Hello 2017: Charmed I’m Sure

Hello 2017.  I feel like you will be a momentous year for this Earth.  I vow to share all the love I have and music I can gather.  2016 took too many of my musical heroes.  But the music is still here and so are all the people it inspired.  I dedicate my work in 2017 to heroes passed, to being present and to building a future filled with inspiration.

I created a playlist of some of my most memorable shows in 2016.  I kept it to twelve songs by twelve bands but obviously I saw many more great shows and bands.  All of these bands worked their asses off to make the world a happier place and I thank them for it!  I reveled in new releases by Ton-Taun, a new musical pairing with Bjorn Jacobsen and Francois Byers and several new acts that really trip my trigger.  Yam Yam is a funk-rock band from Harrisburg that you can’t help but dig.  Bethlehem and Sad Patrick are so honest and human; they reach me on a biological level.  ovvls bbcOVVLS is an experimental psychedelic duo from Liverpool UK who blessed me with the opportunity to be their tour manager for 12 days.  I can’t look at that playlist and not feel optimistic about the future of music and the spirit of humanity!

Speaking of music, spirit and optimism: I’m hosting Music Friday concerts at 551 West in Lancaster every month in 2017!  shawanTo start the year right, Shawan and The Wonton will bring smooth soul, a touch of folk and a trunk of funk to town.  I feel like life is sending a healing angel on a day many may feel anxious or upset.  Come have some great food and drinks with us.  The show is free and it may free you too.  Shawan should give you a bump for a week!

By Friday January 27th, I predict you’ll be ready for some heavyweight blues.  We have a three-round pounder for you at Tellus360!  I named it Three Points of the Compass Blues because these three acts bring a world of blues styles and hail from three different cities.  ben-voOur center point and headlining is Benjamin Vo Blues Band from little ol’ Lititz.  His skills are ridiculous and he pours his heart into every note of vocals and guitar.  Nobody’s music made a bigger impact on me in 2016 than Ben’s.  Boom.

Hailing from the northern port of Williamsport is Gabe Stillman and The Billtown Giants.  I know these cats from Bullfrog Brewery.  Gabe is young on the outside and ancient on the inside.  He’s actually taking his band south: to The International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN.  He’s actually the reason I created this show with Tellus360.  I hosted Gabe at 551 West in November.  Here’s one where Ben sat in!

Our southerner, from The Land of Pleasant Living, is Skribe.  You all know I love Annapolis and its bottomless well of talent.  Skribe is the guy standing there, grinning, cranking the handle and filling your cup.  It won’t take but a few sips of what he’s pouring before you’re loopy for his style. Skribe2 If you caught him when I used to bring him to Dispensing Company, on the main stage at FloydFest, or at any of his 200+ shows a year, I know I’ll see you at Tellus360 on the 27th.  This is a $10 show for just $5 folks!

Nothing like a bargain to start the year right!  Catch some feels with Shawan and The Wonton for free on Friday 20th.  Catch hold of the blues and shake that bugger with Three Points of the Compass Blues on Friday 27th for just $5.  I guarantee that will keep you boppin’ and rockin’ till Groundhog Day at least!

Community Block Party on the West End

You all know what a fan I am of 551 West on King Street.  I eat there at least once a week and have started staging a show monthly on Music Fridays.  This Saturday 9/10 they and a ton of neighborhood businesses are hosting a block party on Pine Street between King and Orange.  Food, fun, beverages and music in the streets: that has Gigspots written all over it.

I volunteered to organize and emcee a battle of the bands between noon and 4pm.  I must say the talent level is sky high and we’re staging a real mix of styles.  We’re also featuring a band that Gigspots was first to introduce in Lancaster (The Late Saints) and introducing a band playing Lancaster for the first time (Sangre Luna).  AND IT’S FREE, folks!  Just show up and rock out.  Over 50 vendors and all your West End neighbors will be there.

Battle of the Bands Contestants

separators-picThe Separators – The Separators are an alternative rock band with a progressive, post-punk sound.  Colin Deery – Vocals/Bass.  Matthew Abel – Drums.  Alex Abel – Guitar.  Ben Zanowski – Guitar.  Their newest release “Go Here Go There” is a three song EP that showcases their songwriting and musicianship.  https://theseparators.bandcamp.com/releases  12:15pm

late-saints2The Late Saints – Led by Italian-born vocalist, guitarist and kazoo virtuoso Jacopo de Nicola, and propelled by the energetic rhythmic section of bassist Mike Huff and drummer Micah Hebbel, The Late Saints bring on stage their genre-bending Italian Gypsy Rock. Treading a path between the lyrical nuances of the Italian Cantautori and the frenetic rhythms a la Manu Chao and Gogol Bordello, this Philly-based trio traverses comfortably between Balkan influenced two-steps, Latin American Tropicalia, poignant protest songs and “Italianized” pop covers. Often featuring guest musicians from the wider Philadelphia area, The Late Saints like to turn their live performances into contagious music melees. The kazoo-driven brass section defines their unique sound.  http://www.thelatesaints.com/  1:15pm

image-1Sangre Luna – Sangre Luna is a 4-piece band with blues in their soul and rock-n-roll in their hearts. Their philosophy is that music should move you in every sense of the word. They strive to sing, shout, and strum that truth in every performance. Wrapping the musings of a male/female songwriting duo around the thunderous grooves of their rhythm section, Sangre Luna seeks nothing less than the hearts & minds of every listener and to make you stomp and shake.  http://sangreluna.com/  2:15pm

ben-voBenjamin Vo Blues Band – Benjamin Vo is a young man with paid dues and plenty of blues.  Born in Atlanta, GA, he moved frequently with his family.  Now living in Lititz, Ben brings down the house at blues and rock clubs throughout the mid-Atlantic with an array of stellar musicians forming his band.  Fans of BB King, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Skip James, Robert Johnson and Stevie Ray Vaughn are left shaking their heads in amazement at his powerful voice, compelling songs and sheer brilliance on guitar.  http://www.benjaminvo.bandcamp.com/  3:15pm

 

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.

Transition Transmission

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

John & Brittany rocked it hard at Dewey Beach Music Conference

John & Brittany rocked it hard at Dewey Beach Music Conference

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

KGB on the Gigspots Lawn Stage at Jam at the Dam

KGB on the Gigspots Lawn Stage at Jam at the Dam

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

Lovebettie coming at you from The Rattler in Pittston PA!

Lovebettie coming at you from The Rattler in Pittston PA!

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

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

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

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

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

Some pledges and considerations on pending transitions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zinging and Swinging

January Zinging, Hollywood Swinging

Checking in January 22 to say whew, this month is flying! I did a brief wrap-up of 2012 in my last blog and also just published a piece in FigLancaster.com about trying to pick from all the great shows so far this year.  You can see it here and then rejoin me in the here and now.

City Dwelling Nature Seekers 1/12/13 at DipCo

It’s a freezing, squeeze the tears out of you cold day today.  I started with a dentist visit then made some rounds promoting Pirate Rob’s Birthday Bash.  We both went to World Café at the Queen in Wilmington Friday to see Lovebettie, Sweet Leda, Sylvan Wolfe and Noelle Picara.  The show was called Ladybug Festival, staged by Gable Music Ventures.   The show rocked, we hung with the bands, and Rob gave me a box full of cd’s, download cards and posters to promote the Bash.  I hit Millersville’s WIXQ, CI Records, Mr. Suit Records, PA College of Art and Design and Puff n Stuff with a pile of each.  If those aren’t your haunts, you can download the 19 song collection for free on the homepage of Gigspots.com.  I must say it’s a great compilation of rock, rap, hip-hop, soul and bands that blend it all.

Freezing and starving by two o’clock, I rolled into 551 West to check the place out.  It’s love!  They feature 20 craft beers on tap and the menu is extensive without being overwhelming.  Courtney told me they sell a lot of burgers and recommended the soups.  A+ for this young lady.  The crab bisque was unique and perfect: a remarkable bisque with a solid three-ounce dollop of fresh crab resting on top.  I let Courtney sway me to the house specialty burger too: excellent patty, toasted bun, ample bacon and cheddar, sliced fresh jalapeños and…peanut butter.  Yep.  Call me crazy but I tell you you’re crazy if you don’t take a swing at it.  551 West is where Kegel’s Seafood used to be, that funky corner of W. King Street.  There’s plenty of parking out back.  They’ve been open 16 weeks and have live music on the weekends.

I’m headed to Harrisburg tonight for Robert Earl Keen.  This is the kind of show that compels me to buy a season pass to Greenbelt Events.  He just doesn’t play that many shows, anywhere, so it’s super flattering to have him visit our capital.  I am committed to making sure that Greenbelt gets my support as they regroup.  Last year, the pass was the best $100 investment I made.  This year’s will have paid for itself by March!  You should check their schedule and consider a pass of your own!

It’s Wednesday, the wee hours of 1/23.  I’m back from the REK show and he and his band were magnificent.  Here’s a quote straight from their Facebook profile:  “These songs are real,” he says. “They’re hand-made. When people come to see us live, they’re seeing the people who created them play them and that’s not all that common these days. It’s the kind of magic that doesn’t happen all the time.”

I must agree; what they do is magical onstage.  But there is no illusion.  Everything is as genuine as dirt.  Robert Earl Keen and his band played their asses off and I thank them for it.  If you get a chance to see them, take it.

In a month filled with great shows, City Dwelling Nature Seekers at DipCo resonates with me on several levels.  I’ve been a fan for over two years and spent the best part of a year asking Fryth to book them.  It’s risky booking a Pittsburgh band in Lancaster; who will know them?  Well, the house was full, the band sounded great and everyone was satisfied.  I finally got a copy of their 2012 album The Winter Year and again, the band has managed to surpass their last effort somehow.  It’s very pleasing to me to see bands I admire continuing to grow.  My hats are off to you fellas, and I hope you come east again very soon!  You can see videos from the show at http://www.youtube.com/user/Gigspots1