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.

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.

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

Pilgrims: It’s Festival Season!

Pilgrims: It’s Festival Time!

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?  Pilgrims!  I logged a lot of miles in May but nothing compared to what summer promises!  It’s festival season!  What could be better than joining hundreds or even thousands of like-minded music-lovers to celebrate peace, harmony and live music?

I’m finishing May tonight with tickets to Dawes at York’s Strand-Capitol theater.  The fact that it’s sold-out should tell you that this band is great and on the rise.  I can tell you that they take me back to the days when Jackson Browne and The Eagles created the southern CA sound and they move me forward with poignant songs.  Their latest album Nothing is Wrong grabbed my gut just the way I feel when I see a friend who’s obviously suffering, ask what’s wrong and they say, “Nothing.”  The story-song “A Little Bit of Everything” is quite a mix of landscapes and is one of the most perfect songs I have ever heard.  Sorry if you didn’t get tickets.

The good news for you is that Dawes will be playing the Long’s Park Summer Concert Series in July.  That’s a FREE show on a lovely, sloped lawn at a great-sounding amphitheater.  If long-distance travels or camping aren’t your style, you can still get the festival feel and a great show there all summer long.  The music starts this Sunday night, June 3 with Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds!  I’m proud to crow about that one!

Friday June 1st is a great kickoff to the month!  I plan to volunteer at WXPN in Philly during their Spring mini-fund drive all day and then stick around for Cabinet and The Kalob Griffin Band at World Café Live.  I love XPN and am so grateful to receive a strong signal from them in central PA!  They will be staging their own festival at the end of July and I’m planning on a three-day pass for that one!  With a three-day pass, you get lawn-seat admission to Dr. Dog, The Avett Brothers and Wilco!  That show alone is worth the pass price but the list of performers for XPoNential Music Fest is flat amazing.  I have yet to see its equal within $100 or 400 miles!

I’m so psyched for the Cabinet and Kalob Griffin Band show that I’m giving the press release its own blog spot!

Saturday June 2nd is also a festival worthy of its own blog spot: MyRuralRadio.com’s Genesis Fest!  York County will finally have an all-day music fest to call its own and wow, you should see the lineup for this all-day event!  I have visited the site and the camping area is on a beautiful, manicured island in the Conewago Creek.  I can’t say enough about the folks at MyRuralRadio and their dedication to promoting indie artists.  Check out the over 400 bands featured on their site and try and tell me I’m wrong.

I am also running an ad for Hot August Blues Fest on my website right now.  They were the winners of TriState Indie’s Best Festival in 2011 and this year will be even better.

Finally, I have to give a shout-out to my friends Lovebettie!  They not only are playing the main stage at SummerFest, the nation’s oldest and largest rock festival, but their song “Red Roses” will be the first song featured on the festival’s compilation disc.  That means between 750,000 to 3.5million people will see them live and/or hear their signature song!  Now that’s an Independence Day!

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!