Stagelights Dim at DipCo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

LAUNCH Rocks its Fifth Weekend

I’m sure there were plenty of doubters and haters when Jeremy Weiss and Rick Gadd decided to initiate LAUNCH Music Conference and Festival five years ago.  Today kicks off the fifth annual.  So much for doubters and haters.  I plunked down $60 for a VIP pass so I can access all areas, every show and every conference.  Can I do it all? No.  Am I gonna try?  Yes.  It’s one hell of a bargain for that much creativity.

I love how alive downtown feels during LAUNCH.  I love the streets being filled with interesting, exhilarating, curious people.  I love showing off the town to visitors, especially first-timers.  They think Lancaster is barns and dirt roads.  I take them for crepes and craft beer and it settles them right out.

LAUNCH is easier to navigate than ever.  You can download a free app to make a schedule and connect with friends.  There are print guides in dozens of merchants around town.  Plus, besides the LAUNCH and Gigspots websites, you can access info via MOOSE and FigLancaster.com.  If you can find the town square (follow the music) and the two tallest buildings in town, you will have found the epicenter of LAUNCH at Lancaster County Convention Center.

If you would like personal navigation advice, a place to have a snack and recharge your devices and self, wander up to the 300 block of N. Queen St and visit The Candy Factory.  Those fine folks, Jason Mundock of Wood Stove House and I will be co-hosting a Launch Lounge for musicians and the like.  We’d love to welcome you to town, pour you a cup of coffee and invite you to help us create a sound and visual collage of this year’s LAUNCH weekend.  Follow The Candy Factory or GigspotsSam on Twitter for special updates.  Seizure later!

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!

Wanted: Interns, Administrators and/or Clones

The last few weekends have really brought into focus the fact that I need help!  Have you ever tried to pitch a six-man tent by yourself?  How about shoot videos and still pics at the same time?  How about be in five places at once?  I had a ball but ran myself ragged at @Jam at the Dam 7/7.  This weekend I am invited to shows in Lancaster, York, Marietta, Bethlehem, Wilkes-Barre, Williamsport, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Rehoboth Beach.  I can barely keep up with the Facebook and Twitter traffic, let alone be at all these shows at once.

That’s where you come in.  You live in these places, love live music and use these social medias.  Would you like to lend a hand?

I am seeking some dedicated Facebookers and Tweeters to help administrate my accounts.  All you need to do is Like, Share/Retweet and Comment on the music, event and travel news you are already following.  I would love to make you an Admin on my Gigspots page!

I have an Internship position posted at York College of PA and am working to get one posted at Millersville, F&M, Wilkes, Pitt and Temple.  Does your major require an internship?  If you are majoring in Business, Communications, Music Industry, Travel/Tourism or some other related field, Gigspots.com might have the position you’ve been looking for.  Here’s the description.

Gigspots.com Intern Position Description

Thanks you for your interest in Gigspots.com!  Gigspots.com is a sole-proprietor, web-based, start-up company built to provide its internet audience with the resources to find, preview and access bands, live music venues and travel discounts in PA, MD, DE and NJ.  The website was launched in April, 2011.  It is linked to a Facebook page and Twitter account and has its own blog and YouTube channel.  Gigspots.com also has begun to stage and promote its own concerts beginning with a concert at The Boondocks Club, York Haven, PA, in February of 2012.

The company’s mission is to provide the resources described above and to grow as a presence both on the internet and in the mid-Atlantic region.  Tourism drives a large part of the region’s economy and we seek to fill the niche for people who enjoy making live music part of their travel experiences.  Our region is brimming with talented musicians and live music venues that complement the many attractions that already draw millions of visitors.

As an intern for Gigspots.com, your duties may include:

  • Researching the entertainment and tourism industries
  • Developing marketing strategies and tools
  • Identifying target audiences and niche markets
  • Contributing to social networking projects
  • Data entry of venue schedules and events
  • Communicating with bands, venues and brand representatives
  • Coordinating interaction between clients and trade publications
  • Writing reviews of shows, bands, venues, music releases and travel destinations
  • Filming/documenting performances, interviews and special events
  • Representing Gigspots.com at events, performances and marketing meetings

You will report directly to and work with owner Sam Campbell.  Your performance evaluation will be based on several criteria including:

  • Ability to complete duties as described in a timely, responsible manner
  • Professionalism and conviviality in communications with clients/social networking
  • Creativity and enthusiasm in development/implementation of marketing tools
  • Accountability for company equipment and merchandise

Interested applicants should send a letter of interest and resume to Sam@gigspots.com.  They should have a Facebook account, reliable transportation, a personable demeanor and a genuine interest in live music, tourism, travel and/or social marketing and business development.

As for clones: does the world really need more of me running around?  I would do almost anything to help my friends in the music/arts/entertainment/tourism businesses but not at the risk of ruining these communities I serve.  So forget the clones.  But consider joining my cause.  What if the music stopped?

Summer of Love

For many people, the winter holidays provide them the best opportunities to visit family and friends.  I do best in the summer.  Many of my friends are former teacher colleagues and former students.  Many are friends of my youth and we now combine our families for summer vacations.  Golf and fishing buddies come out of hibernation.  Schedules loosen and neighborhood cookouts and cocktail parties happen much more spontaneously.  My block is recognized as the garage-hangout capital of the neighborhood.

The heat simmers up the love!  Yes, it’s been two weeks since I blogged.  Again.  Wish I could just push a few keys and bring you all with me!  It’s been great to see many new and familiar friends as I follow bands and enjoy the bounty that Lancaster offers us in the summer.  This time, I was off the grid with up to 38 friends old and new throwing a little mountain-house party I call Loyalstock.  It’s our 17-acre summer decompression chamber.  So since I’m back in town, let me throw a few shout-outs to the folks making my summer sizzle!

Thanks to Music For Everyone (MFE) for two fabulous Music Fridays!  I can’t wait for July 20!

Thanks to Long’s Park Summer Concert Series for great weekly shows, especially Sister Sparrow and Mia Borders.  Dawes is coming July 22!

Thanks to Mike Males and MyRuralRadio.com for York County’s first camp out-music festival: Genesis Fest was a genuine success!

Thanks to Mike Van Jura, Greenbelt Events.com and The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Co for the Season Pass Holder appreciation show with Simone Felice and for the amazing summer of shows to date!  That pass is the best $100 I spent all year!

Thank you to Lovebettie, Sweet Leda and Pete Bush and Hoi Polloi for trusting me enough to play your host in Lancaster!  I know you’ll be back!

Thank you to Steve and Trinette for letting all my rowdy friends invade your mountain home for a week of Loyalstock!  Thank you to all who attended; you are wonderful, gracious guests and a ton of fun to party and jam with!  Thank you Nick Schucker of NAS Sound and Entertainment for ridiculously great sound and lights at Loyalstock.  Thanks to my best man Ward Smith who again won the prizes for distance traveled and hours jamming.  You can play anything with anyone!

I will post more frequently in July and will add in links to all the pics and videos I have collected.  Tomorrow I head for Weatherly, PA to cover DNL’s Jam @ the Dam: 35 bands for $30 and draft beer is included.  I should have plenty to say about Pirate Rob’s event if I survive it!  Other upcoming highlights include Cabinet at Chameleon Club Friday July 13 and WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival July 20-22.  Seizure later!

 

Every Friday is Music Friday!

Every Friday is Music Friday!

When you live in/near Lancaster, PA as I do, every Friday seems like music Friday.  There are more shows going on here than you could possibly attend.  Of course, I take my role of Gigspotter seriously and do my best to try and point out all the best.  You can’t say I didn’t tell you about last Friday at Chameleon with Loretta Bilieux and The Dive Bar Pretties! Click to see what you missed!

This Friday is extra special because it’s an OFFICIAL Music Friday.  All summer, every third Friday of the month will feature live music downtown.  Tonight’s show at Binn’s Park features The Slackwater News (Lancaster rock stars!) and Dirty Bourbon River Show from New Orleans.  A new stage has also sprung up between Carr’s restaurant and Lancaster Central Market for Music Fridays.  Appearing tonight to start it right is Leo DiSanto.  Who knows who might be jumping up there with him but I know the fellas from Vinegar Creek Constituency won’t let their front man roam too freely alone!

I also suspect that when they chase Leo off the stage, the chase will lead right to Lancaster Dispensing Company mere steps away.  Trixie Greiner and The Inca Campers play there tonight!  Friday!!

Also returning to Lancaster this week are the pianos.  How many of you found yourself walking through town last summer and being drawn to some impromptu piano jam?  The wonderful non-profit Music For Everyone has again placed colorful, artful and tuned pianos in ten locations around the city for you to play and hear.  Thank you to MFE and their generous sponsors!  Who knew pianos could look so cool?!  And I will always remember one very late night downtown last summer when some player drew a crowd.  It was 2:30am and this piano Pied Piper had people streaming towards him from all over town!

I will be the blur in the Gigspots shirt.  I plan to start at Marion Court Room for happy hour music by The Love Haters and then work my way downhill: Binn’s Park, Market Street, DipCo.  I think I can do all of the above if my hour doesn’t get too happy.  If I miss Leo, I know I can catch him Sunday at Chestnut Hill Café (3pm).

By sundown I plan to be hustling up 283 to Harrisburg.  David Mayfield Parade is playing Abbey Bar and after seeing his last show in the area, I promised myself not to miss the next.  Man, that Greenbelt Events season pass is still the best $100 I spent in 2012!

Here Comes LAUNCH!

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

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

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

Meanwhile, Down in Dutch Country

If you think Lancaster is all buggies and dirt roads, you have been misled.  Maybe you have heard of The Chameleon Club but picture it as separate from town: a brick and mortar bastion of rock towering above the tumble-down shanties and barnyard critters.   I will admit that I might not have settled in Lancaster in 1988 if not for The Chameleon but wow, am I glad I stayed!  It’s a music-lover’s paradise!

Since I arrived in town, The Lancaster Dispensing Company has been my go-to place for great food, music and music news.  The menu is immense and there is live music most Friday and Saturday nights.  “The DipCo” is where the musicians, promoters, bartenders and baristas hang out; it’s where everyone convenes either before or after events in town.  It is what all those TGIFridays, Chili’s and Ruby Tuesdays wish they were.  It is where I take all my visiting friends from out of town and they love it!

DipCo is where I first heard about Music For Everyone, a Lancaster non-profit that promotes music education and provides instruments and instruction for under-funded school and community programs.  One of Lancaster’s biggest music events is the annual MFE CD Release Concert, where all the local artists who contributed songs perform downtown.  DipCo is also where Plugged In on the Farm was brainstormed into a reality.  The talent pool here is always looking to pay it forward.

Are you starting to get the picture about Lancaster?  Even the Mayor’s office is in the loop.  Music is woven into the fabric of life here.  The addition of Millersville University’s Ware Center downtown is further interconnecting the threads of culture and quality of life.

Need more proof before committing to a visit?  Check out Fly Magazine, Lancaster’s bar-search authority for 20 years.  Check out Tri State Indie, a phenomenal on-line indie music magazine based in Lancaster but with contributors nationwide.  Then check out LAUNCH Music Conference and start making your road trip plans.

How much of a trip is it?  Lancaster is 75 miles from Philly, 85 miles from Baltimore, 2.5 hours from D.C., 3.5 hours from NYC and 4.5 hours from Pittsburgh.  Harrisburg, York and Reading are within 35 miles.  The Pocono Mountains and the beaches of NJ, DE and MD begin within a two hour drive of Lancaster.  It has everything a city should have and is close to everything else.

Lancaster is absolutely a hub for the independent music scene and a crossroads where national touring acts settle in for a night.  Diverse, abundant cultural attractions await you.  Yes, you can have a buggy ride and shoo-fly pie if you wish.  Or you can start your day at Central Market, visit 300+ unique businesses within ten square blocks, catch some great bands in intimate venues and tuck in for the night at Lancaster Arts Hotel.  Just don’t count on making this your only visit.  I came for a visit in 1988 and haven’t left yet.