Not Bum-Rush: Busker-Rush!

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

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

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

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

Stringed wizard Jeff Hostetter will be sorely missed!

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

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

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

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

March’s Lions and Lambs: Week One

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

Joy Ike at Lancaster YWCA

Joy Ike at Lancaster YWCA

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

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

KimEdwards: delicate and deliberate

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

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

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

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

The Vinegar Creek Constituency

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

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

Ronn Benway jumps into The Wayfarer Experiment

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

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

Out Like a Lion, Gigspots-Style

Out Like a Lion, Gigspots-Style

Curious how my last weekend of March turned out?  Hexbelt grooved the Lancaster Dispensing Company Friday night.  They command that room like few other local acts.  It might be torrid musicianship.  It might be a devoted following.  Surely one led to the other. People dance joyously at their shows. Plus, Danny can climb to the ceiling.

I did make it to Wrightsville to witness the official grand opening of Burning Bridge Tavern.  It bills itself as a friendly sports bar.  It appears to be much more than that.  The place was packed with people eating burgers and wings and large TV’s hung in every sightline.  A duo played covers and Vinegar Creek Constituency was performing later.  It’s big, clean and comfortable: part rustic, part urban.  The joint was hopping and 200 people looked happy.  With the Burning Bridge joining John Wright’s down the street, it appears the scene in Wrightsville is building a bridge to get bands and fans from Lancaster crossing “the moat” more regularly.

I made it from Wrightsville to north Philly in 95 minutes.  Kate and I had dinner at Max Brenner’s on 15th and Walnut.  Part chocolate shop, part coffee bar, part bistro: it simmered and swirled us.  An avocado BLT and fish tacos, both yummy and relatively healthy, were obliterated by a most decadent dessert.  The Euphoria sundae featured chocolate and peanut butter ice creams, peanut butter, fudge, nuts, crunchy praline kind of things and was accompanied by ramekins of warm chocolate and peanut butter fondues. Every bite was different and transporting, like watching clouds loft by and then being them.

MilkBoy Philly knocked me out.  The ground floor looks like a cool dairy bar but is every bit of a real bar. Unique cocktails, 30+ draught and canned beer selection and cheap featured shots beckoned.  The menu almost made me wish I had skipped dessert but Euphoria was still upon me.  My next visit will pivot around Mac ‘n Cheese Chili Rellenos and a Hand-Carved Brisket Au Jus sandwich with fries, I guarantee.

Upstairs is the music venue: a 6,000 watts of Clair Brothers sound-system kind of venue.  It holds 200 and was maxed Saturday night.  Local killing bands The Peace Creeps and TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb played the 9:30 and 11pm slots.  I drove in to see the headliner, Kalob Griffin Band, but these two bands alone would have been worth the $10 cover.  The frontman and guitarist for Peace Creeps also played a theremin like a wiry, wily wizard: trippy rock and blues.  TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb lived up to their name: big, powerful and laying waste to the place.  Their sound is a bit old-timey and a bit sinister: like George Thorogood’s hillbilly uncle.

Kalob Griffin showed up shaved; I didn’t recognize him until he smiled!  He’s actually a pretty handsome dude.  It made me wonder if he would play “Beards.” His Band was primed and 200 people were chanting, “KGB! KGB!” when they took the stage at midnight.  Even the employees were excited; they all remarked on the size and enthusiasm of the crowd.

KGB opened with a new song, “American Dream,” and people were going nuts.  The band actually debuted a bunch of new songs but also nailed favorites like “Flood of 1889” and “Whiskey My Love.”  They DID play “Beards” but not before Kalob told a funny story about not being able to play it anymore.

Also, the band was giving away a 2-song demo from the cd to be released June 1st at World Café Live in Philly.  Get your tickets now.  If KGB can draw 200 people at a club they’ve never played before, you know a cd release at WCL will sell out.

I Love My Job!

Friend and social media guru Ken Mueller hit the Twittersphere with, “Do you have any interesting plans for the weekend?” this morning.  Man, all I have is interesting plans!  My job is going to concerts, interviewing musicians and artists, checking out great music venues and sampling food and beverages in the area.

The hardest part of my job (besides getting paid) is choosing the “who/where/when” of my itinerary.  There are so many bands and solo acts of every description.  Lancaster, York, Harrisburg, and Reading fall within 30 minute drives and Philly, Baltimore and Allentown are within 90 minutes.

Lancaster of course is home to Chameleon Club, Village Nightclub, Lancaster Dispensing Company, Pressroom, Annie Bailey’s, and Marion Court Room all within three blocks.  They are not the only places to see a band: more on that later.

York is stacked with small clubs but it’s typically Bistro 19 or The Strand-Capitol Theater that draw me downtown.  The Depot is near York College of PA.  Just south of there is a newer place I’m crazy about: The Cove.  My Rural Radio.com sponsors a showcase artist every Thursday but there is live music five nights a week.  The place is clean and cozy and man, wait until you taste the brisket!

A newcomer to the scene may trap me between York and Lancaster: The Burning Bridge Tavern in Wrightsville.  I got a preview of the place two weeks ago when they brought in Shane Speal, “King of Cigar Box Guitar,” to give the new sound system a workout.  He rules and it rocks!

I bought a season pass to Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Co in Harrisburg (great investment!) so I can always go there for a show.  They offer 4-5 shows per week and I have never been disappointed.  They draw some major acts and nurture some fine local talent. Cabinet recorded a cd there last winter!

That’s my 30 minute list; add Philly, Baltimore or Allentown to the list and the choices grow exponentially.  And I haven’t even factored in WHO to see.

Here’s how it broke down for this weekend.  I will start with Happy hour/dinner at ABG (American Bar and Grill, Lancaster) Friday.  Then, slip downtown to DipCo for Hexbelt.  I don’t plan to stay too late.  Trout season opens Saturday, so fishing must be fit in somehow.

By 3pm Saturday, I want to be at Burning Bridge Tavern for the grand opening.  South County Brewing will be featured and Vinegar Creek Constituency will be playing.  I can’t stay too long because I head for Philly from there.

Have you seen The Kalob Griffin Band yet?  Have you visited MilkBoy Philly yet?  I’m crazy for this band and very excited to see one of the hottest new venues around.  Plus, I get to check in on daughter Kate, buy her dinner and haul home her winter clothes.

Sunday will be more fishing, uploading photos/videos, writing show reviews and planning my blogs for the week.  If it’s nice, maybe we’ll have a cookout with the neighbors.  Tune in next week!!