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.

It’s A (Road) Dog’s Life

LeoCygnusI’m so American.  When summer comes, I crave the road.  The only show I’m staging in Lancaster this summer is July 10 at 551 West featuring the dynamic Leo & Cygnus from Annapolis.  Maybe you caught them when I had them at DipCo in May?  If you missed them, don’t make that mistake twice.  The show is free but this band’s stock is rising and they’ll likely be playing huge festivals by this time next year. 551 West If you know 551 West, you know to go hungry.  Everybody I’ve taken there now eats there once a week.  551 West King Street in Lancaster PA. http://www.551west.com/.  Seriously.

I’m headed to Pittsburgh this weekend but not for The Rolling Stones or Dierks Bentley.  I’m taking my family to visit mom and remember my dad.  He was a great man; I’ll never be half the father he was.  In the wake of another senseless race crime, I realize again what a blessing it was to have a blind gentleman as a father and role model.  He never judged anyone by their appearance; he couldn’t see them.  Of all my miles to cover this summer, this trip to my hometown feels the most important.

OneKoast MD's Finest IX mapBetween Monday 6/22 and 6/29, I’ll visit venues in York, Harrisburg, State College, Millheim, Williamsport, Bloomsburg, Wilkes-Barre, Philly, Wilmington DE and western Maryland.  As I recruit bands for my fall showcases in Lancaster, I’ll be making arrangements for these venues to catch the bands on their way to/from my shows.  And I’ll love every mile and every stop.  Draw a circle around Lancaster and lines to these cities and you’ll see we are the hub in a big wheel of culture and fun.

Bullfrog5After a week in Denver, CO I’ll be staging my two biggest events of the summer: four days of hosting bands at Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport and some of my favorite revelers (and bands) at Loyalstock.  That’s when I trade my Subaru for an inner tube and my smart phone for fireflies.  If you can make it to Billtown July 9-12, find me at the Frog for Stolen Rhodes, Lavacave and Medusa’s Disco (acousticlamor)!  It may be the only four days this summer when I’ll be holding relatively still… in my moving and grooving way.

chameleon10thTwo things before I dash: Happy 30th Anniversary to Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA and to its founder Rich Ruoff!  In June of 1985 he opened the door on Christian St.  In February of 1988 I attended my first Blues Festival there and realized Lancaster was where I was going to put down roots.  I never imagined then that thirty years later, I’d be working for Rich and Lancaster Roots and Blues, A Festival of Music.

Congratulations to the completely amazing Angela Sheik, whose submission video for an NPR Tiny Desk Concert contest landed her an interview and feature on NPR Weekend Edition this Sunday 6/21! angela npr

Thank you Rich and thank you Lancaster for being a hub that rolls smooth after all the miles.

Springing and Swinging Into Year Five!

The Gigspots calendar starts in April and we just celebrated our fourth birthday.  Spring has been quite the rush!  I enjoyed LAUNCH Music Conference as usual.  The 20th anniversary tribute to Radiohead’s album The Bends at Tellus 360 was spectacular.  The tour I arranged for my pals Pete Bush and The Hoi Polloi put them in two of my latest favorite spots: Sprout Music Collective in West Chester and The Grape Room in Philly. LeoCygnus I wrapped up my season of showcases at Lancaster Dispensing Company and am already planning to return with another great season in September.  Thank you DipCo for your stage and hospitality!  Thank you Jessica Smucker and Leo & Cygnus for a great finale!

How am I wrapping up the hometown season before May fades into summer and I hit the road?  Of course I’m throwing a show!  Tonight May 15 I have the hottest lineup in town.  The show opens with a new project by some familiar favorites called Tractor Jerry and The Mud Bucket.  Mike McMonagle and Dom Billett will take things up a notch.  Corty1Then Corty Byron Band will remind us that Lancaster rocks!  Our last act is a bittersweet send-off to Second Hand Suits, who have announced an indefinite hiatus as a band while the fellas pursue some new directions.  If you love music, have any sense and $7, join us for the best show in town at The Elks Lodge, 219 N. Duke Street, Lancaster PA 17602.  Doors open at 7:00pm with music starting shortly after 8pm.

What’s left of me will be heading to the family retreat near Williamsport on Saturday morning and I’ll be off the grid for about a week.  Then it’s on the road: talent scouting, venue recruiting and festival fun will ensue!  The Gigspots Showcase is going on tour!  We’ll be hosting shows at select client venues all over PA, MD and DE.  It’s time for you loyal local bands to hit the road with me and go visit those bands who came to Lancaster to play!  Watch this space for tour announcements! Wave Disco Queen

Sweet Leda’s New Album: Let It In and Turn it Up!

Sweet Leda’s latest album Let It In deserves tons of attention and hundreds of accolades.  The fat, lush sounds of the direct-to-tape recording process captured the layers of power and intensity behind these songs.  If you’ve seen Sweet Leda live, you’ll feel the heat off this record.  If you’re curious what all the buzz and awards are about, it’s time to Let It In and turn it up!  You’ll find chances later to have a quiet moment with the record.  Your first play should be loud as hell.  Wherever you do that, do it to it.SL4

Julie Cymek wrote these songs and sings them with command.  She belts in the same weight class as Dana Fuchs, Grace Potter, Sister Sparrow and Joan Osborne.  Jaime Horrigan on bass can thump it or go all melodious on you.  He’s a double-threat on beatbox too.  Omar El Dieahy is my favorite guitarist I know.  He plays these crazy prototype guitars and while he invents new tones and textures, he never loses the song or lets it get impersonal.  Don Boyette on drums is The Pocket.  Dude is all sweet spot and grace, a drummer’s drummer. SL6 Joining Sweet Leda on two album tracks, as he often does live, is tenor sax giant Ron Holloway.  How lucky for us all!  You can Google him now or after you hear him, but you will.

Here’s the ten-song playlist and a thing or two about that thing they do: sweet, sexy, funky rock with soul.

  1. “Resolutions:” one of the band’s resolutions for the record must be to let Omar turn it up! You’ll figure out right away that this band means what it says.
  2. “Go Get Your Money:” Omar and Ron Holloway earn it one this one. They go and they get it!
  3. “Fake It:” no posers need apply! If you can’t be real with the open-hearted people in Sweet Leda, you can’t be real.  Whoever you are, I don’t want to know you either.
  4. “Make It Happen:” get off your ass! What’s stopping you?
  5. “She’s Not Coming Home:” I think you blew it mister. This is a song for a woman wronged.
  6. “Baby:” one hot, slow-burning torch of a song about making love. Julie didn’t write it for you but you’ll believe she did.  Deep down believe.
  7. “Bad Boy:” one hot rock song for the bad girls in the house! Bad hasn’t sounded so good since Donna Summer.
  8. “Let It In:” five senses and a whole world right in front of you. Seize something and hang on!
  9. “Something:” by George Harrison…a big romantic version. It’s a love song to a love song.  Omar!
  10. “You Can’t Hold Me Down:” I always hold my head high. I keep moving on.

SL1Those last words are Julie’s and could well describe the album.  Sweet Leda has plenty of reason to hold their heads high with the release of Let It In and the record should definitely keep their careers moving on and up.  But they could serve us all well as a motto for life.  There is great beauty in life and we need to let it in.  When it sparks our curiosity, we need to act on it.  And when people bring the ugly, we need to let it go.  Crank up your copy of Let It In and proceed loud and proud!  Buy it now at SweetLeda.com!

All photographs and digital-oil images here are the work and property of Dan Gillespie and DGital.  Used with permission.  See other spectacular albums at https://www.facebook.com/dgital.me/timeline or for consultation email dgital.me@icloud.com

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.

Snorkels and Grappling Hooks

I’ve come up for air to fire a flare.  My November really rocked and I hope yours did too.  The grand finale happened 11/29 for WILMO Rock Circus at World Café Live at The Queen.  If you were one of the hundreds of people under the big top, I know I just made you grin (and maybe blush).  If you missed it, don’t let that happen again!  Twenty four bands for $20 doesn’t happen every day.  My friends at Gable Music Ventures know how to spot talent and produce an event.  Videos are uploading to my YouTube channel.

Jordan2Mid-month I took Pressing Strings on a tour of some of my northern PA clients and finished the loop at DipCo.  Again, thanks if you were there and I know you’re grinning.  I had been trying to woo this band north from Annapolis for over a year.  Jordan and Nick played three inspired shows and have promised to return.  The fine folks at Turkey Hill Brewing Company and Bullfrog Brewery sure were glad it happened!  For my showcase at Lancaster Dispensing Company, local amazeballs Little Dinos opened the show: Loretta, Scott Bookman, Matt Underhill and Kelly Buchanan.  Cool and classy just like Dino!  Click here to see videos.  Even better: come to McCleary’s Pub in Marietta 12/26 for a set by Jordan Sokel.

Kaleigh4Also playing 12/26 at McCleary’s will be Kaleigh Baker.  If you caught the tour I ran with Kaleigh and Skribe (plus special guest Bjorn Jacobsen), you know this lady can sing the blues with the best of them!  Maybe you have been watching her 30 Artists in 30 Days special on YouTube.  Either way, you should gather those you love and come out for a set or two.  Kaleigh and Jordan don’t play central PA too often and I’m very proud to be hosting them again.

The snorkels and grappling hooks of my title represent my consciousness the rest of the month.  Below the surface, I’ve been working like Cousteau to create another amazing experience for you at Lancaster Roots and Blues.  We targeted December for major announcements and a media blitz.  It’s a season of giving and we are giving you a ton of reasons to get tickets.  Click here to see my blog about the venues published in Fig Lancaster.  Then visit the ticketing link to see the specials we are running.  We have added an under-21 ticket which is good for The Ware Center and The Trust Performing Arts Center.

What will January bring?  I’m hoping for peace on Earth.  I’m counting on busy days and nights.  There are a million details to staging a festival this big and Rich and I and our new office manager Carrie Binkley will be working tirelessly to make your experience the best.  If you hope to catch me in a still moment, try McCleary’s 12/26, The General Sutter Inn 1/9 or DipCo 1/10.  I’m hosting three more local shows before Lancaster Roots and Blues including two acts you have never seen here before and shouldn’t miss.  Join me at DipCo 1/10 for David Pulizzi and the band Terra Voz!

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!

100 More Tickets or The Ten Percent Rule

I’m in a weird flux position as I blog today.  No, it’s not a yoga thing. Triphazard Group Pic (1) I just finished a ten-day tour with the Liverpool, UK band Triphazard as their tour manager, roadie, chef and driver.  I’m about to reprise my role as Director of Operations for Lancaster Roots and Blues in pedal-to-the-metal mode.  I’m between tides.  These intense labors of love both thrill and exhaust me.  I couldn’t feel luckier than to have had these experiences.  Like all passionate loves, they make you feel lucky, invincible and vulnerable at the same time.  You discover you’re defenseless against whom or what empowers you.

I wrote a blog in October 2013 titled “Tour Life: Woe or WHOA!” and I reread it before beginning today’s piece.  I’m happy to say it stood up to the road test with Triphazard last week.  I’m unsure if they had read it but I must state that this trio earned all my respect for work ethic, energy, professionalism and fun-factor.  They played five powerful shows and obviously poured their hearts into every beat.  They were pure joy to work with, live with and watch perform for ten straight days.  They became the benchmark for all future bands taking a lap on the Gigspots circuit.  BANDS: please see blog above.

My only regret of the tour is not putting more money in their hands.  Two of our shows were “door shows;” the bands earn a percentage of ticket sales.  Two of our shows were “guarantees;” the bands get paid a pre-negotiated fee whether the audience is 200 or 20.  Ironically, our biggest guarantee show had the smallest audience and our “hot ticket” shows had lukewarm sales at best.  My goal for Triphazard and the other bands who joined us on the tour was to put at least $200 in their pockets after each show.  For the two ticketed shows, a three-way split of ticket sales equaled $80 per band.  That sucks.  These were great shows in great rooms; ask anyone who was there.  Each band sold some merch and got offers of future gigs, radio play and other potential support after their sets.  But they walked out those nights with gas money and a snack at Sheetz covered.

I first heard the phrase “100 more tickets” and learned about the 10% rule at a festival this summer.  The promoter told me his goal for ticket sales was 2,000 over two days.  Tickets were $60 for a two-day pass, of which he lost $10 to taxes and fees.  He had to sell 900 tickets just to cover grounds rental and sound/stage production.  Another 150 would have to sell to cover promotion/advertising costs and 150 more to pay for porta-potties and an EMT crew on stand-by (required by law).  That means 1,200 tickets at $50 would have just covered his $60,000 expenditure.  Did you notice I have yet to mention any compensation for the bands here?  Most played it to be there, to be seen, to network and to celebrate the season, the place and the amazing musical family they’ve become.  But all expect “…fair compensation from any profits earned.”  I promise that every band played their asses off and a great time was had by all.

Ticket sales this year were around 1,100.  Even with sponsorship money and a percentage of the food vendors’ take that meant our heroic promoter and over 70 bands earned nothing.  As we were starting the immense clean-up efforts Sunday morning and I asked about the turnout numbers, he said, “100 more tickets.  If we’d have sold 100 more tickets, everybody could have had a little something and I’d have covered costs.  If it was 200 more, or 10% of my target, everybody would have got a fair amount and I’d have seed money for next year.” All I could think was that if every band had sold two more tickets, 140 more, everyone would have gotten paid and next year would start on secure footing.  And it was all brought home to me that 90% of ticket sales at concerts and festivals go to cover costs.  If that promoter had guaranteed even $100 to those 70 bands, that plus only the costs I named above would have been $67,000 against his gross of $55,000.   I guarantee he had tons of other expenses and I have yet to mention any compensation for his time.  He spends over four months organizing this event.  It’s not a hobby.  This guy works like a machine about 350 days a year and it’s clear his bands love him.

What if my tour had sold 100 more tickets: say fifty each for the “door shows?”  That’s an extra $350 Friday and $500 Saturday to be split which meant the payouts those nights would have been $196 and $246 respectively per band.  Not $80.  These were venues that hold 200-300 people quite comfortably.

I apologize if all this talk of numbers and money bored you.  But I just watched a band I truly love work their asses off for ten days at great costs to themselves and barely cover living expenses.  And when people ask me about Gigspots, their second question is always, “So, how do you make money doing that?”  Here’s the short answer: from you.  You have to buy a ticket to a show or a t-shirt.  You have to buy advertising, management, agent or writing services from me or become a sponsor of my events.  I’m in the entertainment business.

Your short answer: “Everybody wants my money.  Why should you get it?”  Fair enough.  Not everyone finds music, art, cuisine and travel entertaining or worth more than the lowest common denominator.  There are a lot of comfy couches and big screen televisions and frozen pizzas out there and I enjoy them occasionally myself.  It’s the great irony of Gigspots; I use social media to tell you to turn it off and go see a show.  Those 900 videos on my YouTube channel aren’t a substitute for a show.  They’re meant to show you what you’re missing or to help you recapture that night at the show.

Queen4If William Shakespeare couldn’t sell tickets, you might never have heard of him.  He might have starved to death or gone off to work in the mills.  People still read the plays but not nearly the numbers of people who still buy tickets 400 years later to witness and feel the timelessness of live performance.  I’m no Shakespeare.  But you never know; the band I’m encouraging you to see might be the next Beatles.

For instance, my monthly showcases at DipCo don’t cover costs until I sell 80 tickets.  There are 100+ seats.  If you’ve been there on a night where the band and seating are tight, you know what a joyous, transcendent night it can become.  Ten percent of breaking even is eight tickets.  I have an amazing season planned and you’re invited. Appearing October 11: Lovers League with a guest set by Bjorn Jacobsen!

Bjorn Free

bjorn1About 16 months ago, I met Bjorn Jacobsen and music changed for me.  I had never seen anyone sing and play folk music with such abandon.  As I got to know him, the crazy sad songs made a lot of sense.  He was living in his car, had been abandoned by everyone he’d ever loved and had survived a deadly fall off Chiques Rock.  The mersa infection he developed in the hospital prompted the staff there to suggest they amputate his hands to save his life.  His response: “I’m a guitar player.  I’d rather die.”  I guess they took him seriously.  He still has his hands and can play the shit out of guitar, banjo and mandolin.  This dude is heart, scar tissue and gristle with a crooked grin.

Bjorn has decided to move to NOLA in early September.  I’m thrilled for him and sad at the same time.  So we are throwing shows at him left and right.  Thursday August 7 is our first Gigspots Presents event at World Café Live at The Queen in Wilmington, DE and Bjorn’s Wayfarer Experiment is the headliner. jake and kate3 Ever-ready, ever-steady Jake Lewis opens this special duo show.  Jake plays with Katie Seifarth, his Clergy drummer/vocalist.  Bjorn is bringing Robin Chambers on violin and you know the heat she brings.

Friday August 8th, The Wayfarer Experiment plays their last Chameleon Club show.  Rock beasts Medusa’s Disco (formerly SEEDS) is also on the bill and will have copies of their just-released live cd.  Bjorn just got his electric Ibanez hollow body out of the shop so who knows what kind of show this might become!  We only guarantee that no holds are barred!  Bjorn’s other adieu shows include Gettysburg Rocks 8/9, Sofrito Gastro Pub (Reading) 8/15, Central PA River Fest (Wrightsville) 8/23 and Bistro 19 (York) 8/29.

plate scrapersThe Gigspots Showcase returns to Lancaster Dispensing Company Friday August 15 for a special Music Friday edition.  From the mountains of Ephrata, Clinton Hibshman (Burning McGuiness) will jangle your jingle and make you say, “Holy Cats, why haven’t we seen this guy before?!”  The night also features The Plate Scrapers, a dynamic string band from the south west: Hagerstown.  You will love this bluegrass band that bridges that Cumberland Gap.  Stay tuned for the Showcase schedule for September through May!

Of course Music Fridays in Lancaster are always special!  You know we’ll be at Binn’s Park at 6pm sharp to see Jake Lewis and The Clergy (full band)!  They have been working on a new album most of the spring and summer and we can’t wait to hear it!  The only hints I’ve received about the new work are that, “It’s what you love about Jake and the Clergy, just bigger and bolder.”  I’m intrigued.  There’s only one more outdoor Music Friday after this: September 19 with Silver City Rodeo.  Come feel the beauty of outdoor music in our wonderful, walkable city.  These shows are free and so are you.

Music Imports and Exports

I really enjoyed my run of showcases at Lancaster Dispensing Company from January to May and I hope you did as well!  The audiences were very appreciative and I’d like to thank my bands for playing their hearts out!  January: The Naïve Americans and The VCC Duo (aka Jeff Bryson and Leo DiSanto) gave us some fine folk and bluegrass.  February: The Lonelies Tour and Second Hand Suits shared some stylish performances.  March: Lovers League (aka TJ McGlinchey, Christopher Davis-Shannon and Dani Mari) and very special guests The KGB Trio (Kalob Griffin, Robert Dwyer and Eric Lawry) reminded us that the song rules and they live to serve it.  April: Jason Ager and C.O.P.O. and Angelo Melasecca are two great showmen who really know their guitars!

Me with Angela Michele Walker

Me with Angela Michele Walker

May: Ali Wadsworth and Satellite Hearts rocked and Angela Michele Walker Trio rolled.  It was important to me to have a night featuring women vocalists and these ladies definitely shone!

The tagline for the showcases was “Two Regional Gems and a Local Treasure.”  I wanted to introduce bands to Lancaster who I had seen in my travels and pair them with a local act with whom I thought they might connect on some level.  I also wanted the “import” bands to see what a great city and scene we have.  Several of the bands are already finding ways to share gigs and their audiences.  And I’ve had offers to take a version of The Gigspots Showcase on tour.

I “export” bands from Lancaster as well.  My client venues in State College, Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg usually feature someone I sent them at least once a month.  I am about to begin serving other I-80 venues as well as possibilities along I-70 in MD and WV.  I believe I will be hosting showcases at both World Café Venues (Philly and Wilmington) by the fall.  I’m ridiculously lucky to associate with Gable Music Ventures in DE and NaptownMusic in Annapolis, MD.  Of course you’ve all heard me blab about Pirate Rob, music guru behind OneKoast Entertainment (based in Baltimore), Frozen Harbor Music Festival and Jam at the Dam in Weatherly, PA.  It’s one badass indie music festival that becomes a two-day affair this year.  Gigspots is a perennial stage sponsor.  Contact me or visit PirateRob.com for tickets!

Bjorn Jacobsen and Freeman White at The Factory: Underground

Bjorn Jacobsen and Freeman White at The Factory: Underground

When I go out to “recruit” venues, I often take Bjorn Jacobsen with me on an open mic night or a night where a band I know is playing.  He sits in and I immediately get more respect!  I guess they figure if I know a musician that serious, I must be doing something right.  I’ve seen him win an audience playing AFTER Mike Miz and I’ve seen dudes like Freeman White ask to sit in with him.

One of my favorite services is helping a band fill out a tour or a venue fill a sudden hole in their schedule.  When a venue calls, I know I need to find a good audience fit that will sell some tickets and beer.  When a band calls, they usually have their weekends booked but need gigs to survive the mid-week drives between them.  Sometimes, you get the best for everyone.  I have recently made two national bands (Silencio and Carsie Blanton) very happy by filling their tour calendar.  And I can’t wait for the hugs I’ll get from the venue owners and fans who will get a chance to see them within three hours of home at a reasonable price!Carsie-Blanton-truck-758x392

So send me your poor, hungry bands and fans!  My client venues are the best around and my list is growing.  Check them out for yourself and tip the staffs please.  We’re saving the economy one gig at a time!