Spring Review and Woo!

Spring has flown by but not without dropping a pile of great shows in my lap!  I talked about the wonderful LAUNCH weekend in a recent blog.  I have seen plenty of other shows that I wanted to put on your radar.  Three of my favorites are back in town this Saturday!

Lauren Mann and The Fairly Odd Folk will play with Canyon and The Pig Merchants this Saturday 6/1 at The Candy Factory in Lancaster.  The show starts at 7pm so don’t plan on rolling in around 10.  You will have missed a phenomenal night!  Here’s Lauren and company tearing up DipCo to close LAUNCH!

They didn’t play LAUNCH but The Wayfarer Experiment is leading the charge as my pick for 2013 central PA band of the year.  I have 6-7 Wayfarer shows under my belt already and am psyched to see them at DipCo Friday 5/31! They just released a new album and it continues their dark folk/gypsy blues saga.  Friday is Bjorn’s birthday so you know this show will be memorable!  This compelling three-piece might be 4-6 members on any given night so show up and witness the experiment unfolding.

Also this Friday 5/31 is an incredible show at Chameleon with massive local talents The Districts and The Seeds plus Philly faves Juston Stens and The Get Real Gang and Cheers Elephant.  I have seen all four of these bands and they rock!  You can see videos of most on my YouTube channel.  The Stonewall Vessels also appear and I’m anxious to check them out.

Here’s a special shout-out to The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company for hosting great shows and serving great food and beer!  Notable shows I have seen there this spring include Dirk Quinn Band, Andy Mowatt Trio and Start Making Sense: a Talking Heads tribute.

The Wayfarer Experiment

The Wayfarer Experiment

Dirk Quinn Band at Abbey Bar

Dirk Quinn Band at Abbey Bar

I loved DQB as house band for the Tri State Indie Music Awards this year and it was fantastic to see them playing whole sets of songs vs. just between awards.  Andy Mowatt is a jazz-rock flamethrower on guitar; see his trio immediately!  As for Start Making Sense: holy cow!  If you never got the chance to see Talking Heads or just want to relive that experience, here is your ticket.  I will be rolling to The Abbey Thursday 5/30 to see The Wood Brothers if anyone loves folk and wants to join me!  I just keep saying it; my season pass to Abbey Bar/Greenbelt Event shows is the best investment I make every year.  And yes, six months later, I’m still mourning the passing of Mike Van Jura.  Kudos to Sarah, Alec and Ben for keeping Greenbelt vibrant!

Last week’s show at Chameleon with The Slackwater News and Marco Benevento was pure pleasure-dome stuff!  Most locals know Slackwater and they draw a big, fun crowd for a lot of reasons.  Marco creates these sonic soundscapes that just transport your ass to another plane.  If you missed the show, I have videos up but they are just a tease of the experience.  See Marco.  Period.  He plays Abbey Bar 2-3 times a year.  And cheer on The Slackwater News as they expand their play-zone to New Hope (Triumph Brewing) and State College (The Shell).

May moved the Music Friday series outdoors and Toy Soldiers was the perfect kickoff act!  Stay tuned to MOOSE for complete events schedules.  Keys For the City has again filled our town with beautiful, original pianos/works of art; thank you sponsors and players!  Long’s Park will kickoff its summer concert series and yes, Dawes is coming back!  We are truly blessed to have so many live music opportunities here in Lancaster!

Three notable album releases (besides the new Wayfarer Ex) are Lovebettie, Bumpin’ Uglies and The Great Socio.  My love of Lovebettie is no secret. Bumpin Uglies are a reggae-rock band from MD who now tour nationally and are currently #5 and climbing on the iTunes reggae chart.  See them and you’ll know why I love them too.  The Great Socio is a nearly indescribable prog-rock band with no guitar player.  When I first heard their last cd, I thought the band must have at least 6-7 members.  Nope.  It’s four dudes who are all-in on every song and all about getting you off!  I will be rolling to see The Great Socio and PASADENA at WCL The Queen in Wilmington 6/6 and I’m looking for company.  Call me and call shotgun!  And if you really want a taste of the Gigspotter life, get your tickets soon for Jam at the Dam July 6th!  I’ll be hosting The Gigspots Lawn Stage smack in the middle of 50 acres of beauty and 800 very happy campers!

LAUNCH 5 Worked for Me!

LAUNCH Music Conference in Lancaster, PA April 25-27 brought to town a lot of great music and interesting info about the state of the music industry.   Just closing DipCo three nights in a row would have been pleasure enough on any other weekend.  But I did a lot more.  I’m sorry I’m not a better still photographer but I shot over twenty videos that should satisfy your appetites for fresh live music.

I skipped the registration hoopla, free Heineken and opening performances Thursday night at the convention center.  I chose instead to meet and greet my pals in Sweet Leda as they arrived for the conference and to make sure they were settled.  Julie, Jaime and Don have adopted Lancaster as their favorite central PA city and planned to make a weekend of it.  Omar and his wife couldn’t come until Friday but they all intended to make the most of the visit and branch out from their usual stops at Central Market, Tellus 360 and Yorgo’s.  They also were psyched to be playing a new venue for them: Marion Court Room.  They hoped for as much success as they have felt at their past shows at DipCo and Chameleon.  Jaime had scheduled a bunch of conferences and workshops to attend as well.

It was refreshing for Sweet Leda to just chill at DipCo and chat with the regulars who hang there and have become fans.  Of course, as the opening shows around town finished up, everyone converged on DipCo for a last round or three.  By midnight the place was packed and rollicking with bands and industry insiders.  I was impressed with Holly Spears’ set and felt elated to see Canyon back in town.  2013-04-25 22.26.50  This young lady really writes some poignant songs and expresses them beautifully with her voice and guitar.  Canyon also wins my fashion award for the weekend.  Damn that girl looked pretty and stylish all weekend through three different showcases and a visit to LAUNCH Lounge at The Candy Factory.  I hope she is featured in one of the podcasts that Jason Mundock of Wood Stove House produced there over the weekend.   Anyway, they were locking the doors on DipCo when I headed home.

Both Friday and Saturday mornings I co-hosted at The Candy Factory.  We had light traffic both mornings so everyone got their fill of coffee and pastries.  Some pretty amazing jams sprung up among the musicians dropping in, usually lead by Jason Mundock and Aaron Gagne on percussion.  Randy B, Mickel, Canyon, Mark DeRose and a particularly gifted violinist (can’t recall the gent’s name) were among those who tested the acoustics and breathed some life into the mornings.  Everyone’s nights were quite late. 2013-04-26 13.47.07 2013-04-26 14.53.59

My Friday night involved a lot more miles.  It also involved many more tough choices about where to be.  It pained me to forego Dana Alexandra and Holly Williams at The Ware Center and I can only hope I’ll get another chance to hear one or both in such a grand space again.  Maybe Dana will debut her next album there or back at the Strand-Capitol in York.  Maybe Holly will come back.  Maybe the new grand space at Tellus 360 will be open by then!

My wife joined me for the most of Friday night.  We are both huge fans of Lovebettie and Sweet Leda so our evening had to include their shows.  Lovebettie played the Heineken stage: the big boy, a whole section of the convention center.   This was their second show since debuting their new ep Rise and they played with a lot of heart.  It’s a great record and will likely take them back to stadiums again this summer to round out some major US tours.  Last year they played SXSW, Summerfest, Van’s Warped and some major NHL events.  Next month they open for Rusted Root in Dewey Beach.

This room could hold 2,000 people.  When Lovebettie played at 7:30, there were maybe 200 people there.  I heard the crowd swelled to around 500 for Foxy Shazam’s headlining set.  With twenty million people living within a three hour drive of Lancaster, I can’t understand why Friday night’s lineup at the convention center didn’t draw at least 1,000.  I know there was great music being made at six other venues in town but they weren’t exactly thronged either.

After Lovebettie and a bit of Jesse Baker Band, we headed to Penn Square Grill to rendezvous with pals and catch a drink.  And there was Mike McMonagle (Mickel): a paying gig during Launch in a bar full of musicians and music fans!  I swear he played one of the best sets I’ve seen by him and that’s with dozens to compare with it.  The lad was on fire!

To Marion Courtroom next, we reconnected with Sweet Leda and company prior to their 9:30 set.  BAM!  Next thing we know, a band called Ill Funk Ensemble lights the place up with some serious blend of hip-hop, funk and rock!  The whole place animated.  Sitters stood.  Standers swayed.  When their third song was a mash-up of “Yo Diggity,” twenty people sprung to the dance floor.  Juls from Sweet Leda lead the charge and I’d have to say, the set by Ill Funk pushed Sweet Leda to new heights in their following set.  It certainly drove the crowd nuts and got everyone pumped.  You give Sweet Leda a canvas like that to work with and they will paint you a lush, funky landscape.  They laid down some broad, colorful strokes!

I sent the wife home and spent the rest of the night schmoozing at Marion Court Room and DipCo which again became the place to be to close out the night.  I was glad to have caught Jeff Reed’s set and to see the place packed with musicians and industry heavies again.  I was there until closing, gathered my guests and headed for home via Neptune Diner.

Saturday night was just as tough to schedule but I had made commitments to artists over Thursday-Friday to attend their shows.  I caught Lijie (sassy Strat slinger) and Matt Wheeler (joined by Canyon and Taylor Brandt!) at Spring House Tap Room.  I caught Mark DeRose and The Dreadnought Brigade at Penn Square (rock stars!).  I headed for the closing rounds at DipCo and holy cow, the place was jamming!  I saw four performances back-to-back that equaled anything I had seen all weekend!

Gretchen Pleuss from Ohio had a confident, natural vibe to her acoustic set and shared some fine songs.  Angela Sheik, looper extraordinaire, was a one-woman choir/ symphony/rock band/enchantress.  Until you’ve seen Angela, you don’t know how crazy good one of her shows can be.  Following her like they owned the place were Lauren Mann and The Fairly Odd Folk.  I had missed their set at Chameleon the night before but had heard good things.  When an extra twenty people showed up for their DipCo set, having seen them the night before, I knew I had heard right.  So right!  It was hard to believe they all fit on that little stage and easy to believe they were the real deal.  The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men and Edward Sharp and The Magnetic Zeros will be feeling this band’s presence soon, maybe as they roll past them.  Lucky Lancaster gets a return visit from Lauren and company June 1st at The Candy Factory!

The last set of the night featured Emily Long.  I felt pretty stupid to not be familiar with her music, she being from the Lancaster area and all.  With just a percussionist by her side and her acoustic guitar, she played that room like the whole weekend was just her supporting acts.  Count on seeing me at many more Emily Long performances to come.

I thought it was great that a great local closed the best local festival at the best local industry bar.  Don’t just take my word for it!  Visit my YouTube channel to see videos from LAUNCH 2013 and keep tabs on these and other great bands at Gigspots.com.

LAUNCH Rocks its Fifth Weekend

I’m sure there were plenty of doubters and haters when Jeremy Weiss and Rick Gadd decided to initiate LAUNCH Music Conference and Festival five years ago.  Today kicks off the fifth annual.  So much for doubters and haters.  I plunked down $60 for a VIP pass so I can access all areas, every show and every conference.  Can I do it all? No.  Am I gonna try?  Yes.  It’s one hell of a bargain for that much creativity.

I love how alive downtown feels during LAUNCH.  I love the streets being filled with interesting, exhilarating, curious people.  I love showing off the town to visitors, especially first-timers.  They think Lancaster is barns and dirt roads.  I take them for crepes and craft beer and it settles them right out.

LAUNCH is easier to navigate than ever.  You can download a free app to make a schedule and connect with friends.  There are print guides in dozens of merchants around town.  Plus, besides the LAUNCH and Gigspots websites, you can access info via MOOSE and FigLancaster.com.  If you can find the town square (follow the music) and the two tallest buildings in town, you will have found the epicenter of LAUNCH at Lancaster County Convention Center.

If you would like personal navigation advice, a place to have a snack and recharge your devices and self, wander up to the 300 block of N. Queen St and visit The Candy Factory.  Those fine folks, Jason Mundock of Wood Stove House and I will be co-hosting a Launch Lounge for musicians and the like.  We’d love to welcome you to town, pour you a cup of coffee and invite you to help us create a sound and visual collage of this year’s LAUNCH weekend.  Follow The Candy Factory or GigspotsSam on Twitter for special updates.  Seizure later!

Don’t Stop the Press! The Slackwater News, Pegi Young and Second Hand Suits

The synergy of the Lancaster music scene will be displayed again Friday March 22.  It’s hard to believe a show this vibrant and unique costs just $5.  Everyone is this area knows The Slackwater News brings a dynamic energy and work ethic to the stage.  You never know what musical surprises or heights they might deliver.  They’re also known for performing timely and unique cover versions of songs appropriate to the night (Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” and Oingo Boingo’s “Weird Science” at the Halloween CD release party).

Pegi Young and The Survivors play Chameleon Club Lancaster 3/22

Could this Friday include a rendition of a Neil Young classic?  I’m pulling for “Powderfinger” as Neil’s wife, bandmate and fellow philanthropist Pegi Young brings her band The Survivors to Chameleon Club Lancaster, PA this Friday 3/22 in support of The Slackwater News.  FYI, Pegi and The Survivors will be playing Late Night with David Letterman March 26th.  Local rising band Second Hand Suits fills out the Chameleon bill.  Below are the official press releases which include links and free streaming audio of Pegi’s new album.  It’s great!  See you Friday!

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Slackwater News
info@slackwaternews.com
www.slackwaternews.com

15 March 2013

PEGI YOUNG JOINS THE SLACKWATER NEWS FOR UPCOMING SHOW AT THE CHAMELEON CLUB

March 2013, Lancaster, PA: Pegi Young, bandmate and wife of Neil Young for over three decades, will bring her critically acclaimed band to the Chameleon Club in support of The Slackwater News on March 22, 2013.

The Chameleon Club has announced the addition of Pegi Young to The Slackwater News show on March 22.  “Pegi’s music is really powerful, and she tours with a great band that often includes legendary musicians like Spooner Oldham.  Plus we have a lot of respect for the work she and Neil have done with the Bridge School and Farm Aid.  We are really looking forward to the show and hope that by keeping the ticket price low we can draw a lot of fans of both bands,” remarked Daniel Ramirez, keyboardist for The Slackwater News.  Doors open at 8:00 pm and ticket price is $5. This show is for ages 21 and up.

Show Details
The Slackwater News, Pegi Young and the Survivors, and Second Hand Suits
Friday March 22, 2013 | 8pm | 21+ | $5
Chameleon Club – 223 N. Water St. Lancaster, PA 17603

About The Slackwater News:
With their second EP “Graveyard Mates” the Slackwater News lets fly another batch of restless songs that walk that thin line between indie-rock and freak-folk – memorable for their melodies, sweet in their harmonies, and cleverly arresting in their lyrics.

The group—Matt Blank (drums), JJ Gammache (bass, vocals), Matt Johnson (guitar), Daniel Ramirez (organ/piano/keyboards), and Dan Zdilla (vocals, guitar)—proudly hails from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where a healthy modern arts and music community thrive alongside badly lit retail outlets, tourist buffets, and horse-drawn agriculture.

Their debut disc, “All You Creatures” earned significant regional notice as well as airplay on WXPN and other radio outlets in 2010. It drew comparisons to the likes of Dr. Dog, The Band, The Black Keys, Spoon, The Beatles and Grateful Dead.

This time around the group presents six songs about things like international phone calls, sharing a house with polite ghosts, the oddly comforting certainty of entropy, and the equally comforting notion of spending that eternity in the ground with someone you love. “Graveyard Mates” is available for physical and digital sale at www.slackwaternews.com and all major retail outlets.

Watch the “Ghosts” Music Video
Visit the Slackwater News’ Official Website
Stream Slackwater News Music at Reverbnation
Buy Slackwater News Music at iTunes

 

Pegi Young & The Survivors, will be coming to Lancaster on Friday, March 22nd to play at The Chameleon. Young is supporting her third album, Bracing For Impact (Vapor Records), once again accompanied by her acclaimed recording and touring band, The Survivors: legendary keyboard player Spooner Oldham, bassist Rick Rosas, guitarist Kelvin Holly, and drummer Phil Jones. The group is scheduled to perform on David Letterman on March 26th and will then hit the road for a string of dates supporting Willie Nelson and Dwight Yoakam.

 

Bracing For Impact follows up 2010’s Foul Deeds, which Pegi co-produced with veteran multi-instrumentalist Ben Keith.  Her debut album, 2007’s self-titled Pegi Young, was described by Allmusic.com as “an intimate, hopeful and melancholy look at life and love from a songwriter who has been there.”

 

To stream Bracing For Impactplease click here.

 

Pegi Young first became known via her longtime role as backup singer—onstage and on record—for her husband Neil Young.  Pegi and Neil, whose son Ben was born with cerebral palsy, founded the non-profit Bridge School in 1986, serving children with severe speech and physical impairments.  The Youngs are also the driving force behind the annual all-star Bridge School Benefit concerts.

A Million Thanks for Fifty Years

A Million Thanks for Fifty Years!

I turned 50 years old Tuesday 2/19/13. I see it as a sort of accomplishment.  My mind and body have taken some abuse over the years but I’m still moving, grooving and growing.  I heard some great “fifty” jokes and advice this week.  People obsess on numbers.

A toast from the Lovebettie family to mine Christmas 2012!

Cue up Bob Seger’s “Feel Like a Number” and check out some of the numbers in my life.

1963 – I was born then and share a birthday and birth year with a lot of great people.

1981 – the year I graduated from Moon High School just west of Pittsburgh, PA

150+ – people extended their best wishes to me Tuesday and it felt wonderful!

412/724 – the area codes where people still call me John, Johnny, the Camsman:  and I love it!

1+1 – one wife for 23 years, one daughter for almost 21

7,627 – miles logged running Gigspots in 2012 (probably closer to 10K but can’t deduct it all!)

100+ – live music events attended in 2012: How do you think I celebrated my birthday?

Between 2/13 and 2/18 I drove 500 miles to four different venues to see 22 different bands.

Wednesday’s and Friday’s shows were The Kalob Griffin Band: where they were born at Café 210 West in State College and at Lancaster Dispensing Company where I first heard them.  That made 12 KGB shows in a year.   I wrote about it for FigLancaster.com.  They could be this decade’s Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers and on the verge of a thirty-year career.  See them local while you can!

Saturday night was Pirate Rob’s Birthday Bash at Rams Head Live in Baltimore: the big one, in the Power Plant complex at Inner Harbor.  It’s a super sick party with 19 killer bands and 1,500 tickets.  I helped sponsor the show and had all-access passes.  It was very rock and roll! No other indoor show features this much talent on one stage.  It helps me not to miss Rich Ruoff’s annual Blues Festivals at the Chameleon Club which were always on our shared birthday weekend.

Sunday was the Tri State Indie Music Awards at World Café Live in PhillyRon Gallo emceed, The Dirk Quinn Band rocked as house band, and seven other acts played between sessions of awards.  Sweet Leda played and won MD Indie Band of the Year and the Groupie’s Pick awards.  I got to present them the first and I’m proud to be their friend and fan.  I helped them become a presence in central PA.

Sweet Leda rocking the TSI Awards 2013

0 – number of miles I travelled on my actual birthday 2/19/13.  I was ready for a break!

#1 – The reason I wrote this blog was to thank you all for being a part of these fifty years.  I invite you to stick around for a few more and ask you to support Gigspots by giving it some attention.  My mission is to support the arts, encourage young people and help us all find some social leisure to enjoy.  If I can save you a buck or help you make a few, I’ll do that too.  You’ll never be just numbers to me.

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.

Where’s the Love for G?

Thursday night 11/15 at Chameleon Club, I treated myself to another night of G. Love and Special Sauce.  The opening band, Guerilla Panda Dub Squad, played heartily but briefly.  I will keep my eyes open for another area appearance by them.  But I don’t miss G at the Chameleon and it’s safe to say the crowd was feeling the same way.

He opened with “Shooting Hoops” from the first album and people went nuts.  Then he slipped into “Who’s Got the Weed.”  Ten years ago that would have sparked many clouds rising from the dance floor.  This time it only brought security with flashlights.

The band played many crowd favorites: “I-76,” “Baby’s Got Sauce,” “Back of the Bus” and of course “Cold Beverage.”  G played a nice acoustic version of “Gimme Some Loving.”  I didn’t hear any new songs which surprised me.  Usually the band tries out a few new ones live before committing them to a new recording.  They played from 10:30 to 12:15.  That also surprised me as the last time they played Chameleon was a four-hour affair.

Two things at the show went beyond surprise to disappointment.  As I worked my way into a spot near the stage, some guy whacked me in the head not once but three times.  He was cursing me and asking who I thought I was to just move in front of him.  I was actually beside him but that’s not the point.  I moved back rather than picking a fight with this guy.  I have too much respect for Chameleon to cause trouble there.  As I got to the edge of the crowd, who should appear but former club owner and friend of mine Rich Ruoff.  I told him what happened and his reply was, “At a G. Love show?  What’s the world coming to?”  He asked if I was ok and we resumed our grooving but it was very upsetting.  If you are the guy who whacked me in the head, reply here and I’ll be glad to meet you on any corner in town.

The other upsetting thing was the distinct lack of an under-21 crowd.  When Lemonade was released on iTunes, people downloaded it that month more than any other album.  “Booty Call” and “Lemonade” were the singles but people downloaded the whole album.   G. Love and Special Sauce never got major radio airplay but they had a committed national following among young adults.  Where were they?  Did the Fixin’ to Die album with the Avett Brothers scare them off?  Was this show marketed wrong?

I suspect this is another symptom of “social mediatus”: confusing virtual reality with reality.  No amount of downloaded songs is going to provide you with a concert experience ie real socializing and seeing a band in person.  We veteran concert-goers need to get the next generation out there to some shows before venues turn into iPod bars!

Dum-Dums and Smarties: What You Need

Dum-Dums and Smarties: What You Need

For the seventeen years I taught high school English, I handed out Dum-Dums and Smarties on test days.  I learned this from psychologist and model teacher Dr. Peggy Forsythe on the day of our first test in a memorable educational psychology class.  How many I handed out is anybody’s guess.  I remember a student noticing that you could save Dum-Dum labels and earn prizes.  He said, “Jeez, Campbell.  You could save for a year and get, like, a car or something.”

I left public education for many reasons: mostly personal.  I miss the dynamics of the classroom and the energy of teens.  I promised myself that Gigspots.com would serve young people and provide them with opportunities to have fun and satisfy their curiosities.  I am about to launch an internship program at York College and hope to expand it to my alma mater, Millersville University.

But really it’s about the music.  I worry that young people aren’t getting enough chances to connect with live music.  Downloading songs and sharing playlists cannot compare to sharing a concert experience with friends.  I created Gigspots to help young people (and the young at heart) find concerts and destinations that they could enjoy and afford.  I’m finding plenty of bands, destinations and discounts.  What I need is feedback.  I know what I like.  I need to know what you like.  Are we still connected?

Begin by Liking my Gigspots Facebook page.  When I post something you like, Like it.  When you hear a band you think is great, post a link on my page and Share generously.  Name the bands you want to see and I will move mountains to get a local show set up.  Please visit my website to check the concert calendar and watch some of the over 500 videos posted on my YouTube channel.  I need your visits, clicks, comments, Likes and Shares.

I can’t get Adele, Taylor Swift, Foo Fighters or Jay Z to play for you.  Yet.  But I can get Kayla Kroh, Sarah Blacker, Lovebettie, Face for Radio, Bruzer Wyatt and dozens more.  Never heard of them?  You never heard of Adele five years ago either.

I was glad to hand out all that candy.  I was happy to attend your sporting events, plays, concerts, musicals, recitals and galleries.  I wrote your letters of recommendation, coached you, tutored you and lent an ear when you needed to talk.  You loved sharing your music and discussing your interests in my classroom.  I’m still listening and still trying to serve you.  I need your feedback.

If you are not a former student, I need your feedback too.  While I was serving our posterity in the classroom, I surely missed some good stuff.  Share it with me and I will share it with them.  We can all teach and learn together.  Music makes fear go away!

August Chronicles: Toy Soldiers

August Week One: Toy Soldiers and Juston Stens

At Chameleon Club 8/11/12

I started August on vacation and anyone who knows me will say I was on vacation all month.  It’s not my fault my work looks like play!  Play is cutting loose in OCMD for a week and kicking it off with DNL Entertainment’s Blockstock IV.  The work that followed is good work if you can get it.

My return to Lancaster was met with a much bigger return: that of Toy Soldiers to Chameleon after a summer of touring and recording.  The fellas had guests The Kid Carsons, Mike McMonagle and his Experience and Juston Stens and The Get Real Gang.

Toy Soldiers continues to impress me as a unique, talented and hard-working band.  Their blues sound draws from a deep well of soul and honky-tonk.  Ron Gallo holds sway with a rich voice and stylish phrasing.  The musicianship is polished without sounding too tidy; it’s sincere and genuine. There is a depth, a historic quality that echoes Everly Brothers, Motown, early Stax Records and (somehow?) early Stones.   They keep promising a new record and the new songs they are playing out live really deliver.  Until they have them finalized, let me recommend a song that leads all their views on my YouTube and drives crowds nuts every time: “Throw Me Down.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFeStReLav8

Juston Stens was once in Dr. Dog and now leads The Get Real Gang.  This is a tight band filled with talent.  I recommend you check them out at your earliest opportunity.  Here’s a link to my favorite video of theirs from 8/11/12. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpVu5NBrjbA

A heads-up on a show I highly recommend: Toy Soldiers and Kalob Griffin Band at Club Café Pittsburgh 10/12/12. Get info and tickets at http://www.ohnotoysoldiers.com or http://www.kalobgriffinband.com.