March’s Lions and Lambs: Week One

If variety is the spice of life, I’m living on hot tamales.  I’m enjoying a great month of shows!  If I had to sum them up in one word, it would be “Brave.”  I’ve witnessed CD releases, bands playing new venues, bands debuting new members or saying goodbye to founders, and a venue celebrating a one-year anniversary.  Perhaps best, I’ve seen veterans and first-timers sharing music at open mic nights.  These brave nights trigger your fight-or-flight reflex.  It’s easy to find those ecstatic moments where artist and audience connect.  Here’s a rundown of my first week of March.

Joy Ike at Lancaster YWCA

Joy Ike at Lancaster YWCA

3/3: Joy Ike brought her new CD and supporting act Kim Edwards to Lancaster’s YWCA.  Joy radiates warmth and emotion.  Her physical beauty strikes you first.  Her honest, genuine lyrics bare her soul and speak her mind.  She and her combo played most of the new album with confidence and satisfaction.  “Everything You Have” reminds us all how tenuous life is.  See Joy live and you’ll be glad she’s in your life.

Kim Edwards was a delight.  Her piano is deliberate yet delicate.

KimEdwards: delicate and deliberate

Her song “No Other” is destined to become a wedding song for thousands.  “Wanderlust” betrays that it might be a while before Miss Edwards settles down.  I bought CD’s from both ladies and have kept them in top rotation since.  New material, new venue, new tour partners and open emotions added up to a brave night.

3/4:  I caught a tasty little show at Chestnut Hill Cafe, one of Lancaster’s tastiest spots.  A young lady named Canyon was passing through town and hoped to find a gig.  She had really impressed crowds at Tellus 360 at last year’s LAUNCH Music Conference.  On this night, she and local band The Pig Merchants played a surprise Monday show.  It turned into a two-band birthday celebration for Bob Glick and  the lucky dozens who dropped by.

3/8:  I sent my friends Toy Soldiers to play for my friends at The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport.  It tore at me not to be there with them.  I know the magic of that place and could vividly imagine the spark that could ignite between it and this fine band.  Also absent that night: Bullfrog owner Steve who was delivering the first bottled batch of his beers to Philadelphia.  My reports say band, venue and beers all had stellar receptions.

I spent Friday night in Wrightsville celebrating the one year anniversary of The Burning Bridge Tavern.  You must do an awful lot of things right to make a year in the restaurant business.  The capacity crowd all weekend proved that BBT is doing a lot of things right.  Just as on opening weekend, Vinegar Creek Constituency played their rousing style of homespun, folksy blues.

The Vinegar Creek Constituency

They call themselves, “Lancaster, PA’s swashbuckling, pseudo-legendary pioneers of Amerikindasorta string band music.”  See them and you’ll get it.  They get some heels kicked up and heads banging at the same time.  It was a great night to celebrate taking a leap!

3/9:  I had to see The Wayfarer Experiment’s first appearance at First Capital Dispensing Company in York.  The band is always full of surprises and the place is like a cabin outpost in a beer wilderness.  The original building was constructed in 1790 and you feel the age.  When the place filled with forty or so people chugging craft beers and rollicking with the Wayfarers, it was like the wild west

Ronn Benway jumps into The Wayfarer Experiment

Ronn Benway came charging through the door with his washboard rig, jumped in with the band and everything just broke loose.   Nate played guitar, that crazy little glockenspiel again and on other songs played electric bass.  Bjorn at times broke out an electric guitar and a bullhorn.  Then it would be banjo, mando and even harmonica.  Matt actually played drums when not smacking his cajon.  He had a very clever touch!  These guys put themselves out at the frontier every show and really owned it that Saturday night.

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?

Shows to My Left, Right and Dead Ahead

Shows to My Left, Right and Dead Ahead

Everyone knows how pumped I am this week about LAUNCH Music Conference.  But as owner/operator of Gigspots, I can’t just focus on one event no matter how colossal.  Lancaster will be swarming with great bands and fans of live music this weekend (180 bands in 12 venues) but I understand that not everyone is coming.

The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg continues to present amazing shows and this week is no exception.  Tuesday night is Lucero and J. Roddy Walston and The Business.  Wednesday night is a very special and intimate performance by Colin Hay of Men at Work.  Thursday night, Cabinet is back to play and to release the live cd they recorded at Abbey Bar last winter.  Saturday night, they have The Aviation Orange and In Wilderness.  That would be a month’s worth of highlights at some places but it’s just a typical week at Abbey.  The season pass I bought for $100 was the best investment of 2012!

Philly is always happening and this weekend is no exception.  Something new debuts this Saturday: Center City Jazz Festival.  Also debuting this weekend is the XPN Film Festival where movies about music and musicians take center stage.  Those are two good reasons to visit Philly and spend the night as they say.

NEPA has it going on this weekend with a performance by Bob Weir (Grateful Dead) at the Kirby Center.  If it wasn’t for LAUNCH, I’d be headed to River Street Jazz Café in Wilkes-Barre this Thursday night.  Playing that night are Jahman Brahman and Ol’ Cabbage, two incredible jam bands.  On Friday, for $15 I could park at the Jazz and hear a solo set by Mike Miz while I dine.  That same $15 would get me transportation to and from the Kirby Center and admission to two sets of Jam Stampede after the Bob concert.  Jam Stampede is the Dead tribute band featuring Miz and they are spot-on!  Saturday night is The Statesmen:  a new, all-star, funk/jazz collaboration from NYC.  And Sunday is the Rock the Wall benefit.  We love the idea of musicians lending their talents to make the world a better place for those less fortunate.  We love River Street Jazz Café!  Maybe hippies really will save the world…

Speaking of hippies and saving the world:  I think The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, PA might be considered headquarters.  There are no weekends except LAUNCH when I wouldn’t rather be there.  The food, the beers and the music scene are peerless.  Thursday they have St. Anyway, a “stompgrass/roots” band for FREE.  Friday night is Jahman Brahman for $5.  Saturday night is Michi’s alt/rock/pop (also free).  Sunday starting at noon is the Jazz Workshop and Brunch.  Musicians from all over stop by to jam and entertain while you dine.  It’s been that way for over 500 Sundays!

I spend a lot of time travelling to see shows in my job: but not this weekend!  LAUNCH is bringing it all to me, including two of my favorites from my hometown of Pittsburgh.  Pete Bush and The Hoi Polloi appear at Spring House Taproom Friday and Lovebettie rocks the main stage at Chameleon Club Saturday.  I hope to see you all there!  Get yourselves a weekend pass and also see Rusted Root, The Felice Brothers and Texas in July on the cheap!

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!

Happy Birthday Gigspots!

My site was launched April 18, 2011.  I am very proud of how it looks now and how it has grown.  I hope you have enjoyed the show and I thank everyone who has helped me, encouraged me and offered constructive criticism.  It has been a wonderful learning experience and I feel more confident that I can help you find great music experiences.

I’m a pack rat by nature.  I get it from my mom who lived through the Depression and has never thrown away anything.  I also belong to an art group: The Airy Hill School.  I can’t paint or sculpt like those guys but I make a mean collage.  Here’s a view of my office wall.  I can’t describe how much fun it’s been to see all these shows and meet all these people.  I will tag everybody I can but count on me adding more later!

stubs and fliers

Thanks for the shows!

You May Be a Winner!

You May Be a Winner!

I get to do more than go to shows at LAUNCH this year.  After one year of building Gigspots, I can afford the time and money to have a vendor booth.  I’m looking forward to thousands of musicians and music-industry types milling around me, looking for something cool to check out.  I want it to be Gigspots.

I know I need something to draw attention and it won’t be my looks.  My friends who attend these kinds of things regularly say I need a killer giveaway.  “People always flock to the booths giving away cool stuff” they say.  I saw some great examples of this at the Tri State Indie Awards in February: drink cozies, key chains, stickers, music download cards, etc.  They were all cool and free to me, my favorite price.  One of my favorites was a pair of retractable audio ear buds.  Here’s what they might look like with my logo on them.  But if I need 1,000, that’s $4,000 I would just give away.  If I could afford that, I would. That’s 10x my budget!

Then I thought, I could buy 100 and give away a pair every 15 minutes.  That would make 100 people happy and get my logo on the streets.  But how would I choose who gets a pair?

My brilliant wife came up with this idea; raffle one big-ticket item.  She attended a big business conference where one company was raffling off a portable printer the size of a paper towel tube.  All you had to do was drop your business card in the hopper.  Lots of people were standing there checking it out and the business rep had their attention to talk about his business.  What was her idea for a prize? A flat-screen TV!

My wife is brilliant and the idea works on a lot of levels.  I could put a big “Win Me!” sign on the TV and use it to display my website.  As people come over to see the screen, I could be collecting their band/brand/venue info and talking up my site.  A TV is a great prize and it would draw a lot of attention.  There are downsides to this plan, though.  Only one person wins.  My logo is not displayed.  I have to drag the TV in/out of the vendor area and I have to hope the winner is present or I have to ship it to them.

A compromise could be to raffle off the ear buds: say, one pair every 15 minutes.  Would it be enough for people to give up their contact info and stick around?

I sure could use some advice!  If you are reading this, want me to have a good conference and want to be a winner, share your thoughts on my vendor dilemma.  Maybe you have ideas that would work better than what we have so far.

LAUNCH Fever!

LAUNCH Fever!

I’m getting really psyched for LAUNCH Music Conference April 26-29!!  It coincides with the anniversary of my website and really shows the potential Lancaster has as an entertainment destination.  Last year, I had fliers in the swag bags.  A lot of good it did me; my website wasn’t much to see at its birth.  This year, I have a vendor table and the time to attend some of the conferences.  I also have all-access passes for every show in every venue, all weekend.  I’ll be the happiest zombie you’ve ever seen by Sunday!

Who did I hear for the first time at last year’s conference?  Amanda WellsDana AlexandraPete Bush and the Hoi Polloi.  Maybe those names mean nothing to you.  They were nothing to me then but I have grown very fond of these folks and seen many strong shows by each of them in the past year.  I’m really thrilled that Pete is coming back from Pittsburgh this year.  Be sure to be at Spring House Tap Room on Friday April 27 by 8pm.  Lancaster’s own Amanda Wells and Mike McMonagle each have a set and the Hoi Polloi plays right on their heels.  You can hear all three and still have time to see The Felice Brothers!  I promise!  That’s what I’m doing!

Here’s how just those three examples played out for me.  By hearing and meeting Amanda and Dana, I discovered a whole network of local women singer/songwriters and their regular showcases at places like Dispensing Company, Shenk’s and Symposium.  Social networking with them kept me up to date on shows by local powers Jessica Smucker, Loretta Bilieux, and Trixie Greiner.  They guided me to shows by newcomers like Macy K and regional touring acts like Heather Maloney and Sarah Blacker.  I had a great year with the ladies!  (I always wanted to say that!)

Dana introduced me to her drummer, Tony Kirchner.  He also drums for Slimfit (rock stars!) and promotes shows, in particular the Singer/Songwriter Series at Lancaster Dispensing Company.  It was Tony who told me I had to get to know Fryth at DipCo and the owners of Tri State Indie, Rich and Steph.  Getting to know those folks was invaluable to me as I built my business.  I learned a lot from all of them and am now proud to call them friends.  I contribute regularly to TSI now and presented at their first annual awards show.  Fryth is just flat-out my hero.  By the way, we never would have had Plugged In on the Farm last summer without the efforts of Tony and Fryth.

In talking to Pete and showing him around (he’s from Pittsburgh like me), I heard about the ALTAR BAR, Thunderbird Café and several other great venues back there.  On my first trip to ALTAR, I heard Lovebettie.  POW!!  That club is absolute dynamite and nobody lit my fuse this year like Lovebettie.  I staged my first show this year just to give them a place near here to play.  Go to Chameleon on the Saturday of LAUNCH and see Lovebettie on the main stage at 9pm.  You will Lovebettie too!

But don’t just listen to me!  Go to the LAUNCH website and download the schedule of conferences and performers.  They even have a scheduler app for it this year.  Get yourself a weekend pass and get your own year’s-worth of fun and entertainment out of it!

Gigspots: Year One

One year ago today, March 28, 2011, I had made my decision to leave the classroom and become self-employed.  I had been developing the idea for Gigspots.com for almost a year and the website was nearing completion.  LAUNCH Music Conference III was opening in three weeks and I had fliers ready for the attendees’ swag bags.  It was a gorgeous spring day and all seemed right with the world.  My website was about to be born!  My missions: make it easy for bands, fans and venues to connect and to save the economy one gig at a time.

As I reflect on year one, I have a ton of vivid memories: mostly good ones.  Some of my high expectations were met.  The music scene is teeming with fresh and familiar talented performers throughout PA, MD, DE, and NJ!  It seemed like I had found my niche in the market and people loved the idea of one site where they could get the latest info for many shows in their area.

Some of my doubts were assuaged.  My students used to bust on me for not being very tech-savvy.  I didn’t even have a Facebook and was just learning how to text!  Could I really run a website, two Facebook pages, a YouTube channel, a Twitter account and a blog?  Well, here I am; take a look!

Many things happened that I did not foresee in the least.  Who knew how kind and helpful some people would be with no reward in it for them?  Who knew that some people would resist joining my venture even while I offered them everything for free?  Who knew that in many ways (good and bad), the real world was just like high school?

Wow, it’s been a big year!  I could fill five blogs with thank –you’s but actions speak louder than words.  If you’re with me, count on even bigger support from me in the next year.  If you’re not with me, let’s just say “not yet” for now.

I attended over 50 shows and met a lot of very talented musicians!  With their permission, I filmed many of the shows and created a YouTube channel.  Bands used those videos to self-promote and I posted them on venue Facebook pages.  People who were there could relive the memory.  People who missed it could see what they missed.  When bands were headed somewhere I knew, I could post a video as a preview of their upcoming show.  It seems to be a big hit and a step in the right direction.

Count on my continued reposting on Facebook of all the events you invite me to. When I would do Facebook Check-ins at shows, it seemed to draw a lot of response.  I just joined the Twittersphere to be even timelier with that.  Follow me: and I don’t just mean on Twitter.  Come out to some shows!

Most recently, I launched this blog.  It’s a place for us to share: not for me to lecture.  I’ll tell you the same things I always told my students.  If I’m lecturing, stop me.  If you have something for the good of the group, bring it up.  If I need to know something, please tell me.  I became a better teacher as I listened to my students and I’m confident I will become a better Gigspotter if I listen to you.

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.