Thanks and Shouts for LRB 2016

I gave myself three weeks before writing about Lancaster Roots and Blues.  Just as I work behind the curtain for the festival, I heal and reflect in private.  Someday I’ll tell my stories.  For now I’m enjoying hearing your experiences and seeing your pictures and videos.  In particular, I’d like to thank Dan Gillespie of DGital for sharing hundreds of brilliant action shots that really bring the festival to life again.  You have a peerless eye and a generous heart brother!

I need to thank my stage managers for keeping the artists happy and organized.  You did a remarkable job this year under some challenging circumstances.  I need to thank my lead volunteers and their staffs.  You helped our attendees feel welcome, find their way and enjoy their experience.  You are great hosts and help create the vibe that keeps people smiling all over town.

I saw less music this year than either of the previous years.  It made me really sad.  But I brought more bands to the festival than before and by all accounts they played their asses off!  Thank you: Kaleigh Baker, Sweet Leda, Deb Guy, Sam Baker, Stolen Rhodes, Tractor Jerry and The Mudbucket, Gabe Stillman and the Billtown Giants, Frog Holler, Swampcandy, The O’My’s, Sympathy & the Lion and Shawan and The Wonton.  You are stars to me and I appreciate how hard you worked to make our fans get off!

One of my priorities during the festival is getting all the bands and volunteers fed.  I couldn’t do that without the support of Lancaster’s great restaurant community and their staffs.  Particular thanks must be extended to Carr’s, Commonwealth on Queen, Bistro Barberet & Bakery and Characters Pub who created and served the remarkable food for our VIP receptions.  You made people feel special even as their numbers swelled beyond projections.  The following restaurants helped me feed 300 musicians and 230 volunteers while serving capacity crowds of their own: Fat Pigs, The Pressroom, La Piazza, 551 West, Penn Square Grille, Dispensing Company, Annie Bailey’s, Federal Taphouse, Tellus 360 and Isaac’s Pickle Bar and Deli.  Lancaster is blessed to have you all!

She won’t like it, but I must single out Carrie Binkley our Production Manager.  If Rich is the brain and I’m the hands and feet of this festival, she is nothing less than the skeleton.  She provides the framework and connectivity that enable us to move with purpose and stability.

I hope everyone enjoyed the festival and will continue to support its growth!  I’m not sure how many small cities could host, sustain and grow a festival this big this quickly but Lancaster, you make it look easy.  You are a city authentic with charm, character and vivacity few towns your size could even imagine.  Obviously we are blessed with a lot of great music venues, restaurants and shops but they are just buildings without the remarkable people who run them.  Thank you people of Lancaster!

Fits & Starts for Roots & Blues

Are you having fits & starts over the schedule for Roots & Blues?  Do you know the phrase fits & starts?  In the case of deciding who to see, where and when during Lancaster Roots and Blues festival, the phrase could describe how you are wrestling with choices.  You decide who to see, you discover an option, you feel conflict and you flip.  It’s a good problem to have.  Don’t give yourself conniptions as my mother’s people would say.

Map-of-Festival-2016-LRB
I have to try and be everywhere at once.  It’s my job as Director of Operations.  Of course that’s impossible and I’ve learned to let it be.  I can’t introduce every band or even see every band.  I can’t stop what I’m doing and have a beer with every friend I run into.  So I build a framework for each night: start, middle and finish.  I try to mix business and pleasure into the decisions.  Then I let the chips fall.  All I have to worry about is getting everyone checked in, sound-checked, parked, fed, paid and pampered.

Friday 2/26.  By the time the VIP Reception opens at Lancaster Visitors Center at 5pm, I will have been on the job ten hours already.  So I’ll have a cup of Gerhart Coffee and a glass of Barossa Valley shiraz.  I’ll munch some delicacies by Chef Tim Carr.  I’ll hug and introduce my pal Kaleigh Baker before she performs solo acoustic.  Then I will dash to Convention Center to introduce Sweet Leda as they open the Main Stage at Freedom Hall B at 6pm.  I’ll get to boogie a few minutes there before I start the laps of this phase of operations: opening.

By 7:30pm most venues will have opened and the VIP event will be ended.  I’ll secure the Visitors Center and check in on the Food Truck Court on Market Street.  If I start a counter-clockwise lap from there, I’ll catch a bit of Sam Baker at Ware, Left Lane Cruiser at Tellus 360, The Ogham Stones at Elks Lodge, Banditos at Chameleon and Ten String Symphony at Trust PAC before introducing Kapali Long to open Dispensing Company’s stage.  Dude is coming from Hawaii to play our festival.  That’s my plan 7:30-9:30.

MaceoThat gives me 30 minutes to try and catch a few minutes of Marah at Tellus 360 and solve any festival problems before Maceo Parker hits the Main Stage at convention center at 10pm.  What could go wrong?  Of course I want to be there to see a legend and his 12-piece band show us what it’s all about.  That just doesn’t happen every day in Lancaster.   I hope to see 15-20 minutes before I begin the next phase of laps: finales.

Chameleon and Ware Center will be wrapping up between 11-11:30pm.  I hope to fit introducing Gabe Stillman and The Billtown Giants at Federal Taphouse into those laps.  They go on at 11pm and are some serious blues-rock pals who call Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport their home.  I know you never heard of them.  You heard it here first; be there!

Frog HollerAs I hit my 17th hour on the job Friday, I want nothing more than to introduce Frog Holler at Elks Lodge Ballroom and have my first beer of the night.  They will celebrate 20 years together in 2016 and for my money, they embody everything a roots and blues festival should be.  Last pause of the night will be at Federal Taphouse for Toronzo Cannon.  It will feel like being in Chicago and my feet will likely feel like I walked there!  Then it’s back to headquarters to review and prep for Saturday!

toronzo

Here We Go Again

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh where “Here we go” is followed by “Steelers.”  The MNF game last night between the Steelers and San Diego Chargers was a lucky win for my team.  A friend of mine is fond of saying, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”  I think if you work hard enough towards a goal, luck just might find you.  I hope I’m right.

bjorn1I can tell you that Bjorn Jacobsen is working hard on his PA tour.  The NEPA leg included two Wilkes-Barre gigs and shows in Bloomsburg, Williamsport, State College, West Chester, Lancaster and East York: eight shows in ten days.  I was lucky to be his host, wheel man, sound man and big fan on five of those nights and I’m looking forward to a few more before Boy Wander heads back to NOLA.  His singing is stronger than ever and he still thrashes that acoustic guitar.  There was a brief sighting of Amanda and baby Adelei at DipCo and jeepers that baby is cute!  Bjorn is opening my big show this Friday 10/16 at Elks Lodge.  Come see how strong and lucky The Wayfarer has become!

Jamall AnthonyIf you want to see work that’s play, join us for Music Fridays in Lancaster at The BPOE Elks Lodge Ballroom this Friday. Bjorn opens with some jangly, rootsy tales of love and woe.  Soul singer Jamall Anthony from Coatesville is in the middle.  Maybe you saw one of his LAUNCH Music Conference shows or have heard him on 93.7 WSTW?  This guy can really sing and this could be an, “I saw him when…” moment for all of us!  Here’s a bit of what made me say YEAH two years ago at LAUNCH.

Shrimpboat is the 8-piece super-group that means PARTY in Lancaster.  They’ve played all the biggest events in town since forming: NYE, Celebrate Lancaster, FlyFest, The Long’s Park Summer Concert Series etc.  Their stated mission is to get hips shaking.  They do it and make it look easy.  Come get some easy!

As the stage doors at DipCo swing shut (one showcase left), a window is swinging open at Federal Taphouse.  I’ve been asked to book a series of performances there between now and Christmas.  First up will be Skribe on Friday October 23rd!  As I left the meeting confirming this experiment at Taphouse, thinking, “Ok, who do I get to play in two weeks?”  I received a call from Skribe.Skribe2  A venue had just cancelled a 10/23 gig on him and could I find something along his tour route?  I don’t know what to call that but luck.  If you’ve seen Skribe, you know how lucky we all are!  If you haven’t, your lucky day is 10/23 when you get to see him for free, eat artisan, wood-fired pizza and drink craft beer.

So I got lucky trying to do good for a local business and a touring musician friend.  It’s been a mantra at Gigspots and the folks I work with are doing well.  It’s also what motivates me to work harder.  I’m about to add ten new venues to Gigspots.com.  It will be a lot more work but I believe I’m serving the community.  I believe if you do good, luck finds you.  Doing good and doing well are not synonymous though.  Doing good is about rewards for others.  Doing well is about rewards for you.  The luckiest people find ways to accomplish both.

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!