Get LAUNCHed in Lancaster

LAUNCH Music Conference returns to Lancaster for their eighth blast-off Thursday thru Saturday night April 21-23.  Day-time events include over 40 panels and seminars conducted by music industry professionals.  Music starts at 6pm all three nights and includes performances by over 200 acts in many styles.  Fourteen downtown venues will be rocking all weekend!

LAUNCH is a good opportunity for musicians to learn, play and network.  It’s very much a gathering of the tribes and regular attendees (like me) treat it like a family reunion of sorts.  The music business can be a lonely road with few directional signs or welcome centers.  This annual weekend gives the musicians a chance to play for big crowds of their friends and to see those bands they rarely can catch due to their own performance schedules.  Plus they never know who might see them perform and offer new opportunities.

You can’t see everybody; it’s the dilemma of festivals with multiple stages.  But here are some acts I can vouch for as fun, talented, provocative models of what the weekend is all about.  As a disclaimer, I should mention that none of my picks are metal/hardcore/thrash styles.  I just don’t appreciate the genre enough to make informed choices.  If you like it, this weekend is custom-made for you because we get too few chances to hear bands like that in Lancaster and LAUNCH founder Jeremy Weiss is an absolute authority on metal.  My one heavy pick: From Under the Willow 7:30pm Saturday at Chameleon Club.

FRIDAY:

  • Noelle Picara 6pm in the lobby of LCCC piano chanteuse from another world
  • Dre Powe with Jamall Anthony 7:15pm LCCC Freedom Hall rap, R&B and soul
  • The Quixote Project 8:45pm at Chameleon Club neo-Roots and Americana
  • Meg and The Right Sound 9:15pm at The Candy Factory hometown Americana
  • Lovebettie 11:15 at Federal Taphouse pop rock with swagger
  • Colin McGetrick 12am at Federal Taphouse singer-songwriter-guitarist of WaveRadio

SATURDAY:

The Getting Down to Dewey Tour for Triphazard

Last September I went on tour with my pals Lovebettie and a band they had connected with from Liverpool, England named Triphazard.  The ultimate destination was Dewey Beach Music Conference.  One of the organizers had produced Triphazard’s latest ep and had arranged for the two bands touring together.  I was just lucky enough to get invited along for the ride!  You KNOW I Lovebettie!  Triphazard is a fantastic punk/pop trio with looks, sounds and energy galore.  They can move you!Vidzta Live

When Triphazard got invited to play DBMC 2014, they asked me to be tour manager for the week preceding it.  “Hell yes!” I said.  So today I announce the Getting Down to Dewey Tour!  Our kickoff show will be Friday 9/12 at Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company, 50 N. Cameron Street in Harrisburg.  Joining Triphazard that night will be The Great SOCIO and Medusa’s Discomedusasdisco If you like your rock crunchy with some thought involved and great food and beer on the side, this show is for you!  Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 day of the show.

Triphazard, The Great SOCIO and Medusa’s Disco also play World Café Live at The Queen in Wilmington, DE Saturday 9/13.  We are adding a very special guest to the bill but cannot announce it until after 8/22.  I can say that the Queen is only 30 minutes by train or car from Philly and 50 miles from Lancaster. Queen4 If you haven’t seen a show in their grand room downstairs, you are missing one of the greatest venues ever.  There is plenty of street parking plus a garage right outside.  If I get enough feedback on this show, I will arrange for a charter bus to run from Lancaster down and back.  Hit me at sam@gigspots.com or on Twitter @GigspotsSam.

After a day of sightseeing in Philly, I am taking Triphazard north to play gigs in Williamsport and State College with Lovebettie.  Both bands are known and loved at The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport where they played together last year.  In short: it’s a helluva party and you’re invited Monday 9/15!  Our State College show Wednesday 9/17 is at the venerable Café 210 West (210 W. College Ave).  I love the layers of this place!  On the sidewalk you have the nicest patio in town.  The food and drink specials are very inexpensive and spot on.  Pass through the huge bar and dining room and you find a serious music venue at the back!Lovebettie L1  I can’t wait to unleash Lovebettie and Triphazard on those Nittany Lions and we’ll see who’s ready to roar!

Then it’s down to Dewey Beach Music Conference!  This annual event offers the perfect last blast of summer.  Nearly 100 bands perform in multiple venues, all within a few blocks and all FREE.  The ocean is still warm yet the beaches are mostly empty.  If you are a touring band (or hope to be soon), this is a great showcase for your talent.  Industry seminars run all day Friday and Saturday and you can pick up a wealth of knowledge and advice from people with the inside edge.  Come join me, Triphazard, Lovebettie, The Great SOCIO and scores of other bands to rock all night and chill all day!Van Promo Edit3

Tour Life: Woe or Whoa!

“Ain’t in it for my health…”  Levon Helm

BnB FallSince I’m becoming an agent, I decided to send myself on the road with a few bands.  I wanted to see how they earn their money.  I wanted to discover first-hand the joys of traveling with a rock band.   I wanted to see what hardships they might face.  I didn’t have the time, money or guts to try something like The Autumn Anxiety Tour: PASADENA and Bumpin Uglies going coast to coast.  Instead, I did some long weekends with The Wayfarer Experiment and Bond & Bentley and an extended run with Lovebettie and Triphazard on their Unsocial Network Tour.  Want the abridged version? Bands don’t make enough money.

Being in a band is expensive.  You invest in gear and pay to maintain it.  You have to pay for gas to get to and from the gig.  You can’t always count on the venue providing food and drinks as part of your compensation.  Before you can sell merchandise, you have to pay to produce it.  And from what I’m seeing out there, bands get $150-300 to play a show until they really start to draw a crowd.

The hours are lousy.  Accounting for driving and loading in/out, you might leave home at 5pm and get home at 5am.  Have you ever tried to find gas, food or lodging after 2am?  You might have luck in a city but be prepared to pay more.  Time management skills only go so far when so few factors are within your control.  You start and finish when the venue says so.

Shrimpboat band“Touring is for the young.  You can only sleep on floors for so long.  And you must have complete immersion to do it right.  You can’t have baggage or responsibilities calling from home.”  So says Loretta, who fronted and toured with several bands including Burning Bus, The Dive Bar Pretties and currently Shrimpboat.  “It’s a great life.  It’s a hard life.  You must be completely into it to survive.”

Are all tour stories filled with hard luck and few rewards?  Of course not.  Imagine the best concert you’ve ever seen.  Now imagine what it must have felt like for the band to make that connection with their audience.  Now realize it can be you: if you make good music and find the right crowd at the right time.  Ray Wroten, who fronts Bond & Bentley, has been touring 200+ nights a year for six years.  He loves what he does and has plenty of stories good and bad.2013-02-09 23.39.51

“Man, our tour last spring is a great example.  We had a send-off gig at home: great night.  The next two nights, bam, great bars, great audiences.  People into it, dancing, never seen or heard of us before.  Made a lot of connections, sold a pile of cd’s.  It’s crazy; we’re from Baltimore but we now have a huge fan base in Buffalo, NY.  Night four we play a place in Indy that we’d done well at before.  We had a couple friends there from a previous show.  And that’s who we played to.  Two people.  So you play what they want to hear and mostly treat it as a rehearsal.  But if you’re being paid as a percentage of the gross, you’re in financial trouble already and you’re four states from home.  The next night we played to a packed house, but we might as well have been a fucking juke box.  People sitting five feet away couldn’t give two shits about what we were doing.  We made $600 and felt lousy.  You just gotta shake it off, roll to the next show and pour your heart out again.  You never know when you’ll find that Buffalo.”

The Wayfarer Experiment

The Wayfarer Experiment

So, you want to rock and roll?  Good!  Work hard at your music.  Make it an art and a craft.  Believe in yourself and the power of music to make the world a better place.  We need you.  Not everyone can do what you do.

Let me offer a few pointers and answer some frequently asked questions.

1.  Pack a cooler and a set of “emergency” clothes.  If you get hungry, thirsty or sprayed with who knows what, you’re set.  Living on drive-thru and diner food will take its toll and costs double the price of groceries.  Make sure there’s water in that cooler.

2.  Learn how to read a map.  Don’t let those commercials fool you.  You DO NOT have cell service everywhere and if you think GPS always works, you are too dumb to tour.

3.  Promote your own shows!  Every place you play likely has a Facebook, Twitter, etc.  When you have the dates set, start sending them photos, videos and links to stuff you want them to see/know/share.  Make it easy for their audience to get to know you.  It’s your job.  The venue’s job is selling food and drinks.  Allow me to suggest a Gigspots profile and let us help you with promotion.

Uglies2Can I make money by touring?  Yes, but not as much as you think.  Merch is where most bands make a small profit.  The audience already has pictures and video on their smartphones.  Can you make them want a piece of you to take home?  It’s not the shirt, music or poster they want.  They want an artifact.  Don’t say, “We have cd’s for sale.”  Say, “Come meet us after the show by the merch table.”

Can I get laid by touring?  Maybe, but usually only if you can get laid back home.  You can get STD’s, arrested, beaten up and/or stalked very easily by the types of people who are still in bars at closing time.   You can also really piss off your band mates who are hungry, tired and ready to leave.  Better to focus on your job out there.

Why tour if it’s so hard with no guarantees?  News flash: life is hard and there are no guarantees.  But if music is your life, and you make it because you have to, then express yourself.  If you’re tired of playing the garage and you’ve tested the waters at open mics, band competitions, etc, then bring it to us.  If your music is genuine, your talent obvious and your heart open, you’ve got a shot.  Taking music or any art public is to write an open love-letter proposal to the world.  Touring is a blind date.  If you can handle love and love lost, you can handle it.

Transition Transmission

To open September’s Fly Magazine, editor Jessica Smucker reminded us that Fall is a time of transitions.  Indeed summer is over.  I gave mine a proper send-off this weekend at Dewey Beach Music Conference.

John & Brittany rocked it hard at Dewey Beach Music Conference

John & Brittany rocked it hard at Dewey Beach Music Conference

I am burnt inside and out.  My daughter joined me for part of it and said there’s a new buzz phrase at her college; “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.”  I’m interpreting that as a license to shoot my mouth off a bit.  I’ve spent just over two years introducing myself and Gigspots to people.  Let’s see whose attention I’ve won, whose cage I can rattle and how I impact my audience.  I have some exciting transitions of my own to share.

KGB on the Gigspots Lawn Stage at Jam at the Dam

KGB on the Gigspots Lawn Stage at Jam at the Dam

I spent a lot of time and money sponsoring stages at shows and festivals this summer.  I met, interviewed and filmed a ton of great bands.  I gave away piles of free advertising, beer, t-shirts and videos.  I had a ball.  I’m exhausted yet energized to take the next step.  Many bands have begun asking me to find gigs for them.  I am taking the leap to begin acting as an agent.  I’ve recently filled tour dates for Lovebettie, Triphazard, PASADENA, Bond and Bentley, The Great SOCIO, The Wayfarer Experiment and Harlot.  I’m establishing a small circuit tour with several of my client venues where I can offer 2-3 night runs to a band.  I also will begin a series of “Gigspots Spotlight” shows where 2-3 acts present a showcase.  My favorite part of this announcement is that I’ll be booking the music at Lancaster Dispensing Company for the second Saturday of every month starting in January 2014!   Some of you may remember my shows at Chameleon, Bube’s and Boondocks.  These will typically be more intimate but man, do I have a funk/hip-hop show and a prog rock show to pop at the right place!  So, who wants to work with me?  I am actively recruiting bands and venues.

Lovebettie coming at you from The Rattler in Pittston PA!

Lovebettie coming at you from The Rattler in Pittston PA!

The newest venue I’m working with is called The Rattler in Pittston, PA (between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton).  How cool is it?  It’s late 70’s CBGB/late 80’s Chameleon Club cool.  Everyone is welcome and anything goes.  It’s at the crossroads of Route 11, Route 309 and I-476 so it’s easy to find and visit.  You NEPA pals and Pocono ski bums need to get in there.  Tell ‘em Gigspots sent you.

I will no longer be doing business with The River Street Jazz Café in Plains.  Thank you to Tom Moran for all the great music, food and people you shared with me.  It’s a shame our philosophies have become disparate.  Best wishes.

This Fall means some special transitions in the Lancaster music scene.  DipCo is back in the swing after their summer hiatus with music Fridays and Saturdays.  The Fridge has begun hosting music some Mondays: 40-50 tickets for one hot act.  So far I’ve seen JP Harris and Toy Soldiers: sweet investment and of course great pizza and beer.  After nearly a three-year wait, Federal Taphouse opened with gourmet pizza, 100 draft beers and the promise of live music.  In three weeks they pissed off some of the most patient, professional music industry people I’ve ever known.  I have no idea what the music status is right now.  We’ll see if they can fix things.  I wish them well and am here to help.

Tellus 360’s renovations have progressed enough to begin hosting the Table Top Sessions again.  The first was 9/7/13 with Brethren and The Big Dirty and it was a hoot!  I wrote about it in my blog for FigLancaster.com.  They host Rootenanny this year 9/27 with Vinegar Creek Constituency, Mark DeRose & The Dreadnought Brigade and Vulcans.  It’s the perfect blend of music and community building as the show benefits Live Green and Carsie Blanton and Joe PlowmanBring On Play.  Another do-not-miss show is the return of Carsie Blanton 10/3.  All this place needs now is its liquor license approval.  Anyone who’s walked through its doors already considers it a home away from home.  Calling Mr. Sturla, calling Mr. Gray.  Call PLCB and tell them to step on it!  It’s not a bar!  It’s a community hub and Prohibition ended eighty years ago.

Did you know downtown Lancaster now has a legit open mic night every week?  It happens at 551 West at 551 W. King (former Kegel’s location) on Tuesday nights.  More players are coming every week and it’s a varied, talented bunch so far.  Lots of folks from the Blues Society of Central PA seem to have found the place.  If you like great food and beer, visit immediately.  They have 24 taps and whatever you eat will be your new favorite food.  How fresh, local and delicious is it?  They do not own a freezer.  Just mentioning it makes me hungry.  I need to wrap this up.  I need a French burger with extra au jus.

Some pledges and considerations on pending transitions:

I will eat breakfast.  I will not call six cups of coffee breakfast.  3am post-show breakfasts count.

I will not drink any more.  I might even try to drink a little less.

I will not monetize my YouTube channel.  Your performances are your property, not mine.  And who needs more commercials anyway?

I will not pay Facebook to promote my page.  That’s why I have friends, admins and interns.  When’s the last time you checked your settings on Facebook.com/Gigspots?  If my content isn’t holding your interest, I doubt that paying Facebook will change that.

I will blog more often and include more pictures.  I encourage you to post more pictures and links on my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.  I’d love for someone to help me become a better photographer.

I will travel less…NOT.  I love my wife, dog and home but very few bands perform at my house.  I get 40 event invitations and nearly 300 notifications daily.  I can only offer so much help to my music/restaurant/travel industry pals by putting boots on the ground.  My boots.

Where to? Did you make my short list for the month?

Where to? Did you make my short list for the month?

So lace up your boots, sneakers, whatever and follow me.  We’re saving the economy one gig at a time and giving the hardworking musicians, bartenders, baristas and chefs the attention they so richly deserve.

Young Lions

This blog was originally published 8/22/13 as last summer ended.  I promised to re-publish twelve of my favorite blogs in the first twelve nights of April to celebrate Gigspots’ anniversary.  Then The Districts and Toy Soldiers played The Chameleon Club Thursday 4/3 and blogging duties were shunned.  I’d have to say the “young lions” I named have done pretty well.

The Districts just finished a second national tour and released an ep with Fat Possum records.  They logged numerous appearances in RollingStone.com and will be touring the US and UK all summer.

Bumpin Uglies has toured the US twice, played scores of festivals, played a Rombello cruise and opened for some serious national acts.  This May they play The Fifth Annual California Roots Music and Arts Festival.  Maximum respect due, mon!

SEEDS finished their first studio album, Questioned By a Ghost, to many positive reviews including my own.  This band really rocks!  Then they sold out of it and all their t-shirts and other swag.  In short, people can’t get enough of this band and they now headline shows all over the region.

The Wayfarer Experiment continues to go through changes.  I saw a five-piece version open for Cabinet this fall.  I’ve seen Bjorn Jacobsen match licks and growls with some mighty players at open mics and jams across the state.  I’ve seen Bjorn and Robin Chambers draw a crowd away from other stages at festivals.  Bjorn, Robin, Nathan Arndt and Matthew King played a killer set at Lancaster Roots and Blues and then percussionist Matt quit the band.  Word around the campfire is that Bjorn and Robin just spent four days squirreled away with an unnamed producer and recorded the band’s fourth album.  Bjorn says it’s his masterpiece so I’m a bit freaked because the first three are damn fine works…………………………………….

I see a ton of bands and this summer has been filled with great music!  I haven’t forsaken my favorite bands of 2012: Kalob Griffin Band, Pasadena, Lovebettie, Sweet Leda, Toy Soldiers, The Slackwater News and Cabinet.  But you must be tired of hearing me praise them in every blog and all those bands have begun reaching national audiences.  August’s sign is Leo so let me spout about some of the young lions roaring on the scene right now.

The Wayfarer Experiment

The Wayfarer Experiment

I’m totally high on The Wayfarer Experiment.  This band has featured different players almost every time I’ve seen them (hence “experiment”) but the current lineup is a bonfire.  Matthew King on percussion and Nathan Arndt on guitar and xylophone have been playing together since middle school.  They are tight as tequila.  Robin Chambers on violin is some kind of gypsy/faerie madwoman and ohhh, look out for her sultry side.  Then there’s Bjorn Jacobsen.  He plays guitar, banjo, mandolin and harmonica.  He sings like a mix of Jim Morrison and Tom Waits.  They call their music “dark folk and gypsy blues” and you will get it.   I have all three of their albums and a ton of videos here.  They don’t have a website, Twitter, Instagram or any of those fancy promotional tools.  They just enchant you and haunt you.

Uglies2Bumpin Uglies plays “white-boy reggae” and hails from Annapolis, MD.  They play lots of songs about girls, weed and trying to make it as musicians as you might expect.  What you might not be ready for is how well they play, how sincere and clever the songs are, and how groovy their grooves are.  They will likely remind you of Sublime in the best ways.  Front-man, guitarist and principal writer Brandon Hardesty is a focused, talented guy and I predict big things for this crew.  I like EVERY song on their latest cd Ninjah: Reggae Assassins and they are touring nationally to support it.

SEEDS played one of the last shows at Tellus360 before renovations began.

SEEDS played one of the last shows at Tellus360 before renovations began.

SEEDS is a brand new band with their first album almost completed.  Their website just went live.  They are a rock band, no doubt, but their sound is definitely influenced by Wynton Huddle’s sitar training.  He’s a nut, too, so their songs are funny, tragic, scary, weird, sexy, you name it.  I’ve been a Wynton fan since he played high school talent shows and have followed him across several bands.  This lineup (with Hunter Root sharing guitar duties, Alex Aument smashing drums and Tyler Smith thumping bass) looks like a keeper.  Their tag line: “We’ll grow on you.”

The Districts crushed it to open the Marina Stage at XPoNential Music Fest 2013

The Districts crushed it to open the Marina Stage at XPoNential Music Fest 2013

Do I need to mention The Districts?  Hell yes, even if your room is wallpapered with their posters.  You rarely see a band find so much success so fast, especially when they just graduated high school in June! Their first two albums really rock in a real rock sort of way.   Think early Aerosmith or Black Crowes for the vibe if you’re my age; think Spoon or Cold War Kids if you’re under 30.  If you haven’t caught up with this band yet, crawl from under your rock and go see them.  It will be easy to find them.  They just opened the Marina Stage at XPoNential Music Festival (thanks WXPN!) then departed on a national tour.  They will be based in Philly next month as they all head off to Temple University.  We’ll see if textbooks or touring win out.

There is no reason you can’t find bands to love on your own.  I barely scratched the surface of all the fine young/new acts in central PA.  Tell me who you love and who needs to be on my short list to see!

Festivals a Go-Go!

Holy cow have I been rambling and rocking!  The last thirty days or so have brought me many miles, many smiles and many musical memories!  Since hosting my Loyalstock festival the last week of June, I have sponsored and attended some great events.  Festival season is a go-go!  Do you shy away from festivals because of the lack of electricity, cell reception, showers and flush toilets?  There are plenty of day-long events and I’ve sponsored two in July.  Pick one out and make a day of it!

I camped out for Jam at the Dam but that’s because it was a DNL event and that means party hearty.  I sponsored a whole stage there and gave out free Bullfrog Brewery beer for Likes and Follows. FYI, sponsoring a stage means you get use of an outlet.  That allowed me to brew a 30-cup urn of coffee Sunday morning and I needed it.  Many thanks to my co-sponsors Wood Stove House, Lancaster Roots and Blues Fest, Tellus 360 and The Rattler.  Without Jason Mundock of WSH and his talented pal Mark DeRose I might never have gotten my banner strung above the stage.  The Rattler brought Camp Rattler in full force and proudly staged Harlot on my Gigspots Lawn Stage.  You all really must check out The Rattler in Pittston.  It’s what a music-industry bar should be!  Pound for pound, I think my stage had the greatest lineup! Bravo and many thanks to: East Coast Turnaround, The Boiled Owls, Kathy and Dan Duo, Searching for Oneida, Harlot, Zach Bellas, Pressing Strings, Aaron Flinn, Karissa Laren, Kalob Griffin Band, Memphis Hat, Sunset Villains, Wise Eyes, The Great Socio and Sticky Longfingers & The Rusted Butter.  I have videos from many of them on my YouTube channel in a playlist called Jam at the Dam 2013.  Thanks again Pirate Rob!

I sponsored a stage for Ladybug Festival in Wilmington, DE while I was on vacation in OCMD.  Yeah, that means I didn’t even get to attend.  But my vacation was sweet and I love what Gable Music Ventures and World Café Live at the Queen keep cooking up down there!  How could I resist supporting a day celebrating woman-fronted bands in nine music-loving venues?  Their next event down there is the Rockabilly Rumble on Sunday August 11th from 12:00-10pm and it’s gonna be a humdinger!

The Districts

The Districts rocked the Marina Stage Friday night!

The Stray Birds

The Stray Birds enchanted the Marina Stage audience to start Saturday

 

WXPN hosts the best festival on the planet in my opinion.  I just spent three glorious days there soaking in the music and positive vibes. Our central PA bands (and FigLancaster.com alums) turned in memorable performances: The Districts and The Stray Birds.  I’ll devote a whole blog/show review to XPoNential Music Festival asap.  The event sold out for the first time ever and I’m thrilled for us all.  This station constantly pours money and music into the community and is a genuine bastion of culture and love.  If you’re not a supporting member of WXPN, I just don’t understand how you can call yourself a music-lover.

What’s next? Jeepers, I’m getting pulled towards two corners of the state this weekend!  How can I resist Musikfest in Bethlehem?  It’s ten days long and many events/shows are FREE!  How can I resist Flood City Music Fest in Johnstown?  It might feature the widest array of acts at any festival this summer and Robert Randolph is one of the headliners.  There are Gigspots artists playing both events including Sweet Leda, Lovebettie and Kalob Griffin Band.  Both are easy day-trips, both are in practically-new venues and both feature a fabulous array of local, regional and national acts.  For you Deadheads out there, the 8th Annual Bear’s Picnic starts today and runs Aug 1-5 at the Lycoming Co Fairgrounds.  Just in case it slipped your short-term memory…

Hot August Blues Festival is August 17th and might be the best one-off festival.  Grace Potter and The Nocturnals headline and wow, what a great lineup!  Kids 12 and under get FREE admission and this festival runs as smoothly as a Swiss watch.

My boys at DNL Entertainment have a great excuse for you to spend an extra day in OCMD on August 18th: Blockstock 5 at The Party Block!  You will want to take Monday the 19th off for sure.  At least a dozen bands will be ripping it up from 7pm to who knows?  If that’s your beach week, lucky you!  If you have a vacation day to spare, you can thank me when you get back!

Spring Review and Woo!

Spring has flown by but not without dropping a pile of great shows in my lap!  I talked about the wonderful LAUNCH weekend in a recent blog.  I have seen plenty of other shows that I wanted to put on your radar.  Three of my favorites are back in town this Saturday!

Lauren Mann and The Fairly Odd Folk will play with Canyon and The Pig Merchants this Saturday 6/1 at The Candy Factory in Lancaster.  The show starts at 7pm so don’t plan on rolling in around 10.  You will have missed a phenomenal night!  Here’s Lauren and company tearing up DipCo to close LAUNCH!

They didn’t play LAUNCH but The Wayfarer Experiment is leading the charge as my pick for 2013 central PA band of the year.  I have 6-7 Wayfarer shows under my belt already and am psyched to see them at DipCo Friday 5/31! They just released a new album and it continues their dark folk/gypsy blues saga.  Friday is Bjorn’s birthday so you know this show will be memorable!  This compelling three-piece might be 4-6 members on any given night so show up and witness the experiment unfolding.

Also this Friday 5/31 is an incredible show at Chameleon with massive local talents The Districts and The Seeds plus Philly faves Juston Stens and The Get Real Gang and Cheers Elephant.  I have seen all four of these bands and they rock!  You can see videos of most on my YouTube channel.  The Stonewall Vessels also appear and I’m anxious to check them out.

Here’s a special shout-out to The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewing Company for hosting great shows and serving great food and beer!  Notable shows I have seen there this spring include Dirk Quinn Band, Andy Mowatt Trio and Start Making Sense: a Talking Heads tribute.

The Wayfarer Experiment

The Wayfarer Experiment

Dirk Quinn Band at Abbey Bar

Dirk Quinn Band at Abbey Bar

I loved DQB as house band for the Tri State Indie Music Awards this year and it was fantastic to see them playing whole sets of songs vs. just between awards.  Andy Mowatt is a jazz-rock flamethrower on guitar; see his trio immediately!  As for Start Making Sense: holy cow!  If you never got the chance to see Talking Heads or just want to relive that experience, here is your ticket.  I will be rolling to The Abbey Thursday 5/30 to see The Wood Brothers if anyone loves folk and wants to join me!  I just keep saying it; my season pass to Abbey Bar/Greenbelt Event shows is the best investment I make every year.  And yes, six months later, I’m still mourning the passing of Mike Van Jura.  Kudos to Sarah, Alec and Ben for keeping Greenbelt vibrant!

Last week’s show at Chameleon with The Slackwater News and Marco Benevento was pure pleasure-dome stuff!  Most locals know Slackwater and they draw a big, fun crowd for a lot of reasons.  Marco creates these sonic soundscapes that just transport your ass to another plane.  If you missed the show, I have videos up but they are just a tease of the experience.  See Marco.  Period.  He plays Abbey Bar 2-3 times a year.  And cheer on The Slackwater News as they expand their play-zone to New Hope (Triumph Brewing) and State College (The Shell).

May moved the Music Friday series outdoors and Toy Soldiers was the perfect kickoff act!  Stay tuned to MOOSE for complete events schedules.  Keys For the City has again filled our town with beautiful, original pianos/works of art; thank you sponsors and players!  Long’s Park will kickoff its summer concert series and yes, Dawes is coming back!  We are truly blessed to have so many live music opportunities here in Lancaster!

Three notable album releases (besides the new Wayfarer Ex) are Lovebettie, Bumpin’ Uglies and The Great Socio.  My love of Lovebettie is no secret. Bumpin Uglies are a reggae-rock band from MD who now tour nationally and are currently #5 and climbing on the iTunes reggae chart.  See them and you’ll know why I love them too.  The Great Socio is a nearly indescribable prog-rock band with no guitar player.  When I first heard their last cd, I thought the band must have at least 6-7 members.  Nope.  It’s four dudes who are all-in on every song and all about getting you off!  I will be rolling to see The Great Socio and PASADENA at WCL The Queen in Wilmington 6/6 and I’m looking for company.  Call me and call shotgun!  And if you really want a taste of the Gigspotter life, get your tickets soon for Jam at the Dam July 6th!  I’ll be hosting The Gigspots Lawn Stage smack in the middle of 50 acres of beauty and 800 very happy campers!

LAUNCH 5 Worked for Me!

LAUNCH Music Conference in Lancaster, PA April 25-27 brought to town a lot of great music and interesting info about the state of the music industry.   Just closing DipCo three nights in a row would have been pleasure enough on any other weekend.  But I did a lot more.  I’m sorry I’m not a better still photographer but I shot over twenty videos that should satisfy your appetites for fresh live music.

I skipped the registration hoopla, free Heineken and opening performances Thursday night at the convention center.  I chose instead to meet and greet my pals in Sweet Leda as they arrived for the conference and to make sure they were settled.  Julie, Jaime and Don have adopted Lancaster as their favorite central PA city and planned to make a weekend of it.  Omar and his wife couldn’t come until Friday but they all intended to make the most of the visit and branch out from their usual stops at Central Market, Tellus 360 and Yorgo’s.  They also were psyched to be playing a new venue for them: Marion Court Room.  They hoped for as much success as they have felt at their past shows at DipCo and Chameleon.  Jaime had scheduled a bunch of conferences and workshops to attend as well.

It was refreshing for Sweet Leda to just chill at DipCo and chat with the regulars who hang there and have become fans.  Of course, as the opening shows around town finished up, everyone converged on DipCo for a last round or three.  By midnight the place was packed and rollicking with bands and industry insiders.  I was impressed with Holly Spears’ set and felt elated to see Canyon back in town.  2013-04-25 22.26.50  This young lady really writes some poignant songs and expresses them beautifully with her voice and guitar.  Canyon also wins my fashion award for the weekend.  Damn that girl looked pretty and stylish all weekend through three different showcases and a visit to LAUNCH Lounge at The Candy Factory.  I hope she is featured in one of the podcasts that Jason Mundock of Wood Stove House produced there over the weekend.   Anyway, they were locking the doors on DipCo when I headed home.

Both Friday and Saturday mornings I co-hosted at The Candy Factory.  We had light traffic both mornings so everyone got their fill of coffee and pastries.  Some pretty amazing jams sprung up among the musicians dropping in, usually lead by Jason Mundock and Aaron Gagne on percussion.  Randy B, Mickel, Canyon, Mark DeRose and a particularly gifted violinist (can’t recall the gent’s name) were among those who tested the acoustics and breathed some life into the mornings.  Everyone’s nights were quite late. 2013-04-26 13.47.07 2013-04-26 14.53.59

My Friday night involved a lot more miles.  It also involved many more tough choices about where to be.  It pained me to forego Dana Alexandra and Holly Williams at The Ware Center and I can only hope I’ll get another chance to hear one or both in such a grand space again.  Maybe Dana will debut her next album there or back at the Strand-Capitol in York.  Maybe Holly will come back.  Maybe the new grand space at Tellus 360 will be open by then!

My wife joined me for the most of Friday night.  We are both huge fans of Lovebettie and Sweet Leda so our evening had to include their shows.  Lovebettie played the Heineken stage: the big boy, a whole section of the convention center.   This was their second show since debuting their new ep Rise and they played with a lot of heart.  It’s a great record and will likely take them back to stadiums again this summer to round out some major US tours.  Last year they played SXSW, Summerfest, Van’s Warped and some major NHL events.  Next month they open for Rusted Root in Dewey Beach.

This room could hold 2,000 people.  When Lovebettie played at 7:30, there were maybe 200 people there.  I heard the crowd swelled to around 500 for Foxy Shazam’s headlining set.  With twenty million people living within a three hour drive of Lancaster, I can’t understand why Friday night’s lineup at the convention center didn’t draw at least 1,000.  I know there was great music being made at six other venues in town but they weren’t exactly thronged either.

After Lovebettie and a bit of Jesse Baker Band, we headed to Penn Square Grill to rendezvous with pals and catch a drink.  And there was Mike McMonagle (Mickel): a paying gig during Launch in a bar full of musicians and music fans!  I swear he played one of the best sets I’ve seen by him and that’s with dozens to compare with it.  The lad was on fire!

To Marion Courtroom next, we reconnected with Sweet Leda and company prior to their 9:30 set.  BAM!  Next thing we know, a band called Ill Funk Ensemble lights the place up with some serious blend of hip-hop, funk and rock!  The whole place animated.  Sitters stood.  Standers swayed.  When their third song was a mash-up of “Yo Diggity,” twenty people sprung to the dance floor.  Juls from Sweet Leda lead the charge and I’d have to say, the set by Ill Funk pushed Sweet Leda to new heights in their following set.  It certainly drove the crowd nuts and got everyone pumped.  You give Sweet Leda a canvas like that to work with and they will paint you a lush, funky landscape.  They laid down some broad, colorful strokes!

I sent the wife home and spent the rest of the night schmoozing at Marion Court Room and DipCo which again became the place to be to close out the night.  I was glad to have caught Jeff Reed’s set and to see the place packed with musicians and industry heavies again.  I was there until closing, gathered my guests and headed for home via Neptune Diner.

Saturday night was just as tough to schedule but I had made commitments to artists over Thursday-Friday to attend their shows.  I caught Lijie (sassy Strat slinger) and Matt Wheeler (joined by Canyon and Taylor Brandt!) at Spring House Tap Room.  I caught Mark DeRose and The Dreadnought Brigade at Penn Square (rock stars!).  I headed for the closing rounds at DipCo and holy cow, the place was jamming!  I saw four performances back-to-back that equaled anything I had seen all weekend!

Gretchen Pleuss from Ohio had a confident, natural vibe to her acoustic set and shared some fine songs.  Angela Sheik, looper extraordinaire, was a one-woman choir/ symphony/rock band/enchantress.  Until you’ve seen Angela, you don’t know how crazy good one of her shows can be.  Following her like they owned the place were Lauren Mann and The Fairly Odd Folk.  I had missed their set at Chameleon the night before but had heard good things.  When an extra twenty people showed up for their DipCo set, having seen them the night before, I knew I had heard right.  So right!  It was hard to believe they all fit on that little stage and easy to believe they were the real deal.  The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men and Edward Sharp and The Magnetic Zeros will be feeling this band’s presence soon, maybe as they roll past them.  Lucky Lancaster gets a return visit from Lauren and company June 1st at The Candy Factory!

The last set of the night featured Emily Long.  I felt pretty stupid to not be familiar with her music, she being from the Lancaster area and all.  With just a percussionist by her side and her acoustic guitar, she played that room like the whole weekend was just her supporting acts.  Count on seeing me at many more Emily Long performances to come.

I thought it was great that a great local closed the best local festival at the best local industry bar.  Don’t just take my word for it!  Visit my YouTube channel to see videos from LAUNCH 2013 and keep tabs on these and other great bands at Gigspots.com.

LAUNCH Rocks its Fifth Weekend

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

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

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

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

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!