Stagelights Dim at DipCo

I got some sad news over the weekend.  The Lancaster Dispensing Company has decided to cease staging live music after Thanksgiving 2015.  They have been a live music venue since opening in 1978.  To me, it was the equivalent of having your favorite uncle die.DipCo new

I grew up in the restaurant business.  I know it’s a really tough way to make a living.  You count your inventory by the ounce and your profits by the pennies.  You work every weekend and most holidays.  There are hundreds of laws to comply with and you can’t choose your neighbors.  You are the top of the food chain so everyone else’s costs get passed on to you.

So why did the music have to die?  I can only conjecture on Bradley and Judy’s reasons for making what I’m sure was a very tough decision.  I’m not keen to guess and frankly it’s none of my business.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to stage eighteen Gigspots Showcases there.  I have two shows left: October 10 and November 14.  I’d be well pleased to see a good crowd!

OneKoast MD's Finest IX mapDipCo has long been the hub of Lancaster’s music scene and it served me as a place to introduce many bands here.  It was a pivotal stop as I would take bands on tour around the region.  Besides getting their first exposure in our crucial Lancaster market, those bands knew they would get guaranteed pay at the end of the night.

There are few guarantees in life and fewer still for musicians and restaurateurs.  Most of those folks count on people coming in the door to cover their expenses and put some bread on their own tables.  Any musician will tell you that nights with a guarantee are what keep the boat afloat.  Any restaurateur will tell you that the only guarantees are that the bills will arrive and that regular customers can make or break you.

I’m not looking to lay blame any more than I’m guessing what motivated DipCo to stop the music.  There are a few facts that I can share.  The cover charge at the door is five dollars on music nights.  It’s been that price for decades.  Every night, I would see 12-20 people turn away at the door rather than pay it.  We all know that there is no place cheaper to eat and drink downtown and the food is great.  What’s the logic in paying $8 for a beer somewhere else when $8 at DipCo gets you a beer and live music all night?  On the other side of that coin: DipCo’s cover charge is $5 but their average sale per customer is nearly $12.  If you drop the cover charge, can you count on that clientele to meet your averages?  Or will six people share the large nachos and a pitcher of water while enjoying the music?  Either way it’s a risk.  And what value do you place on the artists’ work?

The only guaranteed losers in this equation are the musicians.  There is now one less place to play where you will be guaranteed a payout at the end of the night.  There is one less chance for you to reach the Lancaster market and build your following.  I know that’s crucial because so many nights are dependent on people coming through the door.  And yeah, I know that cover charges and hence band pay have been stagnant for thirty years.  It was $5 to see two bands in 1985 and it still is at nearly every venue.

Live, original music is only a small part of what The Lancaster Dispensing Company has given to our city since 1978.  I’ve had hundreds of great meals and memorable nights there.  It’s where I first met many of my favorite people in Lancaster, where I always brought out-of-town visitors and where I always could count on seeing friendly, familiar faces.  That’s not going to change.

bjorn1The Gigspots Spotlight Showcase on October 10 features two of my friends who are musical freaks.  Returning to the area from NOLA will be Bjorn Jacobsen, the Wayfarer himself, bringing savage tales of busking for a living and being a new daddy.  And yeah, all that dark stuff from the past and weird prophesies for the future will boil over too. Clinton Hibshman Opening the night and a whole can of whup-ass on guitars, harp and songs will be Clinton Hibshman.  I don’t waste a lot of words trying to describe him.  I just turn it up and grab a beer.  He embodies everything that happens at my favorite kinds of parties.

Help me make my last two shows at DipCo those kinds of parties.  Let the food, drinks and good times roll!  Have you partied there?  Have you played there?  Let’s celebrate what it’s meant to us all.

Lancaster Roots and Blues: Year Two in Review

My feet have stopped throbbing and my phone has stopped ringing.  The post-partum depression has subsided and my showcase at DipCo tonight will resolve the rest.  Yep, I’m back to being Sammy Gigspots just seven days after wrapping up a colossal Lancaster Roots and Blues festival.  Come set a spell at Lancaster Dispensing Company tonight 2/14 for Danny Whitecotton solo and The Plate Scrapers, a jammin’ bunch of bluegrass fellas from Cumberland, MD.plate scrapers

I’ll begin my review with thank-you’s.  Thank you Rich Ruoff: for giving me the opportunity to serve as your Director of Operations for this fantastic event.  Thank you to the bands and venues for working so hard to make sure everyone was having a blast and finding that buzz.  Thank you to the volunteers who made this festival run smoothly and our guests feel welcome.  Every stop I made, I walked into a venue packed with happy people.  Feel proud of yourselves.  You earned it.

The public response to LRB 2015 has been overwhelmingly positive.  We made the newspapers eight days in a row.  Our social media accounts continue to explode.  The photos and videos are pouring in and our post-event survey again shows that over 90% of attendees plan absolutely to return for 2016.  Two things people say we improved on from year one: our Shuttle Bus service and our availability of credit card readers.  Many people enjoyed riding the shuttle and being able to purchase tickets/merch with their plastic.

Those credit card readers were both a blessing and a curse.  It made life easier for our customers but it left us low on the ready cash you need to pay traveling bands living payday to payday.  Something that disappointed me personally was the lack of foot-traffic at our Food Truck Court.  Our survey results from 2014 included many requests for food trucks and I worked hard to line up some quality food smack dab in the middle of the festival.  We even made it a shuttle bus stop but people passed it by.

Our three new venues were fantastic additions.  Everyone had high praise for Lancaster Dispensing Company, Trust Performing Arts Center and The Elks Lodge.   They have all asked to be part of the festival again next year and they all earned our respect.  They all have my vote!

What about the music?  Well, I didn’t get to see much.  I started my Friday at The Trust so I could introduce the first act of the night, Grand Ole’ Ditch.  I love their sound and my goodness that’s a beautiful room!  I introduced Sweet Leda at The Elks at 9:10 and stuck around for two songs.  They are great friends and one of my favorite bands on the planet.  It thrilled me to see The Elks filled with happy people like I remember it always being for Music Fridays.  I introduced The Freeway Revival at 10:30 at Federal Taphouse.  I love their blend of country, blues and rock.  And wow does that place get fun as the night gets late!  I closed my night by introducing Second Hand Suits at DipCo at midnight.  Only my badge got me inside; the place was at capacity most of both nights.  I had my only beer of the night there as I caught up to the pack of twelve family members I had roaming the festival.  The music, the crowd, the moment and that beer were glorious.  Then I went back to work till about 2:30.

I saw even less music Saturday night.  I saw Dana Fuchs melt a Chameleon Club filled to capacity: one song from stage right.  I saw Iris DeMent for one song: from beside the sound board.  I did get to drive her to and from the Marriott and Ware Center and we chatted a bit.  She’s a lovely, regular person and had several questions about Lancaster, our festival and my Subaru.  She has a daughter approaching driving age.  I got to witness some of the late-night bluegrass jam at Tellus 360 and have a beer with my daughter who was hanging tough for a second night.  She said she was proud of me and that was enough music to my ears.

Then it was time to clear Freedom Hall of cars, sound, lights, everything for the gymnastics competition loading in at 8am Sunday morning.  I caught a couple hours of sleep then drove home the first carload of stuff.  I went back to finish loading out the backstage office and by 11am I was headed home with the last of it.

I visited with my out-of-town guests a bit and got some immediate feedback, mostly positive.  Friends tell you the whole truth and I love them for it.  They couldn’t stop smiling, laughing and bringing up moments from the weekend.  We had only seen each other in passing.  They all declared it a success and an improvement on year one.  That was all I needed to hear.  I hit the showers and caught about 16 hours sleep.  Monday was pretty lazy too.

By Tuesday I was back on the job.  Yes, there will be a Lancaster Roots and Blues 2016 and yes we will continue to improve.  Thank you all for your encouragement and support.  You are why Lancaster comes first in our name.

Writing Pro

If you think it’s a cop-out to just re-post favorite blogs for the first twelve days of April, I beg your patience.  It’s giving new readers a chance to catch up.  It’s giving me a great opportunity to reflect on Gigspots’ progress and my writing as a whole.  Let me act proud while humbly thanking the bands, venues and personalities who have allowed me to write about them.  I’m learning and I love learning!

Besides my own blog, I’ve found some opportunities to write professionally since I started Gigspots.  I’m especially proud of a follow-up piece on Lancaster Roots and Blues I wrote for the March edition of Regional Musician magazine.  I like their motto: “Right-brain info for the left-brain artists.”  Once a teacher, always a teacher I guess.  Here’s this link to “The Road to Roots and Blues.”

I contribute fairly regularly to FigLancaster.com and find it exhilarating to be part of such a beautiful publication.  It gives me a great excuse to gush about Lancaster’s music scene.  Here’s a sample: follow this link to see my December post.  I have to say I was pretty thrilled to be a contributor to Fig Lancaster’s first Music Issue and be in print.  I got “…five copies for my mother.”

The folks at TriStateIndie.com have become mentors and trusted friends since I started Gigspots.  Contributing for them is fun and gives me a chance to do some different types of writing.  It was really cool when they published my album review for SEEDS’ Questioned By a Ghost.  I’m not sure if it’s related, but I receive music to review and invitations to shows regularly now.  I also write liner notes and bios for bands.

I wrote a ton for Lancaster Roots and Blues: press releases, sales pitches, website content, program notes, you name it.  I’ll be doing it again for 2015 so please give me some feedback if you’re in that audience.  It’s a primary way that I can work to assure your experience is the best it can be.

 

Lancaster Roots and Blues: Inside-Out Volume 1

Lancaster Roots and Blues: Inside Out Volume One

So, I was hired to do a nine-month job in ninety days.  I’m now 45 days from opening night.  Good thing I was in the Army.  Pathfinders!  Everybody I see these days says two things. “Dude, you are just aglow with excitement.  How can I help with the festival?”  When I shared this with Jason Mundok, he replied, “That is just so Lancaster.”  It’s so true.  People are rallying up behind LRB and everybody wants to be part of it.  Good news: you’re in!

We have almost 45 people on the volunteer list already.  I’d love another 20!  If you want to work a night and get a free admission to the other, please hit the LRB website:  Festival Info then Volunteer tabs.  Give us your email (confidential) and pick two positions.  We need everything from Loaders to Stage Techs to Green Room Managers.  We need ticket-takers and drivers.  Let’s assemble a strong, skilled crew for our remarkable musical guests and welcome the out-of-towners.  If your business would like to offer a special welcome, let us hear from you too.

LRB poster low rez

So what has me aglow besides frostbit cheeks and winter ales?  Have you seen our insane lineup of artists?  It’s the blues, man.  Rich and I toured the convention center a few weeks ago and Gary Miller was with us.  You remember club manager Gary from Chameleon’s heyday?  He has already committed to be stage manager for the Thaddeus Stevens stage.  As we all parted company, Gary and I were walking in the same direction towards our parked cars.  We looked at each other and, in sync, just grinned and said, “The blues are coming back to Lancaster, man!”  And we’re laughing and air-guitaring and the memories are just spilling out all over King Street.  Can you say Uptown Rhythm Kings?

I want your stories!  Hundreds of you have 17 years of Blues Festival/Chameleon stories to tell.  As we kick off 2014, more people than ever are working in and supporting our local music scene.  So whether you’re a Lancaster music veteran or newcomer, reach out to me.  I’m writing three blogs, creating video ads and writing most of the press releases.    I am not a voice crying out in the wilderness.  You know we have a great city and LRB will restore us as the mid-Atlantic’s musical crossroads.  Share your memories and invite people to come make some of their own.

Of course one of the best things about working with Rich is his stories.  He has a million.  I had forgotten how much he likes a good laugh and how easily they come to him.  If you heard the podcast by Wood Stove House (thanks Jason), you heard a great example.  Innocence Mission, a great Lancaster band who went national, was scheduled to tape a David Letterman appearance.  The show taped around 6pm.  They loaded out, drove like crazy for Lancaster, and arrived just in time to play their headlining gig at Chameleon.  When Letterman aired that night, the club rolled tv’s out on stage so Innocence Mission and hundreds of fans could watch their appearance together.   Were you there?

The band Lake Street Dive will explode in February 2014.  See them in Lancaster 2/22!

The band Lake Street Dive will explode in February 2014. See them in Lancaster 2/22!

Anyway, the story came up because Lake Street Dive is playing Letterman 2/21 and Lancaster Roots and Blues 2/22.  You can be there.

Gigspots is kind of booming right now too.  My showcase events start this Saturday 1/11/14 at Lancaster Dispensing Company and woo-doggies do I have a great opening night!  The Naïve Americans with elements of The Hickory Project and Still Hand String Band will play the first two sets.  Leo DiSanto and Jeff Bryson of VCC will play the third.  I predict a pulverizing all-jam at the end including who knows who.  My agent and promoter projects will reach across three states by March.  I will be sending bands on tours and promoting shows in more venues.  I’m also getting a lot of work as a press/biography writer and album/show reviewer.  Aglow a go-go, baby!

Come out to DipCo and see why Sam logs so many miles!

Come out to DipCo and see why Sam logs so many miles!

My last blog was all about getting out of town.  I’m glad to say I was home (and hosting) for the holidays.  The weekend before Christmas I combined business with those pleasures.  Our newest holiday tradition is now “Clan Concert.”  This being Lancaster, we had a lot of choices.

Sweet Leda is hot!

Sweet Leda is hot!

Friday 12/20 I took my wife, her sister, my nephew and Film Intern James Colburn to DipCo to enjoy Sweet Leda’s last area appearance before LRB.  The band was hot as hell as usual!  When they return 2/21, they play Federal Taphouse at midnight: the last act of night one.  Boom.  And they’re bringing Ron Holloway with them.   Some of the film Jimmy captured that night and images he shot around town the next morning wound up in the LRB 15-second promo that’s currently screening with the previews at Penn Cinema.

Saturday night my daughter, niece and some of their gal-pals joined in on the act for the show that closed the “Clan Concert” deal: The Districts, SEEDS, Pine Barons, Coronado and no shit, a surprise appearance by Ron Gallo.  It was a great night of rock for over 500 people including us.  If you watch my video of The Districts playing “Call Box” that night, you’ll hear everyone singing along and see my daughter front row against the rail and my wife and her sister rocking and rolling in the crush right behind her.  Good times!   I also had the pleasure of seeing many former students who were home for the holidays and out to see their classmates turned rock stars.  Thanks for the smiles, hugs and shots!  Let’s do it again soon!Shrimpboat band

Sunday night 12/22 I returned to Chameleon for Shrimpboat and Mama Tried; it was the unofficial, official holiday party for Lancaster’s musicians and industry members.  I always dig Mama Tried.  And I knew I wasn’t going to the NYE festivities downtown featuring Shrimpboat so I wanted to catch them before their pre-LRB area hiatus.  They are killers one and all and every note was in place.

Jake Lewis and the ClergyI’ve been trying to catch as many LRB artists as possible since we’ve asked that they not play Lancaster in February before their LRB performance.  I suggest you do the same and start by joining me at DipCo Friday 1/10 for Jake Lewis and The Clergy.   Then return 1/11 for my Gigspots Spotlight Showcase.  It’s gonna be a humdinger and I want you to experience some of the impressive talents I’m meeting outside our little valley.  Plus, Leo and Jeff (VCC Duo) are my “Local Treasures” so no excuses.

Also of note: The Wayfarer Experiment has been asked to open for Gangstagrass 1/17 at Chameleon.  It just sounds too cool to miss.  Seizure soon!

Regional Gems and Local Treasures

I recently blogged about new happenings in the Lancaster music scene for my FigLancaster.com column.  I announced here that I’m working with Rich Ruoff to help stage Lancaster Roots and Blues festival.  How do I follow that up? I get out of town!  I love Lancaster and our scene but hey, it’s a big world out there.  So I’ve been recruiting new client venues and bands all across Gigspotsland.  I’ll share some news here today.  And starting 1/11/14, I’ll be hosting The Gigspots Spotlight Showcase at Lancaster Dispensing Company (DipCo) on the second Saturday of every month!  My tag line: “Two Regional Gems and a Local Treasure!” DipCo

Here’s the idea.  I bring two acts to DipCo from a client venue of mine “out there.”  I team them up with a local act you love but maybe in a different configuration than you’re used to seeing.  There’s an all-jam at the end and we party till Fryth throws us out (in her nice way).  You get introduced to new music, bands get introduced to bands they can swap gigs with, and I get to play the host.  It’s a triple-play winner and will only set you back $5 at the door.  I guarantee it will be worth it.

So where have I been Gigspotting? I was way overdue for a trip to the homeland so I went west over the mountains to Pittsburgh 11/8.  Some friends treated me to a night in South Side and tickets to Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds at The Rex Theater.  South Side is pretty hoppin’ and The Rex is an old movie theater done over right to become a great concert venue.  Man, I love this band ever since I saw them play Long’s Park two summers ago.  I have to say their current material is more bluesy and soulful and they are tighter than ever.  Their brand new ep Fight proves it too.  Love those horns, that harmonica and Arleigh’s mighty wailing.  They pass through our area 1/30/14 at The Sellersville Theater and 2/01/14 Live at The Baby Grand in Wilmington, DE.  I wanted them for Lancaster Roots and Blues.  Maybe next year!

Three nights on the road kept me home for a few nights.  I did slip across the river to Burning Bridge Tavern for a special Series 42 show 11/13: Connor Christian and Southern Gothic.  No cover, melt-in-your-mouth smoked meats and a national touring act were impossible to pass up.  Music starts at 8:30 so you can be headed home with ears and taste buds satisfied by 11!  This band offers Southern rock with some real depth to it: more Marshall Tucker than Molly Hatchet for sure.  I’m awaiting ok to post the videos I shot and recommending the brisket in the meantime.

Friday night 11/15 brought the noise: white light, white heat and a big white van.

Harlot onstage at Rams Head Live

Harlot onstage at Rams Head Live

I rented it to drive The Wayfarer Experiment and Harlot to a huge OneKoast Entertainment event in Baltimore.  Harlot hails from The Rattler in Pittston and Lancaster was practically smack between the two.  It gave me an excuse to hang with Harlot and Rattler owner James Callahan.  They are splendid folks who have all but adopted The Wayfarer crew and man, do I love what happens when they all get together.  So we sailed on down to hang with Pirate Rob and play his latest show at Rams Head Live.  Called “Maryland’s Finest Volume IX,” I was proud to be arriving with two bands representing PA.  The Kalob Griffin Band made it three out of thirteen acts not from MD.  Trust me; Maryland is not running out of bands!

Pirate Rob finds bands.  I’ve written often of shows he produces and the immense array of talent he presents. Here’s the bill (minus PA) from Volume IX and ANY ONE of these bands would have been worth the $10 to get in: Bond & Bentley, Sticky Longfingers, Outram, Daniel and the Lions, Old Indian, Shawn Owen, Bret Staymates, Dirk Schwenk and Peyhey’s Poppies.  I’ve been proud to sponsor his Jam at the Dam series and never miss Pirate Rob’s Birthday Bash.  That is, until this year.  The Bash coincides with Lancaster Roots and Blues 2/21-22.  Don’t for a second think I’m abandoning ship on Pirate Rob.  Gigspots and OneKoast will continue together to promote and enliven the regional music scene for a long time.  But as I said in my last blog, I live in Lancaster because of Rich Ruoff and his Chameleon Club circa 1988!  Here’s something spooky; Rob, Rich and I all share 2/19 as our birthday!  Rob’s the baby.

Cabinet Preferred Photo Hi Res

Cabinet touring now and just released Cabinet Live Set II. They play Lancaster Roots and Blues 2/21/14!

By 11/20 I was on a new three-part mission.  Deliver The Wayfarer Experiment to Café 210 West in State College to open for Cabinet.  Close the deal on making Café 210 West a Gigspots client venue.  Convince Cabinet to play Lancaster Roots and Blues.  And I went three for three!  We got there and back in one piece and a five-piece version of the Experiment wowed the joint and their headliner.  The bill they’d be joining and the significance of this inaugural event swayed Cabinet.

Cafe 210 West in State College PA is at 210 W. College Ave

Cafe 210 West in State College PA is at 210 W. College Ave

And Café 210 West has joined the Gigspots family.  This club is the birthplace of The Kalob Griffin Band and Memphis Hat among others and hosts national touring acts occasionally.  My three biggest reasons for wanting them on the team?  They offer great food and drinks scandalously cheap.  They believe in and promote original music in a college town where that’s surprisingly rare.  Their music venue makes bands look and sound great and many bands I work with tour right past there…for now.  Count on it becoming a stop on I-80 Gigspots tours.  Not bad for a Wednesday night!  I saw a poster for Burning Bus hanging on the wall so Café 210 West has been doing it right for a while!

Friday night 11/22 was date night.  I left the cameras at home and took the lovely Tina to DipCo for dinner.  Vinegar Creek Constituency was playing and the night was pretty much perfect.  We both wanted to come back Saturday night for Hexbelt but a day of laundry, grocery shopping, and last-chance yard work wore us out.  We were hosting fifteen for Thanksgiving in just a few days so the night became perfect for pizza and a movie.  Do you know the classic It Happened One Night?

Scantron on the big stage at WCL the Queen for WILMO Rock Circus

Scantron on the big stage at WCL the Queen for WILMO Rock Circus

My brined turkey was a big hit.  I golfed with pals on Black Friday (10 years running!).  On Saturday it was out of town again.  11/30 was WILMO Rock Circus at World Café Live at the Queen in Wilmington, DE.  Dude.  This show rules. S1370031  I cannot imagine this remarkable venue being used in a more creative, efficient or musical way.  It’s 20+ bands in one night, in one building, on three stages.  You know I love the Queen and it is 58 miles from my door.  The event producers, Gable Music Ventures, have become great friends of mine and I have sponsored WILMO and their Ladybug Festival for two years now.  They stage several shows a month at the Queen and like Pirate Rob, boy can they find the talent!  I have them to thank for turning me on to John & Brittany, Glim Dropper, Angela Sheik, TJ McGlinchey, Brooks Long, Madalean Gauze, Maggie Gabbard and dozens of others.  You will have the same experience if you attend one of their Singer-Songwriter nights at the Queen or the shows they produce across DE and MD.  Roll with me sometime!  Even a 90-minute drive gets old when you’re by yourself.

So November was pretty busy.  December has started the same way.  I made my first visit to Underground Arts in Philly 12/5 for a leg of the Communion Tour.  Eight great bands and a “Toys for Tots” benefit made me like this place immediately.  That night will need its own blog.  Friday 12/6 I was visiting my client Abbey Bar at ABC Harrisburg and reintroducing Leo and Jeff (the VCC duo) to Mike Miz and the Greenbelt Events team.  VCC opened for MiZ once in the Poconos and it’s time those bands started sharing gigs again.  Greenbelt Events had just released Season Passes for sale to current pass holders.  I had to renew mine; it’s the best investment I make every year! Mike Van Jura inside ABC's Abbey Bar. Photo credit: Ashley Elizabeth  By email  While I was there, I found out that The Hold Steady will be appearing there in February as part of a benefit for the K&L Guardian Foundation.  Yeah, I still miss Jersey Mike.

I’m pretty certain I’ll be staying local for the rest of 2013.  But maybe local means something different for me than it does for you.  At least you know where I’ll be the second Saturday of every month next year.  Stop out to DipCo 1/11/14 for my first Gigspots Spotlight Showcase and see what keeps me logging the miles.

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.

Festivals a Go-Go!

Holy cow have I been rambling and rocking!  The last thirty days or so have brought me many miles, many smiles and many musical memories!  Since hosting my Loyalstock festival the last week of June, I have sponsored and attended some great events.  Festival season is a go-go!  Do you shy away from festivals because of the lack of electricity, cell reception, showers and flush toilets?  There are plenty of day-long events and I’ve sponsored two in July.  Pick one out and make a day of it!

I camped out for Jam at the Dam but that’s because it was a DNL event and that means party hearty.  I sponsored a whole stage there and gave out free Bullfrog Brewery beer for Likes and Follows. FYI, sponsoring a stage means you get use of an outlet.  That allowed me to brew a 30-cup urn of coffee Sunday morning and I needed it.  Many thanks to my co-sponsors Wood Stove House, Lancaster Roots and Blues Fest, Tellus 360 and The Rattler.  Without Jason Mundock of WSH and his talented pal Mark DeRose I might never have gotten my banner strung above the stage.  The Rattler brought Camp Rattler in full force and proudly staged Harlot on my Gigspots Lawn Stage.  You all really must check out The Rattler in Pittston.  It’s what a music-industry bar should be!  Pound for pound, I think my stage had the greatest lineup! Bravo and many thanks to: East Coast Turnaround, The Boiled Owls, Kathy and Dan Duo, Searching for Oneida, Harlot, Zach Bellas, Pressing Strings, Aaron Flinn, Karissa Laren, Kalob Griffin Band, Memphis Hat, Sunset Villains, Wise Eyes, The Great Socio and Sticky Longfingers & The Rusted Butter.  I have videos from many of them on my YouTube channel in a playlist called Jam at the Dam 2013.  Thanks again Pirate Rob!

I sponsored a stage for Ladybug Festival in Wilmington, DE while I was on vacation in OCMD.  Yeah, that means I didn’t even get to attend.  But my vacation was sweet and I love what Gable Music Ventures and World Café Live at the Queen keep cooking up down there!  How could I resist supporting a day celebrating woman-fronted bands in nine music-loving venues?  Their next event down there is the Rockabilly Rumble on Sunday August 11th from 12:00-10pm and it’s gonna be a humdinger!

The Districts

The Districts rocked the Marina Stage Friday night!

The Stray Birds

The Stray Birds enchanted the Marina Stage audience to start Saturday

 

WXPN hosts the best festival on the planet in my opinion.  I just spent three glorious days there soaking in the music and positive vibes. Our central PA bands (and FigLancaster.com alums) turned in memorable performances: The Districts and The Stray Birds.  I’ll devote a whole blog/show review to XPoNential Music Festival asap.  The event sold out for the first time ever and I’m thrilled for us all.  This station constantly pours money and music into the community and is a genuine bastion of culture and love.  If you’re not a supporting member of WXPN, I just don’t understand how you can call yourself a music-lover.

What’s next? Jeepers, I’m getting pulled towards two corners of the state this weekend!  How can I resist Musikfest in Bethlehem?  It’s ten days long and many events/shows are FREE!  How can I resist Flood City Music Fest in Johnstown?  It might feature the widest array of acts at any festival this summer and Robert Randolph is one of the headliners.  There are Gigspots artists playing both events including Sweet Leda, Lovebettie and Kalob Griffin Band.  Both are easy day-trips, both are in practically-new venues and both feature a fabulous array of local, regional and national acts.  For you Deadheads out there, the 8th Annual Bear’s Picnic starts today and runs Aug 1-5 at the Lycoming Co Fairgrounds.  Just in case it slipped your short-term memory…

Hot August Blues Festival is August 17th and might be the best one-off festival.  Grace Potter and The Nocturnals headline and wow, what a great lineup!  Kids 12 and under get FREE admission and this festival runs as smoothly as a Swiss watch.

My boys at DNL Entertainment have a great excuse for you to spend an extra day in OCMD on August 18th: Blockstock 5 at The Party Block!  You will want to take Monday the 19th off for sure.  At least a dozen bands will be ripping it up from 7pm to who knows?  If that’s your beach week, lucky you!  If you have a vacation day to spare, you can thank me when you get back!

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!

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.

Zinging and Swinging

January Zinging, Hollywood Swinging

Checking in January 22 to say whew, this month is flying! I did a brief wrap-up of 2012 in my last blog and also just published a piece in FigLancaster.com about trying to pick from all the great shows so far this year.  You can see it here and then rejoin me in the here and now.

City Dwelling Nature Seekers 1/12/13 at DipCo

It’s a freezing, squeeze the tears out of you cold day today.  I started with a dentist visit then made some rounds promoting Pirate Rob’s Birthday Bash.  We both went to World Café at the Queen in Wilmington Friday to see Lovebettie, Sweet Leda, Sylvan Wolfe and Noelle Picara.  The show was called Ladybug Festival, staged by Gable Music Ventures.   The show rocked, we hung with the bands, and Rob gave me a box full of cd’s, download cards and posters to promote the Bash.  I hit Millersville’s WIXQ, CI Records, Mr. Suit Records, PA College of Art and Design and Puff n Stuff with a pile of each.  If those aren’t your haunts, you can download the 19 song collection for free on the homepage of Gigspots.com.  I must say it’s a great compilation of rock, rap, hip-hop, soul and bands that blend it all.

Freezing and starving by two o’clock, I rolled into 551 West to check the place out.  It’s love!  They feature 20 craft beers on tap and the menu is extensive without being overwhelming.  Courtney told me they sell a lot of burgers and recommended the soups.  A+ for this young lady.  The crab bisque was unique and perfect: a remarkable bisque with a solid three-ounce dollop of fresh crab resting on top.  I let Courtney sway me to the house specialty burger too: excellent patty, toasted bun, ample bacon and cheddar, sliced fresh jalapeños and…peanut butter.  Yep.  Call me crazy but I tell you you’re crazy if you don’t take a swing at it.  551 West is where Kegel’s Seafood used to be, that funky corner of W. King Street.  There’s plenty of parking out back.  They’ve been open 16 weeks and have live music on the weekends.

I’m headed to Harrisburg tonight for Robert Earl Keen.  This is the kind of show that compels me to buy a season pass to Greenbelt Events.  He just doesn’t play that many shows, anywhere, so it’s super flattering to have him visit our capital.  I am committed to making sure that Greenbelt gets my support as they regroup.  Last year, the pass was the best $100 investment I made.  This year’s will have paid for itself by March!  You should check their schedule and consider a pass of your own!

It’s Wednesday, the wee hours of 1/23.  I’m back from the REK show and he and his band were magnificent.  Here’s a quote straight from their Facebook profile:  “These songs are real,” he says. “They’re hand-made. When people come to see us live, they’re seeing the people who created them play them and that’s not all that common these days. It’s the kind of magic that doesn’t happen all the time.”

I must agree; what they do is magical onstage.  But there is no illusion.  Everything is as genuine as dirt.  Robert Earl Keen and his band played their asses off and I thank them for it.  If you get a chance to see them, take it.

In a month filled with great shows, City Dwelling Nature Seekers at DipCo resonates with me on several levels.  I’ve been a fan for over two years and spent the best part of a year asking Fryth to book them.  It’s risky booking a Pittsburgh band in Lancaster; who will know them?  Well, the house was full, the band sounded great and everyone was satisfied.  I finally got a copy of their 2012 album The Winter Year and again, the band has managed to surpass their last effort somehow.  It’s very pleasing to me to see bands I admire continuing to grow.  My hats are off to you fellas, and I hope you come east again very soon!  You can see videos from the show at http://www.youtube.com/user/Gigspots1