Gigspotting Off the Grid

I just spent a week in Denver, CO.  The elevation greeted me pleasantly and low humidity kept me cool.  The trip centered on friends so I caught no shows.  Amos Lee and David Gray played Red Rocks while I was there and Blues Traveler was headlining on the Fourth of July.  My wife and I (still the best date) passed many hours downtown in fabulous craft breweries and cantinas but never saw any live music. There were a few buskers and a Zac Brown concert at Coors Field.  LoDo, or lower downtown, kept its rhythm with piped-in hits of the moment or those you’ve known for decades.  People sing along and sway.  The city was beautiful and clean, fresh yet historic.  I don’t know how those people stay so fit with all the great food and beer at their fingertips.  I will say downtown Denver is quite foot and bike friendly as are the people.

Bullfrog3On July 9-11 I’ll be hosting a Gigspots Premiere Showcase at Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport.  I love this place with all my heart and I’m thrilled to have three nights in a row to share some music they have not heard.  Stolen Rhodes is touring nationally and Thursday 7/9 fit perfectly for their first visit to Billtown.  Lavacave makes their first appearance Friday 7/10 at Bullfrog although Robin Chambers has appeared there before with Bjorn Jacobsen and Nick DiSanto’s brother Leo has played there plenty: as a duo with Jeff Bryson and also as part of The Vinegar Creek Constituency.  On Saturday night, those wild boys Medusa’s Disco will play a rarely-seen acoustic show.  What a first impression!  My name for it is “acousticophonic:” an unplugged cacophony.

P6250084Bullfrog Brewery is the only place you’ll catch me the rest of this week.  Besides staging these shows, I’ll be hosting Loyalstock and living in a tent.  The only electronic signals I’ll be receiving will come from stars and fireflies.  I’ll be back in time to fly my Gigspots banner at Ladybug Music Festival in Wilmington, DE on Thursday July 16.  Friday July 17 is Sweet Leda at Reading Band Shell.  Sunday July 18 I’ll be at Long’s Park for Lake Street Dive.  All three of these events are FREE!  Till then, it’s me, the bugs, the creek, the music and a pile of some of the greatest people I know.  Pie for breakfast.  Late night campfires.  Tubing in between and Bullfrog Billtown Blonde on tap.  Seizure later!

 

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.

Life, Death and Hyperbole

Life, Death and Hyperbole

I have faced plenty of deaths and tragedies in my life.  When death came to school, I always used to tell my students, “Death is a big part of life.  Save it for last.  Do everything else first.”  I taught the tragedies of Shakespeare and they always boiled down to a great person’s life ending because of a fatal flaw in character.  Pride, greed, avarice, jealousy: these emotions rob you of life and blind your vision of what makes life worth living.  I have lost four great people in my life in the last forty days.  They weren’t Macbeth or Othello or Lear but they were great to me: fine, humble, honest, loving people.  I will miss them and honor them by following their examples and owning my life.  “To be or not to be” is not the only question.  Better to start with the 5w’s: who, what, where, when and why.  Be in the present.

Triphazard living in the moment!

Triphazard living in the moment!

I’m feeling fully alive and activated right now, if a bit over-stimulated!  I built more great connections and memories in September and loved my opportunity to tour manage for Triphazard.  I’m booking tours on the Gigspots circuit and my showcases at DipCo.  I’m writing bios and album reviews for regional bands.  I’m sponsoring a rock festival in Wilmington and a simulcast charity concert from Charlotte.  I’m hired again to be Director of Operations for Lancaster Roots and Blues and it’s a thrill a minute.  I want to stand on Tellus’ roof and scream about all the great music and good times coming to Lancaster and the mid-Atlantic region.

But should you believe the hype? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Just because I say something’s great doesn’t make it so for everyone.  So let me try to quantify and qualify “great” with regard to music, performance and life.  When I say, “It’s a beauty,” what do I mean?

To me, the beauty value of a song or performance is in direct relation to how alive it makes me feel.  Physical manifestations may include toe-tapping and range through swaying to dancing.  I may hum.  I may sing along.  Regarding thought: does this performance make me curious and/or capture my attention?  Is it unique, familiar or a marriage of the two?  Can I identify with the story or idea being presented?  Life is measured in motion.  Can you put my body and my mind in motion?

Move my mind and body and you release my soul.  That’s where imagination and emotion live.  Your performance sparks my memories and/or desires.  My pains, my dreams, my secrets and my joys are animated by your melody or lyrics.  You become the soundtrack for the banquet in my head where your angels and demons meet mine.  Or you’re a nice distraction in the grocery store.  La-di-da, I need cereal.

Motion, thought, imagination: those are my criteria.  To what degree does a performance make me move, think and feel?  Genuine music moves you; it’s as biological as a heartbeat.  People are naturally curious too but humans mostly want to hear about themselves and familiar experiences.  Food, comfort, company: that’s what we like.  And not having those things makes us cry out from birth.  A great song reawakens those moments in life, beautiful or brutal, when you were totally in the present. Whether it was that perfect first kiss, watching that person walk away or just your imagination, great music takes you there.  And live music is better.  And America’s music takes me there: folk, jazz and the blues.  If you start there, I’ll likely follow a while.Queen2

So stand back while I crank up the hype machine!  The pride I take in facilitating these performances is based in humility, honesty and love for life.  Come celebrate humanity before the dust is all settled!

The Getting Down to Dewey Tour for Triphazard

Last September I went on tour with my pals Lovebettie and a band they had connected with from Liverpool, England named Triphazard.  The ultimate destination was Dewey Beach Music Conference.  One of the organizers had produced Triphazard’s latest ep and had arranged for the two bands touring together.  I was just lucky enough to get invited along for the ride!  You KNOW I Lovebettie!  Triphazard is a fantastic punk/pop trio with looks, sounds and energy galore.  They can move you!Vidzta Live

When Triphazard got invited to play DBMC 2014, they asked me to be tour manager for the week preceding it.  “Hell yes!” I said.  So today I announce the Getting Down to Dewey Tour!  Our kickoff show will be Friday 9/12 at Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company, 50 N. Cameron Street in Harrisburg.  Joining Triphazard that night will be The Great SOCIO and Medusa’s Discomedusasdisco If you like your rock crunchy with some thought involved and great food and beer on the side, this show is for you!  Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 day of the show.

Triphazard, The Great SOCIO and Medusa’s Disco also play World Café Live at The Queen in Wilmington, DE Saturday 9/13.  We are adding a very special guest to the bill but cannot announce it until after 8/22.  I can say that the Queen is only 30 minutes by train or car from Philly and 50 miles from Lancaster. Queen4 If you haven’t seen a show in their grand room downstairs, you are missing one of the greatest venues ever.  There is plenty of street parking plus a garage right outside.  If I get enough feedback on this show, I will arrange for a charter bus to run from Lancaster down and back.  Hit me at sam@gigspots.com or on Twitter @GigspotsSam.

After a day of sightseeing in Philly, I am taking Triphazard north to play gigs in Williamsport and State College with Lovebettie.  Both bands are known and loved at The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport where they played together last year.  In short: it’s a helluva party and you’re invited Monday 9/15!  Our State College show Wednesday 9/17 is at the venerable Café 210 West (210 W. College Ave).  I love the layers of this place!  On the sidewalk you have the nicest patio in town.  The food and drink specials are very inexpensive and spot on.  Pass through the huge bar and dining room and you find a serious music venue at the back!Lovebettie L1  I can’t wait to unleash Lovebettie and Triphazard on those Nittany Lions and we’ll see who’s ready to roar!

Then it’s down to Dewey Beach Music Conference!  This annual event offers the perfect last blast of summer.  Nearly 100 bands perform in multiple venues, all within a few blocks and all FREE.  The ocean is still warm yet the beaches are mostly empty.  If you are a touring band (or hope to be soon), this is a great showcase for your talent.  Industry seminars run all day Friday and Saturday and you can pick up a wealth of knowledge and advice from people with the inside edge.  Come join me, Triphazard, Lovebettie, The Great SOCIO and scores of other bands to rock all night and chill all day!Van Promo Edit3

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.

Turn It Off

Turn it off.  It seems like a simple enough directive.  Have I been able to turn it off while on vacation?  Barely.  My Facebook, Twitter, band and venue clients call to me like sirens.  I might be spending my days crashing waves and eating slices but my mind can’t escape the music.

De Lazy Lizard bayside bar: 2nd Street OCMD

De Lazy Lizard bayside bar: 2nd Street OCMD

I love my family and friends and am grateful for this week to spend with them in leisure.  But I can’t stop Gigspotting.

I left town with some hot loose ends that are haunting me.  I coordinated a performance by Silencio at Zoetropolis Art House on 7/13 and didn’t get to see the show; we left town that morning.  My friend Bjorn Jacobsen of The Wayfarer Experiment hosted the open mic at Shank’s Tavern in Marietta on Tuesday.  I hated to miss that!  Matt Wheeler played WCL at the Queen Wednesday night after my urging him to connect with Gable Music Ventures’ Singer-Songwriter series.  Missed it.  Today, Thursday 7/18/13, is The Ladybug Music Festival in the streets of Wilmington, DE.  My banner will be flying over the Xtreme Pizza stage.  Awesome women musicians will be in the spotlight from 5-11pm and the streets will be filled with vendors and music lovers.  I will only be there in spirit.

So what am I spotting in OCMD?  Boy, am I seeing a lot of great cover bands!  Our vacation home for the week is triangulated between two great bars: Caribbean Pool Bar on the boardwalk and De Lazy Lizard on the bay.  Both have live music every night and great drink specials.  At the Lizard, I saw Brandon Hardesty of Bumpin Uglies playing solo acoustic.  Have you picked up a copy of their latest, Ninjah: Reggae Assassins?  It’s phenomenal fun!  It was great to be there just relaxing with friends and not working behind my camera.  Tonight we might slip up to 45th Street Taphouse to catch a set by Bond and Bentley.  But first, it will be a seafood feast and some go-cart racing.S1140026

So I’m turning it off for now.  I’ll be back in central PA to stir the pot Saturday night and Sunday brings Dawes back to Long’s Park Summer Concert Series.  I hope to visit my new outrageous pals at The Rattler in Pittston mid-week.  Then it’s Toy Soldiers at Chameleon Thursday and three glorious days of the XPoNential Music Festival in Camden.  Count on me catching some central PA bands on those wonderful stages, namely The Districts and The Stray Birds.  Saturday night I get to see The Lumineers with my daughter.  The festival culminates Sunday night with Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket and other great acts on the AmericanaRama Tour.  It can’t be much bigger or better than that!

Time to Jam at the Dam!

On and off the grid.  That’s been my June and July so far!  I have plenty of stories to tell from Make Music Philly, World Café Live at the Queen, Loyalstock and more.  I hope to find time to write them.  But today, right now, is about Jam at the Dam, suckas!  If you don’t have tickets yet, you better jump.  This event is tomorrow 7/13 and is the last time for this gorgeous 50-acre campground party.  There will be a new location next year.  This year, I want to welcome you at The Gigspots Lawn Stage!

Jam at the Dam is a DNL Entertainment event.  That means Pirate Rob is at the helm!  I’ve written numerous times about Rob and his fantastic bands and events: Birthday Bash at Rams Head, Blockstock in OCMD and last year’s Jam.  This dude knows how to throw a party that’s part concert, part family reunion, and all fun!  I had so much fun last year I had to sponsor a whole stage this year.  And wait til you see this lineup on my and the other stages!Jam lineup

Do you jam?  This year, you can actually take part by heading for the Xtra Alltra Jam Stage.  Do you camp?  Come early for the best spots but hey, there’s fifty acres!  Come prepared to rough it, but count on some amazing food vendors as well!Jam map

So enough writing!  I’ve been advertising this for two months because I know you’ll dig it.  Join us! Many thanks to my stage co-sponsors: Tellus360, The Lancaster Roots and Blues Festival, and Wood Stove House Productions.  Stop by the stage to say hello, grab a beer and enjoy some great tunes!  Jason Mundock from Wood Stove House will be doing podcasts on-site for those who want to make a lasting record of the day and reach some other markets.  PEACE!

Spring Review and Woo!

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

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

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

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

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

The Wayfarer Experiment

The Wayfarer Experiment

Dirk Quinn Band at Abbey Bar

Dirk Quinn Band at Abbey Bar

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

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

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

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

Audible Nostalgia by Scott Davis

This is intern Scott’s final blog for the semester.  His enthusiasm for RX Bandits has made me a fan of the band and his writing has made me a fan of Scott.   Sam C.

Audible Nostalgia

                Earlier this week, I received an announcement of significant value to me. RX Bandits, who had announced they’d be on hiatus in 2011, decided to make a quick comeback for a reunion tour. This summer marks the tenth anniversary of their third LP The Resignation, the album that marked their change in style and genre, from ska-punk to progressive rock – a change that came for the better. The band announced on Monday that they’d be going on a nation-wide tour, playing The Resignation front to back.

RX Bandits were the first band I loved with a real, mature passion. Sure, there had been bands before them that I liked – the infectious pop-rock of Weezer, the boy band stage (*ducks*), Jimmy Buffett (?) – but the music didn’t connect to me on an emotional level, a real level the way RX Bandits did. And there was just so much to like about them.

As mentioned, they began their career in Southern California, hopping on the ska-punk bandwagon pioneered by groups like No Doubt, Mighty Might Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, etc., and frankly, those other bands did it better than RXB. However, over time, the Bandits began playing more serious music: lyrics about politics, love, and the state of humanity; their riffs and time signatures became more complex, their songs expanding to five, six, seven minute lengths. Gone were the sunny horns and typically silly ska gags, welcomed were these progressive rock additions, still with hints of their ska, reggae, punk roots. Their later sounds – which enveloped three total albums before they announced their (now brief) hiatus – were often described as “indescribable” by many critics and fans alike.

Their musical evolution grew on me, and soon I was hooked on this new breed of rock monster. Perhaps what put really did it, though, was how they made their music. The four core members of the band are exceptionally talented musicians. Front-man Matt Embree sings with a snarl in his voice, all while playing painstakingly complex riffs and chord progressions; guitarist Steve Choi helms equally difficult duties on his axe, and occasionally switches to the keys mid-song; drummer Chris Tsagakis plays a unique bombastic, frolicking style of drums unlike many others; bassist Joe Troy backs it all up with subtly great bass lines. And even better, they recorded their music live. Not in concert, mind you, but live in studio – no over-dubs, very little mastering or touching up. As Embree put it himself, “We try not to do any over-dubs at all. There are mistakes on [the album], and we just kept them, because that’s human, you know?”

Check this video from 2009 for their album Mandala when everything changed!

With all of this in mind, RX Bandits soared to the top of my favorite bands list, and still hold their position. So, as one could imagine, it was exciting for me to hear they would be touring one more time. I bought tickets to see them at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia the day of the announcement. For the next two months of waiting for the July concert, I’ll be re-listening to all of the band’s old songs, reliving their greatness and the memories of growing up that I associate with their tunes.

And that’s more-or-less the two broader conclusions I’ve come to during my time at Gigspots: the overall power of music and the infinite depth. Interning for a music website has shown just how deep the music community runs. In proportion to the whole world, the music community Gigspots associates itself with is rather thin, so it’s incredible to think about billions of people connected by music. Music has the power to unite strangers and form communities, to make memories, to make people feel emotions. RX Bandits’ reunion only further ignited and reminded me of these feelings that had already been re-sprouting during my internship with Gigspots.

For every auto-tuned, mass-produced hit churned out to the public and devoured unconditionally, there lies, somewhere in the shadows, undoubtedly enjoyed by many, a great band. There’s an endless supply of great music out there; it simply needs to be found. Gigspots has taught me that. And even for a second, let’s give credit to the aforementioned fans of the mass-produced radio hits – they still achieve that same effect. Those songs become loved by fans, and it becomes an experience to listen to those songs, to be part of that community.

The fact that strangers, who may have never met before, can interact and consider themselves part of a group or larger community because they enjoy sounds made by a group of musicians they’ve likely never met, either… that’s astonishing. That the announcement of a reunion tour could make me feel so excited and nostalgic…. Because truly loving a band and their music is more than simply enjoying some sounds – it’s belonging to a community, it’s experiencing an effect rarely achieved by other things. It’s an experience.

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.