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.

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.

Sammy Gets His Groove Back!

Sammy Gets His Groove Back

HFS it’s fun being a rock star.  It’s also time consuming.  The hours are odd and long and the money is rarely guaranteed.  When I dialed up my blog yesterday, I realized it had been over a month since I wrote.  Good thing I take notes!

My last blog focused on a party/concert I attended in OCMD the first weekend in August: Blockstock IV at The Party Block.  I’ll start today just about where I left off: at the shore.  Dewey Beach Music Conference presents music industry professionals in classes, speaking panels and forums.  It also presents 125 bands on nine stages during the four days.  It gives participants a leg up as they try to learn, grow and expand their careers in music.  What’s the common denominator in these two events? Pirate Rob, aka Rob Bryan of DNL Entertainment, brought a gang of his bands and promotion experts to both.  If you want to learn, want to party and want to rock out, you should be seeking out DNL events.  Let me suggest Pasadena, Bond and Bentley, and Bumpin’ Uglies for starters.  They are on a nationwide tour right now so it shouldn’t be that hard to catch them.

Something that has been an exciting and exhausting distraction is that Gigspots is staging it’s first-ever show at  Chameleon Club in Lancaster.  I named the show “Four Corners” because I have brought together very talented bands from four corners of my music market.  Tickets are $7.  You would pay $10-12 to see any of these bands in their hometowns.  Come to the show and you’ll see why.  I’ll talk more about the joys and concerns of staging a show this big soon.  For now, know that Dana Alexandra, Sweet Leda, Lovebettie and MiZ will bring the rock to Chameleon 10/5!

So how do I find the balance between being a rock star and a businessman?  I guess it will be a process.  But I have discovered already that writing this blog must happen.  I need to spill my guts while I spread the word on these bands and events.  So bear with me over the next week or so while I catch you up on my August and September adventures!  I have a ton of stories to tell, pictures and videos to share, and some great tips on bands and venues.  I will pick up where I left off in August.  Next blog, I will share the glorious tales of MilkBoy Philly’s one year anniversary and the phenomenal show/party they threw featuring The Kalob Griffin Band!

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!

Here Comes LAUNCH!

I just about spent myself writing my blog for Fig Lancaster this week!  LAUNCH Music Conference is this Thursday through Sunday and I couldn’t be more excited.  Check out their website, check out my website, book a room at Lancaster ArtsHotel and come on down!  Mention Gigspots when you book your room and save 10%.  Come visit me at the trade show and say hello.  You might win a TV!

http://www.figlancaster.com/archives/18001/prepare-to-launch

If you have never seen Fig Magazine, it’s time.  In it you will find hundreds of more reasons to come visit!  See you this weekend!

Happy Birthday Gigspots!

My site was launched April 18, 2011.  I am very proud of how it looks now and how it has grown.  I hope you have enjoyed the show and I thank everyone who has helped me, encouraged me and offered constructive criticism.  It has been a wonderful learning experience and I feel more confident that I can help you find great music experiences.

I’m a pack rat by nature.  I get it from my mom who lived through the Depression and has never thrown away anything.  I also belong to an art group: The Airy Hill School.  I can’t paint or sculpt like those guys but I make a mean collage.  Here’s a view of my office wall.  I can’t describe how much fun it’s been to see all these shows and meet all these people.  I will tag everybody I can but count on me adding more later!

stubs and fliers

Thanks for the shows!

LAUNCH Fever!

LAUNCH Fever!

I’m getting really psyched for LAUNCH Music Conference April 26-29!!  It coincides with the anniversary of my website and really shows the potential Lancaster has as an entertainment destination.  Last year, I had fliers in the swag bags.  A lot of good it did me; my website wasn’t much to see at its birth.  This year, I have a vendor table and the time to attend some of the conferences.  I also have all-access passes for every show in every venue, all weekend.  I’ll be the happiest zombie you’ve ever seen by Sunday!

Who did I hear for the first time at last year’s conference?  Amanda WellsDana AlexandraPete Bush and the Hoi Polloi.  Maybe those names mean nothing to you.  They were nothing to me then but I have grown very fond of these folks and seen many strong shows by each of them in the past year.  I’m really thrilled that Pete is coming back from Pittsburgh this year.  Be sure to be at Spring House Tap Room on Friday April 27 by 8pm.  Lancaster’s own Amanda Wells and Mike McMonagle each have a set and the Hoi Polloi plays right on their heels.  You can hear all three and still have time to see The Felice Brothers!  I promise!  That’s what I’m doing!

Here’s how just those three examples played out for me.  By hearing and meeting Amanda and Dana, I discovered a whole network of local women singer/songwriters and their regular showcases at places like Dispensing Company, Shenk’s and Symposium.  Social networking with them kept me up to date on shows by local powers Jessica Smucker, Loretta Bilieux, and Trixie Greiner.  They guided me to shows by newcomers like Macy K and regional touring acts like Heather Maloney and Sarah Blacker.  I had a great year with the ladies!  (I always wanted to say that!)

Dana introduced me to her drummer, Tony Kirchner.  He also drums for Slimfit (rock stars!) and promotes shows, in particular the Singer/Songwriter Series at Lancaster Dispensing Company.  It was Tony who told me I had to get to know Fryth at DipCo and the owners of Tri State Indie, Rich and Steph.  Getting to know those folks was invaluable to me as I built my business.  I learned a lot from all of them and am now proud to call them friends.  I contribute regularly to TSI now and presented at their first annual awards show.  Fryth is just flat-out my hero.  By the way, we never would have had Plugged In on the Farm last summer without the efforts of Tony and Fryth.

In talking to Pete and showing him around (he’s from Pittsburgh like me), I heard about the ALTAR BAR, Thunderbird Café and several other great venues back there.  On my first trip to ALTAR, I heard Lovebettie.  POW!!  That club is absolute dynamite and nobody lit my fuse this year like Lovebettie.  I staged my first show this year just to give them a place near here to play.  Go to Chameleon on the Saturday of LAUNCH and see Lovebettie on the main stage at 9pm.  You will Lovebettie too!

But don’t just listen to me!  Go to the LAUNCH website and download the schedule of conferences and performers.  They even have a scheduler app for it this year.  Get yourself a weekend pass and get your own year’s-worth of fun and entertainment out of it!