fall.  I’m ridiculously lucky to associate with Gable Music Ventures in DE and NaptownMusic in Annapolis, MD.  Of course you’ve all heard me blab about Pirate Rob, music guru behind OneKoast Entertainment (based in Baltimore), Frozen Harbor Music Festival and Jam at the Dam in Weatherly, PA.  It’s one badass indie music festival that becomes a two-day affair this year.  Gigspots is a perennial stage sponsor.  Contact me or visit PirateRob.com for tickets!

Bjorn Jacobsen and Freeman White at The Factory: Underground

Bjorn Jacobsen and Freeman White at The Factory: Underground

When I go out to “recruit” venues, I often take Bjorn Jacobsen with me on an open mic night or a night where a band I know is playing.  He sits in and I immediately get more respect!  I guess they figure if I know a musician that serious, I must be doing something right.  I’ve seen him win an audience playing AFTER Mike Miz and I’ve seen dudes like Freeman White ask to sit in with him.

One of my favorite services is helping a band fill out a tour or a venue fill a sudden hole in their schedule.  When a venue calls, I know I need to find a good audience fit that will sell some tickets and beer.  When a band calls, they usually have their weekends booked but need gigs to survive the mid-week drives between them.  Sometimes, you get the best for everyone.  I have recently made two national bands (Silencio and Carsie Blanton) very happy by filling their tour calendar.  And I can’t wait for the hugs I’ll get from the venue owners and fans who will get a chance to see them within three hours of home at a reasonable price!Carsie-Blanton-truck-758x392

So send me your poor, hungry bands and fans!  My client venues are the best around and my list is growing.  Check them out for yourself and tip the staffs please.  We’re saving the economy one gig at a time!