Dum-Dums and Smarties: What You Need

Dum-Dums and Smarties: What You Need

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August Chronicles 2: Kalob Griffin Band at MilkBoy Philly

August Chronicles: Week Two

MilkBoy Philly One Year Anniversary

Kalob Griffin Band, Pete Donnelly, Up the Chain

MilkBoy Philly on Chestnut Street is a model club if you ask me: cool bistro/bar downstairs and great music room upstairs.  I was glad to be there to celebrate their one-year anniversary and wish them continued success. Even better was seeing Kalob Griffin Band headline there again.  The supporting acts sounded good too but KGB just packed this place and made it a party.

KGB calls themselves a Philly band but I don’t get it.  Drummer Eric Lawry is from Pittsburgh and Kalob himself hails from Clarion.  They all met and formed the band in State College.  I think of them as a full-PA band and one of the best!  It won’t be long until they are a national act so catch them in a small venue while you can.  On this night, fans had driven in from all over the state including those notorious Norristown boys.  When you meet them at a show, you’ll know who they are!

The band rocks with a sound all its own, mainly due to Kalob’s unique voice and the masterful keyboard work of John Hildenbrand.   Robert Dwyer runs constant, stylish riffs on guitar and mandolin.  Jonathan Davenport holds it all together on upright and electric bass.  Eric is an animated drummer and harmonizer.  Somehow, it’s all familiar like cousins you only see every few years but still find a way to crush on or fight with.

The songs are funny, genuine, heartfelt narratives; they are drinking songs, heartbreak songs, revealing natural and unnatural disasters.  “Honeymooners” is charming and swooning.  “Take Me River” calls up adventure and mystery.  “Whiskey My Love” makes the drinks and dancers fly.  “American Dream” paints landscapes at once endearing and disheartening yet somehow keeps you optimistic.  You meet a lot of characters in these very literate songs.  Some are underdogs you root for.  Some are under-handed and you can’t look away.  One thing I’ve noticed.  Even when KGB debuts a song, the audience seems to know it.  The connection between band and fans is unshakeable from the minute the first chord is struck.

This link will take you to “Take Me River” from the MilkBoy Philly show 8/16/12.  It will take you away.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uX-iodNGcTk&feature=plcp

August Chronicles: Toy Soldiers

August Week One: Toy Soldiers and Juston Stens

At Chameleon Club 8/11/12

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

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

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

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

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

Sammy Gets His Groove Back!

Sammy Gets His Groove Back

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

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

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

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

Watching the Clothes Go Round

Watching the Clothes Go Round

So it’s Monday morning.  I’m doing laundry, uploading videos, blogging and remembering all the great moments I experienced this weekend.  As usual, there were some great events I had to miss, but I’m a “focus on the positive” kind of guy.  Also following a theme, my weekend started on Thursday!

Sara Watkins and Dawes at The Strand-Capitol Theater in York were exhilarating! Sara and her brother Shawn opened the show: she on fiddle and the occasional drum, he on guitar.  Their crystal-clear voices blend as only those of siblings can.  She joked about the awkwardness of singing love songs with her brother but shared being thrilled about touring behind her own music.  She was a strong current in Nickel Creek for years and recently spent seven months on tour with The Decemberists.  The theater was packed and a strong contingent of Sara Watkins fans made their presence felt.  It was beautiful to experience.

The GM crowed about selling out this Dawes show in four days and about how they sold out the last time they played there.  Hello?  You have a huge, beautiful room right next door.  Move Dawes to the big room!  Sell 500 more tickets and let the band and its fans really celebrate their next visit to York!

I have been chasing Dawes since their North Hills album and just kept missing them.  I know they are playing Long’s Park in Lancaster on July 22 but I wanted that intimate theater experience.  I got it!  They played a few from North Hills, many from the brilliant Nothing’s Wrong and even some new material from their upcoming project.  Songwriting and musicianship are back, jack!  Their music feels as genuine and accessible as sunlight.  They made the Strand-Capitol and its packed house glow in it!

I knew Friday night’s show would have to be a giant to overshadow Dawes.  Cabinet and The Kalob Griffin Band were a virtual eclipse!  Holy shit can these bands play!  Calling Cabinet a bluegrass band is like calling The Who a rock band; the label is too shallow for the depth of their work.  One minute they are relentlessly picking some bluegrass to pieces and in the next, they are soaring through some ethereal, sonic landscape like Weather Report, Return to Forever or Jean-Luc Ponty.  I think I have a clue about their name. They bring the medicine cabinet, the kitchen cabinet, the liquor cabinet, the gun cabinet and the whole pantry to the table when they come to play.  Who ever heard of a bluegrass/jazz/fusion/experimental rock band with gospel harmonies?  These fellas are a masterful invention and hot as lightning!  Bela Fleck and the Flecktones may have met their match!

I could gush about KGB all day.  The chants of their rabid fans are still ringing my ears.  With all the sadness in State College these days, these boys are bringing the happy back to Happy Valley.  For a lively review and stellar photo gallery, follow this link to TriState Indie and the posting by Autumn Walden.  I have TSI and Fryth at DipCo to thank for turning me on to this band and Autumn is now my official dance partner at KGB shows.  Their presence Friday let me go civilian, put down the camera and kick up my heels!  Kalob Griffin Band shows are a huge party and who wants to work through that?!

So 570 words and four loads of laundry later, I’ve still only told you about Thursday and Friday of my weekend: the indoor shows.  For today, I’ve been indoors enough.  It’s time to pull on a freshly-laundered Gigspots shirt and get back out there!  Tune in next post to see my review of Saturday’s and Sunday’s events, videos and all.

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!

Out Like a Lion, Gigspots-Style

Out Like a Lion, Gigspots-Style

Curious how my last weekend of March turned out?  Hexbelt grooved the Lancaster Dispensing Company Friday night.  They command that room like few other local acts.  It might be torrid musicianship.  It might be a devoted following.  Surely one led to the other. People dance joyously at their shows. Plus, Danny can climb to the ceiling.

I did make it to Wrightsville to witness the official grand opening of Burning Bridge Tavern.  It bills itself as a friendly sports bar.  It appears to be much more than that.  The place was packed with people eating burgers and wings and large TV’s hung in every sightline.  A duo played covers and Vinegar Creek Constituency was performing later.  It’s big, clean and comfortable: part rustic, part urban.  The joint was hopping and 200 people looked happy.  With the Burning Bridge joining John Wright’s down the street, it appears the scene in Wrightsville is building a bridge to get bands and fans from Lancaster crossing “the moat” more regularly.

I made it from Wrightsville to north Philly in 95 minutes.  Kate and I had dinner at Max Brenner’s on 15th and Walnut.  Part chocolate shop, part coffee bar, part bistro: it simmered and swirled us.  An avocado BLT and fish tacos, both yummy and relatively healthy, were obliterated by a most decadent dessert.  The Euphoria sundae featured chocolate and peanut butter ice creams, peanut butter, fudge, nuts, crunchy praline kind of things and was accompanied by ramekins of warm chocolate and peanut butter fondues. Every bite was different and transporting, like watching clouds loft by and then being them.

MilkBoy Philly knocked me out.  The ground floor looks like a cool dairy bar but is every bit of a real bar. Unique cocktails, 30+ draught and canned beer selection and cheap featured shots beckoned.  The menu almost made me wish I had skipped dessert but Euphoria was still upon me.  My next visit will pivot around Mac ‘n Cheese Chili Rellenos and a Hand-Carved Brisket Au Jus sandwich with fries, I guarantee.

Upstairs is the music venue: a 6,000 watts of Clair Brothers sound-system kind of venue.  It holds 200 and was maxed Saturday night.  Local killing bands The Peace Creeps and TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb played the 9:30 and 11pm slots.  I drove in to see the headliner, Kalob Griffin Band, but these two bands alone would have been worth the $10 cover.  The frontman and guitarist for Peace Creeps also played a theremin like a wiry, wily wizard: trippy rock and blues.  TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb lived up to their name: big, powerful and laying waste to the place.  Their sound is a bit old-timey and a bit sinister: like George Thorogood’s hillbilly uncle.

Kalob Griffin showed up shaved; I didn’t recognize him until he smiled!  He’s actually a pretty handsome dude.  It made me wonder if he would play “Beards.” His Band was primed and 200 people were chanting, “KGB! KGB!” when they took the stage at midnight.  Even the employees were excited; they all remarked on the size and enthusiasm of the crowd.

KGB opened with a new song, “American Dream,” and people were going nuts.  The band actually debuted a bunch of new songs but also nailed favorites like “Flood of 1889” and “Whiskey My Love.”  They DID play “Beards” but not before Kalob told a funny story about not being able to play it anymore.

Also, the band was giving away a 2-song demo from the cd to be released June 1st at World Café Live in Philly.  Get your tickets now.  If KGB can draw 200 people at a club they’ve never played before, you know a cd release at WCL will sell out.

I Love My Job!

Friend and social media guru Ken Mueller hit the Twittersphere with, “Do you have any interesting plans for the weekend?” this morning.  Man, all I have is interesting plans!  My job is going to concerts, interviewing musicians and artists, checking out great music venues and sampling food and beverages in the area.

The hardest part of my job (besides getting paid) is choosing the “who/where/when” of my itinerary.  There are so many bands and solo acts of every description.  Lancaster, York, Harrisburg, and Reading fall within 30 minute drives and Philly, Baltimore and Allentown are within 90 minutes.

Lancaster of course is home to Chameleon Club, Village Nightclub, Lancaster Dispensing Company, Pressroom, Annie Bailey’s, and Marion Court Room all within three blocks.  They are not the only places to see a band: more on that later.

York is stacked with small clubs but it’s typically Bistro 19 or The Strand-Capitol Theater that draw me downtown.  The Depot is near York College of PA.  Just south of there is a newer place I’m crazy about: The Cove.  My Rural Radio.com sponsors a showcase artist every Thursday but there is live music five nights a week.  The place is clean and cozy and man, wait until you taste the brisket!

A newcomer to the scene may trap me between York and Lancaster: The Burning Bridge Tavern in Wrightsville.  I got a preview of the place two weeks ago when they brought in Shane Speal, “King of Cigar Box Guitar,” to give the new sound system a workout.  He rules and it rocks!

I bought a season pass to Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Co in Harrisburg (great investment!) so I can always go there for a show.  They offer 4-5 shows per week and I have never been disappointed.  They draw some major acts and nurture some fine local talent. Cabinet recorded a cd there last winter!

That’s my 30 minute list; add Philly, Baltimore or Allentown to the list and the choices grow exponentially.  And I haven’t even factored in WHO to see.

Here’s how it broke down for this weekend.  I will start with Happy hour/dinner at ABG (American Bar and Grill, Lancaster) Friday.  Then, slip downtown to DipCo for Hexbelt.  I don’t plan to stay too late.  Trout season opens Saturday, so fishing must be fit in somehow.

By 3pm Saturday, I want to be at Burning Bridge Tavern for the grand opening.  South County Brewing will be featured and Vinegar Creek Constituency will be playing.  I can’t stay too long because I head for Philly from there.

Have you seen The Kalob Griffin Band yet?  Have you visited MilkBoy Philly yet?  I’m crazy for this band and very excited to see one of the hottest new venues around.  Plus, I get to check in on daughter Kate, buy her dinner and haul home her winter clothes.

Sunday will be more fishing, uploading photos/videos, writing show reviews and planning my blogs for the week.  If it’s nice, maybe we’ll have a cookout with the neighbors.  Tune in next week!!