When Getting Shanked is Good

When Getting Shanked is Good

It’s Tuesday.  Ever since I visited Shank’s Tavern in Marietta, PA for their Acoustic Open Mic night three weeks ago, I can’t get the night off my mind.  It was as if someone waved a magic wand and said, “Presto!  The perfect night of food, drinks and music awaits you.”  I know tastes vary and beauty is subjective but folks, you need to check out Shank’s for yourselves.  I’m now calling it my favorite place in Marietta.

For starters, there is plenty of free parking right outside the door.  The historic architecture is complemented by cozy décor.  It’s a grand building but only the horseshoe bar area and a small dining room were in use that night.  There was a great dinner rush but the kitchen, bartenders and wait staff kept everyone happy and made it look easy.  If you just want to drink, they offer dozens of tequilas, nearly one hundred craft beers and most anything else you could name.  Everyone there was eating and nobody had to twist my arm.  Tuesday means Asian specialties and the pho and spring rolls were perfection.  The regular menu is unique and a different special is offered every night.

The music made the night.  Guest host for the night Leo DiSanto opened with his partner Jeff Bryson; they regularly front The Vinegar Creek Constituency.  Leo’s brother Nick joined them then played a few songs of his own on his one-man-band percussion rig.  From there, the night became a veritable who’s who of musicians from the surrounding area.  Corty Byron has returned to the area from a stint in CA.  He joined forces with a percussionist and guitarist Chad Kinsey to perform The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” and several originals.  They set the bar high for musicianship and energy and set the tone for the night.  Friends collaborated who rarely get to jam together and the audience cheered everyone heartily.

Matt Johnson (The Slackwater News) and Jeanette Stillman played tasty acoustic versions of several Slackwater tunes.  Jordan Rast and Tuck Ryan (Second Hand Suits) stepped up to serenade the crowd with a few of their band’s tunes and a stellar version of an old Sam Cooke tune.  These young men really know how to play to a crowd and everyone loved it.  Several local session men (not to be named) showed off their wares playing unique, flavorful versions of some rock and folk standards.  While the songs might have been old, their presentations proved that these guys still love to play and haven’t lost an inch of skill or creativity.  The night took on the flavor of a family reunion; that is, if everyone in your family is a stringed-instrument virtuoso.

At least two artists showed up that night that nobody recognized but everyone welcomed.  Samantha Danielson hails from the Harrisburg area.  She has a great voice and can play the hell out of an acoustic guitar.  She bailed shortly after her set before many folks got a chance to thank her and welcome her.  Samantha, come back!  Check in!  You rock!  Rockin’ Rob played some gritty, funny, “Told ya so” songs that got everybody hopping.  We all hope he comes back as well.

Then Bjorn arrived.  Bjorn Jacobsen fronts The Wayfarer Experiment, a Mount Joy based band that calls their style “dark folk gypsy blues.”  You would think Norm had just walked into “Cheers” to hear the reception he got.  Part of it was the fact that his whereabouts had been “parts unknown” for a few weeks.  Another factor is the band’s growing reputation for showing up with a varied lineup and shredding strings and blowing minds.  On this night, Bjorn sang, Nate Arndt played guitar and Alyssa Martin played violin.  While I missed Matt King on percussion, there was plenty of foot-stomping and table-tapping while they played.  Their three-song set felt like the headliner act in a night filled with headliners.   See them asap before Bjorn disappears again.  He plays everything with strings too.

The final highlight of the night was an act called “The Duke and The Duchess.”  The name refers to two ancient instruments these friends play and it was their first public performance.  The crowd went nuts with applause and approval as these friends concluded their arrangement of “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You.”  It was the perfect end to a perfect night.  Well, the night wasn’t quite over.  Almost everyone still there had performed so the whole bar took on an after-party glow.  It will be hard to find an open mic that combines the food, beverages and musicianship in such high quality.

But I’ll keep trying.  Please respond here or hit my Gigspots Facebook page to let me know if you have an open mic you think I should check out.  You can see many videos of this night (and over 500 more) on my YouTube Channel:  http://www.youtube.com/user/Gigspots1

Not Bum-Rush: Busker-Rush!

Busker-Rush: Coming to an Open Mic Near You!

Since promoting live, local music and the venues that support it is our mission, it only made sense to seek out the area’s open mic nights.  Seasoned musicians know an open mic offers a stage where new songs can be test-driven.  Young musicians see them as an opportunity to meet their peers, make some connections and try out different lineups and arrangements.  Music fans know that these smaller, less formal shows can deliver spontaneous, unique jams between the players.  It’s a win-win-win: unless they go away.  That’s why Gigspots is seeking out open mic nights across the region and promoting the venues who host them.  They deserve to make a profit on a night that pays forward so much to the music community.

The Cove in York was a great choice to start this team-effort and Wednesday March 13 it went down.  The food and drink specials were “musician budget” priced.  Mike Males of MyRuralRadio.com hosted the evening and many MRR artists came out to play.  The Cove was debuting a new sound system that sounded great.  There were plenty of mics, cables, amps and monitors to give a full, clear sound.  Local notable Kelly John McClain sat in on drums with many acts.

The night ran smoothly with twelve acts getting fifteen minutes each from 8pm-12am.  Well, it ran a bitlater; the all-jam featuring American Hollar at the end could have gone for hours.  The lineup: Wayne Beck, Ian Dellinger and Amy Mummert, Adam Blessing, Dani Hoy, Mark Jacob, The Lone Wolf Project, Jasper the Tourist, Jessica Boyer, Sal Biondollo, Clint Hibshman, Tom Kerns and then the American Hollar finale.

Stringed wizard Jeff Hostetter will be sorely missed!

It’s hard to believe that Jeff Hostetter, the much-loved, wildly-respected luthier and resonator player was making his next-to- last appearance at The Cove with the band he helped to found.  He will be sorely missed and irreplaceable in the band and our musical community.

Plenty of musical magic moments arose.  Jessica Boyer was appearing at The Cove for the first time and wowed the place!  Dani Hoy debuted two new songs!  Sal and Tom showed they still have the chops to play any room.  The Lone Wolf Project (aka Phil Freeman) stopped in for a howl after an earlier gig!  Musicians were jumping in and out of lineups and jamming together, some for the first time, and connections were being made.  One trio that formed may actually become a band!

Tonight (3/26) in Marietta, Leo DiSanto hosts the Tuesday Acoustic Open Mic Night at Shank’s Tavern.  You may know him best as the lead troubador from The Vinegar Creek Constituency.  Leo’s talent and engaging spirit always makes for a good night and boy, can he bring out the players.  It’s a Tuesday so the kitchen features Asian foods besides their always-scrumptious regular menu.  The beer selection rotates between amazing and “Really?!  You have That!?”

Come out to play tonight!  Eat, drink, be merry and support a beautiful tavern that consistently supports the local music scene.  You may have so much fun, you’ll return Thursday for their “15 Minutes of Fame Electric Open Mic!”

City Week, Country Week

I just finished two very exciting but very different weeks.  The week of Feb 11-17 carried me to big cities for wild times and a wide variety of music.  The week of Feb 18-24 brought me back to the country for more rootsy, traditional sounds.  I continue to be amazed at the scope of musical adventures I can find within 100 miles of Lancaster.

State College isn’t really a big city but it’s a big deal in PA.  The Kalob Griffin Band has been a big deal there since 2010 so I visited their birthplace, Café 210 West, to get a feel for their roots.  It’s a great venue with cheap, delicious food and beer.  Every college town should have a place like this.  The band was rousing, their fans carousing and the ladies just wouldn’t leave this band alone.

Lancaster isn’t a big city but it has everything a big one does; it’s “A City Authentic.”  I got to see KGB in the place I met them: The Lancaster Dispensing Company, aka DipCo.  The band sounded great but I called it a night early to save energy for Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday night carried me to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, namely Rams Head Live for Pirate Rob’s Birthday Bash Sixteen bands performed for over 800 people and as a sponsor, I had all-access passes.  This is not something I would recommend for the faint of heart.  These people party like they’re on the Mayan calendar.  You can still download a 19-song sampler from the Birthday Bash artists on my Gigspots.com homepage.  If you think you can hang in any rock show situation, mark your calendar for next year.

Sunday night meant Philly for The TriStateIndie.com Music Awards at World Café Live.  I’ve never been to the Grammy’s but I doubt they are more efficient or fun than TSI’s show.  Ron Gallo as emcee and Dirk Quinn Band as house band made the beautiful World Café Live feel like a giant house party.

I documented much more about this weekend in my last blog where I also discussed turning fifty.

Country weekends still kick off on Thursdays.  I slipped up to Elizabethtown’s Lynden Gallery for an intimate, acoustic round.  Sarah Blacker, Jessica Smucker and Eric White traded songs accompanied by Eran Shaysh on percussion.  The quiet while they performed enrobed their songs.  The direct connection between artists and audience crackled.  The show closed with a transcendent rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” that left me breathless.  I will never forget it.

I left that show and drove six miles closer to home before stopping at The Watering Trough.  The Wayfarer Experiment had a late show I just couldn’t pass up.  This trio is knocking me out: raw talent and wild abandon in every show.  It was a pretty late Thursday night even by my standards!

There were too many shows to choose from Friday night but the one I regret missing the most was Mike McMonagle and The Vulcans playing Lancaster’s newest interesting venue, “Live From the Cellar.”  Keep your eye on their page to be sure you don’t miss something extraordinary and intimate.

Saturday night was another double-header.  I began with a scrumptious dinner with my wife at Black Gryphon in Elizabethtown.  Serenading our dessert/beer course were the dynamic duo of Leo DiSanto and Jeff Bryson from Vinegar Creek Constituency.  Part one of the evening was delicious and satisfying to all senses.

Part two of Saturday night took me to The Depot in York, PA for some rowdy country and rockabilly!  My pals American Hollar opened the night and showed off plenty of new material.   The sooner you catch up to this band, the better.  Mike Males has a new electric guitar that’s pumping up the sound and word has it that Jeff Hostetter (resonator) is considering a move to Florida.  You can catch them March 28 at World Café Live at The Queen in Wilmington, DE as part of a great lineup as Central PA invades DE.

Carrie and the Dirty Pillows played an energetic set to transition from straight-up country to a rockabilly sound.  Then came DiDi Deluxe and The Dirty Devils, Fly Magazine (Harrisburg)’s cover band for March.  I must say, this band knows their stuff!  You have no chance of sitting still when they crank up their rockabilly.  They are an eye-popping, ear-splitting, foot-moving machine.

It’s hard to find time to write when you’re always going to shows but I’m trying!  Keep the invitations coming and I’ll do my best to catch your shows next!

Every Friday is Music Friday!

Every Friday is Music Friday!

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

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

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

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

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

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