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

2012…What a Rush!

2012…What a Rush!

I hope you’re not sick of year-in-review lists!  2012 flew by for me and for the Gigspots.com team!  I’ll try to be brief in highlighting some of the amazing events, people and places who shared their lives with us this year.

My first shows of 2012 were Darry Miller and The Veil at The Boondocks Club and Kalob Griffin Band at Lancaster Dispensing Company.  My last show of 2012 was KGB and Darry at Chameleon Club.  Both bands enjoyed banner years, earned many new fans and rocked throughout the tri-state area.  I predict fantastic 2013’s for both bands!

Boondocks Club is gone: victim of ASCAP strong-arming.  DipCo remains the same: great food, great entertainment and all your friends are there.  Chameleon Club staged some of my favorite shows of 2012 and even let me stage a show in October.  I’m glad I know where it is; there isn’t even a light over the front door.

Some notable bands emerged in our scene in 2012. The Stray Birds, The Districts, Face for Radio, The Wayfarer Experiment, Glim Dropper, John and Brittany, The Great Socio, Rigby in the Box and Juston Stens and The Get Real Gang were some of our favorites.   The quality, quantity and variety of music styles in our region never fail to impress but 2012 was extra special.

Some great new music debuted in 2012!   The Stray Birds, Glim Dropper, John and Brittany, The Great Socio, Kalob Griffin Band, and The Slackwater News all released new albums you should hear.  Pasadena released a new album and toured to CA and back behind it.  The Lone Wolf Project has a song off his new album playing in all 50 states.  And yes, it’s true The Vinegar Creek Constituency finished another impressive album which they recorded live at Left Bank Studios.  Darry Miller, Lovebettie and Wayfarer Experiment are hard at it in the studios right now and we can’t wait to hear what’s next from them!  The Great Socio actually opened its own studio this year; who knows what mayhem might ensue!

I lost a favorite cousin and a favorite aunt in 2012 but neither of them hit me like the sudden, unexpected death of “Jersey” Mike Van Jura.  Harrisburg, the music scene and human society lost a strong advocate for right, reason and rock with his passing.  We are very pleased and proud to announce that our partnership with The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company and Greenbelt Events will continue through 2013 and beyond!  Yes, I bought another season pass and expect it to be the best $100 I spent in 2013 just as it was in 2012.

Tellus 360 deserves special mention as a remarkable place to see live music!  Their special evenings have grown from organic, table-top, byo sessions into ticketed events.  The Shovels and Rope opening night and Carsie Blanton with Joe Fletcher show were two of my favorites anywhere in 2012: intimate, raucous, unforgettable.  We will be watching their plans for 2013 with eagle eyes and eager hearts!

We are very pleased to announce that both World Café Live venues (Philly and Wilmington, DE) have joined the Gigspots family!  We also added The Burning Bridge Tavern in Wrightsville to our network and we’re plum crazy about the place!  The food, drinks and service are fantastic and we’re very impressed with the array of live music you staged in your first year!  Keep up the good work!

Thank you to all the bands who joined Gigspots in 2012; we will work hard to help you achieve your goals this year.  Remember to keep your calendar updated and keep the event invitations coming!  We typically must choose from 10-12 shows in the region on any given Friday or Saturday.  Make sure we know about yours!

Special thanks to MyRuralRadio.com, FigLancaster.com, WXPN, TriStateIndie.com, Gable Music Ventures, Music For Everyone, MOOSE, and the Long’s Park Summer Concert series for your support, promotion, cooperation and above all a year of great music!

You can see videos of all the artists named above at our YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/Gigspots1

What Would Jersey Do? RIP in Rock Heaven MVJ

What Would Jersey Do? – MVJ RIP

I’m very lucky.  I have always had a music friend in my life.  That is a friend who is constantly feeding me great music I might have missed on my own.  If you have a friend like this, you know how lucky this is.  Surely more than half the music I own, I owe to these people.  I always think of them when I hear that music on the stereo or at a show.  The music helps me relive those moments.

I came to Lancaster to visit an Army buddy and stayed because of Rich Ruoff and his Chameleon Club.  I never had to wonder what to do on the weekend anymore.  Every Friday and Saturday night meant two or three bands for five dollars.  I went crazy for bands like The Daves, Ocean Blue, Urban Blight and Burning Bus.  At least once a month some national act like the Ramones, Los Lobos or Dickey Betts would roll through.  Every February we celebrated our shared birthday with Chameleon’s Blues Festival.  It was music-lovers heaven!  I discovered dozens of bands and made many music friends.

This brings me to Jersey Mike Van Jura.  I met Mike two years ago and became a huge fan of his taste in music and the bands he brought to the Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg.  When Mike said, “You need to hear this band,” that was all I needed to know.  He was always right.  When he offered season passes to Greenbelt Events shows, I plunked down the $100 in a blink.  It was my best investment in 2012.  He was one of the coolest, funniest, liveliest guys I have ever met.  He died of a sudden heart attack on November 18, just hours after staging a benefit for Toys for Tots.  He left behind two young children of his own.

The news of Mike’s passing shattered me.  I knew I would never feel the same when I heard bands he introduced me to or went to shows at Abbey Bar.  I knew I’d never again see his smiling face or hear his witty, no-holds-barred commentary on the music scene and society in general.  I knew I had felt this before: when John Lennon was murdered.

It was late November of my senior year in high school.  It had been ten years since Lennon’s Imagine album and Double Fantasy had just been released.   Both were getting plenty of airplay on WDVE in Pittsburgh as were the Beatles.  To celebrate these high times, I asked Lisa Silvestri to join me for a new show that was touring nationally, “Beatlemania.”  She said yes, I bought the tickets, and we hoped it would be a fun, sing-along kind of night.  Who knew, maybe it would be a prelude to a Lennon tour in the summer or even a Beatles reunion!

December 9 was a day of mourning at my school.  Ms. Kennedy, my Economics teacher, just played Beatles records in a darkened classroom.  We knew that music and the world had been changed forever by Lennon’s death just as it had by his life.  I saw Lisa at lunch and we wondered whether the show would go on or if we even wanted to go anymore.

The show went on and after much debate, we decided to go.  The crowd was pretty somber.  It was obvious we all were feeling the loss, feeling uncertain, as these four guys performed remarkable renditions of favorite songs.  They really looked and sounded like the Beatles, with vintage instruments and costumes, as their sets progressed from the early jackets and ties through the Sgt. Peppers uniforms.  Applause was polite but there was little cheering or chatter between songs.

As the curtain opened on the third set (Abbey Road-Let it Be), the young man playing Lennon came onstage alone, a guitar slung over his shoulder, his hair long, his glasses round.  He was almost to his amp when a girl in the crowd shouted, “Lennon lives!”  He raised his left hand in a peace sign and wave just as the other guys came onstage.  The catharsis had come.  The crowd came alive in a wave of relief, knowing that somehow everything was going to be alright.  The band struck up “Come Together.”

No lie, I had to stop typing to cry just now.  It’s been over thirty years since that night and it feels like last month.  Last month Jersey Mike lost his life to a hidden killer and I know I will feel it a long time too.  He left behind scores of friends and fans of his work.  Who knows what Greenbelt Events might have brought to us all?  The success of this summer’s Kipona Fest showed what Mike could accomplish on a grand scale.

On December 27, a tribute concert for Mike is being performed at Stage on Herr, HMAC, featuring some of the jam bands he cut his teeth with in Harrisburg.  Proceeds from the show will be donated to the K&L Foundation, a trust set up for his children, Kaiya and Lennon.  Here’s the link to the Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/events/448399775203926/  There is also a memorial night gathering and concert at Abbey Bar December 29.  Here’s that link: http://www.facebook.com/events/291934330909926/

I will be going to the Jam for Jersey 12/27.  I bought my season pass for Greenbelt Events 2013 this week.  I’m sure it will be another great investment because Mike’s vision lives on.  And we will come together, let it be, stay positive and hold steady.  It’s what Jersey would do.

Every Friday is Music Friday!

Every Friday is Music Friday!

When you live in/near Lancaster, PA as I do, every Friday seems like music Friday.  There are more shows going on here than you could possibly attend.  Of course, I take my role of Gigspotter seriously and do my best to try and point out all the best.  You can’t say I didn’t tell you about last Friday at Chameleon with Loretta Bilieux and The Dive Bar Pretties! Click to see what you missed!

This Friday is extra special because it’s an OFFICIAL Music Friday.  All summer, every third Friday of the month will feature live music downtown.  Tonight’s show at Binn’s Park features The Slackwater News (Lancaster rock stars!) and Dirty Bourbon River Show from New Orleans.  A new stage has also sprung up between Carr’s restaurant and Lancaster Central Market for Music Fridays.  Appearing tonight to start it right is Leo DiSanto.  Who knows who might be jumping up there with him but I know the fellas from Vinegar Creek Constituency won’t let their front man roam too freely alone!

I also suspect that when they chase Leo off the stage, the chase will lead right to Lancaster Dispensing Company mere steps away.  Trixie Greiner and The Inca Campers play there tonight!  Friday!!

Also returning to Lancaster this week are the pianos.  How many of you found yourself walking through town last summer and being drawn to some impromptu piano jam?  The wonderful non-profit Music For Everyone has again placed colorful, artful and tuned pianos in ten locations around the city for you to play and hear.  Thank you to MFE and their generous sponsors!  Who knew pianos could look so cool?!  And I will always remember one very late night downtown last summer when some player drew a crowd.  It was 2:30am and this piano Pied Piper had people streaming towards him from all over town!

I will be the blur in the Gigspots shirt.  I plan to start at Marion Court Room for happy hour music by The Love Haters and then work my way downhill: Binn’s Park, Market Street, DipCo.  I think I can do all of the above if my hour doesn’t get too happy.  If I miss Leo, I know I can catch him Sunday at Chestnut Hill Café (3pm).

By sundown I plan to be hustling up 283 to Harrisburg.  David Mayfield Parade is playing Abbey Bar and after seeing his last show in the area, I promised myself not to miss the next.  Man, that Greenbelt Events season pass is still the best $100 I spent in 2012!

Shows to My Left, Right and Dead Ahead

Shows to My Left, Right and Dead Ahead

Everyone knows how pumped I am this week about LAUNCH Music Conference.  But as owner/operator of Gigspots, I can’t just focus on one event no matter how colossal.  Lancaster will be swarming with great bands and fans of live music this weekend (180 bands in 12 venues) but I understand that not everyone is coming.

The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg continues to present amazing shows and this week is no exception.  Tuesday night is Lucero and J. Roddy Walston and The Business.  Wednesday night is a very special and intimate performance by Colin Hay of Men at Work.  Thursday night, Cabinet is back to play and to release the live cd they recorded at Abbey Bar last winter.  Saturday night, they have The Aviation Orange and In Wilderness.  That would be a month’s worth of highlights at some places but it’s just a typical week at Abbey.  The season pass I bought for $100 was the best investment of 2012!

Philly is always happening and this weekend is no exception.  Something new debuts this Saturday: Center City Jazz Festival.  Also debuting this weekend is the XPN Film Festival where movies about music and musicians take center stage.  Those are two good reasons to visit Philly and spend the night as they say.

NEPA has it going on this weekend with a performance by Bob Weir (Grateful Dead) at the Kirby Center.  If it wasn’t for LAUNCH, I’d be headed to River Street Jazz Café in Wilkes-Barre this Thursday night.  Playing that night are Jahman Brahman and Ol’ Cabbage, two incredible jam bands.  On Friday, for $15 I could park at the Jazz and hear a solo set by Mike Miz while I dine.  That same $15 would get me transportation to and from the Kirby Center and admission to two sets of Jam Stampede after the Bob concert.  Jam Stampede is the Dead tribute band featuring Miz and they are spot-on!  Saturday night is The Statesmen:  a new, all-star, funk/jazz collaboration from NYC.  And Sunday is the Rock the Wall benefit.  We love the idea of musicians lending their talents to make the world a better place for those less fortunate.  We love River Street Jazz Café!  Maybe hippies really will save the world…

Speaking of hippies and saving the world:  I think The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, PA might be considered headquarters.  There are no weekends except LAUNCH when I wouldn’t rather be there.  The food, the beers and the music scene are peerless.  Thursday they have St. Anyway, a “stompgrass/roots” band for FREE.  Friday night is Jahman Brahman for $5.  Saturday night is Michi’s alt/rock/pop (also free).  Sunday starting at noon is the Jazz Workshop and Brunch.  Musicians from all over stop by to jam and entertain while you dine.  It’s been that way for over 500 Sundays!

I spend a lot of time travelling to see shows in my job: but not this weekend!  LAUNCH is bringing it all to me, including two of my favorites from my hometown of Pittsburgh.  Pete Bush and The Hoi Polloi appear at Spring House Taproom Friday and Lovebettie rocks the main stage at Chameleon Club Saturday.  I hope to see you all there!  Get yourselves a weekend pass and also see Rusted Root, The Felice Brothers and Texas in July on the cheap!