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!

Problem Solving: Pros and Cons

Problem Solving: Pros and Cons

I’m a problem solver.  Sure, I create problems too.  But I believe my creating/solving ratio is pretty low.  I work hard to solve problems as a parent, husband, friend and business owner.  My key is being a good listener.  Most people can solve their own problems if they believe they can.  All the help they need is someone to listen as they verbalize the problem, its cause and their solution.  The hardest problem of all, of course, is believing.  Self-doubt interferes with our most basic instinct: fight or flight.  But you gotta fight…

As the owner of Gigspots I solve problems for bands and venues.  My client venues contact me when a hole appears in their music schedule or when they want extra promotion of an event.  Bands count on me to help them extend their tours and find those crucial mid-week shows that pay for gas and food between the weekends.  I often help them find lodging too, typically with a local band willing to share a gig and a couch or two.  Those bonds lead to future reciprocal gigs, broader fan bases and more ticket/merch sales in fuller venues.  Everybody wins when you play like a team.

What causes problems in the music business?  It’s a risky proposition with high initial costs and few guarantees.  It’s an industry that has been cash stagnate for over twenty years.  Local and regional bands are getting paid the same today as they were in 1992: between $100-400 on average per night.  Divide by the number of musicians in the band.  I typically pay $5-8 and see two to three bands per night in most places.  So venues are earning no more at the door than they did in 1992 either.  What good will all our expensive phones, tablets and TV’s do us when all the starving artists out there decide to just stay home and make art for themselves and the clubs replace them with karaoke and jukeboxes?

Two interesting trends have arisen that keep me believing and fighting.  One trend is crowd-funding organizations like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, etc. becoming viable.  I have seen a healthy number of bands raise the money they need to record an album, fund a tour or replace worn/stolen equipment. It’s fun to contribute and help these artists do what not everyone can do.

The other trend is the growing popularity of folk, bluegrass and acoustic music in general.  In our hyper-drive, all-the-bells-and-whistles world, people are rediscovering the pleasure of hearing and experiencing acoustic instruments playing genuine music built from the roots up and performed with a personal touch.  History and biology meet to foment a familiarity within you.  You know those sounds and stirrings inherently just as your ancestors did. They invented those instruments and that music to voice their joys and concerns.  Everyone knows the meaning of “the blues.”  Everyone cheered for The Soggy Bottom Boys and sang along with “Man of Constant Sorrow” in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?

This brings me to Carsie Blanton.  A notable pop singer-songwriter, Carsie decided she’d always wanted to make a jazz album.  She moved to New Orleans to embed herself and started a Kickstarter campaign titled “Jazz is for Everybody.” Here’s her tagline: “A sweet, sultry, simply-produced album of great vintage songs. Play it while you throw a classy dinner party or make sweet, sweet love.”  Well, she gathered 1,287 backers and raised $60,526.  This is not a typical result!  I’m listening to an advance copy of her album Not Old, Not New for Kickstarter backers right now.  It’s remarkable.  You will know it.

Has Carsie Blanton solved all her problems?  No.  She’s made her record and will be touring behind it with a full band beginning June 24.  That’s when she’ll return to the challenges of finding enough gas, couches and pancakes to keep those wheels turning.  Get your tickets and follow the antics at CarsieBlanton.com.  I’m proud to have backed this project and can’t wait to serve meals to her and the boys on two central PA stops I’ve arranged for them.  Here’s a video from Carsie’s last visit (to Tellus 360) with the stalwart Joe Ploughman on upright bass to tide you over.

Can I solve my own problems?  We’ll see.  Until I can be at two or three places at once, and see every show, and help everyone, I’ll remain restless.

How can bands and venues keep the faith that music matters, that live music is better, when the risks (costs) keep outpacing the rewards?  Well, how do you quantify rewards and who do you want to see paid?  My biggest rewards come from helping other people and keeping the music playing.  Humanity gets paid.  Culture lives on.  Everybody wins.  Money comes and goes but Time only goes.  I’m banking on the arts to keep us separate from the animals.

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.

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

To All the Girls I’ve Loved: Meet Carsie Blanton

To All the Girls I’ve Loved: Meet Carsie Blanton

Most of the guys I know like girls: just not in front of a band.  I like girls and I like music.  I think there is good singing, great singing and poor singing and gender is immaterial.  Maybe it’s that those guys don’t want to hear what women have to say.  I don’t know; it’s not my problem.  I like to know what women really think about things but so few will tell you directly.  I was raised to respect women so I’m not threatened by Aretha Franklin wanting “…just a little bit!”

 

Carsie Blanton earned my respect right away.  Her songs radiate genuineness and honesty about the strengths and frailties of the human condition.  She maintains a great sense of humor and perspective about what motivates us as friends, lovers, scoundrels and saviors.  Her most recent album, Idiot Heart, offers ten songs about love, lust, longing and loneliness with a wry grin.  What she doesn’t love about life, she can still laugh off.  Her clever rhymes and sparrow voice lift the heaviness away but still resonate the impact of bad choices, blunt honesty and the tug of emotions in the face of logic.

He was a dark-eyed man and I knew right away

It was gonna take a turn for the worst

So I said “hey heart if you’re gonna go crazy

Give a little warning first”

Idiot heart

I shoulda left you at home

You give me nothing but hard love, bad luck

When you gonna leave me alone?

“Idiot Heart”

 

Carise doesn’t look to lay blame for life’s foibles.  She sees that we’re all odd and we’re all in this together.

What’s that feeling makes you sick?

What’s that cuts you to the quick?

What’s that habit you can’t kick?

It’s love, and it’s the only thing you know.

Love is clumsy, love ain’t smart

Seems so harmless at the start

Then trips and falls and breaks your heart

But love is all we got

“All We Got”

 

She doesn’t weep, whine or waste away pining for what might be.  This is a lady who seeks what she wants and all she asks is a little patience, support and honesty in that quest.  She calls herself a pop singer with quirky little songs and a cute voice.  I can’t deny those claims or their charm, having spent time during each song giggling, tapping my toes and shaking my head in agreement.  If this is pop, I guess I love pop.  I had no idea it could be deep as the ocean yet keep you surfing atop every wave.

 

So it’s not goodbye to Aretha, Billie, Chrissie, Lucinda or Janis.  It’s not, “See ya later” to Loretta, Jessica, Alexandra, Sarah, Joy, Julie or Dana.  I’m not leaving my wife to follow Carsie to New Orleans either.  I hear every one of those women when I hear a Carsie Blanton song.  She speaks for them, for all of us, as we “…die a little death” in those moments where we challenge ourselves to feel alive, come what may.

 

Check out Carsie Blanton in her own words and in the glowing praise of others here.

See a video I shot at the magical Tellus360 in Lancaster, PA the night Carsie “popped” me.

Watch Carise’s pro videos and see life as her muses see it.  Then vote for what you want to see next.  It’s like you can become an assistant muse.